Tuesday, May 31, 1994



I missed both eclipses of the sun and moon
but unwittingly wore my eclipse tee shirt anyway
the night the moon hung like a light bulb over the Golden Gate.
On the way home, we looked for the moon, found none.
I blamed the pattern of trees and ridges.
The Nigerians were unused to the vagaries of this coast.
Ghosts of ships, the interior of stone sleeping beneath the waves.
I cannot find the way to the end of my heart.
Who finds the way back home for the heart
knows the secrets of life.
He knows the wind will be jealous
and the willows will not forgive him.
He prefers the sound of rain
to the beating heart.
I am watching the stars crawl across the horizon.
To find the way, to lose it, and find it again.
There are no simple answers
other than the constancy of the moon, the stars, this song.
The soft notes escape the melody
lingers in the black keys.
Feeding the piano he came to understand
the arms of the saguaro embrace the air.
Why did he call me to explain
why he beat her that night in Baja?
The sky considers the blueness of itself,
decides upon the word azul,
becomes water to thirst
because the clouds know how to dance in the sky
like a thought in hot water.
The water needed no directions from the mountains.
It knew the patterns of the sea, the paths to the sea,
dreaming it was a violet in search of the past.


I extracted my lines from several poems we passed around and each wrote two lines to, then folded the paper so we couldn't see the first line—4 authors. Makes you stretch.

Sunday, May 29, 1994

BUDAPEST, 1919 from photos by André Kertesz

                                    from photos by André Kertesz

1. From the Citadel, Margit Island
spreads her greenery across the Danube.
On this side of the river, Obuda,
Turkish baths, Roman forts, Celtic graves.
On the Pest side, the domed spires of government
pierce the bellies of ominous storm clouds.
Pesht, “sh” like in Irish. No latinate “s”.
No bridge to span the river. No Russian Front.

2. Bundled in a long coat, a woman
contemplates the fallen leaves in the forest.
Or perhaps immigration to America before it’s too late.
She could be my grandmother leaving Ireland.

A faint trail, more of wagon wheels than of cars.
The trees have enormous trunks, more like boulders.
Borders of religious geography demarcated by spires.
Soon this field will be pockmarked with craters.

3. Amid fallen leaves, a lone park bench.
It could be Peter’s forest along the Baltic.
We wandered through the fall colors.
The revolution hasn’t yet happened.

Ladders against bright haystacks the size of cottages.
Longhandled hay rakes comb their tresses.
Coral beads about my neck. Distant mazurkas
and tall poplars with no limbs sprout untidy new growth,
their tops candle flames flickering in the wind.
They have brought the cattle to the river to drink.

4. In a village outside Budapest I eat shashlick
am mistaken for a German. Few Americans here.
I get by on a little Russian, no German or Magyar.
More amber here than in Russia, chunks of ancient honey
to sweeten the pockets of smugglers.

The winter I turned 39, snow was falling,
I bought amber, lived in a country without status,
no longer the USSR, not yet Russia—again.
One man leads to another who shows me the next,
as if the countries themselves were lovers.
the citadel of Hungary, a respite before the storm.


Budapest 1994

I play roulette with numbers for grandmothers from the east I never had; it’s all in my head. But not the numbers. Say them 19, 45, 56, 68 Lottery or is it roulette?

To be at home  and at rest among the rubble. Anna wrote how the fields became sad when they took away the men. The wind told her. After the war everything became unfamiliar to the survivors, and we, all of us alive today, are survivors of war.

Shell-shock, our inheritance. László said Anna Kiss was once so beautiful, he was shocked, now she was a witch, a hag.

Postcards from a massed grave. Franz Josef, WWI, Trianon, and the white terror of WWII. A generation without farewell, we were born into the world old. The politics of winter changes its mind, but the storyline remains unchanged. Snow, a symbol of the old guard mired in the mud, scent of leaves rooms filled with collected shadow mausoleums of the mind.

Margít Island stripped bare of her trees. The soul scratching on the eyes of death. Sand, groin of the Donau, I can still see the soldiers. Occupation in any country, trees dumfounded by the fall. Escaped breath in winter’s kingdom.

