Friday, November 26, 2004


thought weather trouble
blue house stand fast
last luck lord engaged
wife, she remained
respect finished
they point
surely part class drop
likely raised offer
fancy share afterwards
stayed period

millions had used
need among class

quick sound
nine ears hear longer
disappoint reason

court pale day
handwriting towards perfect passion
ladies ache
watched colour lying fallen
cannot lose afternoon knowledge

children fear gray
grandfather turning
walk round accident
nice spot

except   sooner
nobody down fool
ah says sake her,
took matter
four  close

repetition wonderful by not years shut,
luckily where rhythm grandfather
forget earth opportunity

wear once around
desire played lead
equipped full
awhile lightning scarcely allowed

fathers suddenly note their education
know continue passing early exercise,
speak ah note
strong writing start
ight he
laughter moved
height position shoulder
spirit field
doctor act god
line comfort obliged
stop following companion
comfort knew
lie any progress
fit continuous find.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004



’T’was the day before Thanksgiving
and all through the houses
plump turkeys were thawing, not petit grouses!
Though the cupboards were groaning
all the tables were laid bare. What? No carousing?
My birthday comes but once a year.
"We forgot," cried relatives and spouses
to friends and neighbors moaning in thin air.
They scolded their watches & their PDAs too,
"it's not that we don't care. Really, we do.
Forgive us. We really forgot. It wasn't a plot.
Forgive us, our memory's got dry rot. Or ergot.
We'll make it up to you at Christmas. Never fear."
Lest I complain, "let them eat crow," (or cake)
one year, even my mom forgot, alas, heartbreak!
I don't hold my breath lightly, nor do I lend an ear,
for tomorrow will come when pigs learn to fly
by all those pumpkin and mince pies in the sky
without gobbling them up, none for the throngs.
So much for the promises of yesteryear—
or even next year. Now, don't get me wrong.
Indeed I long for that glutton of a beast
with all the trimmings of a glorious feast.
I dispense fowl blessings reiterated with grace.
Hope springs eternal, so I save a small place
for dessert — because it might be a bit of cake.
OK, I’m quirky if I confuse turkeys with candles.
And tomorrow when we dismantle the big bird
I’ll blow out the drumstick with a wing and a prayer.
I won’t let this bailiwick of a pilgrim’s parlance,
betrayer of fowlish deeds, with dissonance absurd
occlude my birthday with a yam dance. Not a chance!
Conclude your fawning and hemming and hawing.
Pass the blasted dressing. For next year, never fear
my birthday will reappear on Thanksgiving Day. OK?
Pity my poor cousin born on Christmas Eve
and not to grieve on such a moveable feast.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

In North Beach awaiting Neil Jordan and Roddy Doyle

11/17/ 2004

Myles O'Reilly's pub at 622 Green St. in North Beach awaiting Neil Jordan and Roddy Doyle. Ha, ha, ha, we're all drinking somebody's open swill – Pinot Noir for breakfast. Ugh. I was hoping for food. The Jazz club band brings us in with a little swing, some Maria Callas, and the Tarantella and the Godfather meets the Irish in North Beach.

Nearly an hour later, Roddy Doyle saunters in and steps up to the microphone, says he's now a Yank, having been in nine cities in 10 days. We laugh.

Doyle is bald as a skinhead, it takes some getting used to. He read from Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, and a bit on Henry Smart, an IRA volunteer, from A Star Called Henry, and some stray bits from a play he's been working on, and then he thanked Elgie Gillespie for making this so. We're all fairly toasted.

Neil Jordan, looking upscale thuggish, wearing shades, returns from a TV interview, he's a rare bit of gloom, despite it being sunny, midday. Maybe the alcohol's wearing off. 

He begins with: I know when I died, May 1950. It was a rare whinge, the perspective is written from that woman. He ended on an upbeat note: George killed me... He reads from The Dream of a Beast, with a segue into Interview with the Vampire.

After they were finished reading, there was a Q&A. Someone asks: Would you like to write The Commitments today?

Roddy Doyle said, Well, I'd need to express the conditions along similar lines. The Irish, the blacks of Europe would figure into it.

Jordan said the USA has been good to me, re: The Crying Game

Unconventional sexual relationships seem to be a major attraction. I went into shock after seeing the movie—even though someone told me the ending beforehand. Perhaps the American audience needs that to hang onto as the intricacies of the Provisional IRA would be above their heads.

Doyle said, Yeah, the audience and booksellers and films here are great. The Commitments was successful which was a mystery to me. He repeats himself: As to why they read my books, it's a bit of a mystery to me.

Question: did you write for the stage, was it a goal? Doyle answered, No, I wrote The Commitments as a story. It was not a natural play. The joy was in watching the actors take it and then make it their own. A learning experience.

Jordan says: Money changes everything so quickly, the refusal to live in the real world was central in The Crying Game.

Sue Fry says to Jordan: it's a dark film and the US was shocked by it. North Dublin is dark. Are there cross-cultural differences?

He said: The American audience didn't get it. Movies have no nationality. The Americans certainly didn't get The Butcher Boy, because the accent made it difficult. And there are specific issues versus generic issues, so the nationality of the film interfered. 

She asks: What about Michael Collins?

Roddy Doyle says the distribution was underestimated. It was not tailored for an American audience. Doyle's Dublin street slang is not directly transferrable. The Snapper for example, Miramax had 17 pages of changes in the dialogue to make it more accessible to American audiences. They didn't know what a gobshite was. Readers like the Irishness of the books and then the media controls what's made. Now it's all about stars, not the story.

