Sunday, September 30, 2007

September 30, 2007

Brushed aside all the day’s duties, thinking I needed a day off, absolutely off. The result that I have worked hard, all but unflaggingly, since dawn– it is now after 9 at night–and am almost at the point where I should be.

Booked my flight to DC to take in the reading of The Loves of Mr. Lincoln.

Chall’s 23rd birthday party last night. When I was 23 I was shipwrecked, alone, confused, and terrified, in Baltimore. I’m glad that all things seem better for him. I painted him a scene out of Whitman for a present. At the party, a two year old named Jasper and I hit it off, playing with a yellow balloon and a big black dog. Whenever he laughed I laughed. Met Lucia’s brother, skinny and hesitant where she is voluptuous and direct. Mickey says Lucia hates me because I can write a play in a week. Whatever the reason, there is some wall between us, and I must speak to her before she acknowledges my presence in a room. I didn’t care. Jasper and I laughed and bounced our balloon, and when I left the party the moon hung crooked and bright, as though he too had been making merry overmuch.

Dug and cleared much on the south of the yard, put in iris and yellow canna and a long line of garlic that the people at the nursery had encouraged. Something must be said about the excellence of the blazing autumn air, the stainless blue, the temperature that felt like nothing, neither hot nor cold, perfection.

Worked on my lines for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. One suppresses fury as one turns the page and there are more lines, and another page, and more lines. Virginia Woolf is the campiest play ever written. It’s far campier than Ludlum, et al, who aimed consciously at camp. Albee’s unconscious camp possesses the added gloss of intended profundity, which, failing, becomes yet another, and more pungent, layer of camp. Not one situation is plausible, not one emotion is genuine from the first line to the last. If asked to explain why the play is so popular–I assume it is–I’d say that the reason is precisely its falseness. It’s a drag show, a melodrama where everybody-- the leading man, the leading woman, all the supporting actors-- thinks they’re Joan Crawford. Zingers can fly free, without the ballast of truth. With it one can go through the motions of tragedy, through a simulacrum of being moved, without ever engaging any real thing. It’s the hairy chested hairdresser in an evening dress and high heels howling on about how his man done him wrong. It’s certainly a famous play, but not, I think, a very good one, except insofar as sheer mass says something about a playwright’s determination. I would hate it less if I hadn’t met Albee. It is fun for an actor, though, for all the reasons cited above–it is sheer technique, complete bravura, to which actual characterization, actual feeling, may be detriments.

Victoria on the CD, bidding all to peace.
September 29, 2007

Sang Mahler’s "Um Mitternacht" for Paul yesterday, and was so moved I had to struggle to keep control of my emotions during the final piano measures. Of all that he has had me sing, this touches my heart most immediately.

Painted some in this blazing, etched blue glass day.

Finished Or Did a Sea of Fire, one of those plays I would not have written had I not been challenged.

Bought strange plants at the Farmers’ Market, and planted them in the searing light.

Disoriented, but not unhappy, as though on the first day of a vacation in a strange country.

Michael Baron is directing Lincoln in Washington. I’ve even heard of him. I googled him to confirm it was the same man, and discovered, in addition, a face of extraordinary beauty. Many of my producers have been good-looking. I take this as a sign, without knowing a sign of what.
September 28, 2007

Wondrously quiet night. The singing of the night insects is even quieter than quiet. Giant spiders weave between the hollyhock stalks and the angles of the porch.

This morning I took my car to the Exxon station to have a headlight replaced. The mechanic asked, "Where do you live?" and I looked up, ready to point, but the pale ghost of the moon hung low in the west, dimmed on all sides by the brightness of day, and I was still able to say, "There, under the moon." Tonight I sat on my couch and looked out where the pale gold moon rose right in the center of the window. I watched him climb until he went over the roof. Maybe I’ll walk in him tonight.

I phoned father the day after the night of tragic assumption. He was chipper, happy, as healthy-sounding as I ever remember him. He said he was glad I was coming home, for then I could help him buy a new computer. This is not a man who is planning to die. I didn’t regret Ireland, though. For many days I had awakened with a strange anxiety, palpable in my chest. On the day I decided to go to Akron next week rather than Dublin, the anxiety went away. My nerves knew something I did not.

The Ganymedearts web page announces The Loves of Mr. Lincoln for October 20. Jack and Bruce phone from New York to say that Edward the King is a go for the first of May. I have five copies of A Dream of Adonis, each of which I have given away.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

September 25, 2007

Night. The most beautiful golden moon hovers at the top edge of my study window, waiting to sail invisible over the roof.

