Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas 2008

December 26, 2008

Harold Pinter and Eartha Kitt are dead. Pinter put the play as far as possible–barring outright improv–into the actor’s hands.

Went to the studio on Christmas Eve, but it was mostly to toss out projects which had failed for one reason or another. One of my neighbors brought his baby. I looked in on them, and dad was playing with the babe to such giggling on its part and such a jaw-cracking grin on his that I didn’t interrupt them. Jason’s precision is going to make it hard for me to go slopping on the way I have been doing.

The Christmas Eve services at All Souls (I first typed ‘The Saviour,’ thinking of Syracuse after all these years) were pretty and certainly heavily attended. Much better looking people come on Christmas than on an ordinary Sunday. I was so deathly tired and my back ached so (I have decided that standing for prolonged periods is the culprit) that the last hour or so (I arrived at 6, left at 12:30) were unmerry, and I went home to bed rather than going to Kyle’s party.
Five youngsters– four present and former voice scholars, plus Willl Bryant, sang “Lully My Liking.” For me it was the high point of the evening. The sound was closing your eyes for a moment on paradisal voices, and taking perfect rest. I thank all the powers moving together to give that gift. I constantly wonder about the interface of skill and good intentions. As far as I could tell, their performance was perfect. Would it have been as moving had it not been perfect? Would their young sincerity have overridden errors? Are the Seraphim suffered to sing off-key because their devotion is sublime? Or do we know their devotion is sublime because they do not sing off key? I do not actually have the answers to these questions. I think now that we appreciate the artist for the lovable and human flaws in the art; we can use the art–almost irrespective of the artist–as a stair on the stairway to heaven when it is perfect, when nothing calls attention to its making. I try to make my writing perfect– because I can–and am willing to let my painting be imperfect–having probably no choice–to test both sides of the issue.
Circe nudges my elbow as I write, as if she had insight in the matter she is longing to express.

Whirlwind trip to Atlanta, where all seems most well. Cat-sitterless-ness made the visit necessarily short. The boys are beautiful and innocent, in that profound way that does not involve ignorance. Andy seemed jolly and forthcoming, and in a way– a way centered on his physical presence and physical interaction with the father–he is a good parent. Linda and I talked about dad. I blurted out what I didn’t even know I was thinking, that I had probed my memories to define the nature of our relationship, good, bad, tumultuous, loving, hateful, and found, at the end, nothing. Nothing. We traded intimacy for survival. Maybe it will be different in a week or so, or before the end of the story.
Beautiful winter clarity for both halves of the trip. Twelve hours ticked away between leaving the house at first light and walking back in at dark of evening.

The Nutcracker played on the radio as I drove home. I remembered the themes, my choreography, the counts, the excitement of the ballerinas backstage. I’m glad to have been part of that world for five or six years, but it’s something which doesn’t need to be repeated. Ballet is a Female Mystery, with a hierarchy and set of expectations that I was the wrong gender and the wrong age to fathom fully. But it was charming. As I used to say, listening to Tchaikovsky and playing with ten year olds is not the worst way to pass the time. I probably didn’t appreciate how cutthroat it was beneath the tulle and sequins. The few dark glimpses were quite frightening. Patriarchy has a bad name only because there is no functioning and widely known matriarchy to compare it to. But the ballet– froth and glitter sustained on the edge of a stiletto.

Christmas greetings from TG. He is growing into one of those magnificent Lincoln-resembling old men, while I get squatter and more toad-like. Visual magnificence I resigned years ago. Sigh. It would have been so much easier.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

December 23, 2008

Agate sky at morning.

Have been feeling fragile and achy of late, and vowed to do something about it, especially if– as I refused to accept–it was the onset of age. The vow was made in good time, for I woke this morning boiling with energy and feeling like a twenty year old. I never paid correct attention to my body, so never learned to identify the rhythms, the highs and lows that pass through it. I strain to remember if a certain feeling had been felt before, and, for the most part, plunge on until whatever ails me goes away, as it almost always does. A man at church is dying from cancer which first manifested as a backache, so, as my backache lingered into its second week, I supposed I had that. Then someone says, “Oh, I had a stiff back for six weeks,” and suddenly I am reprieved, if not exactly encouraged.

Evening of a fine day. I wrote hard on “The Stolen Child,” then went to the studio, where I worked on a painting on paper and a construction utilizing pages from my old BCP/hymnal, which I replaced last Sunday, after twenty one years of use, with a new one. A window was flapping open when I got there, and the room never warmed up, so exhaustion from the sapping cold prevented me from working as long as I might. Alex’s dog visited me, snuffling around, taking this and that into his mouth to test it out. At one point he returned with a tennis ball, even bouncing it a few times in case I was too stupid to know how it worked. Aside from progress on various projects, I felt my old self physically, and every sensation, every step climbed, every wind to tighten my coat against, was fascinating.

Waking dream, or a moment of a backward perception. I was looking out a window into a little woods, except that it was the front window the house on Goodview Avenue, and the woods was Crine’s woods, a sight I have not seen awake in forty five years.

Circe sleeps with one paw on the keyboard when I sit down to write.
December 22, 2008

Twelve degrees outside. Condensation is frozen on the eastern and western windows, while the northern and southern windows are dry. Must be a reason for that. The condensation itself is new, and must come from moisture from the aquarium. I dash between the house and the car, scurrying like a mouse in the open in between.
December 21, 2008

Longest night. Dim, cold stars.

Poisoned by the dish I couldn’t pronounce at La Paz, I spent the last half hour hurling into the frozen darkness at the end of my porch. I think that episode is over. It’s like climbing out of a sick bed. I should have arranged my life so that I would have more to talk about at the sacred solstice than nausea. How I got vomit on my glasses I’d rather not know.

Overheard too many silly conversations today. Has it been a mark of all times or just of recent ones to assume arguments are equal if they can be stated in equivalent grammatical units? Yes, you can say that the duck was made for the feather as easily as that the feather was made for the duck, but that does not make it an equal proposition.

My Limerick friend Marian is living for a few weeks on Christopher Street, in an apartment with bizarre plumbing, which used to be inhabited by sailors.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The New Studio

December 20, 2008

Downtown for a haircut on Wednesday, I ran into Cody, who took a break with me when Charlotte was finished with my hair. We sat in the green café and caught up on the last several months, and on his plans for the future, which are modest and achievable, while still doing some honor to his talent. My affection for him could not be contained, and, luckily, he did not require it. I invited him to London with me (plans which were formed on the spot) after the run of Titus , so he can look at acting schools. I meant the invitation as soon as I said it. I think, though, the Gaiety in Dublin may suit him best. As we sat, he convinced me to accept the role of Marcus Andronicus in Titus, with a detailed analysis of the importance of the role. I haven’t read the play in ten years, and then but once, and I’d forgotten who Marcus was. I didn’t want to be an attending lord.

Jason and I move in shifts into our new space in the Phil Mechanic. It is airy and bright, so the medieval intricacy of lighting I had rigged up in the basement is no longer needed. I actually did some work there in the lucid morning, and was very happy. I’ll keep the nook two floors down as an office for Black Swan, and as someplace to write other than here, one which may set a new tone into the writing.
He had three people helping him, and I was alone. That summarizes all.

The back spasm which set in while I was sitting in a chair having tea with Tom, and which for a while kept me all but incapacitated, limbers a little now, a week later. I had to go to David the masseur Tuesday afternoon to have any chance of standing erect long enough to sing the concert. He’d touch a sore spot and say, “Man, that must be on fire.” Oddly, the times it felt least bad (except when I was lying down) was when I was hauling furniture up the narrow warehouse staircases to the studio. I suppose movement warmed the knots a little.

Went with the gang to see Milk at the Fine Arts. The performances are good, but the film is less compelling than the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. James Franco has the most classically beautiful face in public life. As I walked to the theater, I stopped at the Arts Council to see Jonas Gerard’s opening, and, as it turned out, the man himself. What a voluble and interesting man! I still think his paintings are tricks, but he performs those tricks with such joyful exuberance that one hardly minds. Saw him again at The New French Bar afterward, where he was being interviewed by my former student John Coutlakis. JC delivered a testimonial to his learning experience at UNCA which was heartwarming and not expected. I was the best teacher there, according to him. I always thought so, but confirmation even in a moment as subjective as that is welcome. I’d parked rather far away, and it was a sweet night and the walk through the town sparkling with lights and belling with voices was joyful. I will not have a tree this year, because of the wild youth of the new cats and because of my being away so long, so I’ll have to suck Christmas in from wherever I find it.

Evening. Worked most of the morning and afternoon at the studio, and was happy. Alex the glassworker from across the hall introduced himself. He has ivory skin and flaming red hair and beard, an attractive man, laughing often, shouting over the roar of the torches to his coworker. He has a big dog in his studio with him. Diligently the dog carries various bits of wood in his mouth, following his master around against the moment when just that chunk of wood might be necessary.
December 17, 2008

Club soda and peach nectar before the coming of the light. Medieval French dances on the CD.

One was prepared for disaster at the Cantaria concert, but disaster did not come. We were about 60% better than we deserved to be. M moved me from the edge to the center of the basses, where I heard on all sides that people weren’t masking mistakes so much as simply not knowing the music, wrong entrances, wrong parts sung. . . all of it diluted by an appreciative audience and a forgiving hall. The Usual afterwards, where Kathy gave us a Christmas gift of free drinks and very generous samples of all her appetizers, and even a couple of steak dinners to share among us. It was lovely and un-looked for an very festive. We were wearing our tuxedos. We must have been gorgeous. Scots Rob was having a going-away party in the next room, and all the theater crowd was there too, and I felt surrounded by friends. Met Steve’s son Christian, a charming teenager with a lively countenance, of whom Steve was so proud he could barely speak.