Jordan said most filmmakers did something else before they became filmmakers. I wrote short stories first.

If you're interested in film, write it as a short story first.

Then we celebrated Myles' birthday, and the party spilled out into the street until dusk fell.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Indiana Review Collaboration/Collage project Elemental Portraits

The Indiana Review           
Ballantine Hall 465                                   
1020 E. Kirkwood Ave.
Bloomington, IN 47405-7103


Poet Maureen Hurley and pianist-composer Kirk Whipple first met during a series of Soviet-American cultural exchange programs in the USSR and the USA. Whipple, who studied at the Berklee College of Music, Massachusetts, performed in the 1990 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition, Moscow, U.S.S.R., while Hurley was giving poetry readings and facilitating poetry and art exchanges in Moscow, Leningrad, and Cherkassy, a city near Kiev.

Hurley and Whipple performed together for Sister City cultural events in Sonoma County, California. During a series of benefit concerts, Hurley wrote several poems based on Kirk Whipple’s performances which won several awards and fellowships. Whipple approached Hurley with the idea to collaborate from the ground floor: to create poems as he was developing and composing a series of nocturnes for two pianos, compositions inspired by Chopin’s set of nocturnes for solo piano. Whipple is executive director, and co-founder with wife, Marilyn Morales, of the Unconservatory, Inc. (1988). Each of the individual pieces from Elemental Portraits were inspired by people very close to the composer or who were affiliated with the Unconservatory.

Hurley and Whipple met during 1992-1996 to collaborate on the musical compositions. First, Whipple played a piece in progress and Hurley freewrote to it. She interviewed him where he shared his musical composition book of dreams, conversations, observations, songlines, and musical phrases… She then interviewed the people who inspired each of the eleven Nocturnes. When the pieces were completed, she wove together a collage of the three strands of storyline, observation and impression.

In 1995, Whipple, Morales and Hurley premiered five of the nocturnes. In 1996, during the debut of the complete set of the eleven nocturnes, Hurley was in a serious accident, and was unable to perform, so Whipple and Morales debuted the entire set without her, and later recorded the nocturnes in 1999 at the University of Miami. In 2002, the duo, Whipple, & Morales, released their first commercially available recording of Elemental Portraits. Between 2002 and 2004, the groundwork was laid for a premier performance of the collaboration which took place in Miami, Florida, during May of 2004. A live presentation featuring the spoken poetry and performances of the nocturnes which were performed at concert halls, universities, schools, and television studios throughout southwest Florida. We were featured artists on PBS/WLRN’s  “ArtStreet” with Marilyn Porte, which aired in June, 2004.

To Whom it May Concern:
Enclosed please find:

Poems “Elemental Portraits”
by Maureen Hurley

First page of sheet music for each piece
by Kirk Whipple, composer
8035 SW 26th Street
Miami, FL 33155
(305) 266-9673

CD Music recording
CD jacket & postcard flyer
of “Elemental Portraits:
Nocturnes for Two Pianos”
performed by Kirk Whipple
and Marilyn Morales, Duo Pianists

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Well, it’s come to that
flip a coin when stasis sets in
John the Ambiguous was always 
a great one for a coin toss to decide fate
like have a kid, or break up, or get married
So whatever flummoxed him was reduced to
a 50/50 chance, the odds were in his favor
because that way he didn't have to choose
A good thing coins aren’t dice cubes 
It would have increased the odds
We were a gamble anyway.

rev 1/2/14

Friday, September 17, 2004

Letter to President Bush on Public Schools

In the National Mobilization for Great Public Schools petition box provided for personal comment I wrote:

Dear President Bush,

Having worked in nearly 100 California schools since 1979, I can emphatically state that the public schools have NEVER been in such dire straits as they are now, thanks to increased federal and state legislation that has negatively impacted our schools—coupled with a growing lack of state and federal funding. A deadly coctail for education. As a result, schools are seriously overcrowded. New legislation, including the futile "Leave no Child Left Behind" campaign, has left schools so crippled, that we've lost sight of what a school does: to educate children.

Public education is no longer about educating students but it's about crowd control, and it's about teachers jumping through meaningless administrative hoops in order to meet legislative mandates. A teacher's politically mandated curriculum teaching hours leaves little or no troom for actual meaningful teaching.

In addition, to become a credentialed teacher is now an expensive, time-consuming, meaninless pursuit, harbinger of things to come, namely, dealing with bloated school beaurocracy. Compound that with overcrowded classrooms, lack of funds for basic classroom needs, and poor salaries, no wonder new teachers are leaving the profession at alarming rates.

Thanks to government lip service, our children are becoming increasingly illiterate with little or no critical thinking skills, let alone, basic job skills—and they are America's future! Public education needs massive state and federal funding incentives ASAP to save the current generation from being left behind, because, Mr. Bush—and you are not  MY president: My president would give more than lip service to education, he would nake it a top priority.

Your lack of foresight and negative legislative actions have all but crippled what once was the best education system in the world. Sadly, these children are the victims you have left behind with your policies and they will be our future citizens of tomorrow. Alas, they will inherit this future.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Lesson Learned: Vote

If there was a lesson to be learned, the Presidential election of 2000 taught us that every single vote literally counts. Some cast votes were counted incorrectly and some chads were pregnant, spawning an election where, several days after the polls closed, we still didn’t know who our president was. It proved to be a bad omen, and here we are, four years later, convincing friends to vote in 2004.