Who reads the words off dove’s beaks, tulips, summer’s convulsive mouth. We hold our breath for the dead. Beds unmade by the sunlight. We drink bull’s blood, I think of Sandor Csóori’s fingertips blooming in the graveyards of resurrection.

Maybe in this forest someone stabbed a girl made of wax. Scorched voice of the candle flame. Who was talking about angels? I have not had to measure my life by the firing of guns, or the bearing of a son. Or the loss of a son. The winter death of my father buries me until mid summer. My weapons are pen, film and paint. Who can speak all the names of the dead?

In dreams I find myself walking along the Danube wondering whose life is living through me. Forints in the ash tray. I don’t smoke. Someone said, “Spiders are drawn to music” They bite me when I move my poetry books, I become ill for the caretaking of words.

The leaf-hands of autumn knitted the smoke-laden sky’s sweater. I can learn to live with the departure and loss as a way of life. There is no other choice. I have never swam in the warm lake waters of Balatan nor measured the circumference of Szentendre Island, my notebooks having drowned in the thermal pools of Secheny baths.

CPITS writing
see Budapest, 1994

Wednesday, May 18, 1994

STILL LIFE from photos by John Adams

                                    from photos by John Adams
                                    —for Maury Lapp

Eggplants—or are they aubergines—
migrate across a plank in sepia tones.
The sedulous heart of the cabbage gleams
as if the stage were part of its coterie.
Cherry tomatoes, crown jewels—
one missing from its setting.
Nailed to the wall: four leaves.
Cardinal directions rendered in light & shadow.
We imagine color in the language of the eye.

I think of Neruda’s Odas Vegetales,
move from tongue to tongue,
but the subject remains fixed.
Tired of writing about love,
I am summer’s fallow field.
Silver nitrate in babies’ eyes at birth
make photography the second conceptual art.
Someone hands me an assignment:
Write a letter to the kitchen knife.
I sever words from the darkness.

Maury likes the place where
                                      literature and art
Talks about change.
              Hands me a dime to toss
   to the table’s edge.
Influences the outcome in black & white.

Waits to see what will develop.


EROSION from photos by Aryan Chappell

                        from photos by Aryan Chappell

Sandstone erosion
as if calligraphy trapped in stone
needed the wind to reveal its secrets.
The secrets in stone reveal the pathways of writing,
our history trapped in stone.
The journey of the horse,
the reasons for the wind,
the migration of thought,
the bones of words
in the crevices of the mind.
A revision in stone,
a line becomes articulate thought,
becomes art, becomes the architecture of the sky—
as if clouds and wind were storytellers.
The readers of stones during winter run-off,
the emergence of pathways of light,
a white branch along a creek.
The following stones
teaching the forest how to cast shadows
the river to run uphill, other stones to cry.
The emergence of branched structures from layered rock.
The fog melds the hillsides with the sea.
the clouds seeking the bowl of earth
along the wall, buttresses and layers
human forms frozen in stone.
Clouds and rivers and canyon light.


Sunday, May 15, 1994

Gallery Tours: Sonoma County 1994

GALLERY TOUR ’94 Maureen Hurley

It goes without saying bucolic Sonoma County is good for artists, but do galleries support good art and local artists? Who buys art, what sells? With a list of 40+ galleries (excluding cafes, bars and banks), I needlessly braced myself for what often gives art a bad name. Galleries ranged from the exclusive to the down-home; most were sophistocated, with prices to match any budget and taste—from traditional wildlife to abstract expressionism. Wine country landscapes and plein air pieces were solidly represented—but I didn’t expect to find such a wide range of artistic visions.

Some excellent new places have opened including The Photography Gallery, and the Coop; some doors have closed—the Anasazi, Bronson Tufts, and the J. Noblett galleries. Nature abhors a vacuum: three new galleries opened in the town of Sonoma.

In two short blocks from 5th to 4th Street in Santa Rosa, are three fine galleries comparable to those in San Francisco, Amsterdam, or London. Two galleries in one, The Fine Frame & Art has pastels and oils on display in the back room where the frame shop is located. Owners Maureen Baumgartner and Kevin Berry, also a fine painter, made this gallery a pleasant space. A weathered brick wall sets off art nicely.

In general, I was delighted to see the work of the numerous artists whose work I’ve reviewed over the years. A most auspicious beginning: Polaroid transfer photography by Kathleen Carr, an assemblage piece by Raymond Barnhart.