I shuddered with exhaustion as I made my way to the car in the parking lot tonight, after twelve hours at school, ending with a rehearsal which would have been profitable had my spirits been other than they were. I can be a sour and difficult man when I am tired.

My father had his tests, and the way my sister explains it, it is in fact cancer, at a place–if I am understanding it correctly–touching on the aorta, which means that some night while he is asleep, the aorta will puncture and he will bleed out without ever waking up. That’s what we tell ourselves, and it is a comfort. Father refuses to believe it’s cancer, and complains that after all those tests, the doctor still doesn’t know what’s wrong with him. That too is a blessing, for as long as he can believe it.

I’m amazed at times like this by my apparently grotesquely high threshold of crisis. My sister has already phoned hospices and been in touch with doctors and made plans for this and worried about that, and it is not that I have merely failed to do those things, it’s that they simply did not, and would not, cross my mind. Dad hasn’t complained. He seems chipper and pretty much the way he always has been. If he hadn’t gone for the tests–as he almost didn’t do–his life would have been the same as it was a week ago. What is more, it’s hard to see how he can profit by his life changing the way it now must. I am perplexed and bewildered by it all. What is it that I fail to see? I think there’s a crisis when somebody cuts himself; others enter crisis mode when they see a knife in the drawer. I believe this is somewhat gender-linked. Women seem to know their duties when somebody is dying. Unless he is a preacher or a gravedigger, men don’t. I suppose they are right, but that does not keep me from a sense of confusion. I’m really quite good in emergencies, I think, but at times like this I wonder if I’ve turned my back on some of them, waiting for them to be yet more dire before I answered the call.

I cancelled my trip to Ireland. Clearly it was the right thing to do. I will got to Akron and visit my father while he is still to be visited. A thousand dollars of unrefundable cost is lost, but that is not an actual issue. I am so wasteful it would be hypocrisy to note that long. But Ireland has been to me respite and hospice, where my sometimes shattered spirit can mend itself. There will be no mending this time. It is an irony. I abjure this respite in order to help in a situation which might be bettered served if I were a wholer man, if I were gathered to myself the way I seem to be returning from Ireland. It cannot be helped. It is a trip that would seem heartless now, even if I think it is a way of gaining heart for whatever lies ahead.

I wonder what my father is thinking tonight? I hope he is fussing that the TV sounds bad, and wondering if he should eat the cookies secreted in his TV tray. If I thought I might die tonight, what would I do? I’d stay awake as long as I could watching the moon traverse the purple last-of-summer sky.
September 24, 2007

Quite early. I’ve developed the habit of getting up and feeling my way around in the dark, and waiting for natural light to come, except the ghostly light of the computer screen, like a shrine lit in a dark temple.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

September 23, 2007

Bestirred myself in the dead of last night to go to No Shame Theater, but as I approached the door I realized I didn’t feel comfortable, didn’t feel welcome–for reasons which are still confusing to me–and I passed on. Went to a couple of bars instead, drinking club soda. Went to Smokey’s and ran into a student, a pale reddish bald one whom I sort of remember. A beefy bartender in an Emerald Isle T-shirt was listening to our conversation, and said, "Are you _____ ________?"


An uninterpretable look from the bartender– I hope it wasn’t disappointment–and the conversation was over.

Summer day, warm and gentle. The flowers have taken a second breath. Every inch of the yard is fragrant with roses.
September 22, 2007

Dark of the morning. Woke sad. I thought my little dog, Bimbo, from long ago, was curled up at my side, but of course he wasn’t. Even the cats had abandoned me.

The first bird is singing just now.
September 21, 2007

Looked at my account online and I have $15 in the bank. With the speed of lightning the checks which I have not received from the Lebanon Community Theater and from Chall’s Enigmatic Theater popped into my head. I always think that everyone else has been paid and I have been overlooked.

The level of exhaustion I felt last night even before choir practice was over was violent. Thursdays are almost unendurable. Tomorrow, Saturday, is, I believe, the first day this month which I have not had to mar with duties and appointments, though it will be spotted with chores left undone in the jam of earlier days, in apprehension of those to come. If bulbs arrive I will put everything aside and plant those. Let bulbs arrive!

Dad went to the doctor, who found a spot on his lung. His inclination seems to be what mine would be: I feel fine; I’m nearly 90; leave it alone. I hope he doesn’t spend his last days in a hospital bed being poked and prodded. This seems not to be his ambition either.

Sunburst dahlias and the inexhaustible orange cannas are visible through my study window. Rose of perfect red in the front yard, sailing over the dull green of the dry and sleepy garden.