The hurdy-gurdy on the CD makes me wildly happy.

Monday, December 15, 2008

December 15, 2008

Entering the first entries onto my 2009 calendar.

Reading Mariani’s new biography of Gerard Manley Hopkins, I'm struck by two things. One is that Hopkins’ taste for form exceeds mine as the heavens are high above the earth. I do not make much distinction between the efficacy of the host in an Anglican church and that in a Catholic one. I do not think that the dissimilarities in procedure from one church to another, or even one religion to another, make much difference in the long run, and would be just as happy throwing orchids into a lava flow as an act of devotion as I am genuflecting to a cross. Whether this is a flaw in me or an unnecessary rigor in him I don’t know. Perhaps the distinction is mostly in the times, though it is hard for me to believe regular people made too much of such rarefied gradations at any time. Having decided upon Catholicism, he seemed disgusted by the Anglican rituals which filled his soul a year before. I too had my Newman moment (in Syracuse) when I considered that Roman Catholicism was the end toward which my soul was evolving. Two things stopped that process short: one was the Pope, the other was the conclusion that I was trading sky blue for robin’s egg and it probably wasn’t worth the fuss.

The other thing that strikes me is Hopkins’ joyful reception of the beauties of the world, taking their utterance as his private vocation. I did the same at the age where he is in the biography so far, and reading of him makes clear to me how much I have wandered from that path. What was once visionary gleam is largely now anxious planning and resentment when the plans go awry, a profession rather than a vocation. Did the same thing happen to him? I don’t know yet, but I rather think not. Had I died when he did, perhaps I too might have remained pure. As it is, I have become a careful little functionary, laying down the pen and the brush when they are not rewarded as I think they should be, pushing the next inspiration away because the last one didn’t pay off, using a bad review as an excuse to stop the show. I’ve become so attached to the fruits of my labor that I begin to think that the fruits were the goal all the time, and it was foolish ever to think otherwise. I have become a worldling. I remember when I believed myself immune to that, and for a while I was. The journey became too hard, the failures too bitter, and that’s my excuse, but leaving that splendid road may be more bitter than the hardships on it. The Gleam is not gone, but pushed into a closet where you put things whose depth of longing and visionary intensity may lead to embarrassment. I have made friends who look away when such things are mentioned. I have filled my life with business and busy-ness that outshout the Voice. I think I can get back on the road–though perhaps not tonight. There are many habits to break. Rest before labor.
December 14, 2008

Put on a T-shirt for writing in the dark of the morning that is 38 years old, from my first stay at Cambridge. My mother removed the choking elastic from the neck. Personal heritage drawn randomly from the white heap in the T-shirt drawer.

Coffee with TD at Starbuck’s. His movie script seems this time to be actually and truly on track. Somehow merely sitting in the chair I threw my back out, and could not straighten up, and had to limp like an octogenarian back to the car. Schedules and other imperatives made me refuse to change my plans for Saturday, which included moving more gear up the six winding flights from old studio to new. The odd thing is that my back not only permitted that, but felt better afterward. Jason was showing his wife and father-in-law the space. We’re going to call the studio after the mythical kingdom in his paintings–Thul, or something like that. The Denying Powers will be disgruntled that I have gone the back way to have a son.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

December 13, 2008

Blazing moon peeking in my west window made it impossible to sleep, so I was up before 4 in the shimmering moonlight. Jocasta howled at the door, so I let her out to walk as a wild thing under the moon. Ten minutes later she was howling on the front porch, cornered by a neighborhood cat whose intentions were, it looked to me, friendly. But, she had her adventure. I’m constantly scrubbing new places where her failing urinary tract has committed an indiscretion.

Call last night that the Prius was ready to be picked up. “Please give us an hour,” the message said, “to wash and detail the car.” Even half an hour put it after closing time. I thought that was curious, but I waited until this morning and started the process of redeeming my car. Here’s what unfolds: Biltmore Ford’s contract with the insurance company stipulated that the car be finished on December 12, so, even though it wasn’t, they phoned and said it WAS finished, lying about when to pick it up, so I would come, if I came, when they were closed. Being closed on Saturday, too, they would be able actually to finish Monday morning what was officially finished Friday afternoon, and no one would be the wiser. They had not taken me into their calculations. I meant to have my car now. Mr. Honeycutt, the manager, said that the body shop was closed on Saturday and that he had none of the paperwork necessary to release the car. I said I was on my way and I expected the car to be ready for me when I arrived, and that any problems he would face relative to the missing paperwork would be less than what he would face from me. I used my stern professor voice. The car was, in fact, waiting for me, but it had not been cleaned or detailed, which is what they had clearly left to be done Monday morning. I’d returned my rental, so I agreed to come back Monday so they could finish the job, and so I can ask those responsible why they told me to pick up a car which clearly wasn’t ready. I really don’t care that much. I am glad to have my perky friend back and, visibly, whole. I don’t know how fixing the tail of the car resulted in the blasting away of all my dashboard settings, but it will take some time restoring all.
December 12, 2008

Ann Vasilik writes, “If I ever need to get married again, I’ll keep you in mind.”

Van Johnson is dead. I mention this because my mother loved him. He and Alice Fay were the last words in elegance to her.

Tremendous moon, hard and blue and bright, haloed now with dark rainbow.

Jason’s opening at the Cook Gallery on campus. The paintings are remarkable, original, peculiar, tight, visionary, shockingly underpriced.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Other Bail-Outs

December 11, 2008

I was wondering why arts organizations, museums and symphonies and ballet companies, teetering on the brink of bankruptcy don’t go to the Federal government for a bail-out the way the banks and auto makers do. Jobs lost to the closing of a theater company are just as lost as those to the closing of a factory; arts organizations are incontestably more integral to the general tone of a society than any particular industry, and their financial difficulties are less likely to be exacerbated (or caused) by satanic greed in the chairman’s office. Nor have they glutted themselves at the expense of the people who now must bail them out. I would rather my money go to the New York Opera or the San Francisco Symphony than to AIG. The cellist’s kids get just as hungry as the auto worker’s.

Lorena acclaimed chairman of the department. I hadn’t thought that was the way it would turn out, but once the nomination was made it seemed right and inevitable. Lorena seemed genuinely to want to do it. This amazes me.

Unseasonably warm rain; unreasonably deep, even violent nap early in the afternoon, with the rain falling around. I’m still a little shaken from it, as though it had been a fever rather than a sleep.

Walked out the front door to get the mail, and the full moon had risen snow white in a sky of indescribable turquoise, with a border of white and gray cloud over the greenish dark of the mountains. One must cry out. I remember when I believed crying out over the beautiful things of this world was going to be my only occupation. I left that path consciously, and I do not regret it, but sometimes I think that when I left it I left wildness and happiness at once, and if I could find it again, I would be the wild soul I remember, wounded by the things that wound the wild, and not by these perpetual ruinous subtleties and considerations. I did truly run at the borders of the deep wood at moonrise, singing, and I was happy. I do not know if the wood will let me back.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Visit from Saint Nicholas

December 7, 2008

Chill dark morning of a dark month. DJ and I went to hear mezzo Denyce Graves at the Civic center last night. It is a vast, un-welcoming, sound-flattening space, but with her sparkling stage presence she managed to make it feel intimate, like a recital around the piano in the living room. The program was heavily French, and included the definitive, heartbreaking interpretation of “Sweet Little Jesus Boy.” Graves was not in the best voice of her life, but her technique and personality was such that not one person in a hundred noticed, and I wouldn’t have had I not been sitting with a musician. Bier Garden afterward, bad drinks, bad food, forgetful service, but the merriest drunks and best street view in the city.

Lessons and Carols at All Souls, a surprisingly sweet service. Stood beside Abigail with her crystal voice.

Sunday evening. Renaissance dances on the CD. Did my gig as Saint Nicholas at Sunday School breakfast this morning. In some ways this is the easiest public acclaim I get in a year, all those smiling and astonished faces, though I hedge it about with grudgingness. I grumble about it so people think it’s onerous and no one tries to take it away. Isn’t that amazing? Ludicrous? Our lives are so creased and crisscrossed with secret strategies and invisible terrors. . . .

DJ ignores a call from his mother as we’re getting into the car. I try to remember the last time my mother called me, and am panicked because I cannot. I think I remember her voice on the phone. Did she call me? Was I so sour about such things she waited for me to call? I don’t remember. Sunday nights I pick up the phone to call dad, because that’s when he expected a call from me. Did I call mother to chit-chat, ever? I don’t remember.

I don’t like the way things turned out. I was not supposed to be so lonely. I was not supposed to sit bolt upright at the keyboard, thunderstruck, remembering, not remembering, wondering what to hold on to now in the great, dark and descending swirl.
December 6, 2008

Auditioned for Titus today, after pleading (and in fact being) sick last week. Doing a play is the furthest thing from my mind right now, yet one shows one’s face, that solidarity be preserved.