The second business, West Coast Editions, has an inventory of limited edition contemporary fine art prints. Owner David Perez, a former printmaker, has a superb collection from around the world. Goya fitfully snoozes in a drawer above eclectic California artists, Diebenkorn, and Curtis. In 1989, I brought some of Jim Curtis’s etchings to sister city, Cherkassy, Ukraine, which were snatched up by the official and underground artists alike.

Perez focuses on contemporary artists of California, and the Bay Area. Prices are affordable; $50 for lovely little pieces by Michael David Richie. There are some real art bargains under $500. Perez explains most sales are in this price range, and many customers are local. Other gallery owners voiced the same opinion.

Limited edition prints are the art of choice for prospective buyers. (Purchase prints with a print run of 300 or less.) For those who balk at multiple copies, monotypes or monoprints offer original art in print format.

The current show is abstract monoprints from the Smith Anderson Editions of Palo Alto, celebrating 25 years of printmaking. Featured with internationally renowned printmakers, are two local artists, my art professor from Sonoma State University, Inez Storer of Inverness, and College of Marin classmate, David Best. David is best known for his outrageously encrusted cars, replete with stuffed rhino and water buffalo head hood ornaments; it was a pleasure to see his skill displayed in the print medium. Figure studies of La Lune, and another untitled piece evoked images of Doré’s engravings. Storer’s monotype, Elizabeth of Hungary, with a nesting bird on her head, was whimsical. The show runs to the end of the month.

Open since November, The Photography Gallery, a few doors down from Fine Frame & Art, offers fine black and white, and archival quality color prints of local photographers. Bob Hasenick’s poppy was featured on the cover of the 1994 Audobon desk calendar. Owner Jack Haley has some stunning large format work on display. Haley was out on a shoot in Nevada, but a photographer friend said Haley has an innovative marketing approach, renting wall space to artists, thus taking a much smaller commission than the standard 40%, and one can purchase prints framed or unframed.

To make ends meet, most galleries are also frame shops, Soundscapes on Mendocino Avenue sells audio equipment and home entertainment systems. Mark Silver, in audio retail 26 years, was ready for something new. In L.A. he decorated his stereo stores with art, now he’s switched focus. Partner Sarjan Ebaen manages the art end of business. In 11 months, he’s exhibited 25 artists. In addition to featured artist of the month, watercolorist Ray Jacobson’s work is on permanent display. Gerald Huth’s 72 construction/ paintings, On the Human Condition, figures rendered in many mediums, are punctuated by text from T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland . Ebaen says 75% of the work priced under $1000 is what moves. Though large ticket items do sell, those priced from $250 to $500 are equally important. Future trends include art furniture, and artist-designed entertainment centers.

I took a quick peek at Louisa Fraser’s work located on the balcony of Whistlestop Antiques, wandered over to a storefront window of the Karl Walburg gallery where $85 would buy me “anything in the window.” The Karl Walburg gallery and frame shop in the former “Sweet Potato” store on Railroad Square is enormous, the largest in the north bay. Though the gallery is only a year old, Karl, son of sculptor Gerald Walberg, and partner Christine George have produced 12 shows and three fundraisers, exhibiting the work of hundreds of artists. “We sell art by keeping prices low, but art is not about price tags,” said George. Prices range from $5 to $60,000. On exhibit is Mexican painter, Conrado Dominguez, with local artists Dwight Eberly and Nancy Tieken. Eberly needed no introduction: I recognized his Salt Point pieces. Land Images, California Landscapes by Five North Bay Artists will be on display July.

On 4th street, the reputable Lawrence Gallery with an international clientele, is the oldest and most established of the Santa Rosa contemporary art galleries. Three glowing Wendy Weldon abstracts immediately caught my attention as did watercolors by Portuguese artist, Chacorro. Not overtly fond of appraisable investment art, I squeezed past canvases, wishing the posh room was a bit wider, to find refuge in Israeli artist Itzchak Tarkay’s lovely watercolors. Lawrence Gallery exclusively represents the work of Chicana artist Sonya Fe who recently moved from Sonoma County. Fe’s canvases, with a price tag of $30,000, may be out of the average buyer’s range, but prints begin at $150. John Lennon’s limited edition serigraphs (silkscreen) are also on sale.