Later in the day: C phones and says, "I have some Athena money for you. I've had it for weeks now, but didn’t manage to get it distributed." People think I’m paranoid when I say I’m singled out, but I have the exhibits to prove almost every accusation. Moral: Never be patient. Always complain the first time it crosses your mind to complain.

Jason came over to re-varnish his painting, and to take photos of me for a painting he’s planning, wherein I’m a wise man instructing a "raven-child." I think he probably means raven-child literally. I think I will be holding a flower and a hummingbird will be sucking from the flower.

I longed for Jason to stay a little while. For once, the word "longing" was not excessive. He must have read my mind, for he said, "I’d love to hang out for a little while, but we’re having people over and I have to clean the house."

How can I be so lonely and so busy at once? My life, looked at objectively, is the opposite of isolation, and yet I do feel isolated. I can’t explain it even to myself.

Late night: I went downtown to see John’s play, with the great title Twelve Treatises on Memory: An Epistemological Slapstick with Sock Puppets. It was exactly that, a series of meditations on memory and relationship, brilliantly written, not really a play. It was admirable, scholarly, splendidly acted, and yet, oddly, boring. John was testing how far you can take a theatrical in which nothing happens but the full elucidation of people’s ideas and recollections, and the answer is, not very far. You can’t build a relationship out of conversation, even the witty and often lyrical variety found in John’s work, and neither, it turns out, can you build a play. The woman was too horrible to love, the man too pathetic to be a lover, and though most everything they said was intellectually engaging, none of it was plausible, none of it human. There actually were sock puppets, and I suppose they were meant to burlesque the human action, but the human action too was a burlesque. Maybe I missed the point. Maybe the actors and the sock puppets were all meant to burlesque some real action happening somewhere else. Two rednecks from Boone (which is how they introduced themselves to me) were necking in the row in front of me, and I, as a man in love with words, had to account for why that was more interesting than what was happening on stage. I don’t think it was, actually; I think my imagination was observing that the two necking rednecks and the high falutin’ speechifying onstage would, if woven together somehow, make perfect theater. There is no question that John can write. I believe he can probably write a magnificent play. The fact that the room was empty except for me and his students come down from Boone to support him should tell him this is not it.
The streets of the Asheville night were beautiful with kids roaming about looking for the next adventure, with finely dressed men and women strolling after dinner, after drinks, before the ride home under half a moon. On an impulse I went to Smokey’s. I remembered the spasm of loneliness, maybe, when Jason was walking down the stairs. Right at the door I ran into MC from old times, and whatever else the night might have been, it became a reminiscence of things never held all that dear. MC’s hearty, incessant laugh wore thin surprisingly quickly.

The streets of the Asheville night were beautiful with kids roaming about looking for the next adventure, with finely dressed men and women strolling after dinner, after drinks, before the ride home under half a moon. On an impulse I went to Smokey’s. I remembered the spasm of loneliness, maybe, when Jason was walking down the stairs. Right at the door I ran into MC from old times, and whatever else the night might have been, it became a reminiscence of things never held all that dear. MC’s hearty, incessant laugh wore thin surprisingly quickly.
September 20, 2007

It was eight weeks since I last saw M. He’d been scrounging around for a date for coffee, and when it finally came last evening, I cleaned myself up and put on my best, like a high school kid on a date. His busyness has always been a barrier between us; I’ve never mentioned how oddly the twenty things I do and the two things he does compare in the time they seem to devour. If he called I’d come now. Then. Whenever. With him it’s weeks of waiting for the unencumbered moment. It turned out he could spare me about 40 minutes, because he had to meet the cat sitter he and Judy are going to employ when they go to the beach in three weeks. I said, as I always do, that it was OK. But it wasn’t. One looks back on the effort one puts into relationships sometimes, really working for the benefit and the affection of someone you like. One day you realize they have understood this and appreciated it, without in any way feeling the same. I believe I’ve tormented M with my attentions. He wants to be left alone to paint and work and brood, and he has said so in as many words. I thought he didn’t mean me, but he does. Our forty minutes were spent largely in sexual innuendo, which he employs to flatter me, or to acknowledge what he knows at least part of my interest in him to be, but at the same time to insure nothing serious was said. I’ve noted that when we’re together he can’t seem to enjoy himself for apologizing for the times we aren’t together. This is something I thought we’d move past, but we never have. I felt humiliated. I felt that I had bothered someone for years without knowing I was doing it. I feel humiliated as I write of it now. It was a sad way to end a good day.