Sat at my desk and gushed out pages of The Falls of the Wyona, then went to the coffee shop and gushed out the opening of a new play, about the apparitions at Knock, notes for which I took two years ago in the place itself. Nothing could have been more welcome than this unlooked-for bounty on an unremarkable Saturday. The turbulence of the last months, and the crash of confidence that came from the debacle in Chicago, affected me deeper than reason was able to reach. I couldn’t convince myself to start writing again, but finally the mere turning of the wheels made it possible. I thought of myself as tougher than that, but if resilience stands in the place of toughness, then I am content.

Bought cut pink roses for the living room. They look idiotic, for some reason. Maybe an offense against the season.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

December 5, 2008

OJ Simpson is sentenced to prison. Unless he lives to be a very old man (or unless there are appeals possibilities the gloating headlines do not mention) he will never see the outside again. This is an early Christmas present for those who want to believe that the wheels are karma never falter, however they may be delayed.

Returned to DG. He is the chatterbox that he ever was, but it is probable that affection will, from this time forward, overlook that. His hair is thin and he has the sat-on look of the married man.

Dan-o stood at my back door deciding whether to knock or not. I went out to him before he made up his mind. He totaled his last car and has a new one which looks about the same–dim gray instead of dim green, an old man’s car. He is broke as usual, gaunter than before. He has the look of one whose apartment is always cold. He clings to his ratty ponytail even after admitting that has kept him from a couple of jobs. His new girlfriend says she won’t get serious until he has a full time job. His chatter was frightening and unbalanced, as it ever was. I missed him. I was happy to be with him. I was glad when he went away.
December 3, 2008

Odetta is dead. They are all gone into a world of light.

Overdid at the Y, and then on the winding industrial staircases of the Flood, where I moved stuff up five flights from one studio to another. With Jason there, I don’t gain much space, but I do gain light and I do gain Jason. I gave up with not even half the job done, and was afflicted later on with excruciating stomach cramps. I don’t understand why the body endures or allows those. They seem to be to no purpose–except, in my case anyway, to signal dehydration. Jolene always has a flood of projects and potential nights out for me when I walk in, which begin to run off like rain in the telling, and I struggle to keep just one specific enough actually to consider.
The nap out of which I woke into the cramps was filled with strange, vivid dreams. The last one reminded me that when I dream of myself in a play, or of the production of one of my plays, the stage is often immense–I’m talking football fields and basketball courts-- and brilliantly lit, and the audience so far away I don’t know how they see or hear anything. There is sometimes a series a stages, each one with its own scene or moment at the play, and the dark audience at the far end, as though they themselves were the last scene. This afternoon it was my play. Disasters kept happening and mishaps befalling the cast, so I was acting in it myself. It kept getting weirder and farther from the original conception, which I took, as one does, for as long as possible, until I mentioned my distress to the director– who was Rob, I think, clad in a white night shirt. He blew up and said, “You know, I don’t really care. I don’t love you–“ Here he said my full, real name, which is rather startling in a dream, whether the speaker loves you or not.

Does my subconscious think that a director must love you to do justice to your play? Perhaps he recognizes that as a rare and precious ideal.

Christmas card from the Nicolinos signals the start of the season.

The Arts Council names Jonas Gerard as Artist of the Year. The work I’ve seen of his is immediately striking and pleasing, but subsequently, once one gets the point, boring. I would buy one if I thought the electric first impression would endure until the bill was paid.

Some sort of traffic karma is working itself out on me. Was nearly wiped out on Lakeshore by a woman driving very fast in my lane, straight toward me. She had veered out to avoid a cyclist, and had chosen to do so on a bend where oncoming traffic was obscured. The look on the cyclist’s face, when he saw what was about to happen, was sheer horror. But I slammed on my little PT Cruiser’s brakes, and the woman had enough time to get back in her lane just inches, it seemed, from my hood. There wasn’t even time to blow the horn.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December 2, 2008

Drove the injured Prius to the body shop, after which I was given to drive a cream colored PT Cruiser, which I like. In some ways, the Cruiser suits me better. It’s less like a spacecraft cockpit.

Rented a house in Savannah for the New Year. Five have signed up to go, and there’s room for another. It’s an experiment for me, who usually go on my own wild lone. Too many things intervene for me to have much of an opinion about it now. Will the town be alive? Will the sea be frozen? Will there be WiFi? The original plan was Lisbon, but that began to feel too far away. Most people’s lives are at home, and mine is not, particularly, and that began to seem strange.
Finding something to suit a disparate group is surprisingly stressful. Some want luxury and some economy; some want beach and some downtown. It is also unexpectedly fun, like the working of a puzzle.

Jason and I went to get keys for our new space at the Flood. A wave of dissatisfaction went over me as I stood there, thinking of the time it will take for me to move in and get use out of it, thinking of the labor of schlepping those stairs with cabinets and supplies, wondering if the painting means anything or is but the expensive folly of the amateur. Jason, however, will use it, and use it quick, and that makes all well. What will it be like painting with him? I hope we chatter like parakeets.

Have foreseen my Purgatory: to have every single student in the hell-class ask separately when the final paper is due, that information having appeared in the syllabus in August.

I miss Marco. Maybe the holidays will afford an excuse to get in touch–though then the strain of his finding fifteen minutes to spend with me will remind me why I allowed it to drift.

Found N’s video blog. I thought while watching it, “What fearlessness!” I spend half my time covering up, finding the path of circumspection. Encountered F at the video store, and was almost flattened by his booming self-confidence–one might even say braggadocio– and yet, one acknowledges, that’s what works. What works better than talent. N, who has both, will cut a swath.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

November 30, 2008

Yesterday morning spent at the Vet with Jocasta, but when I consider how many mornings and evenings have NOT been spent at the emergency award with a bleeding child, it seems a small price. They put us in a tiny, enclosed, perfectly square cubicle to wait for the vet, and I was on the verge of frenzy by the time he showed up. A sensory deprivation chamber and I would not be a good match. A bottle of antibiotics gives the hope that all is well with her for a while. It was touching to see those big lugs dragging in on a Saturday morning, on the verge of tears, hurt puppies in their arms.

When packing dad’s possessions for the final trip to Atlanta, I used blankets and comforters from the cupboards as padding. I’m trying actually to use them for their intended purpose now. Currently on my bed is a yellow quilt with yellow tassels all over it, which looks homemade. I just wish I knew whose home. I don’t believe I ever saw it in use. Perhaps it is a precious heirloom that I was told nothing of.

Yesterday an achy, sleepy, stay-at-home day. I did get writing done on The Falls of the Nantahala.
November 29, 2008

I don’t know how today will turn out, but I was wrong about Jocasta being healed, even if she was, for a time, better. The ailment clearly returned in the evening. I was like one of those people watching at a bedside, who take a smile or an easier breath as a sign of recovery. Furnaces and cats always break on holidays, when there is nobody to fix them.
November 28, 2008

The mail delivery today included solicitations from two chiropractors and an attorney concerning my traffic accident. News travels fast, or they, like sharks, have secret senses to tell them when something is thrashing in the water.

Jocasta was sick when I left Wednesday. She had been bleeding from her anus for a couple of days (at first I didn’t know what the stains were), and she was incontinent, nauseated, and clearly miserable. I didn’t know what to do, so I set up a separate place for her in the garage. She was not happy, and howled pitiably when I shut the door. I thought of her all the time I was in Atlanta. I hoped–indeed I prayed–that she might die, in order to spare her the protracted suffering that only ended in death anyway, which I experienced with Theseus and Conrad. When I got home and looked in the garage, she wasn’t there. I crawled down into the furnace crawlspace with flashlight in hand, but I couldn’t find her. I walked the yard, peering into the cave under the spruce that has been her place of resort, calling her name with increasing desperation. Finally I went back into the garage, just at the moment she was emerging from a space which looked too narrow to accommodate her. She is deaf, and hadn’t heard me before. When she saw me, she let out such a howl. I took her in my arms and brought her back into the house. I knew from looking in her eyes that she was well, that whatever had ailed her had passed. She is eighteen, and we cannot look for very many more miraculous recoveries, but this one was sweet, and the outpouring of emotion at having her restored was so great I was exhausted for the rest of the evening.

Kyle invited some of us over for a bachelors’ Thanksgiving, and the whole time I was sleepy and weary, in a good way, spent from the mingling of panic and joy. She lies asleep on her place on my pillow, and all, for this time, is well

Thanksgiving in Alpharetta. The boys have grown into young gods. Bekka’s new boyfriend is a young god, too, and one peered at them to study how that separate creation unfolds. It is a happy, loving, brawling family, and one so unlike their mother’s and mine when we were growing up, and so unlikely to have sprung from the selfish and morose father, that one wonders how such things happen. A kind of miracle, I guess. David spent hours perfecting the design of a homemade plastic-spewing claymore.

Makes me wish I could start over.

Walk along a little brown river after dinner, with everyone crying out, “Happy Thanksgiving!”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

November 25, 2008

Stepped in cold cat vomit first thing in the morning. Hauled trash for the trash man to take, and saw that the damage to the Prius is worse, or at least uglier, in the light. It looks like a tin can opened without an opener.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Bad Day

November 24, 2008

Anna Livia gets a third and worst review in Chicago, wherein I’m again blamed for what I did not write. I will never forgive KM (even if I sensed he sought forgiveness), who must, in his mind, have been proving some point or other. I’m blamed for its being humorless when the play is full of laughs which production ditched each time. I’m blamed for “failed imagery” when one main actor could not speak the lines and the director made a habit of cutting off either the root or the flower–sometimes both–of every idea, leaving so many barren stems, the reviewers observe correctly, flapping in the wind. Each time I think I’ve put this behind me someone else chimes in–“ignorantly” I want to say, but, aside from the tone of faggy superciliousness, I don’t know what else they would have said. I know I demand a good deal from actors– or do I? Basically that they understand the lines and say them audibly. That was too much to ask in Chicago, and I wish the Internet didn’t make it so easy for me to chew the rags of that increasingly exhausting experience.