There’s a saying, Friends don’t let friends vote Republican. Here, in the Bay Area where, where the majority of voters are liberal, we’re preaching to the converted. But what about preaching furhter afield, what about family? What do you do then?

Like a dark secret, lately many of my liberal friends are confessing that their families are staunch Republicans. I have never before admitted in public that my enormous ecelctic, whacky family too is Republican to the bone. As in Orange County Republican. We have more than our fair share of laywers, judges, policement and doctors. 

At family gatherings, politics are always a hot subject. One of my earliest memories is of my grand uncles and aunts pounding the table, whiskey jars jumping in unison like amber soldiers. But you can’t divorce an entire family. I tried that for a few decades but it only isolated me from my roots. I mourn those lost years when many of my relatives died.

There’s a popular anti-Republican joke set in the Midwest, where a Republican teacher asks a class to raise their hands if they’re Republican. The whole class raises their hands except a lone student, Mary, dissents. She claims that she’s a Democrat by virtue of the fact that both her parents are Democrats.

You wouldn’t find me raising my hand in that classroom either though I’m from a family where both my parents are Republicans. And their parents were Republicans. And that’s about as far back as it goes. 

In Ireland, before and during the 1916 Rebellion and the development of nationhood, to be a Republican meant you were against the tyrannical rule of Britain. When my grandfather came to America from Ireland in 1904, he was a freedom fighter. A Republican. It meant something different in 1904 as compared to today’s definition.

 It was during the Vietnam war that I cut my political teeth. I was from a generation of young activists, who were children during the Civil Rights movement. Though the action was happening on the Eastern Seaboard, California  was a long way from Washington DC, or the South for that matter.

While an entire high school, marched from San Anselmo to San Rafael and shut down the Draft Board. We made the national evening news. That was a big event  when there were only five TV channels to choose from.

In fact, my partner, who is from Scotland, said he could never live with a woman who smoked, or who was a Republican. Well, I was a registered Democrat, I didn’t smoke (not even after intercourse, and pot by that point, was passe), but I lived with him seven long years before I confessed to him that my family was Republican. We were having an argument. He was dissing. Cat slipped out of the bag.

The next family gathering, a wedding, I noticed that he was looking at my family with new eyes. I think he was looking for horns and cloven hooves. These people he’d grown to like and love. But what he discovered was that they were merely human with all their foibles on their heart sleeves after all. Like our Cuban friends 

in Miami. If you’re Cuban, you’re Republican. If you’re Black, you’re Democrat. If you’re Irish, your Party persuasion depends upon when your ancestors left Ireland, pre -or post-Famine years. If your family managed to survive the Famine, and they weren’t Protestant (pro British), then they were Republican. As in The Republic of Ireland. The IRA.  

How do you talk to rabid Republicans, fighting Irish, who volley back Republican vetted sound bytes as if it were truth? There’s no room for meaningful conversation. 

All I can hope to tell them is that under the Bush administration, social welfare issues have been all but destroyed. I can no longer make a living, after 25 years of working in the schools as an artist in residence, the repeated recessions have all but destroyed the funding sources, and gutted the schools to such an extent that arts education is no longer offered in most California schools.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


The old one bent over the fire feeding the pulses, one at a time into the cooking pot. End of summer, and the green beans that bolted  and grew towards the sun in the hopes that the great beanstalk in the sky would find them a ladder to the heavens, were unceremoniously shucked, their corns tossed into the stew pot for the evening meal. This evening, the next, it didn't matter. It all wound up in the same place eventually, thought the old woman. Her thin gray hair hung down in thin ropes, like bedraggled feathers. Soon she too would go the way of all things. The fire popped and hissed. She watched the film rise from a crack in the wet wood. Stranded bugs did a frenzied dance on the rotted log she'd used for starter wood. She marveled at their amethyst color, so like the bauble of the Chieftain, who was always yammering on about his own self importance. The hot bugs curled into tight balls, and rolled off right into the coals like berserker warriors leaping into the fray. She was still puzzling over last winter's tale about a dragon, his mother, and the dragonslayer. Something about bears. No, that wasn't it, the warrior was more like a bear or a wolf. The last moon of summer rose over the new mown wheat. the ache in her bones spoke of another story trapped in the silence of the earth. Soon the teller of tales would return to the village and pick up his tail where he left off. And, the beans, their remains would turn up in the pot until they too dissolved into yesterday's stew harboring the last of the summer sun in their skin. She hoped that this winter he would finish the tail so she could put the story to rest. But she worried that the dragons mother might be waiting for her during the longest nights.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Letter to Sigrun in Iceland (Helgar the Horrible)

Icelandic Horses in the rain

Alas I have no photos of Helgar the Horrible, who by this time is probably in Icelandic horse heaven! He was a gelding, not a stallion. I suspect that's why he was allowed to come to the US in the first place, no danger of gene pool problems.

He was unusual, some of his behavior was unlike that horses. Closer to pony or donkey behavior. Unlike the donkeys, he was not revengeful & didn't carry a grudge. BUT you never knew quite what to expect from him. He wasn't as wily as the Shetlands. Boy was he sometimes thick-headed: both metaphorically & literally! He once tried to take me right through a water tank. Guess physics wasn't his strong point... We never quite knew what made him tick. He was pretty enigmatic. Sometimes his brakes didn't work right so we never knew what to expect....