Handsome Sam was here and clearly repaired the porch. If he got to the roof too the next rainy southwind will tell. He hurt himself between his first visit and this one, and he has one of those beards men grow when it’s too much bother to shave.

Adonis is on

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

September 19, 2007

Isaac on the CD. The thorny stalks are turning last week’s rain into roses, and I thank them.

Two copies of A Dream of Adonis arrived by Fed Ex yesterday. I’m very happy. I can’t decide whether the cover looks cheesy or striking (either one is entirely my fault), but I think striking enough that one might pick it up and open the cover, even if cheesy.

First read-through of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the quaint Junaluska Inn at Lake Junaluska. The directors I described before are Suzanne and Art. Suzanne keeps emphasizing that she’s "a director who directs," but I think her vehemence on that issue is the result of working with people with different habits and abilities than her present cast. Art was dating Melody when we did Gilgamesh, so we remember each other. The cast turns out to be four Ashevillians who are also involved in Crown of Shadows together: Trinity, Belve, Mickey, and I. Mickey was on fire at the read-through last night. I’ll have to work to keep up with her. Art anticipates backlash from the HART regulars when the cast is announced, because we’re all foreigners, and the roles in this play, especially Martha, are often conceived of as plummy rewards for actors who have come up through the ranks in the local system. I try not to think of the epic of memorization before me.

I looked at Belve sitting across from me in his green and brown, and I thought how lucky I was to be among such people, even part of the time.

A playwright calls–and then e-mails–to ask whether the deadline for the Jane Bingham indicates "received by" or "postmarked by." I don’t know why questions like that infuriate me so. How many pages? What font should I use? Should I number the bottom center of the page or the bottom right? Or the top? Should I number the title page? When people have energy left to worry about that they can have created nothing.

There was one point yesterday, between getting out of my car in the YMCA parking lot and the starting of aerobics class, when I felt as great a physical well-being as I ever have in my life.
September 17, 2007

Quiet night, the fattening moon staggering his way westward.

Devin and Ariel came to my office beaming like two suns. They have known each other for years (since they met in my playwriting class, they reminded me) and yet agreeing to marry has given new life to their relationship. They smile and smile and hardly say a word. Devin looks like a boy. Ariel looks like a goddess. They asked me to preside at their marriage next Memorial Day, in Carbondale, Illinois, and I said yes. It is an honor I never quite expected in this lifetime, but it makes me smile a smile a little less than the wattage of theirs, but broad and bright still. They assure me a magistrate will make up for the legality I am unable to provide. Put this as a milestone in the ever-uncertain road ahead.

The woman who looked like a woman playing a community theater director in a movie phoned and offered me the role of George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at HART. I agreed, and we’ll have our first read-through tomorrow at a hotel at Lake Junaluska. I don’t know why. I’m happy to have won the part. I thought I lost it because I refused to come to call-backs tonight, but apparently that wasn’t necessary. I couldn’t come to call backs because of a visit to Ben, so long overdue that I was unwilling to give it up. What enormous, strong hands he has! I feel them on me now as I write; it is one more happiness in a night of multiple happinesses. How little it takes to bring joy to another, and how unnecessarily laborious we make it all at times.

Someone at Pecan Grove e-mails that A Dream of Adonis has arrived from the printer, and two copies wing their way to me now.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

September 16, 2007

Late night. It was dark when I left Waynesville, and the crescent moon rested on the tip of a great pine, Venus shining buttery in the black sky opposite.

I think I’ve had too much church in the past few days.

I remember distinctly when my parents decided I needed a spiritual component in my life. Though I was quite young, they asked me if I wanted to go to Sunday School and if I had any preference as to where I went. The kitchen was very yellow when these questions were being asked. Their approach to this issue was casual, indistinguishable from those times when they asked me if I wanted to be in Boy Scouts or take swimming lessons. I believe that casual, rational approach was exactly right. At the outset it protected me from the fanaticism which is probably in my nature. The church they chose–the UC of C-- was probably the least fanatical option available, and since then I have thought that religion should never be loath to set up housekeeping with reason. Nor have I though being a mystic any contradiction to any of that.

Drove to Waynesville to audition for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. The auditions were grueling, with a whole lot of community theater actors reading for parts beyond their abilities. I was expecting Lloyd Kay to direct, but his health must be bad, and there were a man and a woman sharing the responsibilities. The woman was. . . I don’t know. . . like a woman playing the role of the director in a movie about a community theater production, full of explanations and warnings about her stringency and spontaneity as a director. The man was burly and attractively grisled, and said almost nothing. I think I did OK. It’s hard to know what is wanted at such an occasion. I both desire the part and don’t, as those things go, so I am prepared to rejoice at either outcome.