I had looked at my new Prius once too often and thought what a beauty she was. I knew this. I knew I was tempting the gods. As I waited to turn right into Walgreen’s to buy medicine for my throbbing head, I was rear-ended by a van with Tennessee plates. The force was remarkable, and the sound of one heavy metal body hitting another was quite sickening. The back of my car is a horror show. The front of her van is wiped out. But both of us are well. All was amicable, and she admitted culpability the minute the police made their appearance. The streets were wet and her brakes did not engage, is her thought. I would have been out of the way had some glum-looking hippie not been taking her time across the sidewalk at the mouth of the parking lot. I stopped to let her by, and the break in the rhythm of turning threw the van driver off, is my guess. The collision did cure my headache, though my whole body is a little rattled now. And, my lovely little car. It is too sad to think about. I want to blame the hippie girl on the sidewalk, if only because her expression was so sour. I wonder if she turned around and looked at the mess behind her?
November 23, 2008

The do last night was a party to celebrate a wedding that had already happened, not the wedding itself, a fact I would have known, someone observed tartly, if I actually read my emails rather than scanning the captions. The Arts Center is a much better functions room than it is a theater, and looks rather lovely by candlelight. Most everybody seemed connected to the theater, and when one was asked “what are you doing now,” one knew it meant “what play are you doing now?” I was doing none at all, and so came off as a kind of eccentric. Ben looked boyish and happy, an excellent host. I wanted to cuddle him, but he was so busy and so married. People streamed in late from performances, and begged off social engagements because of rehearsals. I remember making the conscious decision not to be immersed in that life, no matter how often I might dip in my toe.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

November 22, 2008

Have been contemplating the chill in my writing, and I think it has to do with the disaster in Chicago. I managed to keep the bad production and the bad reviews from becoming a conscious depression, but they apparently became a sort of mystical one anyway. It has surprised me through the years how I react to setbacks such as that. I think they don’t affect me, but one morning I will take stock and realize I haven’t sent anything out in two years, or that I have stopped writing in whatever genre suffered the loss, and turned to other things.I have been writing, if, significantly, on fiction rather than drama. But I would like the old obsession back.

A snail, white, with a pale blush of purple, patrols the fish tank, leaving little crooked trails behind it free of algae. The tank man came yesterday and filled it up to the brim, and added a killi fish to replace the one who leapt to his death. They’re my favorite. . . perhaps because they are inclined, or at least equipped, to leap to their deaths.

Burco International, the building next to the Flood in the River District, caught fire and burned. The damage seems to be superficial, but it was very cold and the water from the fire hoses froze and cars slipped and flipped on their roofs on Roberts Street and the Riverlink Bridge. Jolene rushed to the Flood, wondering what to do if the Bio-Diesel tanks caught fire. I suppose, run.

Coffee with HJ. We were enormously convivial and compatible, laughing at the same things, striving for the same things, comprehending one another’s strivings when they were different, understanding each other quickly. Perhaps its just needed for her to stop being my student long enough for a bridge to be built between us.

Am supposed to be on my way to B’s wedding, a night wedding at the Art Center. It amazes me what energy it takes to overcome the stay-home inertia on a freezing winter night.
November 21, 2008

Promised Leland that I would repeat the step aerobics class that annihilated me on Wednesday, but woke up exactly as it was starting, to a pale gleam that I wondered how could be the moon, and wasn’t, but was rather a light fall of snow.

The cats love texture. The house abounds in smooth surfaces to sleep on, but they will choose the shirt dropped on the floor, the angle of a book on the desk, a magazine awry on the piano top.

Friday, November 21, 2008

November 18, 2008

Steve Willows has died of cancer. Since I have known him his life was a series of disappointments and hard knocks. Maybe it is peace now.

Phone calls from friends throughout the evening. This is strange to me, and I don’t know precisely how to act. I hope for the best.

John and Scott are back to fix a leak in the new porch roof, and to pocket another $1000.

Word is that the Jane Bingham check has been written. I’m proud to say I took a deep breath and got back into the game before that news reached me. It was more trouble than it was worth, though I will try to keep that to myself. I will try not to wonder why certain people did so badly by me, and try to remember how others did so well.

I am waiting for something. I do not know what it is.

The drowsy cats thronged about me on the desk make it difficult to stay awake.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

November 16, 2008

Headed downtown last night for No Shame Theater. It was a good one, many engaging pieces and only a few stupid ones. The stupid ones were salvaged by the good will of the audience. Willie seems to be writing a stage adaptation of All the King’s Men. It was the piece which ought to have a future beyond that night. Good actors, good company, good moments scattered through. I was glad I went, though Sunday morning came early.

Sang for 9 o’clock service; sang for 11:15 service, sang the Mozart Requiem with UNCA at First Baptist, went to Cantaria rehearsal. I was probably of negative value at the Cantaria rehearsal. I’ve had enough singing for a while, but I was in good voice, so it was, largely, a delight. We had to be on stage for the Requiem a while ahead of time, so I listened to the conversation of the boys around me, funny and wide-ranging, full of false facts and true ones sown with equal exuberance. I was happy in their company, and will be a little forlorn without them tomorrow.

The Jane Bingham debacle turns out, according to DJ, to have been an issue of bad communication. He claims that it wasn’t that the Cathedral wasn’t going honor its commitment, but just that it hadn’t. The check hadn’t gotten written, but nobody was withholding it for the cruel reasons I had imagined. Now, I do chastize myself for unnecessary volatility, but if anyone at any time had said, “Relax, we haven’t gotten to it yet. It’s coming,” the issue would have been at rest forever. I said before that I can’t fight the fog. Turns out that I can’t even cooperate with it.

I feel tricked into being an asshole.

Katharine Jefferts Shori

November 15, 2008

Last night we sang at Kanuga for a service led by Katharine Jefferts Shori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. She was an impressive presence. “Presence” is in fact the operative word. She seemed denser, more substantial than the people around, as if she were made of steel. Gravitas and rectitude. I think that our church is sometimes frivolous in its cautions and hesitations, in its slowness to justice and swiftness on the trail of breaches of procedure. But Katharine rode that chaos as a skillful rider guides a wayward stead. If all our vagueness condenses at last into her sharpness and precision, then it may in part be forgiven. She is in the top ten of impressive people I have seen in my life. It would have been nice to have spoken to her, but eight hundred were thinking the same thing.

In addition to being the night of Katharine Jefferts Shori, it was the night of the beautiful fields. We were told to park in a little lot across from the gym, where the service was. To get to the gym you had to cross a grassy field lit by great outdoor lights. Under the black sky the lit field was wondrous beautiful, emerald, elfin, as though lit, by some power more magical than electricity. When we got home, after the service and after drinks at the Usual, the headlights revealed the back alley completely covered by the fallen leaves of the red oak that overhangs it. Red, ruffled, wild, as though it were a space in the forest.

Rehearsal of the Mozart Requiem this AM at First Baptist. I do enjoy doing it, and being in that eager company. It is going to be terrible, but that does not mitigate all the rest.

Drove to the Arboretum to look at some wooden bowls. The bowls were not interesting, but the mountainous landscape round about was almost inconceivably beautiful. Wind blew leaves up from the forest floor into twisting figures in the air. The blue sky was roofed at west and east by gray clouds covered with a foam of blinding white. The mountains stood almost nude, so the remaining clumps of gold sung out like struck strings. The near oaks were blood red, and darker even under the coming storm. I bought a book on the natural history of ferns. I bought a book with pictures of the flowers of the mountain.
November 14, 2008

John and Scott finished the porch (though, in the rain, it leaks from a seam) but left their equipment here. I wondered why, until I got a call from John wondering if I didn’t want the back porch done too.

The Dean sends me a blistering email, wherein he scolds me for inferring motives behind actions when, he said, his motives, anyway, are so complicated I couldn’t possibly understand them. The matter is not of the moment to him, only my way of pursuing it. I don’t know what to do. However important this might have been, I can’t fight fog. All ths would have been as simple as handing me the check which was promised, one that I would have returned instantly if money had been the problem. Simplicity turns into fog and the feints of indecision. The Cathedral has broken my heart four times. I think that is about enough.

Standing at the lunch counter at UNCA. The student in front of me launched into a philippic concerning raw sushi, mentioning liver flukes and the like. I looked down at my hand. The package I held said very clearly, “Cook Eel Sushi.” I felt redeemed.

Friday, November 14, 2008

November 12, 2008

Went to Mickey’s goodbye gala at the Usual. Whatever else one thought, one had to admit that she looked beautiful. That must count for something. Convivial company there, and I thought that I might have more friends of more different persuasions than I sometimes allow myself to consider. Walked home very drunk, with the moon diffusing through mist that was almost rain, and I said aloud to the darkness, “What a sweet, sweet night.”

Spoke with the Dean concerning the Jane Bingham controversy. I was already finished fighting before he called, so it was easier for me to form an objective view of what transpired between us. The Dean admitted the cathedral was losing a vibrant and “wonderful” program, but at no point had it occurred to him, apparently, to force the hand of the person who was preventing that program for no reason that I can see beyond the flattering of her own vanity. But, there it is. My insistence on considering the matter as well as the emotion must strike my cathedral colleagues as barbaric.