He was surefooted...except whenever he had a momentary lapse with physics, that is. He never needed shoeing, his hard hooves were like flint. You could ride him all day long and he never would tire, no matter how steep the mountain, and believe me, we rode hard. We took our assorted ponies, horses, donkeys and an occasional lonesome stunted (dwarf) bull calf named Mr. Smitts out for miles over the steep coastal ridges of Marin County, Northern California, as far as Point Reyes national seashore, and Bolinas (from Forest Knolls)... (we called the bull calf that because he was smitten by our Shetland ponies, and didn't know he was a bovine... which was downright embarrassing in the spring when his hormones began to run... he'd hop up right behind me, and the danger of being impaled in the back by his horns was...but I digress.)

Helgar preferred to trot and could trot almost as fast as a cantering horse, even Gay Girl, the thoroughbred. It was like riding a jackhammer....not smooth at all. He must've had at least three very distinctive trotting speeds. We used to sing and our voices would go uh-uh-uh in time with his trot, sounding like a car ignition unable to turn over (start) in winter... It was very hard to get him to gallop (hitting him or drumming your heels into his side didn't work) but the horses would eventually leave him behind in the dust and he'd eventually come tearing up from behind all worried looking.

There was a particularly mean Walking Horse named Brandy I occasionally rode (with some well-grounded fear, you had to get past his teeth to get on him), who did pace, so they were a happy match together. Brandy must've been 17 hands, and Helgar 12 hands. They looked ridiculous side by side. Helgar's trot was very distinct, and I can still see him in my mind's eye, looking like a little cartoon character with his head thrown back and his hairy little legs flashing out like a Walking horse. In retrospect, he probably was pacing in that I do remember us talking about it.... It was not a comfortable ride, not like a Paso Fino which I also once rode.

Helgar had a thick head, not at all refined like the Welsh pony that carries an Arab gene or two. He looked a lot like the horses in the cave paintings of Las Caux & Altamitra. Black tail, upright mane with dun (sandy) guard hairs, so it was two-toned. He was fairly stocky, thick-legged with long guard hairs on his fetlocks and jaw. And when winter came, poor thing, he looked like a chia pet he was so hairy. He never ever adapted to the milder California winters. Rain ran right off him. He refused to use the shelter, preferred to stand out in the downpour. We thought he was a little daft as we got a lot of rain (as much as 30-60 inches) and a surprising amount of frost in Forest Knolls. Not like Iceland, of course, but cold. Sometimes the ground in the shade would stay frozen for weeks.

He was a summer camp pony, so he was probably picked up at an auction somewhere during the early 1960s. Gregg's Forest Farm Summer Camp leased out their horses to us locals from September until June. Brenda Fullick, a friend, always got Helgar, so he was her horse, except in summer. (Gregg's daughter, Linda Gregg became a famous poet....)

We were told from the very beginning he was an Icelandic pony, so whoever originally bought him, at least knew that much. His pedigree followed him. We never thought to ask WHY he came to America. Many year later, I read articles on Icelandic ponies in America, someone was claiming to be the first to import them, and it wasn't true. I remember being outraged by the statement. Maybe he was a the first to develop a breeding herd.

I recently saw a documentary on the ponies; they all looked just like Helgar. I was surprised to see so many variations of Icelandic ponies. I originally thought the ponies were mostly duns like Helgar. The dun gene, incidentally, is an archaic one. Dorsal stripe, dark ears/nostrils/muzzle and legs (like a Siamese cat markings), faint stripes in the insides of his upper legs. All recessive gene markers. Duns often have the stripes. Like the now extinct Quaggia which was a type of zebra...

As a child and a teenager, I was fairly well horse crazy and I ready everything I could get my hands on when it came to horses. So I was fairly well informed. I have also seen in zoos the Eurasian Prezwalski's Horses, ancestor to the modern horse, and I was struck by the thought that Helgar looked a lot like them. Even his head shape was similar. I have seen Fijord horses and they're bigger. Our neighbors were Norwegian and they never thought Helgar was Norwegian!

If horses were brought to Iceland in the early middle ages, there would've been a good chance that they would be of the native European "cold blooded" stock, unmixed with the "hot" breeds of southern Europe & North Africa, which makes them a special breed. Maybe someone should do a genome project on them. See if there are any special genetic markers. Or find that they are indeed modern horses after all.

My renewed interest in the Icelandic horse is due in part to my Celtic Studies. I went back to school in 1998, and took Celtic Studies at UC Berkeley. For at least 3000 years, horses have always been central to all Celtic cultures, they/we were/are still famously reknown for horses to this date. And because I've done translations of the ancient Irish and Welsh epics, and have read translations of some of the Icelandic epics to boot (and am well aware of the ancient Irish-Icelandic connections even id the rest of the world isn't), I realized, suddenly, that I was looking at the same/similar ponies that the Irish would've been using during the time the epics were being transcribed!

Even many of the ancient Celtic/Gaulish warrior and Matronae/Epona sculptures of horses have the look of Icelandic ponies. The Gauls were so famous on horseback that Caesar eventually recruited them into his armies. His calvary were all Gauls, and most Latin horse terminology comes from the Gaulish, a relative of the Irish language. The modern word "car" from chariot is originally from the Gaulish. As is the word pony from the goddess Epona.

Thank you for this stroll down memory lane...I always wanted to come to Iceland and go pony trekkiing...all because of Helgar the Horrible.