I’d played the role once before, with Black Swan at the green door, and it was strange to me how few of my lines I remembered. I did remember Martha’s lines, though, and Ellen saying them, and through the long and moonlit drive back home I wondered, mostly, how Ellen and I became estranged.

Frightening dreams last night, still vivid now as I recall them. I was living in a town plagued by monsters that came up out of the ground, out of the entrances of what seemed to be a shopping mall, long buried under the earth and become a place of horrors. I don’t think I fully believed in the monsters, but when I passed one of the buried mall entrances by night, my knees gave under me and I was petrified with horror. It doesn’t take much wisdom to interpret the meaning of monsters buried in the ground out of sight, though not out of mind. But it presently surpasses my wisdom to know what, exactly, those monsters are.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Virgin of Sorrows

September 15, 2007

Gregory Day singing Yeats on the CD. I googled him, and discovered he’s a rugged, handsome Australian who wrote the renowned novel The Patron Saint of Eels. One did not expect him to be a tenor.

Sang for the ordination of Barbara Plimpton at All Souls. She phoned me a while ago and asked if I would write a poem on the theme of the Lady of Sorrows, which I did, and which came out, I think, well.

For the Virgin of Sorrows

Remember a time before the big, important occasions
that made it into the book, before the winemaking
and the raising from the dead.

Remember you were a girl, and a boy brought you flowers.
The moon moved and another boy brought you flowers.
It looked like that

was the way it was going to be for a while, boys
in procession with the gold and red flowers
of the desert, the free-for-the-asking

pomp of a land that once was Paradise.
One day it was an angel. One day it was an angel
bearing one stark, white lily.

Do you remember what was beautiful to you then?
Do you recall who turned your head
with his armloads of flowers?

One boy was different from the others, being divine,
but did he not come with his hair in his eyes,
bashful and stammering like the rest?

O! He was blinding white, you say. His beauty
was the lightning cast upon the mountain.
You found you could forgive him even that.

Did he not offer what they all offered, another name
and the destiny of children in the place
where your own destiny had been?

If he offered a crown, was it a crown of sorrows,
or was that a gift opened slowly, year after year,
the tolling of a bell in the darkness:

One for the One who watches Israel;
Two for the figures on the road to Bethlehem;
Three for the God made perfect in your womb.

Mother of sorrows,
Maiden of mirth,
Cup of begetting,
White knife of birth,

Mother unfathered,
Fountain of song,
Dame of white dreams
The dark drags along.

Virgin most married,
Queen of the night,
Hawk among swallows
In their curving flight.

Lady of ladies,
Mother of Man,
Cradling Forever
In your two arms’ span.

Mother of the falcon.
Mother of the fox,
Held in my heart
Like a jewel in a box.

I had not known Plimpton before this time, and was not sure I knew her when I saw her, but if this carol has helped speed her on her way, then all is well.

Yet it has been a strange day, as if I had been exhausted at the start of it. Cool and bright, swept by yesterday’s rains. Titus stares out the front window as though summoned to watch and wait.

Friday, September 14, 2007

September 14, 2007

Sweet, unfamiliar rain-sounds on the roof. The people I have hired to fix that roof have not come yet, so the sound is not the pure pleasure it might be. Sometimes we refuse to be at peace. If it rains hard and the sump pump does not come on, I am convinced that the pump is not working and the cellar’s flooded. If the sump pump IS working, then I’m worried because water is coming into the cellar. Rain–in minuscule quantities-- comes through the ceiling maybe every tenth time it rains, when the wind is just right. But I worry about it every time. I can calm myself, but it is an effort I resent. The World thinks I should sail unattachedly through my problems, tiny as they are, and with dignity. I think the problems should be removed from me, or at least be open to my removing them. We seem not to have found the middle ground.

I’ve sent hundreds of cards out advertising A Dream of Adonis, but I think the money and the effort was wasted, as the book has not appeared (the at-long-last publication date was September 12) and there are no directions on the Pecan Grove site on how to order it if it does. Louis checked the site booksellers check, and officially the book does not exist. What would another person do? Go down to San Antonio with a tire iron in his fist? Smile and sigh airily "Oh well!’ and think of fields of flowers? I really don’t know.

Meg is using Sam’s song from Edward the King as an audition piece.
September 13, 2007

Eddie Alton has died of cancer.
September 12, 2007

Wiley sends photos of himself and Thomas on Max Patch, two boys happy in the deep beauty of the world. Wiley says in his letter, "I’ll be thirty-fuckin-years old this week. David, what does it all mean?!"

