Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tweed Waulking

Photo: Mabli Agozzino, Mouth Music workshop with Pam Swan at UC Berkeley. That's me in magenta sitting next to Pam.

Listening to the Browne Sisters sing A Thousand Curses on Love in Scots Gaelic (Mile Marbhphaisg Air A'Ghaol).

Call and response tweed waulking song from the West Hebrides—possibly one of the most beautiful places I've ever been in the whole wide world. Tweed waulking is exclusively women's work. Very tribal.

They've softened the blow, so to speak, with their harmonies. Usually the song has quite a thump downbeat as the women smash the tweed into the table and pass it on. Smash it down and pass it on.

Laundry day

How can any one man possibly use 21 pair of socks in one week? How many feet does he have? I hate doing laundry. Oh, and I didn't count the myriad orphan socks. Does he wear a pair each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Not to mention a copious pile of shirts. My laundry, by comparison, is tiny. And he’s so dismissing of it all—like it was no big deal to wash a mountain of clothing. Women’s work. What am I, the Irish washerwoman? Indeed, I am going clean mad! In the midst of cursing up a blue storm, I wondered, Where do all the orphan socks go to die anyway? Listening to my new CD of the Browne Sisters sing A Thousand Curses on Love in Scots Gaelic (Mile Marbhphaisg Air A'Ghaol), a tweed waulking song from the West Hebrides. They've softened the blow with their harmonies. Usually the song has quite a thump downbeat as the women smash the tweed into the table and pass it on. A friend said, Then they smash their husbands who, of course, are ALREADY smashed! I replied, thinking of the laundry, An upside the head behavioral mod is useful now and then! I’m circling the drain.

Rev 5/20

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Teaching notes, Wornick Jewish Day School, Young Audiences

Grueling day teaching art at the Wornick Jewish Day school in Foster City; several of the kinderkids lost their pinch pots (they were all jumbled together in the kiln—not my doing, I didn’t load the kiln) & far too many of our cool butterflies blew up. Talk about the butterfly effect! We glazed 'em anyway. And then we glued them back together. The 1st graders made amazing wet pastel landscapes. Our schoolwide art show and Open House is coming up, so the madness is on. It is hard teaching ceramics as an artist in residence, I have to lug everything to each classroom. Backbreaking work. It’s hard enough with all the art supplies needed to teach two-dimensional art. But I’ve got it down to a science. Art a la cart catering. I’ve also taught silk painting at the school as well. And that too is a real production. Massive amounts of prep for both silk painting and clay. And to make things worse, the classes are only 45 minutes long with not transition time between classes. And I’m not paid anywhere near enough for the work that I do, with all the prep through Young Audiences. They’re charging the school nearly double what I get. At least it’s three sessions. Small miracles. And the commute to Foster City is challenging. I have to get up super early in order to get there on time. Otherwise I won’t up dealing with to traffic jams. But I do love crossing the San Mateo Bridge, the utter beauty of the bay, the salt flats, and the patterns of migrating birds.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Teaching notes, Cleveland ES

Prepped for 5 poetry classes today (4 are final-day classes which require an enormous amount of work to get them ready for the anthologies). And I had a glazing marathon, we glazed more tiles after school for the tile project. Dropping off glaze test tiles this AM to fire at Lake Merritt Junior College. OmiGawd, I’m knackered, but I made it to the end of the day. Then, my voice broke in 4th period (my fave 6th grade class was noisy), and after I got done scolding them, they gave me a pot of white mums! Awwww. Five poetry classes in one day = too much talking. Tiles will come out of the kiln on Thurs. We glazed a dozen more today. Life is good, and on time after all. Though I’m holding on by the skin of my teeth.

Monday, May 25, 2009



Riding up I-580 on fumes at 1 AM.
How exciting (no open gas stations).
I'm in love with Gaviota Pass/rest stop.
Those mountains are awesome.

Caffeined up in Kings City at 10 PM
in order to avoid driving
while under the influence of narcolepsy.

Now I really can't sleep,
knowing I missed a chance to read in N Hollywood
If only I was able to get my email this AM.

It's come to this. A cybernetic world
of missed connections.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Costa Mesa Highland Games

After a miserable drive down Interstate 5 sans AC, we're at the Highland Games, Costa Mesa. Fantastic impromptu Celtic jam session last night at the Irvine Marriot bar. The Browne Sisters, Neil O'Neill, Celtic Spring kids and David Brewer. They turned up the lights to kick us out. We'll show 'em, with bagpipes on the ramparts at dawn.

Thursday, May 14, 2009



Today, a kindergartner
who was the birthday girl,
painted a beautiful landscape
so beautiful, she said
it made her heart hurt,
her heart hurt.


Friday, May 8, 2009


Maybe it's not you
but the moon on the rebound.
Rebound moon, swaddled
in gossamer derangements
of white on white
against an indigo night.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

DVD Cover Spoofs

Today Sinead and I designed fake DVD covers for her Women's Studies class show and tell final. We didn't have a lot of time so these had to come together rather quickly. She picked three movies that could've been about women. We tried to match the general feel of the movie images. We didn't have time to develop a full text, which could have been fascinating.