I asked arts consultant Darth Elledge who was buying art. Though most of his customers are from the East Coast, Elledge doesn’t neglect local customers, “Developing a clientele may take months. If they buy a painting, they deserve individualized treatment. I will go to their house to install a painting, and rearrange the furniture if necessary.” I would feel comfortable purchasing art from the knowledgeable Elledge, and most gallery representatives I met.

In order to stay in business, galleries must diversify with both commercial investment art, and art for serious collectors. Arts consultant for the Petaluma Ah! Some Art, Eolah Bates said, “When I first came here we exclusively sold ‘limited editions.’ We have many first-time buyers. The clientele is more sophisticated, preferring original art to lithographs.” Ah! Some has traditional oil paintings by local artists Henry White and Ralph Bayer. Upcoming artist include Betty Burns and Terry Behrens.

Purist at heart, I have a knee-jerk response to “limited editions” of 10,000 or more. “Those Bev Doolittles are in demand by the corporate investor,” Bates reminded me. “We still sell limited edition posters.” A commodity, stock certificate in poster format. “Collectors have to start somewhere, and Greenwich artists hold their value,” said Bates.

Michael Richie has an artist in residency and show of pastels and etchings at the Press House Gallery at the historic Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma. Sonoma County pastel artists Marsha Connell (who had a previous show at BV), Mary Silverwood, and Richie typically push the inside of the envelope out; a new word for “pastel” is needed. Richie’s vibrant pastels of Latin America are anything but pastel. The Press House Gallery, a balcony over the gift shop/tasting room, is an interesting display space where one can sip a civilized glass of Zinfandel. Richie will be working on location from June 10 to July 17.

Mary Silverwood’s pastels and limited edition prints are available through Diane Shulkin of My Daughter the Framer in Santa Rosa. Framed pastels range from $1600 to $2200. Mary will have a dozen new pieces for Matanzas Creek Winery’s annual Wine Barrel Gala June 25, where her work has been continuously exhibited since 1989.

A glorious day, I headed for the coast. Though it’s June, many west county galleries are closed mid-week. Norman Gaddini’s hand-tinted scratchboard pieces at the tiny Occidental Art Gallery resembled lithographs. The hard to find Jessica Framer/Coop gallery is worth tracking down—Occidental needs a decent fine arts gallery.

Two galleries opened on April first in Freestone; what’s this, an Arts destination? The King-Heller Gallery at the Paint Store (formerly Anasazi gallery) featured one of the Sonoma 4 plein air painters, Bill Wheeler. Currently on display are rare figure drawings by the late William Morehouse, also of the Sonoma 4. The three-room gallery defies plumb lines, but has great knotty pine floors; to prove it really was a paint store—a bucket of “Rural Outdoor Paint” is on the potbelly stove. Lively and energetic, Morehouse’s coffee-wash nudes from ’87 to ’91 have cryptic numbers and letters, a code known only to Bill. . . A deer trotted up to the back door as if to pay homage to Morehouse. Stuart Buehler’s paintings and assemblages will be on display July 2.

On a caffeine contact high from Bill’s drawings, I pulled into the Freestone House Gallery at the Wishing Well. New owner Jim Longacre has transformed the space—bare wood walls adorned with meticulous watercolors by Freestone artist Pamela Glasscock, and work by 6 other artists. So tranquil. Said Longacre, “It was natural for the nursery to bring in art. Sacramento tourists, fed-up with what passes for art at coastal galleries, exclaim, ‘Now, this is a breath of fresh air!’” The 1st Annual Botanical Art Exhibit opens June 18, and runs through mid-September. On the road, life began to imitate art: hedgerows of roses, irises, Indian paintbrush framed by my truck window.

The Bodega Landmark Gallery—half a shed crammed to the gills with eclectic paintings stacked five deep next to a smashing exhibit by Philip Buller? Oh well, the salt tang enticed me down the road.

With the exception of Guerneville printmaker Gail Packer’s intaglio prints, most art in the three storied Branscomb Gallery is banal—renderings of the usual suspects: otters, whales, and bunnies. Packer’s prints of rural Sonoma County are the only thing happening. Hildy Henry’s hand-painted folk art frames do real justice to Gail’s pieces. Other notable exceptions are El Meyers’ watercolors upstairs, and tapestries from southern India. There’s an excellent display of intaglio printing with three of Gail’s copper plates; she rarely prints more than 200 copies of any piece. Framed—from $500 to $750.