Met Hara at the Usual. She looks stunningly beautiful. She told me (as he did, in another way at another place) of her break-up with Pearson. Her refrain was "I have reclaimed my power," and though I’m not sure what that meant, if it’s the cause of her radiance, I bless it.
September 11, 2007

Anniversary of the catastrophe that put America in the hands of a traitor and tyrant who might otherwise have been merely a failure. I hope I live to see everything he did reversed, discredited, scoured from the Book of Life.
September 10, 2007

Not much. Hot summer day. Loved the eagerness of my poetry class, the forwardness of some, the bashfulness of others. Handsome Riley like a gold prince in a legend. The serious girls at the corner of the table, whom I watch to see if I am being just. Righteous Gabriel at my elbow, who must seethe when I play light with sacred things. I play light with all sacred things, for they are the toys of the glad spirit.
September 9, 2007

Evening. Spent ten minutes watering the garden, and will spend the next hour scratching the mosquito bites.

DJ and I went to see Much Ado about Nothing at Montford Park last night. It was sweet seeing people I know so well transformed into OTHER people, fictional people, whom I also know so well. The production had a bright surface, if no depth, and it may be that this is all that can be expected from outdoor theater done by these people in this place. Is depth–subtlety of reading, nuance of expression– pianissimi as well as foritissimi-- achievable outdoors on a summer night before children and picnickers on their blankets? My experience is too limited to know. Ultimately, nothing like that mattered, for the onlookers were experiencing a sacred and public rite, the performance of the Great Voice of the Tribe, in which they were happy to be immersed fully and enthusiastically. It was like an evangelical church service, where full participation is expected. The crowd willed the production to work, and it did. I told Dogberry the truth that however many times I have seen this play, this is the first time he and the Watch were actually funny. In the sacredness of the moment, individual performances ceased to matter so much. No one was bad. No one–except Dogberry, and a few of the villains–was very good, but all were sufficient. All rode the raft that the great wave of community expectation kept aloft.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

September 8, 2007

Wondrous still morning, pale gray, silvery.

Went to see Barbara Bates Smith’s On Agate Hill, a one woman show based on a Lee Smith novel. It was nice to be the youngest person in the room again. I was not sorry to have bestirred myself downtown to see it, and Barbara was very professional. But it did seem a little relentless, a little familiar, the tough Southern tomboy rising out of poverty into a life of tribulation and triumph, giving her whole heart to one man, hauling him memorably out of his failings– well, I seem to have less patience with formula theater than others. One knew almost before the line was said where one was meant to smile, to wipe away a tear, to utter a knowing laugh. The age of the audience was interesting to me. Some say that old audiences are a sign of a dying form, but I think not. The gray hair at a symphony or a community theater production signifies, I think, people entering a stage of their life rather than an art form doing so. That is what we did at twenty. Now this is what we do at sixty. Smith’s story is one like they think they remember some wild aunt telling them long ago.

The Charter man came to give me cable phone service, thus ending a lifetime with the Bell system. I thought it might be cheaper. Now I don’t remember why I changed over. Perhaps just to have something different. The phone had to be in a different place, which prompted me to rearrange the living room completely. I smile now with surprise and pleasure when I enter the room. I think it’s better. It is at least different.

Planted next year’s black iris.
September 7, 2007

Can’t remember drinking enough last night to make me feel like this in the morning. Thursdays turn out to be my big day this semester, and by the time the last hour of choir practice had come along, I was watching the clock, wondering how I could sing another note. I don’t often get tired enough to get grumpy, so I didn’t actually know that I get grumpy when I get tired. No cocktails at Usual for me, but straight home and all but straight to bed. Woke still tired, so maybe my labors continued in the unconscious realm.

Melody suggested that I join University Chorus for Carmina Burana, and I thought I would, and was happy, despite the usual misgivings, to be again in the midst of that friendly, chaotic energy. Some conviction of reserve keeps me from participating fully in the vitality of my students– I think I’ll make them self-conscious or steer them some way they wouldn’t have gone on their own–but perhaps I overestimate my influence, and I should drink from this cup as often as it is offered. On some days it is the only thing that is not depressing or exhausting.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

September 6, 2007

Woke yesterday with a tight chest and odd breathing, which I assumed would evolve into a heart attack. Of course it didn’t. It was purely anxiety, which loosened and dissolved in the first few hours of the day. It would be nice to know anxiety over what. With home repairs and going to Ireland, money is an issue, but the response in this case seems much greater than the stimulus. Perhaps my nerves know something that my conscious mind does not. Perhaps my nerves are stupider than my mind, and fear a road which it sees clear and navigable.