Sunday, July 4, 2004


It was fair great meeting in the Marin (F)art & Garden parking lot even if your are the landlord in the Seagull and Anna is nowhere to be found because you've eaten all the apricots in the tree like thieves in the night and what was left but unripe peaches and you know what kind of bellyaching ther'll be if we'd et those and the bird has flown while we searched for Chekov's cherry trees--and how many times did he rewrite it? A lesson to persevere one's sullen craft.


Where the sun is shining, and the sky is that incredible cerulean when you stare straight up at its infinite blueness, and you forget everything only to have an egret enroute to the lake cross your trajectory and you remember it's in the city after all: the distant pounding of surf, the cars on the freeway while I hold vigil for my cousin in hospital, a victim of that same stretch of road. With shaking hands, I made three silk scarves, the gutta forgiving. Roses, egrets, orchids, sky emerge from the void.


Friday, June 4, 2004

Eugene Ruggles 1935 - 2004

Gene Ruggles  and Shirley Kaufman in Petaluma

Gene Ruggles was an old friend of my mom's from North Beach. My mom, she got around, sometimes she'd bring her City friends home to meet my grannie and me in Forest Knolls. Gene Ruggles and my grannie got on like a house afire. She would make Irish sodabread and brew a pot of strong tea liberally laced with Irish whiskey, which she kept hidden in the bedroom closet, for Gene.

They'd talk of things Irish and politics until the sun slipped behind Mt Barnabe to bathe in the ocean. Then, when the stars studded the sky, my mother and Gene would stagger down Arroyo Road, half-lit, to Sir Francis Drake Blvd. more than a mile away, and hitch back to the mysterious City. Sometimes I wonder what they talked about as they wandered down that dark country road to civilization.

When I became a practicing publishing poet, ca. 1980, in Forestville, Gene had moved to Petaluma, we became reacquainted at poetry readings, and I occasionally produced a few readings for him at Sonoma State, Cotati Cabaret, and for the Russian River Writers' Guild, but he was a liability—falling down drunk, so I never knew what to expect. No one could keep him sober. It was always a harrowing experience.

Gene used to call me up late at night, out of the blue, roaring drunk on Red Mountain, to have a little chat. One time he called to tell me that Joseph Brodsky had died. The evening's libation had run dry, so he sought solace over the phone. Brodsky wasn't that old, he said. Only 55. Heart failure, he said, but his stout heart never failed him. Nor did Gene's tired heart fail him until he was evicted from the Petaluma Hotel, right after his open heart surgery.

After Gene died, everyone jumped on the poetry bandwagon producing memorial readings and benefits for him, they, who had largely ignored him during his lifetime, and didn't offer help when he was down and out and desperately needed their support. They were pompously making the poetry rounds, as if it were a badge of honor to host a reading in honor of Gene. It was as if he were more important to them dead, than alive.

Last time I read with Gene was at the Cafe International, in 1997. It was too soon after my car accident. I had PTSD, and I couldn't control my breath (a punctured lung), so necessary for reading poetry aloud to a large audience. Stars on the edges of my eyes, I didn't know whether to pass out, or run for the hills. It was a long time before I was fully healed.

I dropped out of the poetry scene. I don't think I ever saw Gene again after that reading. Of course, because I had fallen off the poetry map, no one even thought to invite me to read at Gene's memorial readings. So I never got closure.

Sometime, late at night, when the phone rings, and there's no one there, I think it's Gene on the other end of the line, calling up to say hello.



The moon’s tears splashed into the ink dark lake,
a harvest of light rippling the sky
She leans down, offers it up to the stars.
They say Ithuriel’s spears watered heaven with his tears.
They say Blake saw God in an apple tree when he was four.
He spent the rest of his life looking up in the orchards
But God was busy saving Ireland, the land of saints and poets.
And the fey world fled with their celestial constellations in tow
to take root in Blake’s orchard. The apple fell far from the tree
and flourished in Avalon, Anglesey, the Isle of apples.
Amid the oak groves, druids climbed towards the sky
harvesting mistletoe with golden scythes under an equinox moon
But this island was their last stand, their last resting place
Before the Romans drove them underground for good.
They became fossil stars trapped beneath the skin of the earth.

6/04, 9/08

Saturday, May 15, 2004

3 Hams at a Bread & Roses Party at the Nagy's

Bread & Roses Party at Toby & Phil Nagy's, Piedmont, CA.
Will Durst, Maureen Hurley & Michael Pritchard  May, 2004?

Michael Pritchard Director to all three, all right take the joy of life thing down a bit you three. This is an artistic photo, same result can't help these faces they show years of laughs love and Bread & Roses compassion. Plus, of course, three hams. A hamilicious photo!

Maureen Hurley I need to find the original of this photo and see if I can make a better print—this is a terrible copy—from when digital was in its infancy. I've been saving it all these years to send to you but in those days you didn't even do email, O great gorilla-fingered one! Welcome to the digital age. And Facebook, no less!

added 4/24/2016

Friday, May 14, 2004



Musical compositions by Kirk Whipple
Poems by Maureen Hurley

A collaboration of music & poetry

Maureen Hurley’s poems were inspired by the two-piano compositions by Kirk Whipple. They collaborated during the creation of the music. Poems & musical selections are copyrighted & may only be downloaded for personal use. They may not be sold, licensed or used without written consent of copyright holders. © The Unconservatory


Prelude: Undressing The Muse
Overture: Collage Nocturnes
Kozal Long: Sunset At Ilsanjo  
 (entire piece: mp3 format).
ilá: Deep Ocean Wave
Virginia: The Steady Flame
Uncle Al’s Cloudscape
For The Two Of Us
Michelle: A Patriot’s Dream
Helen: Tanzania Dresságe
Pablo: A Party Of One!
Katie: The Nightingale 
Randy: Neon Rain
Joe: Sunrise At Occidental
Coda: Elemental Portraits

            from Elemental Portraits: Nocturnes for Two Pianos,
                                    composed by Kirk Whipple

Late at night, the composer hears songlines:
nocturnes for two pianos wrestling
in the oceanic stillness of the studio.
Without name, they come unbidden
to chase the varied moods of evening.