You can see more of Gail’s work, along with Lorraine Cooke’s pastels at the Curtis Chase Gallery in Guerneville. Once I dragged a print of Coleman Valley Road, that Gail donated to sister-city, Cherkassy—through airports and customs, onto trains, trolleys and busses across Russia to deliver it to the Cherkassy Arts Guild.

The Ren Brown Collection is a tranquil space with small Japanese gardens and running water; an environment that’s seamless, a haven in any storm. Lovely wooden tables adorned with exquisite raku bowls; I wanted sink into the tatami mats and have someone serve me green tea ice cream. Elegant etchings from Ritsuwo Kanno’s first American exhibition are absolutely breathtaking. The show run through July 11. I could’ve lingered for hours, but the coastline was a movable feast, and I had miles to go, and deadlines to keep.

Duncan's Mills has five galleries! Quercia gallery (once home of the Christopher Queen gallery) has an excellent collection of contemporary art hung from floor to ceiling. My only complaint: it’s hard to read the faded, hand-written tags. What a selection: Frank Gannon’s California Impressionism, Bev Rowe’s vibrant pieces, Ray Jacobson’s seascapes, Jennifer Hoover’s paintings (I originally saw at the Framework gallery of Forestville). It was hard to tear myself away but Christopher Queen gallery across the courtyard beckoned. The 18-year-old gallery has a flower exhibit of contemporary watercolors and oils by Morten Solberg, serigraphs by Henri Plisson and others. As co-founder Nancy Ferreria gave me a tour, my eyes feasted everywhere, wonderful paintings, excellent Middle Eastern rugs, and objet d’art. In the next room, wildlife including Solberg’s polar bear with abstract background—a style that made the Forestville artist famous. Upstairs is her father Swede Wallen’s superb collection of early California art. William Keith, Deakin Edwin, Thomas Hill—reasonably priced. In July, artists of the Bohemian Club including Keith and Hill will be shown.

Quicksilver Mine Co. hangs 7 lively shows a year, the gallery is attached to the store, shows spill out into the storefront windows and throughout the store. Art bins extend the current repertoire, offer bargains on non-featured artists. Micah Schwaberow’s woodblock, Russian River Moon, a steal at $75. John Curry’s assemblage was pricy at $24,000. Curator of the current Man to Man exhibit, Rob Higgins said, “I was tired of the usual T & A and wanted to see something else.” Carl Hedberg’s resin sculpture “View from a Urinal” to Jesse Helms, is decidedly upfront. Higgins explained, “The male figure is not well represented in art.” Has he hit upon a future trend? The California Museum of Art has an upcoming show on male images. Traditionally, publication and presentation of art (and poetry) disproportionately features male artists. Sonoma County is one of those rare places that exhibits the work of many women artists, I hope to see male images by women artists too. Man to Man runs to July 17, followed by Karina Nishi Marcus’s exhibit entitled, Confluences: Abstractions of Water and Space.

guessing May 1994?

Wednesday, May 11, 1994



My life was filled with parties, dancing until dawn.
All those violins practicing the mating flight.
I don’t remember who called him The Great.
My destiny was to be a court songbird,
my art, to preen my feathers in the grand ballrooms.

I learned to smile; the sun rose on his every command.
The water garden at the Summer Palace
offered us a chance to discard our plumage.
So many rooms and floors with inlaid stones
and columns of malachite and gilt.

                                         Yes, the peasants labored,
but we never let that enter our pretty heads. Bread enough.
Of course winters were cold, they’re used to it.
I heard Bonaparte’s army was defeated by our mud.
What did he expect? Winter’s vast empire is Russia.

Once I said Yes to a man, then changed my mind.
Urgent rustle of wheat before the harvest.
I miss his eyes. The eye of the Baltic. The canals.
Afternoon tea in the gazebo. His honeyed arias.
His footprints, ravens in the carrion snow.