Heavy labor in the garden, in any case, resolved and lingering heart attack questions. The overgrown state of things looks more daunting than it really is once you’ve dug in. Emerging from the tangle of squash whose life the drought abbreviated, the eggplants are alive, but exactly the size they were when I planted them this spring. Bonsai eggplant for the urban garden.

Michael Ackley invited me to his apartment for poetry night. Michael has been so tempestuously in love with poetry–outdoing even myself at his age–that I thought I must accept the invitation. There were six of us, Michael, blond Brian, Pan-resembling Owen, Sam (a girl who seemed to be married to someone who wasn’t there), handsome John who was in one of my classes for a week-- and remembered it without too much rancor-- and myself. They were all smokers and the clouds of nicotine made me leave before I otherwise might. This surprised me. I’d thought the tides of public feeling especially among the "elite" had gone against this particular addiction. That aside, and that noted as proof that nothing will ever be perfect, I must say it was a wonderful evening. They had me read "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty," and then we each wrote a poem in response to it. Van Morrision, who is a sort of god to the group, sang softly in the background. The poems were nothing like Shelley, and all very various and idiosyncratic. Owen was the best poet, with a lilting love of play and a sparkling diction he claims he did not derive from Keats. The others wrote very deep and needful-of-hard-listening revelations of their inmost feelings. I wrote of my morning glories. The seriousness and yet the lightness of the task was evident. There was no judgment, no hurry, no expectation, just the wide door of opportunity open. They were using this to ignite themselves as poets. They all had the bodies of sylphs and the minds of Ariels, and I was afraid I’d feel like a lumbering buffalo among them, but their courtesy was perfect, and I felt at home and joyful. Brian was talking of how the task is to kick Derrida and Foucault behind us and write again as though meaning were possible, write again with the conviction that some things are holy. Had I composed the speech it could not have captured my own belief better, nor would it have been so eloquent. To know that such evenings occur–perhaps nightly all around the city, invisible to see–makes this career as a teacher seem like it has come to something after all.
September 5, 2007

Elderberries drooping nearly to the ground last night, until I finally watered. I supposed since I was going to work now the processes of my garden were on hold.

Writing hard on Or Did a Sea of Fire, an all-female cast play I’m writing in response to the accusation that I don’t write for women.
September 4, 2007

Pink cyclamen blooms in the shade of the conifers. It’s so dry they probably think it’s a month later than it is.
September 3, 2007

Woke at 3 this morning. I’d had a turbulent dream, and it was difficult getting back to sleep. The dream was this: I was back at Hiram acting in a play. The play was being put on not in a theater, but in the woods, way over the hill at the bottom of the soccer field. It was lovely rehearsing among the trees. I think I was playing Shylock, or something like that, a good role which required an elaborate costume. One morning I woke up in a unfamiliar room. I asked a blond woman if I were going to be late for rehearsal, and she said I shouldn’t worry about that; I’d had a stroke and my understudy had taken over. I said, "Well, I can do it now. I feel fine." She said that couldn’t happen. While I was unconscious with the stroke someone had been hiking in the woods and come across a little cabin I had made for myself. The cabin contained a cot, some candles, and a large number of dirty books. I’d bought the dirty books all at once because they were cheap and I thought a forest hideaway needed books. I’d stacked them up and never read them, never paid more than a moment’s attention to what they were. But now all anyone could talk about was the guy in the theater who had all those dirty books in the woods. I went to the student union, and everyone as whispering and pointing. I couldn’t think of a way to say to them all, "It meant nothing! I never even opened them!" so I just walked on, silently.

Probably the dream has to do with JF. Today I read over the journal material that offended him so much that I deleted the blog which carried some of it into the world. My defense then was that what I said was true, in the sense of "not a lie," however odd it might appear to people with other perspectives. I would add to that now, after reading the "offending" passages, that it was also perfectly harmless. No reasonable person would have been offended, no one who had a sense of how things strike people who are not oneself, no one with a rudimentary sense of context. I went too far. I bought his point of view without looking back at the material myself. He went too far and I followed him, hoping for a friend. For some reason it never works the other way around.

Cantaria reappeared for the season last night, with a greatly enlarged roster. I was the only bass for years, and now there are seven of us. I thought I was going to resent not being singular, but the fact was that it was comforting, relaxing, a brotherhood rather than a constant solo with the attendant anxieties.