But the sound of evening has changed
livelihoods, and the color of its dreams
is trapped in the engine of this century—
In the mechanics of the siren call, white noise,
and the evolution of light—
Where are the elemental songlines
when whales no longer hear the melody?

Camera obscura:
What exists before the film is developed?
He is a young child
            before the piano,            
                        confronting the black notes—
The teacher metronoming:
The fingers need to remember the melody.

Over wine & chocolate we discuss Chopin’s Nocturnes,
night's lost notes scoring the darkness.
Liquid music pours from his fingers.
He learns anew: You don’t choose the music;
it chooses you. We listen for the étude:
words undressing the muse.

                  from Elemental Portraits: Nocturnes for Two Pianos,
                                    composed by Kirk Whipple

The beginning and the end of night—
from sunset to sunrise—
is a concentration of songlines to whet the palate:
jazz notes defining the quality of the forest,
a velvet refugee dressed in marimba patterns,
escaped blue notes outside the key.
Not technical études, but the theater
of neon rain in concentric ripples.

Where does night's vagary begin and silence end?
We seek a piano score for modern landscapes,
not some dreamy ideal of romantic music.
As if out of oscuridad, a sacred text rises up,
finds the first phrases of the moon.

The vibration of human existence resonates
in the music walking us out of ourselves,
the thighbones reminding us
of the steps taken: syllables in the air.

The melody lingers deep inside
long after the overture of the dream ends.
The nocturnal eye of the nightingale
waits for further instructions
from the coda:
                        what is familiar
                        an endless stranger
                        inside the depths of night.

from Elemental Portraits: Nocturnes for Two Pianos
composed by Kirk Whipple
—Kosal Long: 1975 to June 7, 1989

1. The end of a classic American dream

confronts the runner coming over the rise

of blond hills & dark trees mirroring the lake.

The drowned laughter of classmates

horsing around on a summer outing—
Their blind eyes, and the sun cresting each ripple,
the silent “O” of empty inner tubes,
punctuated the end of the sentence.
At the bottom of the lake a fisherman’s net
cast a game of cat’s cradle for things lost
and the sleek young diver—
A boy who, with his 14-year-eyes
sought the true identity of light
on this side of the world:
the names Refugee &
                                     whispering homeward
                                                                           in his ears.

2. The runner’s legs measure

each step, each breath, bearing witness

as if life depended on it: systole, diastole.

The indifferent ground answers, Decrescendo.

No overtones to clear the ear’s palette.

The boy left the killing fields for El Verano.

We survived the war, we saw death and we saw hunger every day.

Now, the youngest and sweetest of us is taken from us.

I dream of walking that lake bed clad in citrine light.

A constellation of bubbles escapes, takes flight.
A velvet foot upon the blue throat of the California sky,
a lotus flowering in the mind,
            a journey taking us home.
                        Home, could he whisper it?
The long slender vowels of the soul,
no distant jungles to flee to—
Refugee camp, the bodycount and the hunger
       of foreign syllables.

                 The harmony shifted

                             in the final depths:                                   

                                              an empty raft in deep summer.


                                    —for ilà Benavidez

1. In the cathedral of the ocean
beneath a marriage of waves and sky,
ilà dances tai chi’i with the sea,
the deep undertow, the movement,
the voices and vows of long waves,
is where whales sing the first
and final notes of the songline.

The edge of the continent
pulls the surf over her like a bride,

so that we may be ready for the wedding.
Gossamer filaments of the priestess.
What once was dark becomes light,
night’s secrets spread beneath the moon.
A bioluminescent genesis lifts the hem
of this beach into the realm of the stars.

How to slow down in this rapidly rising world?
Once light slept, didn’t know
the nocturnal soul of the heron,
and stars were the tears of angels.
Now city light stains the sky,
upstages the stars.

Once we were all islands.
The weight of who we are in this century
sinks us knee-deep into the sand
until we can do nothing
but walk in time with ourselves.
This is the first study for breath:
the burden of air, ponderous
and precocious.

2. ilà, I’d want the cool night air
because the sky is the ocean
and I don’t know the words
for the direction the voice takes.
The struggle is in transcribing
the right notes in the sand
so it can find true night.
Gaviota, the sky is your country
and the sea is your home.

                        —for Allaudin Mathieu
                        “Our referee, our Uncle Al.”
                                    —Kirk & Marilyn

One day, Uncle Al
Walked up the hill to his studio.
Dreamily, composing, he looked up—
A cloud, and nothing else in a blue sky.

A cloud:            a quarter rest!

He stopped,               took a one-beat rest.

                                    in pause
                            & further

from the sky.

      took a breath,

                   took a step,

                    & went  on

              with the
      of his


A cat’s cradle of music finger-weaves the sky.
The bright wind lifts us from the depths,
            carries us,
            cradles us in this taught stringing of days.
The clouds know the ocean,
it repeats the rocking motion.
Remember to breathe.
            Each step up,
            each thought takes us toward the summit.
The interior of the heart, of the eye,
is related to the weaving grasses.
We are kites tugging the wind,
our arms, wings of angels.