When I was a little boy my father brought home a Masterworks clock which had a fireplace in it, that burned when you turned a little knob in the back. I found one like it on Ebay, and turned the knob for the first time tonight. It was wonderful. It brought back such memories–and there was no one you say, “turn it of now, you’re wasting electricity.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

November 11, 2008

Accepted TB’s invitation to join him and Greg at the Usual for drinks last night. Greg is off to New York and TB off to alcohol and drug rehab in Idaho, and there I was lifting cocktails with him. He assured me that rehab began the next day. Greg was his usual font of the abstruse. TB was sweet and vulnerable, maybe a little frightened. Who can tell? He is newly stylish in his dress, or I didn’t notice before. I was happy to be sharing the evening with him. Friends of his came with a Trivial Pursuits game, and there DJ and I were playing Trival Pursuits in a bar until midnight. It was good. I was happy. Every night I need to do something peculiar.

Classes are good, I think, but end-of-the-semester hysteria makes my students narrow and fretful. They don’t want to explore; they want to be reassured. They tell me without flinching that they have to miss my class because they have to catch up on work for other classes. I am grateful for the candor, but astonished by the brass.

The Druid is not interested in The Beautiful Johanna. They didn’t read it (you can tell from the thank-you letter) and I am sorry.

Chall phones and offers me a kitten. That I should be thought of as a kitten-refuge satisfies me, even though, at the moment, the house is full.

Stock market too low even to look at. Am I depressed about that, or the crash of the Jane Bingham project, or Mickey’s departure, or the Druid, or what? I am depressed about something, though it is a little whimpering depression rather than a big howling one.

Glen showed me all the pictures on the Internet of himself in his kendo costume. That is the one where you whack folks with a length of bamboo. In the photos he looks focused and grave and very butch.
November 10, 2008

Last night’s dream: Ireland, again. Again, in the dream I was a boy. I lived on a farm, or perhaps my best friend did. I was never sure whether I was protagonist or sidekick. On this farm was born a miraculous antelope which was fully sentient (though it could not speak) and did all sorts of human things, and had human emotions. It had been born underwater, and hence was often seen cavorting with the friendly alligators which abound in Irish waters. I did not own the antelope, but it communicated telepathically with me, so I was important when the family that did own it began a little business in town centered around the antelope. It’s a little fuzzy now (Circe woke me up by jumping on my ankle, claws extended) but things were going wrong near the end, and the antelope communicated to me its sadness and desire to be on to something else. I became persona non grata when I told the family this. We were away from our village when we quarreled, and they made me walk home. I was afraid I would be too cold in my windbreaker, so I began to run, to get home before nightfall. I ran along a corridor between two broad lakes, and I wondered if the alligators in the lakes would ever think of their friend the antelope.

The faculty reading went well yesterday. The lesbians began rearranging the furniture the minute they walked in. All the readings were good, but Jim’s struck me as especially powerful and well-wrought. Good attendance, some from “outside” –owing, I think, to my expanding utilization of Face Book.

So tired at the ends of days that I haven’t seen 10 PM in a week.

Had leftover blue taco chips with French onion dip for breakfast, which I washed down with grapefruit juice. It occurs to me that not all my stomach problems are cruel impositions from the outside.
November 9, 2008

Diane Gilliam’s presentation was quite fine, her poems about coal miners and their wives precise and surprising. I watched that perfect oak tree outside the window of Canon Lounge while she read.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

November 8, 2008

Have been going to bed early, which is a trigger for rich dreams. Last night Irish towns were imbedded in a great rain forest full of tropical animals and mysterious spirits. I seemed to be a kid hanging out with kids, especially a solemn lad who was Peter B in body, but not in demeanor. He had seen something in the forest which frightened him, and made him very serious, and he wanted me to see too, so we took a road trip, which became a hike as the forest thickened and the road became unusable. It was a long dream with many side paths. Sometimes we went to the Irish towns to shop or get back in touch with civilization. Often we were in the forest. It was rutted, like the forests I remember in the north, with overgrown logging roads. We ran across various groups of people–mostly American women–who had come there to get in touch with forest spirits or the indigenous milieu or some such thing. I learned to play a sacred instrument which was made of clay and you blew into one of many holes. One night we heard a terrible noise on the forest. One of the women said “That’s the spirits passing. I hate when that happens,” as though she had heard it a thousand times. In the course of it, I was becoming a spirit myself, often apparently (and delightedly) invisible to those who passed near to me. If I came to the edge of one of the towns, people would look at me as if they didn’t quite see me, or were afraid. I was shirtless, and decorated myself with red feathers. It was disappointing that we never actually saw the wonderful things the women and Peter were seeking in the forest, though, as I say, I think we might have been becoming them. I think if I lay down and slept now, that dream would continue.

Bought a vitrine from a man who was standing there when I entered his booth at the antiques mall. When he saw me looking at the piece, he said, he said, “I’ll give you 15% off, plus I’ll deliver.” I didn’t think I was looking for a vitrine, but I bought it, and now use it to house the sizeable teapot collection that I hadn’t realized I was amassing. There were three men, clearly owners of booths, ranging the store yesterday morning, and I noted that he was the one who was handsome. Whatever other plans I might have had were dashed when he arrived with his wife. Still, I have the vitrine. I wonder if that’s what that thing is actually called? Talked with another booth owner who said, “Weren’t you my Humanities professor?” I supposed I was, though I didn’t remember her. I asked if she had good memories of the class, and she said she did. I asked this because at coffee earlier in the morning, Jason said he’d been at a party where he met one of my former students, who said she hated me She had offered the information about hating one of her professors several times before Jason asked who it was.
“Why did you hate him?” asked Jason.
“Because he left out such-and-such an author in class.”
“Did you mention it? Did you ask if you could do that author?”
The former-student booth owner was putting sale signs on all her stuff, because she foresaw the financial collapse of America, and wanted to be as liquid as possible when it came. I said, “The Market is up today.” She said, “They’re in for a surprise.” I think she must have been a McCain supporter.

Showed Jason our studio. He seemed happy, and that made me happy. I was hoping to use it for the Studio Stroll, which is today, but it is far from finished, and there is no hope of that. Maybe it’s my signal from the gods not to bother with the stroll, which has been frustrating the last several times. But the new studio is big and high and has great tall windows opening on the east and south.

Had dinner with Diane Gilliam and WW luminaries, in connection with my role on the Warren Wilson Library board. She’s the visiting speaker this weekend, and as we chatted, I discovered she lives in Akron, on Robindale, in the shadow of Ellet High. It is a world of terrible smallness.

Still very dark. The Christmas cactus hovers like a cloud in its white blossoms between me and the invisible ceiling of the room. This is my favorite time.

Late morning: Drained and cleaned the water gardens, then refilled them with fresh water to give the waterlily roots somewhere to spend the winter. It’s been months since anything was visible under that organic soup. From one barrel I took five surviving wild minnows and from the other five surviving store-bought goldfish, one of them black. I took them to Beaver Lake and lowered them in, to begin a new, and far wider, life. I watched while they shouldered their way through the leafy mess at the edge of the lake. They did not know which way the deep was, and I could see them a long time, lingering, doubling back, poking things with their blunt heads. I allowed myself to think they were gesturing goodbye before they entered the profundities.

I wondered why the cattails, which in spring had been tilted by the least wind, had anchored themselves by summer. I discovered that they had shot out a great root, thick as a child’s arm, covered with green roothairs, which filled the bottom of the barrel and gave them a foundation. This I cut into pieces and lowered into the mud at the rim of Beaver Lake, thinking that a stand of cattails, and maybe red-winged blackbirds bubbling in them, is just what it needs.

A red fox ran across the street in front of my car on Charlotte Street. He was a flame of fire.
November 7, 2008

My house seems in a permanent state of upheaval, on the porch now, as it has been for a week or so, tools and materials strewn over the flower beds, the front door unusable. Though Scott and John are inches away on the front porch, I feel I can’t close the blinds, as that would seem too obviously a gesture of shutting them out, or allowing myself some shameful activity within.

Let this year’s round of applications for grants from the NC Arts Council pass, wondering if 20 consecutive refusals should be teaching me a lesson. To be powerless against fraud is of all the sources of fury among the worst for me. I don’t take well to the phrase, “nothing to be done,” but sometimes that is the case.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Obama

November 5, 2008

A gang of us sat in Kyle’s living room watching history be made last night. When Ohio went for Obama, we knew it was won, but we stayed to savor every moment. It was like the night I sat with my dad in the living room in Akron and watched men land on the moon. That a person even of my not-quite-so-advanced years would live to see a black man in the White House would have been, a little while ago, inconceivable. Watching tears roll down Jesse Jackson’s face said it all. I am sanguine enough to believe a whole nation has wandered out of the wilderness and set its feet in the promised land. In his acceptance speech, President Obama pushed not one of the hysteria buttons that have been the singular watchword of the present administration. He did not call upon us to cling to him out of fear, or to cleave together out of hatred for others. He stretched out his arms and gathered. In one night America steps into a cleansing rain, and emerges clean and whole in the eyes of all the world, when it had been smeared almost beyond recognition. I know my friends in Ireland will be dancing in the streets tonight. I will be too if I can find a dance to join. Maybe I’ll dance by myself, under the great golden gum tree where only the squirrels can look on with bemusement. Though at the end it looked inevitable, we thought that something might at last happen to steal the new age away. It did not. I have been happy to be alive before, but never once before because of politics.