The mirror knows more than it shows the world
that greeniness hiding the deeper truths
by holding up the naked truth
like being unmasked at the ball before the final hour—
As if some transparent beast were waiting to spring
out of the cupboards of the world;
not some spirit guide, but a real monster
with bristles and fangs
and the strength of eons to tattoo words above my door.
“Enter cautiously, Monster within (at work)”
as if I invented the reasons for creativity,
or an excuse to play out of tune again and again
to the dreamhills as if I’d lived the rest of my life
in advance, but always my horses are lost
and I cannot find the way home.
The talisman of the dream,
lost inside the heart of the world.


This is from Katharine Harer's Questions CPITS lesson—but many of these poems were written on weekends so I didn't write them all in class. 

Sunday, May 8, 1994


from Elemental Portraits: Nocturnes for Two Pianos,
                                    composed by Kirk Whipple
Seagull, I’d want the air
because the sky is the ocean
and I don’t know the words
for the direction the voice takes.
The mountain sleeps with the sea
and the horizons of Alba
struggle to transcribe the notes in the sand.
Your fish are grinning, light is asleep.
The moon and the sun dance on the sea
because the children of the air
don’t know the solitary soul of the gull.
Seabird, seabird, the air is your country
it’s your fortress, it’s the heart,
and the sea, your house.

Gaviota quisiera el aire
porque el cielo es el mar
y no conozco las palabras
para esta dirección de la voz toque.
Las montaña duerme con el mar
y los horizontes de Alba
la lucha discribien las notas en la arena.
Tús peces sonreian, la luz está durmiendo.
La luna y el sol bailan en el mar,
porque los niños del aire
no conocieron la alma solitario de gaviota.
Gaviota, gaviota, el aire es tú pais,
es tú castillo, es tú corazón,
y el mar, tú casa.


ELEMENTAL PORTRAITS                                                                                
         from musical compositions by Kirk Whipple


She is there to lift us out of obscureness.

Portraits of sunset,
ocean cloudscapes dreaming
a dressage of neon rain,
a party in the other room
the nightingale singing,
a steady flame,
the two of us at sunrise.

walking in the starry clusters of sand
and the burden becomes another
Silencio de negra.

grace notes outside the key edible.
the patterns on a lake,

we forget the paths.
what we’ve lost touch of.
We have nothing but ourselves
In our circuituous wanderings
we carry the burden of freedom forward.
because she is the light to guide us,
teaching us to begin again.

arpeggios of water waltz
cusp lean into the wind
trust it to hold you
crisp bells before the storm
the hills, come to the sea, wave/rocks flight of birds across snow
clear message before the storm
the breath to sing
sighting land like Columbus
the clue of birds on the horizon
riding out the tune cresting each wave.
cross-rhythms like a shiver of ear candy.

  return to first field
stepping up each measured step
As this rhythm bubbles up
the parched earth

Those things deep inside
step up, fall back, begin again.

chill of spine, chickenskin
syncopation of the pianists,
short burst rearranges.
the pulse finding us deep inside
he's growing surer but also more faint
as the path becomes clear
deep beginnings the end of stuttering colors,

a free beginning, creating the concept of darkness, of sound
Dark to light/lyrical matter-of factly, no big swell or crescendo like in the movies.

(What would a patriot dream of,
or is she a patriot’s dream dreaming a person?)

I am the endless stranger inside the depths of night

Friday, May 6, 1994


                                    —for Virginia Cayton

Giving us the rhythm of your name,
the voracious hunger of syllables
and staccato of piano keys,
the steady flame of she who leads us
from the darkness of the wood.
Calling you home, calling you—

I want to tell you of the rising sun,
of the height of redwoods
by the edge of the lake,
pulling us in, plucking us from both sides
like a harp, or a violin fretting us.
The black keys singing, Virginia.

An unnameable quality,
the tracings of shadows—
To swing the syllables of the air—
How distance is minuscule.
Life is like that measured beat
of jubiliation. Repeat it again.
Over the rise, clouds gather
in your name. Virginia.

Your feet trace shadows
on the back roads of the mind.
The journey forward
must also contain the past.
For what is a pianist without a piano?