Tell us, tell us, tell us:
            climb up,
            climb the mountains of the sky.
We are flying to the mountains of the sky.
Take us up,
            push our legs down into earth.
Take us up,
            so that we may grow back down to the ground.


Three notes occlude the distance the ear takes
in knowing the melody of night.
Uncle Al referees
             the sky
arranges the clouds to fit the composition.
Ask about harmony and structure.
A composer composes the sky
with a beatific hand to the clouds,
orchestrating the rest stops and black notes
and the wings of cherubs wait their cue in the wings.
He wears a gioconda smile as clouds direct the score.
Take a one beat rest. Live in the now
for now is all there is.


                                    —for Pablo Rodriguez

Comes the vibrato of human existence
pulsing with the florid energy of birds—
The audience in the balcony looks down
on the crescendo-climbing rainbow
graduating from the nightclub schools of the world.
¡Eso es! A savvy voice alights on the limbs
while trees tango with the juicy wind.
Liana vines rub against city streets.

In the language of skin,
we climbed out of the trees
to dance on the land, without caesura.
The timbre of lime, mango and blue notes
sing of tropical leaf structures.
The raucous flight of macaws
parrots, the jeweled feathers of night
dressed in fireworks and champagne.
¡Alegre! Porque las estrellas bailan conmigo!

A delicious chill—modern fusion.
Oh yes, deep in the thighs.
He leans against the wall, cool
familiarity addressing us in the barrios.
The sound of night changed the color of its dreams.
The siren rain finds us so civilized, so convivial,
it sambas out: Mueve, mueve tu papaya.

On the androgynous pillow of sleep,
the pupiled eye of night is restless
as a blue guitar, for tomorrow will find
the world young and bright:
a glistening sun
in the heart of the mango.

                                    —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 us home, calling you—

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

An unnameable quality,
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 inside of our thighs.
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. 


                                    —for Michelle Marie

There is no room for ambiguity in a patriot’s dream.
The constitution of thought is a sacred text.
Alone, defining the perimeters of this space,
She talks to our eyes; nothing is held back.

To walk in a new land we can only muse
On the direction the sky has taken us.
Each dark step makes the road longer than memory.
She is the strength of a pine tree bending in the storm.

If she is the solemn hymn of the flower arranger,
The music is the hand held out to the child.
If she is the power of the masseuse's hands,
It is the arms offering shelter to those in need.

If she was once the bartender pouring the final round,
Music is the soup bowl offering hope to the homeless.
If she is the metronome of the dancer’s last movement
It is the archangel seeking justice for those who cannot fly.

Imagine the piano’s pledge of allegiance to black & white keys.
No segregation of sharp & flat; or everything in the key of C.
The notes make words and find us wanting.
The melody echoes in the forest, in the street.

We need the nuances of dark and light
To show us the way is infinitely more complex
& vast than we previously imagined.
There is more to it than seizing what’s left of night.

She carries the burden of freedom forward.
In the way light falls on the summits
We learn there are more mountains to climb.
We come to the beginning on solid ground,

We learn anew how her feet measure the way.


                                    —for Katie Ketchum
                                    “If I can’t find the perfect man, then…”

The song of a nightingale comes in
shimmering in a bright soprano voice
as if having lived knowing the belly sounds.

The first few phrases are like that,
clear-crisp, like bells over snowfields—
Not only are we observing the nightingale,
we are testing the air with wings.

The way the nightingale flies,
how we view the bird,
how it views itself is like a concerto—
A cadenza of towering lines.

The melody drops out
and the deeper rhythm comes in—
The heart of the bird.

Think of how snowy peaks mirror the sky,
purify the foothills.
Multitudes of foothills
& the song of the nightingale are one.

How the dancer contracts, lifts up—
defies gravity for a moment. Fermatta
Slatted light falls
                                into the eye of the sun.

I believe, I believe said the bird migrating to Africa
where feathered notes dress the snows of Killimanjaro.

We flurry over the arpeggio of leaves
to the night itself singing solo:
a concentration of notes on the upper spectrum.

Without legs, the piano won’t resonate.
Notes won’t nest in the branches to lay small eggs.
Hatching in our ears, the piano’s children
direct us to the songlines; her voice,
an undercurrent of grace notes and rippling water.

A leaf caught in the wind
takes instruction from the flight of angels.



                                    —for Helen Tyrrell, “Su-mam”

1. The path misbehaves at the oasis,
it’s a long way from the mirrored halls
of l’Ecole Vienna where a young woman
put Lippizan stallions through flying paces.
A vessel tumbles from her head
and the Tanzanian children laugh.
She has eight years to perfect this skill,
carrying water back to the cooking pots.
Water outwits the thirsty African earth
in a merry chase to the river,
it becomes a dusty mercurial snake
seeking the source of the Nile,
it finds wings, transcends air.
Lake hungers for sky,
swimming stars take flight,
approach the caravan of the storm,
& the shimmering sands of Zanzibar
harbor an illusion of water.
Billowing clouds return to the Serengeti
where riderless horses solemnly waltz
against the feast of sky.

Hooves against stone—
Sidestep to go forward.
Passage on the diagonal.
Once the ballet of dressage
—the lunge, the cabriolet
were movements for the dance of war.