M phones that she is off to San Diego next week to the arms of a boy who has loved her since high school. Interfering with-- or even having a firm opinion about–the destiny of another is a dangerous proposition, and I don’t know how even to have a perspective on this, except that I will miss her. The Asheville theater scene will miss her, where she has left a deep mark in a very short time. Everybody will miss her. The only one we know for sure who will profit by this is the boy she runs to. I hope for him that all is well.

Wednesday is open for me, so I tried to write–and will try again–but since this summer I have found myself oddly scoured clean of fancy. My own imaginative worlds do not, for the moment, interest me. It’s not a bad feeling–rather clean and streamlined, the way I imagine other people to live, who do not drag around longings and imaginings that somehow they believe, if they labor desperately enough, they can make real. I miss it. I do not totally recognize myself. But I also don’t know what to do about it, so I busy myself with concrete undertakings–fixing the house, playing the market, waiting for the next night out. This is probably how I would have lived all my life if I had not been a poet.

Robin Farquhar shoots himself at the cabin at Flat Rock Playhouse. Who knows why anybody does anything, most especially this.

John asks for an advance on his check to cover “an unexpected expense.” I give it to him, noticing the perfection of his teeth. We chat for a moment, and he reveals that his oldest daughter is off next year to college to study psychology. “Where?” says I “Liberty,” says he. “In Lynchburg?” I say. He nods. I stop myself from saying anything else. He has said not one word about my Obama T-shirt, so I decide to return the favor. I realize there could no more be understanding between our worlds than if one of us were a Martian. This makes me sad.
November 4, 2008

Dream at dawn of going on a nature hike with Denny Taylor (as we used to do), only “nature” was a gigantic building with long white corridors, like a hospital, where occasionally there would be a diorama or a person with a cage full of rabbits or frogs that one could hold. I need to go home. I need to go to Ohio. I need to see Denny. I need to see places where I held rabbits and frogs.

Election Day. Dear God, let it be epoch-making.
November 3, 2008

Moths were fluttering under the lamps on campus, and it nearly winter.

Obama’s grandmother did not live to see him President. I hope she knew in her heart.

Jason visits to retrieve his painting for his show. He says that his brother is coming to live with him for a while. “I hope he stays forever,” he says. I am of two minds. The brother may distract and keep Jason from spending time with me; on the other hand, maybe the brother will like me and I will have two Sabbides to play with instead of one. I will pray for the fairer outcome.

A student comes to my office to excuse himself for missing class. His mother was diagnosed with cancer, and he rushed to be with her. He fights off tears during the dialogue. They do not understand how dear and beautiful these moments are to us. Sometimes when people say, “You have no children,” I do not know what they mean.

Am giving the Corolla to NA. It has been a good and faithful servant, and this seems a better continuation of its karma than selling it.

Circe will even leave a bowl of food to come attack the sheets while I’m making the bed. It is a kind of feline aesthetic of which I approve.
November 2, 2008

Three droll Mexicans hauled my new furniture in. I wondered what they were saying to each other, about my house, about me. The furniture disappeared from my conscious view almost as soon as it was installed.

John and Scott working all day on my porch, in the most remarkable and un-workmanlike silence. I gave them the left-over refreshments from my little Halloween party. Scott said, “I’m going home to shoot .22's with my sons and their cousins. It’s good redneck fun.”

Sang the Rheinberger Requiem, then Cantaria rehearsal. Came home sick with exhaustion. I’m wondering if I’m nourished by my association with All Souls. I hold with it hoping to be nourished, hoping to be surprised by some extraordinary stirring of the spirit, but it is long since anything of the like has happened. I’m not sure that I am a friend to my All Souls friends, or merely a kind of habit. I’ve offered my services to All Souls in a beyond-the-call way several times--running for Vestry, attempting to set up a drama program–and have been rebuffed each time. Am I needed? Am I a kind of outlandish appendage that is endured as other anomalies are endured? I don’t know whether it is merely vanity to want to be of service. I don’t know whether I am supposed to be “nourished.” Maybe I’m meant simply to endure this, too, as so many other things need to be endured. I think of the time poured into this institution, without any “return” either of the spirit or the emotions (should I look for a return?) and without any feeling that things wouldn’t be the same if I weren’t there at all. I have thought this before, but thought it doubly tonight because I was so weary, and the sight of those bricks and tiles was becoming sickening to me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

November 1, 2008

Thirteen hundred dollars come to me in one day for poems: the carol in Best American Spiritual Writing, and two poems which won second prize in a contest for war poems put on by somebody called “Winning Writers.” I must have entered the contest, but the memory is mist.

Halloween gathering at my house, with the front porch hidden behind John and Scott’s scaffolding and the garden still ablaze with roses– though the nasturtiums and the cannas have succumbed. We watched Pan’s Labyrinth and the Lugosi Dracula with Philip Glass’s music. I don’t know if I like to entertain or not. It is perhaps one of those things which is better in retrospect; I certainly like having entertained.

Some bitterness as a weekend annihilated by tasks and rehearsals and waiting for the furniture deliver man. Monday will hit like a bomb and I all unprepared.
October 29, 2008

Snow fell before it was deeply cold, so there was the rare sight of living roses with snow on them. The terrace is now a blanket of pink baby’s blanket roses, and there was a blanket of white over that.

John and Scott are hammering away at the porch. People are taking care of me, and I am taking care of them, and it is all almost disturbingly satisfactory.

Blue, cold, radiant today. I planted tassel ferns, then replanted the daffodils I dug up doing so.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October 28, 2008

Snow was in the dark air when I went out moments ago to deal with the trash.

Anna Livia takes another hit in Chicago, a review as devastating–if not quite so curtly dismissive–as the first. Again, they are commenting on what is actually on the stage, so I can’t cry foul. It would have been nice if some visionary had seen through the production and recognized the play, but it’s difficult to know how that would happen without script in hand, or some production history to draw on. The Bailiwick adventure is very disappointing, but not, to my mind, actually a failure, and I’m glad it happened rather than not. Lesson learned: be less trusting with a director. Deny out of hand all requests to alter or cut the script without syllable by syllable oversight. When a production (of a decent script) fails it is almost always the fault of the director. A living playwright is very lucky if he finds a director in whom he can put full trust. Sidney came close with Edward. Kevin was working out his own stuff in Chicago, and Anna was left in the scrap bin.

But here I am talking about productions of my plays in New York and Chicago! However ifily they turned out, who would have though of it at all twenty years ago?


October 27, 2008

Merry Sunday night in Asheville. We went to the tiki bar on Patton Avenue after Cantaria, an adventure in itself. We discovered that two amazing things were happening at once. Sarah Palin was speaking at the Civic Center, and one sort of crowd was there. But it was the Night of the Zombies in the real Asheville, and hundreds (I heard 700) of zombies slouched and stalked across the intersection of Coxe and Patton on their way to an outdoors showing (I think) of Night of the Living Dead. People of all ages with axes in their heads and corpse-making makeup, crying out “We want brains!” and tying up traffic, and all the motorists grinning at the tide of transcendent silliness flowing around them. A highlight was a zombie carrying a placard with Palin’s image on it, reading, “Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid.” It was like a Mozart opera, absurd and sublime in one moment. If I’ve ever been prouder of my hometown, I don’t know when it was.

The chili at the tiki bar made me sick all night. It is mid-morning and the remnants of it are still repeating. Seems a small price to pay. Or maybe that was the first sign of zombification.

At the bar MN gushed about apiece of mine she saw in The Sun. The last time we talked she was using me publically as a bad example. Part of Asheville supposes I have a house in Galway. I shall think of them as foretellers.

Sent Anna Livia and Edward the King to the Dublin Gay Theater Festival. Nothing would make me happier.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

October 25, 2008

Hauled myself through the Friday rain to see Triple Play at the Arts Center, an evening of new works Nathan got together, which included my The Beautiful Johanna. This was Nathan’s first attempt at producing. It was a staged reading, with as much action as holding a script would allow, and, through the magic that governs such thing, fully satisfying as an evening of theater. All the works were strong. Nathan’s writing shows enormous promise. Casting was perhaps not uniformly ideal, but when it was good it was very good. And I was happy with my child Johanna. If she were not my own and I didn’t fear to spoil her, I would say she was beautiful.

Invited the gang to the opening, but the ten thousandth pot luck at J & L’s was evidently more enticing.

The white petals of the cactus emerge from a base of rose pink. I had forgotten that.

Went downtown to see John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt at NC Stage. Asheville by night was full of music and laughter. I thought that if I compared it to Galway last week, the comparison could only be favorable to Asheville, a hard thing for me to admit, but a merry thing for me to live. I assumed that Doubt have been overpraised as some other recent Broadway hits had been, but that was not the case. It was smart and brave and splendidly written. As I watched, I thought that Shanley, had he been present, should be grateful to a cast which wrung every nuance out of his words, which never got in the way of the play, and could, all in all, hardly have been better. Rebecca Koon as the Sister Aloysius was perfect in every syllable. I usually think that if the directing is invisible, then it is good, and the directing in this show was very good indeed. I never once noticed a directorial choice, and that means the choices were right. Harmony of actor and director and script was especially poignant to me considering my recent disappointment in Chicago, when they seemed to be at war, or at least lost in a haze of mutual incomprehension. In some ways I am not the ideal audience for Doubt. I hated Sister Aloysius and her righteous dirty-mindedness so much that the play did not have for me the even-handedness that I think it was supposed to have. In the contest between the letter and the spirit, the spirit must always win. Even had her suspicions been correct, her trespass was greater than Father Flynn’s, as a sin against the Holy Ghost is worst than the breaking of a rule.