The second category 5 hurricane of a young season steams toward Honduras.

When I walked into the grocery story, Paul McCartney was singing "Let It Be" on the sound system. I burst into tears.

Monday, September 3, 2007

September 2, 2007

Two mockingbirds play in water gathered in an abandoned toy in Caroline’s yard. I have supplied them three clean birdbaths. I understand, though. One always prefers the brook in the forest to the blue-bright swimming pool. But when I looked, goldfinches were at the front birdbath, yellow against the orange of the nasturtiums. My garden is sad, spent, ragged, and I am at a loss to know what to do. Perhaps it is just the season.

Lovely party at Jack and Leland’s, conversation and too many cosmopolitans under a sky too murky for stars. Chall gave me two boxed books of 19th century American poetry. I’ve been reading Freneau, unable to believe how bad he is, unable to credit what was taken for poetry once upon a time on the frontier. They must have been so hungry for it they adopted anything that had a rhyme. A few pages away, the rushing Niagara of Whitman silences all.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

September 1, 2007

My garden gave me a white rose for my birthday.

Some night creature takes a bite or two out of a tomato, and then leaves it in a conspicuous place, on a porch step or the flat of a stump. What is the message? “I’ve been here, sucked all the sweetness, don’t bother”?

Milkweed sends reviews of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, which has evidently been slow in finding its critical audience. The reviews are good, flattering. Are there bad reviews they keep from me? Probably a good idea.

The sickness this time was wearying but not annihilating. I may even get to the studio. I may pull a weed or two.

The gas man came yesterday (he was afraid of the cats) and showed me where the gas line would have to plow right through my garden. I went ahead with it, but I swallowed hard.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

August 31, 2007

At lunch JF said, by way of explaining why there’s no formal relationship between NC Stage and me as a playwright, “Development in not part of our program.” The answer I spoke was, “Well, that’s a valid reason.” The answer I thought was, “I’m not talking about development. What I give you won’t need development. If I hand a play to a producer, it is ready for the stage.” I don’t understand why I don’t get more credit for forbearance than I do. People think I say just anything that comes into my head, because sometimes what I say is sharp or hard, or impatient to get to the point. But it is never thoughtless. It’s never untrue, though of course it may be wrong.
I’ve stopped sending scripts to development workshops, for the outcome will be either negligible or, “experts” being anxious to avoid the onus of having nothing to say, damaging. People who haven’t given real thought to the development process, who hope a play can’t work without its buying what they sell, will think that I’m deluded or arrogant. I’m neither of those things. I’m in a hurry. I know what path is the path and what is a morass.

Ganymede Arts (formerly Actors Theater of Washington) didn’t mention development when they asked to do The Loves of Mr. Lincoln in October. It was a hasty choice, because their schedule was full when they read the piece, but they love it, want to get it on the stage, and, if I read things right, to do a full production next year after introducing it as part of a Gay Arts Festival this October. I’m a little perplexed at being the darling of Gay Festivals– I have never thought of my art as particularly “gay,” and in Mr Lincoln there is not even a hint of a hint of sexual peccadillo– but I suppose that’s better than not being the darling of anything. In any case, they clearly think it’s more scandalous than I do. I think my treatment of Lincoln is respectful to an extreme, even a fulsome, degree. I wanted to put a real hero heroically onstage.

Rosemary and Ed came into town, and we had supper at Reza’s (where I haven’t been since the Rickie days) and talked about their house hunting. Maybe it was the food, but I was sick afterward in choir practice, so sick that I had to sneak into the church bathroom, closing all the sound-stopping doors behind me, and vomit copiously. During the vomiting I was stricken with agonizing stomach cramps. The only treatment I know for the muscle seizures is drinking water, and so I tried to drink water while my stomach was still engaged in sending material the other direction. There were no cups in the bathroom, so I had to bend over and try to drink out of the spigot, which position only intensified the stomach cramps. I found myself ladling water to my mouth in the cup of my hand, sweating and weeping from the pain of the muscle seizures, not knowing if I were finished vomiting or not. Contrary to what I thought then, I did recover. But the crowning touch of this calamitous (partially calamitous, anyway) week came upon me only two hours ago, phlebitis, at this point a mild case, like a bad flu with a few additional aches, but we’ve yet to see if it’s going or coming on slowly.

Tea with Jason in the morning. He gave me a book, and joy. A girl got out of a car, ran to me, kissed me, and said, “I love you.” When she came out again with her coffee she said “You’re my hero.” I looked at Jason and said, “I wish to God I knew who she was.”