Arms punctuate ideas,
strengthen us, build stairs until we
sink down into ourselves
and feel it from the insides of our knees.
The wind is calling you
by the music of your name,



As if someone entered the room
a draft tickles the flame,
teaches it the elements of dance;
it knows how to bend in the breeze.
Like the roaring stand of pines,
it sings its eventual death song.
Not perpendicular right angles
but the bending of light, of time.
Wave and particle, quantum mechanics.
Who holds the room together,
who shows the darkness how to dance with light?
A child claps his hands with joy
following the melody of your name, Virginia.
Oh Virginia, the sky knows your name.
The darkness is its brother—or is it sister?
Virginia, the mountains’ purity
is composed of ice & rock.
We learn anew the meaning of sublime
living in the heart of the flame.
Virginia, the black notes take hold, climb the summit,
seeking the darkness & the light in one breath.
Chiaroscuro and contrapunto, the flickering flame.

Thursday, May 5, 1994


                            Tangiers, 1931

He said:
Below our life, all is water.
I was an ugly baby, an abnormal child
writing a 2-page story at the age of two.
I was blue, soft at the corners of the mouth.
When I was eight I wrote an opera.
But there’s got to be a base.
Flip a coin. Heads: run off to Paris.
Become a writer. Tails: do myself in.
The parrot looks at me suspiciously
whenever I type.

He spoke wistfully of the time of his father—
when they kept tame gazelles in the room.
Drank thick coffee
on the bougainvillea-inflamed terrace.
There is no greater crime
than the excitement of envy,
said Lao Tsu.

There are no tourists anymore.
The proper length of time
to stay in a hotel is one night,
the proper length of time
to stay in a city is one day.
Stay in a different quarter each time.
Always walk fast.
Here I shall live
until the eucalyptus leaves learn to fall
in a city whiter than Jesus’s soul.

Voices. Something is singing at night.
I’m going away to death’s black arms.
Below our life, all is water.
There’s got to be a base.
The radio, like a terminal moraine.
Aloneness. The veil. This is the base.
How fast is the heart?
Here, nothing, no petrushka. No base.
No thoughts, only tones.
The muzzeim.
And sheltering sky.


John Martin from Black Sparrow Books was reading me some Paul Bowles under moonlight

Wednesday, May 4, 1994


                                                      —for Nathan

Bright copper against the afternoon sky,
they were better than day dreams.
Like young girls they coyly bared their necks,
pulled the tall oats with such surety,
ears and feet in a slow syncopated tandem waltz.
In love with their beauty, I was ten.

With ropes concealed behind our backs
Micaela and I climbed the steep hillside.
Honey-voiced, we approached, they leaned
into us as we scratched their necks.
The wind lufted their manes like prayer flags.
I was ten, I idolized the lake country of their eyes.

The ropes arranged themselves.
As if by magic, we were transported
to the ridges that opened like a path
leading us deeper into the mystery.
I was ten, in love with their flint-hooved surety.

The kingdom of the air was ours.
Our hearts flying, fists clenching manes,
raw horsepower unleashed the green blur
of meadows, the flight of birds, our teachers.
I was ten, enraptured with their velocity.

We could not bear the separation at dusk.
Alive, they filled the barn with their breathing.
Mesmerized by the rhythmic grinding of their teeth,
we felt proud, gathered armloads of grass.
Our secret safe in the abandoned barn,
we went home bursting with excitement.
Ours! Ours! I was ten, in love with their loveliness.

The red light of the sheriff’s car
worried the curtain, the blood rose
like lava and settled, that dread chill
icing my toes. He said “We still hang
horse thieves around here.”
In trouble with the law,
I stood there, ten, afraid to breathe.
In love with their beauty, I was ten.



For Herman Berlandt who once lived in a storage room
and slept on the baby grand.

Poor chewed teddy bear on the studio piano—
                (the plant looks guilty.)
It serves as a bar, an ironing board, a shelf.

The piano’s lips are closed.
            Small brass knobs like eyes, or nostrils—
more bulldog than swan.

No cygnet, or grand piano,
when properly encouraged
             it sings superbly.
             An infinite swan song.
It wants touching—
             the deft stroke and caress, or even abuse:
             a Lullaby by Brahms, or Maple Leaf Rag.
It vocalizes the song of the fingers
in arias and open octaves.

I imagine those black and white keys asleep,
or perhaps when the lid is down,
            they run out the back door
            to play among the wires
only to return at the sound
of approaching fingers.