2. Kirk screws on the legs of the piano,
leads it into the concert hall.
Frees his music from the belly
of the wooden horse for this Helen, this mother
of orphans whose mothers have abandoned them.
His arms are snowfields,
an avalanche of notes crescendo
under the equatorial reign
of watermusic to slake us.
The ceiling of the sky
is crowned with thorns.

On the slopes of Kilimanjaro
the leopard, asleep, dreams
the eland is his lover. 



I stood in front of the Hippodrome Palace in Moscow, the frozen sky the color of bread, gawling at a frieze of horses—like the ones in Vienna and Budapest—taxis swerving to avoid me in the midde of the street. As a child I couldn’t take my eyes off those horses. I have seen the ones who no longer care to dance, pulling fat tourists from one cathedral to another. I patted a sorry nag, the coachman snarled, Claudia intervened, saying it’s all right. She knows her horses. The horse was too weary to respond. Distant music caught its ear—a flicker of life. In front of the monuments to the Plague, the Holocaust & innumerable cathedrals of venerable age, I have seen them listening to their own kind of music, briskly trotting the cobbled streets. I worry about their legs. This rough magic. In Hungary they can no longer afford to feed their dancing horses, the lucky ones become street artists: they con coins and beg bread from easy tourists. Better off than those on the menu or those destined for the glue pot.


FOR THE TWO OF US                                                                                                           
                                    —for Marilyn & Kirk

Soft tracings of shadows on the sill,
late afternoon in the unconservatory.
A chocolate stillness inside
the voice rises up in place of speech,
small nuances, a brass color-note,
flared nostrils, the contact of skin.

Four-handed improv: foreplay on the keyboards.
Two pianos discuss familiar phrases,
like the long-married, finish each other's thoughts,
sometimes in chorus, sometimes in tandem.
You're the yell in the forest, & I'm the echo,   (echo)
Kirk says to Marilyn as they play it again.

Imagine Casablanca & Havana in a red wedding dress.
A strange marriage of classical & jazz
shape-shifting into music for the end of the millennium.
He is a sailor leaning into the open octaves
of a turquoise melody: bluebirds learn slant rhyme.
She is the swimmer in pastoral snow fields.

Everything reduced to black and white
cleanses the palate & the roses bleed onto the piano keys.
A melody escapes, anneals the heart with opposites:
day & night, diamond & onyx, ebony & ivory.
Each seeks the other’s eyes through corbelled pianos.
I can’t tell where one leaves off and the other begins.

Poco a poco, an echo in the forest
lifts the timbre from the pool's depths.
At the bottom of the well, cross-currents,
a vibration in the water, like electricity
when the wall comes up duet—
Both are one and one is all there is.

                        —for Randy Frary

An echo in the darkness—
The endless stranger
inside the depths of night.
Each step paints a jazznote in the forest,
a path of low registers & signatures—

Three dimensional music
weaves the sky into ambiant patterns,
new nocturnes for this dragstripped century.
Trees bow to an audience of tinted leaves
in the asphalt jungle.
What color, the trees? the leaves,
or the sky for that matter?
Who’s reading the score?
The neon side of night, bits & bytes
in the dark forest paint alternate realities.

A hawk circles the field
for yesterday’s mouse
hidden in tall grass, spirals
against the well of a digital sky.
Orphan rain falls in colors,
patterns the cathode sea.
Eclipsed notes hug the shoreline.
Cross- and counter-currents
seek the beginnings of innocence
just before dawn.
A child plays with his own hands,
an unending puzzle of fingers.
Neon rain, dyslexic writing
needs water as a mirror
to admire its own beauty.

Falling rain, steady rain on the piano,
a vessel to carry us from the past.
The simplicity of stones in the stream
both beautiful and plain.


                           —for Joe Hoffmann
 “We’ve spent a few nights squeezing out our ‘day’
  recording in the Sherwood forest of Occidental.”
                                                  —Kirk & Marilyn

1.  Still lake waters, the swelling melody of other times
when the renaissance man walked in a trembling mist.
On the other side—the twain world—the sídhe
swallowed the butterfly to beget the muse.
He finds her in dreams amid the fiddleneck ferns.
Bluebirds in the air weave arabesques and musical notes
until only the pattern is left; night’s curtain luffs,
is drawn aside, and on the wet grass, imprints
of a waltz where one already knows the steps.
Cumulative memory tumults from the past.
A dark harmony gradually lightens into a lyric.
Morning meets the tail of night in the hallway.

2.  A cleft in the hills, quaking ferns
witness the breathing of fog,
where wild orchids bloom,
where we found the end
of the stream, the edge of night.
Only the birds know
the taut stringing of days,
the melody that lingers deep inside,
taking us down to the valleys,
where we find ourselves again,
strung beside the days of our lives.
There are no accidents.
In each of us, every branch, every leaf
leads to the center of the heart.
The path always widens—
There is room for more, for more.

3.  In the lemon thick light,
dew stirs, learns the rainments of flight.
Over the night hills she comes,
bearing flowers for the sun.
Morning wears a dress of honeyed air
and carries her head high
for she’s proud of the sun’s accompaniment.
Everywhere, the renewal of day and scrubbed sky.
The harmony brightens
like a gentle aubade over the ridge.
The music begins as it ends. 
Each step, each breath
brings us closer to the light.



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. 

Mother’s Day, 5/8/1994


ELEMENTAL PORTRAITS                                                                                                           
            from musical compositions by Kirk Whipple


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

Written 1992-1995ish. 
Published at The Unconservatory website in January, 2001
Revised a bit in 2004