 When we were done, we were struck by how the happenstance of what we chose, created a stunning women's causal timeline. It gave us pause to think that Sojourner Truth's actions also gave rise to Amelia Earhart's flight, which leads to a futuristic scenario where Barbara Boxer will become the 45th president..

We picked Barbara because she was local, she is gutsy, and I worked for her way back in  1972, she she ran for  Marin County Board of Supervisors . I made her signs and posters, so it was fitting. Anybody but Sarah Palin, please!  (Double click on images to see full size).

back cover                                           front cover
back cover                                                   front cover
back cover                                                   front cover

Once we slipped the covers into the DVD jackets, they looked convincing enough to fool Neil into thinking they were real movies. So why hasn't anyone done a feature length movie on Sojourner Truth or Amelia Earhart?

Friday, May 1, 2009


                           —  for Crawdad Nelson

I remember the first time I saw 
a family of pygmy screech owls
marching out of a burrow at dusk,
we were riding the donkeys home
around the last bend before the barn.
I thought the gophers had gone mad,
or taken leave of their senses,
until I realized they were small owls,
on a Groucho Marx drill parade. 
With white eyebrows raised,
wings tucked back, they gravely 
inspected a forest of equine legs,
a slow moving grove of hairy saplings. 
How many times had we passed their door 
walking home from school, sight unseen?
On the backs of our mounts,
we were the invisible ones.

Beltaine, May Day dream sequence

Lá buidhe Bealtaine shona daoibh. 

To celebrate the day of Beltaine,
wash in the May morning dew.

The woman who washes her face
in it will be beautiful;
the man who washes his hands
will be skilled with knots and nets.

Dew, they said DEW. not a feckin' downpour or monsoon! Sheesh! The rain woke me. No chance of dew. Then I remembered, the dream flooded back.... Beltaine, May Day is the night when the gates to the Otherworld open, it often comes in as if a dream. May First begins the season of the dream walkers.

* * *

I dreamed I was traveling on foot across the countryside, and in a wooded clearing, I stumbled across a wide barrow on my right. Thinking I'd stumbled upon something like the massive rabbit warrens that my grandmother crawled into as a child, seeking refuge in the hills above Bantry Bay, I got down on my hands and knees to see what I could see. I must've heard a noise because I looked deeper into the limnal jaws of the underground maw.

As my eyes adjusted to the dimness, I saw vermin, no, a little black fox, with matted fur, or at least I thought it was a fox. He was mangy and grubby but unafraid of my alien presence. Behind him I saw a buried Liliputian city, replete with Victorians painted yellow, orange and red, fiery, as if lit from within, in this underground cavern. It was night in that realm, streetlamps cast small pools of light on the pavements grey. Perhaps it was a reminder that this was a dream, not real.

The little fox was standing on a street corner, perhaps in another land, or another time. I no longer knew where I was, but I was growing frightened. This much I knew: the burrow was the gates to the
Otherworld. To enter the Otherworld was to never return to this realm, it was also the gateway to enchantment or death. Land to the west. Tír na nÓg. Perhaps. like Oisín, I would return to another century.

Sometimes in dreams, my dead mother comes to visit. Sometimes she is with my grandmother. It is always a tearful reunion, they can never stay long. And here I was, willingly crawling underground, still very much alive.

But like a changeling child, the little black fox kept beseeching me with his milk blue eyes and small whine, begging me to come to him into the
cruachan, but I was afraid of his fleas, and imagined diseases. 

I thought of rabies and of the bubonic plague, the black death that killed many millions during the Middle Ages, they knew rats were somehow involved, they never dreamed it was the fleas. 

I thought too of my grandmother's stories of the OweynagCat, the cave of the great Irish three-headed saber cat, in which case, I was right in the middle of some seriously dark Otherworld sidhe mojo, as Samhain was the feast night of the Great Cat. And this was Beltaine, the beginning of Hafgan's realm, the Annwn Welsh lord of summer. A time of stolen children and horses. At least I had enough sense to leave the rowan and whitehtorn unplucked.

But the young pup cowered and whimpered, wanting creature comfort. I realized that he was as lost and out of his element as I was, so I crawled into the burrow to comfort him. He gladly crept into my arms, licked my face and throat. Initiation by saliva. He whimpered with recognition and squirmed with joy. Who was this little fellow and why was he abandoned on the metaphorical mean streets of an underground city?

I realized that his unkempt appearance was not because of mange or disease, though I still feared his fleas, but because he was a puppy, not a fox, and that there were others of his kind, hiding in the alleys and back streets. He was a sentinel scout for his brothers. The litter came bounding forth, surrounding me with their joyous puppy energy.

I was gathering them in, comforting them, when I sensed another darker presence on my right, and I was looking into the ominous yellow eyes, not of a fox, but a wary long-haired dog, a dog unlike anything I'd ever seen. Surely not an Alsatian or a German shepherd guarding the gates of hell.

The dog's ink dark coat was longer, thicker, no distinctive saddle markings. Her head was narrower, her ears bigger, her snout longer. Perhaps she was a half-breed. No Cerebus, but there was something unkempt and uncivilized about her that I couldn't quite put my finger on.

