Saturday, August 24, 1996

CPITS journal, Walker Creek

After the California Poets in the Schools conference, the letdown, the long, slow goodbyes, this is my family of poets. All of this wonderfully crazy. During the closing ceremony, of course, through the process of elimination, I was standing next to John Oliver Simon.

It was so strange to be holding his hand again after all these years. I'd forgotten how strong and warm they were, and that false sense of security they gave me. And I was uncomfortable with him around, but not majorly so. More like an awareness and a pattern of avoidance long-established.

Terri Marquis asked him if he was uncomfortable around me, and he answered, no, but he was aware of my discomfort, putting it all upon me. And taking his cue from that. She said, I couldn't help but think of you last night, up there, reading. You were so beautiful, and his eyes were all over you. He must've felt some regret.

Funny, the poem I chose to read was in the anthology, Poem for Sarah, had buckeye images in it,. Arthur read a new poem about the old man and buckeyes. This morning he commented upon it and said a lot of our poem are dialogs to others. He said he had heard me read that poem several times. Acknowledgment and the dialogue continuing beyond the poem.

Last night as Arthur and I were dancing, we were spiraling towards each other. I was relieved when Luis asked me to dance. We clowned around and danced absurd tangos, and deliberately fell flat on the floor at the end of the song like exhausted dancers. How wonderfully absurd, a flirtation and parody. People laughed and clapped.

Arthur and I danced some swing. We danced foursomes interacting with others or merely doing exercises. I don't think there's another group of people I'd rather dance with. There is a special comraderie in knowing everyone for 10 to 15 years, makes this an extraordinary group of people.

It was brave of Luis Kong to come to the conference. He had to leave behind the past, and several people had problems with his heavy-handedness when he was Executive Director. No way to heal, if you can't forgive. How can you forgive if you never faced? An extraordinary conference. We're not falling apart contrary to popular belief.

Luis shocked me by commenting about my dancing with Arthur, reminding me that  Arthur was a married man. I retorted, Why, does it look like it? I am not doing anything with Arthur. We are circumspect. Luis said, I'm just teasing. But he scored a bull's-eye on that one and he knew it.

Yes I will admit there is an incredible attraction, but I flirted more heavily with Luis who is also married man, because it was safe. I'm a wild flirtatious dancer.

Arthur and I hiked up the ridge
a 15-minute moonlight walk that lasted hours
I was bearing small bits of my soul to him
as we stood on the ridge overlooking the valleys
where harsh shadows conjoined in the canyons.
We alighted on the grass, watched the constellations
wheel across the sky, with the Arabic names of stars
etched on our tongues.

rev 12/17

need date 1996

Thursday, August 22, 1996


I'm mulling Bert Schierbeek's words 
in Een Plek, in Tirade, vol. 32,
an essay on homesickness
and of lost youth, circa 1988,
in translation. What is lost?
Besides the words themselves?
But I don't understand Dutch
so this is all supposition.
What is homesickness?
You left that place armed
with a wooden sword
and a flask of cold tea.
Armed unto the road,
you were, it was not negotiable.
You had to fight for it. The distance.
A boy running away from home.
This place was never the place,
but places where the heart wanders off to.
The house of language
is the same everywhere,

said Faulkner. A prison
of hypnotic rhythms, and cadence.
I would tell you more, Dear Reader,
but I am not authorized, and
I can't tell you where Bert's words
leave off, and mine begin. it's like that.
There are so few gods left to contend with.
Think of transposition. Bert said:
The Beat Generation had to leave,
they had to go on the open road
looking for a piece of lost America.

A downtrodden culture.
Looking for their own roots
with their heads in the clouds
they were homesick for a place
they made it for us, said Miller, in Paris.
Hell, and the front door of paradise opened.
America is a dream of displaced Europeans,
and a rather curious vagueness
of the literature of place.
What is home, asked the traveler.
I am always stranded—no matter where I go.
I am homesick on both sides of the world.
It's an equal-opportunuty thing.

22 Aug., 1996? some time before Aug 24.
slightly rev. 10/28/2015

‘Bert Schierbeek Een plek’ In: Tirade. Jaargang 32

Thursday, August 15, 1996



Persistent whispering of cottonwoods 
praying for rain in the desert, 
trick the air into believing 
the deluge has come.
This far below sea level, 
the clouds dump torrents upon us. 
The street becomes rivulets 
weeping into the River Amstel.
The cottonwoods' promise 
is answered a hundredfold 
and in biblical proportions.
But this is an alien land, 
no sundance for the tree of life 
this far north from the plains 
of the Lakota Sioux.
No sun, for that matter.

Everyone complains 
that God has stolen summer.
Perhaps it's because on this continent,
they've forgotten how to dance to the sun. 
I read that Baal was the god of rain.
I thought he was the sun god.
I am reminded that Mesopotamia
wasn't always a desert.
But something is brewing.
The dust devils are restless.
The dry wadis channel flash floods
into standing waves, cresting at 6 feet,
sweeping entire villages out to sea. 
The streets are flooded in Amsterdam,
but I am safe here, below sea level,
in the canals of Amsterdam.
I am dancing in the rain,
dancing for the sun.

15 August 1996
transcribed and slightly edited 24 Oct., 2015


While looking in his wife's mirror
I admire myself, in his eyes? Or mine?
He is a photographer who tries to capture
the intangible soul behind the eyes,
but never will. He lives in a flat
that was once a bank vault, 
with thick impenetrable walls.
It's appropriate that he lives

next door to the YabYum Bordello
I'm just a housesitter with benefits.
There must be something in the air,
for tonight, even the luna moths circle 

the light leaking from the YabYum Bordello.
I'm watching Vanya on 42nd St., again,
suffering from an acute lack of sleep,
age is a creeping mirror in the darkness.
Under the cover of night, men queue up, 

the neon sign flashes, in red and gold,
a door slams, they enter slowly
and push back the thought 
of encroaching old age, 
threading denial with their cocks. 
A momentary respite. While I
live like a nun above the rooftops,
the vault of sky, my witness.
Sometimes it seems the gables 
shift and sway liike tall ships.
Any port in a storm, says
the lonely cry of a seagull.
who patrols the YabYum sign,
with folded wings so like a wimple.

15 August 1996
transcribed and edited 24 Oct., 2015