I have seen two evenings of theater on two nights, and I don’t know which I preferred. One had the virtues of professionalism. One had the virtues of amateurism. Luckily I don’t have to choose, but can have them both.

Smokey’s briefly afterward. It was boring, but I gave it less than an hour to prove itself. Smelling like an ashtray is all I have to show for it.
October 24, 2008

Left my wallet at the Usual last night. Kathy phoned that she had it, but didn’t mention anything about its contents. No money, but plenty of plastic! Can’t retrieve it until the bar opens at 5:30. I suppose she wouldn’t have known who owned it had it been empty. It’s unsettling to go around all day without ID. I got batteries for three watches at the jewelry store, and when I presented a credit card, the lady asked for ID. I told her what happened, and she believed me, but it makes one feel a bit of the outlaw. She wanted me to buy a diamond worth $17,000 and make a ring out of it. Had I bought that rather than stocks, I would have something to show for it.

When a student stops by the office, I feel a quick bolt of love shoot out of me toward them. I am glad for that. The occasional bolt must be shot back, else I would be empty by now.

Friday, October 24, 2008

October 23, 2008

Winter is back, and for a long time now I will start, or fight starting, each entry with “dark outside.”

The All Souls Movie Mavens went to Oliver Stone’s W at Cinnebar last night. It was a superb film, maybe Stone’s best, and one of those works of art which make you change your mind, or at least tone down your bombast, about something you were sure of. I went to see a movie that mocked President Bush, but that was not what it was at all. I went for a few laughs at a man whose works I hate almost uniformly, but saw instead an even-handed, compassionate (if not quite blind to the inanities manufactured by the subject himself) study of an individual whose multiple failures are clearly attributable to unlucky circumstance, bad company, and that rare and weighty thing one might call tragic conspiracy. A man who could have lived perfectly happy in beery obscurity chose all those things which would hold him up to the ridicule of history. I actually liked the George W Bush portrayed on the screen, liked the private man as I would some disaster-prone neighbor who always had to be rushed to the emergency room for trying to fix a moving lawnmower and the like. Real demonic forces such as Cheney and Rumsfeld keep their pitchforks and their leathern wings. I’m fairly sure it was not the film Stone set out to make, and that is all the more to its greatness.

I don’t know why people go around saying “You can’t change anybody’s mind.” Mine changes often, usually by art, sometimes by discourse. Of course, if I were a public person, this would be called “flip-flopping.”

SS peremptorily derailed the agreement Black Swan had with All Souls to produce the Jane Bingham Contest winner, and so far no one on the commission has challenged her. It’s the Episcopalian biddy strategy of asserting one’s little bit of power by delaying the clear will and upright energies of others, but it passes as deliberation and discernment, and its trenches are so deep my artillery can never hope to reach. Each time I try a collaboration I throw up my hands and say, “never again.” It’s not that I mind disagreement or controversy; it’s just that I mind when those things are to no end.

The fish man was here to clean and test the aquarium. He also added fish, and now the tank is as I had imagined it, aflame with gleaming bodies, pastel and neon, and watery compact Eden. I sit in the great green chair with the cats and watch. They gather in their shimmering clouds and watch us back.

Introduced to my creative writers the concept that preference is no gauge of quality. I don’t think they liked it. They’ve heard so often that things are whatever we think they are they that have begun to believe it.
October 22, 2008

Back to work with a loud thud. For a day or two I was able to think of the light I walked through as Irish light, and the people I talked to as Irish people, and this was neither wrong nor a delusion. I was able to pull the worlds together and walk in them as one. Maybe it will endure today. It is very dark and the only thing lit is the lamp over my keyboard, so the day cannot yet be known.

DJ and I went to Reynolds High to hear a concert of the Bryants’ choir and band. Even if the concert hadn’t been quite so good, it would have been pleasure to look on the eagerness of those young faces. Jack of the Wood afterward.

Voted in the room provided in new Zeis Hall on campus, the first time I have been there, all unfinished with dusty stone floors and everything looking bare and pale and rather noble. The act of voting didn’t have the drama I supposed once it would have, for it seems at this point that Obama must surely win. My arrow will be lost in the hail of them. Indeed, he must win, for it’s difficult to imagine a worse outcome than the hair-trigger geezer and the evolution-denying housewife. The Republican party deserves to be permanently thrown to the periphery, and some new force arise on the right, which is not tainted by ambition, deceit, murder, high-handedness, profligacy, and–it might as well be said-- treason. That our present President and Vice-President, our former Secretary of Defense, and a handful of their advisers will not likely die in prison as war criminals and subverters of the Constitution is a disappointment this generation will have to bear.

The Irish, of course, are intensely interested in our election. They will say, “Who are you for, then–? and wait with apprehension in their eyes, lest you say the wrong thing. Perhaps the rest of the world should be able to vote for our president, since he has so much at least symbolic power in their lives. Maybe each nation should be given a certain number of electoral votes to be added into the mix. If we really want an empire, we must give it some rights.

The white Christmas cactus, which took in summer on the front porch, is about to bloom copiously.

Monday, October 20, 2008

October 19, 2008

Church, then Amanda and Michael’s wedding, which was very sweet. Because I was a reader they gave me a boutonniere with a red rose and an orange rose. Usually when I have a boutonniere, I bring it home for the cats to annihilate. To this one they were indifferent. Instead I put it in water, where it flourisheth. I interpret this as long duration and lack of strife for the marriage.
October 18, 2008

Rose early as I always do after time in Europe. The moon stood directly overhead, and suffused the whole would with blue gleam, like one of those paintings where everything’s lit, but you don’t know from where.

Took up my father’s gray spade and planted iris and fritillaria (the gold fritillaria was rotten in a spot, but I planted it anyway, thinking maybe the soil would heal it), and a pink dogwood in the shade of the sweet gum in back. Autumn surely is upon us. It is cold. You have to dig to stay warm in the yard. The furnace remains stubbornly inert, but between the heater in the aquarium and the newly efficient windows, the house remains damply warm.

MA emails from Belfast: Thank you so much for all of everything. You were more than kind and generous and I had the best few days of my trip here so far. I am still inspired and still in awe of that place. I hope you had a good trip back to Ashfuck. You're a wonderful teacher, guide and companion! It makes me so thrilled to think of how joyous and truly in your element you were there.

I am joyous there. Sometimes I retain it here for a while. People notice that. Sometimes when I am merely in a good mood someone will say, "Have you been in Ireland?"

Marian O’Rourke writes that she admires how lightly my achievements lie on my shoulders. The Irish do admire that sort of thing, that one appear to be less than one is. An American can look like a braggart by simply answering a question.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Limerick and home

October 17, 2008

Flew from Shannon beside a man who grew up in Garrettesville and Newbury. We talked of Geagua County and the eagles of LaDue. It was a remarkable thing. New England and Upstate NY were a riot of fall color from the air, like the cover of a magazine. When we came down over Asheville, and I was as weary of travel as I’ve ever been, the mountains peeked out from the clouds as if it were a prehistoric landscape, green and wild and strange, and I was happy that it was this home to which I was coming. One anticipates the worst at all times, but when I walked into my yard I saw that the roof was finished, and Ken and John’s work on the windows and doors was almost finished, and the latter made me gasp, and I heard me say aloud, "It is my house." With the green trim and the green doors, it looks like the little house on Goodview Avenue where I was happy as a kid. My house. The house where I was singularly at home. Have I been planning this all the time? My roses were blooming, and the orange canna, and the red dahlia, and the sky-blue morninglory, and the sky-spearing golden mullein, and I stood in my yard feeling at home as I have not felt in thirty years. My throat still tightens a little with it. Ireland was blessed, but coming home was blessed too. Did anyone expect to hear me say this? My house. My green door. My flowers. My laundry spinning in the machine in the farther room. My cats strewn across the desk as I type.

Shannon Farewell

Oh, I’m bound across the steel gray sea,
shut from the blokey bars and all.
a snow of gulls at Shannon’s mouth:
last chance for a piss against the wall.

For Paddy was prettier than Sean,
and Francis twice the size of Paul.
I say goodbye with a tear in my eye:
last chance for a piss against the wall.

The orca I guess has the churning sea;
the black bear irrigates the tree,
but here they let you piss like a man
against a wide wall of porcelain.

Thy green is jade, thy green is a gem,
thy songs are diamonds great and small.
And I am Young Aengus with legs spread wide:
last chance for a piss against the wall.

So lift a glass by the smoky door
and pledge to friendship evermore.
I depart, remaining Ireland’s thrall:
last chance for a piss against the wall.

Limerick 2

October 16, 2008

Proposition in a Time of Trouble

Comes one of those heartbreaking autumn days
when gleam and glory above all alternate,
and the moon will rise up full and fierce,
and I shall stay up very late.

You, there, I see you glance at me
with your collar up and your cap pulled down,
and a book of poems opened out
till the bus can sweep you into town.

How I must look from the rain-swept place
where Shannon widens to a little sea,
with my drunken misspeaking head-of-state
taking his swandive to obscurity.