I realized I was looking right into the eyes of a wild wolf mother and I was in her den. In her territory. I froze and we eyed it off. I backed away slowly, but the pups would have none of it. They bounded in my arms, pounced on me, pulled at the tie that held back my waist long hair with their milk teeth, and paraded it forth until I was bound up in a veiled tangle of my own hair, I was a
selkie caught fast in the fisherman's net.

The mother wolf backed off her stance, lifted a front paw slightly, and sat, as if to acknowledge that I meant her babies no harm, and then she stiffly, or formally approached. I offered my curled right hand, palm down, for her to sniff. The tension crackled like static electricity.

I willed myself into calmness and looked down at the ground, not daring to make eye contact as I knew that would be perceived as a threat. My throat exposed, my hand, soft in supplication, I had to will the fear from my body and just be there, in timeless suspension. I focused on my breath. When I felt her cold nose on my hand, I knew that the danger was past and that I would live to see another day.

loba returned to her young, sat down, with a ribbon of tongue lolling out, she began the endless task of bathing them, taking in their sour milk-odor, as they settled in for a long suckle. I retreated from their burrow and with that, I awoke to the heavy downpour of rain on the first day of May. 

So much for bathing in the May morning dew.

Was it May Day, or maybe mayday but then I realized that I was true dreaming, that I had indeed traveled to another place and time. It was a dextrous right-handed dream, and in that moment I realized that in the face of death, the fear is something I make daily, of my own choosing.

And in that moment I realized also that the reason why my mother and grandmother were hovering in the wings of my dreams, was that they had come, not for me, but for their remaining daughters and sisters, my aunts—where the cancer blossoms inside them like a black rose.

I awoke to the urgent ringing of the phone—on the answering machine was the dark news no one wants to hear. The ravening wolf.

YouTube of Oweynagat, a journey into mother earth: still images of the entrance to the Otherworld, by Mike Croghan, with music by Afto Celt Sound System.

END of Poetry Month

Argh! Got up early and tried to revise three poems that wouldn't jell. I'm racing against time, my mind turns into an old shoe sans tongue, but with plenty of eyes, like a blue-eyed clam (they have 32 eyelets) and we all know how poetic clams are in the morning before coffee. 

Neil comes in, a broken axle changes the shape of my morning to that of  chauffeur, taxi and loaner car. Meanwhile I find the noon deadline is now EST, not Left Coast time. Bogus. Maybe I should hang myself with my shoelaces.  So much for trying to finish the other six poems abandoned before they were written. I bitchslap the three troublesome ones into some semblance of shape and post them on the blog. But it seems everyone else is doing the same, it takes me an hour to post three poems.

At least Writers' Digest could've given us a heads up on the East Coast timing of that one. Three whole hours, precious time I was counting on. Driving back from the mechanic's I realize my Leaving Las Vegas penknife  poem should be written as an ode... It flows right out, an easy birth, too bad I can't post it. I'm way past deadline.

Then, the embroglio begins over whether posting our poems on Writers' Digest constitutes as being "published." People panic and begin pulling their poems from the site. I left mine, stet. 

The way I figure it, is that the poems mine to do with what I want, whether or not they're published on the Writers' Digest site, as a workshop process, is moot. They're not published, Writers' Digest is not going to give us tear sheets or street credit saying we're all now published in Writers' Digest. There was no editor involved in the selection of poems. Anybody could post anything they wanted, warts and all. It's certainly not going to appear on our resumes or in Poets & Writers as a publishing credit, so, ergo, we're not published. What nonsense, I thought.

Then I began to realize the whole internet posting thing is a huge issue. Does publishing work in my blog constitute self publishing? Have I stolen my own first publishing rights by posting on the internet? I don't consider it so. I consider my blog as an open writer's notebook, pieces in progress, some destined to be published, but most are not. 

I can't see what needs fixing until I see it in formal print. Word docs just don't do it. Maybe it's the angst of knowing that there is a potential audience out there that makes me pay attention to my language usage and typos, my God, there are typos, no matter how carefully I reread these pieces. 

I consider my blog my journal, having eschewed pen and paper. After the car accident, I fell out of the journaling habit. It was just too hard to write, to hold the pen. PTS left my hands shaking with tremors. 

Publishing my work as a blog means there's also a bit of a self-censor involved in that there is a potential audience out there who MIGHT one day read this drivel. But hey, at least it keeps me writing. And laziness coupled with a profound lack of time, erodes all best intentions to write daily. It's also about convenience, wherever I go I can log on (provided that I can get wifi) and continue to work on any given story or memoir—and the indexing process is handy as well. It's a tool.

I consider the blog a transparency of writing available for others to see and give feedback, a large workshop as it were. But with millions of blogs out there, who reads any of this anyway? Chances are slim. Second to none. No one. Well, maybe a handful of people somewhere with time on their hands.

With all this opportunity to publish on the internet, we're ultimately facing the demise of the written word. Or at least the well-crafted word. Everything is reduced down to Twitter bytes of 140 characters or less. We now have the attention span of gnats. Who's going to remember what we've posted?