Our banks are bust, our markets shot;
haves hide their heads among haves-not,
the spear gripped so tightly it rends
imagined foe, and ghost, and friends.

That you’re some feckless Mary-hailing Paddy
hardly needed to be said.
Yet I am one who thinks the world
limps cruelly till all opposites are wed.

I will withdraw my arrogant force,
you your Guinness-sloppy scorn,
and hold us-- as the gray-green sea
our thunderous lands–in cradling embrace till morn.

Bought two small paintings by Irish artist Robert Ryan from Gallery 75. My one hesitation was the tribulation of getting them home. Turns out, with a little creativity, they fit in my new wheel bag. They are tiny and magical and strange, all things in art I love. The woman who wrapped the paintings said I had been friendly to her in the Hunt Museum café.

I saw a rainbow over the Shannon this afternoon, and then a circle of rainbow around the moon over the roofs of O’Connell Street. Went to the second night of the Cuisle Poetry Festival. It started 45 minutes late, and I felt my last night in Limerick sifting away. The poets, again, were good, but the introductions were idiotic and everyone seemed to be at war with the microphones. Sat with Marian, who sucked wind through her teeth at the poems of the handsome Egyptian, which were in Arabic and (judging by the translations) bad, but she is a student of a Santa Fe Sufi master and it gave her a chance to shout something in Arabic.

In terms of the levelness and sustainability of my emotions, this has been my best trip to Ireland–as the last one was the worst. Sad that not falling in love should contribute to this, my leaving without a veil of years in the airport lounge (I suppose), but things are as they are, and I am content. No, I am happy. And ready for what comes.

Limerick 1

October 15, 2008

Patrick Punch’s Hotel, Limerick, more elegant and more remote from the center of things than I expected. We’ll see in a minute what they mean by saying the town center is "just a wee stroll away."

The Imperial charged me 100 euros for MA to stay. I should have made him eat breakfast.

Afternoon: The "wee stroll" is doable. I’m not far from the lovely park and the Limerick Art Museum, one of the world’s sweetest, and I veered off the main street to go there first. There was a book launch of a book of poems by one Marian O’Rourke. I stayed for the opening speeches (inexpressibly embarrassing, a filigree of Celtic rhetoric applied to nothing) and for the reading. The poems were not good, but missed being bad by reason of O’Rourke’s old lady modesty. The poems were doilies. One about a fox was nice. Had conversation with women who are part of the poetry festival, Cuisle, which begins tonight at the White House. I am "new meat" and I was rather popular at the reading. I gave the women a copy of A Dream of Adonis and postcards from Anna Livia, Lucky in Her Bridges. I strolled on to the Belltable Arts Center to eat soup and learn as much as I could about the poetry festival. I seem to have arrived at its outset. I will go. It will keep me out of the bars around the railway station where I looked forward to a different kind of adventure. By the time I came out of the reading, it was raining, and I had eaten a sandwich, so I was sick. But still I walked down to the road that leads to Irishtown, looking for the Central Bar, to give them a copy of Adonis, where the poem about the Central Bar and the god who once ate there appears. It is gone. Maybe I could find the god on the street if I looked hard enough.

Part of the flood of information that came out of horse-Kevin’s mouth at the Roisin Dubh was the fact that Guinness is now owned by a French conglomerate, Daigeo. I had wanted to buy Guinness stock, but couldn’t find the listing. Kevin showed me the way, and so I bought, and am gleeful now each time someone orders a pint in my hearing. I was disappointed with the location of Patrick Punch, but it situated me so as to learn of the poetry festival, and make myself known already this time through in a little way.

I wish I had given myself more time in Limerick. I feel a lightness here that I do not feel in Galway, less heroic, less heavy with the burden of the time to come.

Evening. Have become friends with Marian O’Rourke and her crowd of exceptional mature ladies. We found each other again at the opening readings at the Red Cross auditorium. Whatever my expectations, Sasha Dugdale and Pat Cotter gave fine and fascinating readings. I do love poetry, and wonder constantly why not everyone does. Even the effort to listen to Cotter and Dugdale in the bad hall and get every word was a kind of sensual pleasure. The quick answer to my question is that people are too lazy and too used to quick gratification to pay the requisite attention. But is that the correct answer? And if it is, is the strategy to browbeat people into attentiveness, or to make a kind of poetry which leading edge, at least, is so immediately enticing they approach of their own volition? I could not imagine why what I was hearing would not seem to everyone more fascinating than a video game or a rap song. It was harder, of course, and relied on something more than automatic reflex, but is that not part of its appeal? I must do something–something in addition to what I’ve been doing all my life–to achieve the renewal of poetry, else a great prince in prison lies.

I compared the festival to what happens in Asheville. It was not a happy comparison. The poet-lovers of Limerick are forty years older than those of Asheville. And fewer. And the poetry is better.

A chandelier fell in the White House. It lay in disgrace on the bathroom floor.

Galway 4

October 14, 2008

Put MA on the bus to Belfast in the driving rain.

Cupid Reproved

Consider those thousand valuable things
which have nothing to do
with the longing of a body for a body.
Fixing an appliance, or writing a poem,
or achieving those peaks on the meringue
which I despair of–
or walking an old street in an older city,
thinking those thoughts of such fragility
they disappear into the air
at the honking of a horn or a
panhandler whining from the shelter of a roof,
those thoughts that might not be of bodies after all.
But me, I am a body in a world of spirits,
lumbering, slipping in my own sweat,
crying like those Calibans on the stage
when they see their Setebos aflame
in starlight above the bog of nettles.
Me, I cry for the body,
and the body turning away,
and the memory of the body
become a ghost among the ghosts.

Cupid, you bastard, with your arrows
which maim but do not kill. I never learn

Me, I am a spirit in the commonwealth of bodies,
hovering and beneficent, uttering my blessings
on those whose wounds must open
with the opening light,
whose sorrows return with the naming of a name.
When the book is opened we read them out,
and they are stabbed each time.
I utter, yet, my treble blessing on them who are
unscathed, and may rewrite the Book of Life
by going so into their graves.
I turn at the whispering passage
of those heroes who themselves
abide in forms of light
and bend in greeting each to each,
the fire within the living fires co-mingling.
Hope no more and fear no more.
On that strange corner of the strange streets
they are bidden, play.

Cupid, you footstool, lie down on the old street
while I climb.
Bodies I loved are wrought in flame and steel,
and I have done it,
and there is none to tell me how.

Visited Moyra Manifold at An Gailearai Beag on Flood Street, to confess to her that she is the original of Ellen in Anna Livia, Lucky in Her Bridges, and to offer to send her a copy of the play.
Cruised the evening, going from bar to bar where I have been comfortable. At each I turned at the door and said, "Goodnight, and joy be with you all."

A lad walked into Taafee’s with a woman who was clearly his mother. I thought what it would have been like to bring my mother into an Irish bar, from which she was separated by one generation only. I literally could not imagine it. That made me sadder than anything.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Galway 3

October 13, 2008

Night of a happy day. Under the full moon the kids on Eyre Square are shouting and cavorting, happier than any other children of this world. We sat and watched them, and were joyful with their almost transcendent joy. Playfulness is among the most underrated of human qualities; it sweeps all before it into the realm of joy. It is a kind of meditation.

It was a perfect day. Showed MA Galway, as much of it as we could cover, from Salt Hill back to Eyre Square. Took the long walk along Nimmo’s Pier and then along the shore, coming disappointed to a closed Celtic Aquarium. I showed him my old digs on the Sea Road. It was good to have somebody to walk the streets with, to talk to of all the things which have delighted me so long. I chattered like a magpie. We ran into John Nee on the street. He remembered me. I sure as hell remembered him. Trad music in Taafee’s and the Crane. Walked the Long Walk and peered with envy into the windows of the lucky people who dwell there. A heron watched us from the river stones. A lapwing cried. Met Kevin in Roisin Dubh. Kevin wants to buy a stallion for his mares in East Galway and revive the craft of breeding Irish racehorses. He wants to raise them in the mountains so they develop enormous stamina. Never have I seen one with more radiant excitement in his eyes. He would have exploded had we not been there to hear his story.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Galway 2

October 12, 2008

Went to mass at St. Nicholas this morning. It was lovely. Remembered the rector and some of the choristers from before. Half the congregation was African. One little boy of about 5 did a dance before the altar before the service began that made me think that Anglicanism was not his only religious experience. He made the rounds of the chapels with his arms flapping like an angel’s. When he came to a place where a breeze had blown things awry, he straightened them up and then flew back toward his mother in the congregation. I had been watching his every move, and him unaware, and I thought he was wonderful. It made me think that maybe someone was watching us in our best moment, when we thought we were undetected. The rector stared rather disturbingly at the floor while he preached, but the lesson was a good one, about the golden calf and that parable where a king gives a wedding feast and nobody comes, and so he kills the former invitees, and one man comes dressed improperly, and the king has him thrown into the outer darkness. I thought in some vague way he was addressing Lambeth, and the idea that certain things remain important to God even if they seem trivial to us. I don’t know. I was convinced by it whatever it meant. The rector told me an anecdote of being trapped in a dry county in North Carolina and having to scour the neighboring communities for liquor. We sang the Agnus Dei in Irish and the recessional in Swahili. "Hallelujah" in Swahili turns out to be "Hallelujah."

Went to the Nun’s Island Theater last night to see David Hare’s Via Dolorosa. It was a bravura performance of something that would have been a fine lecture but was not a good play. I couldn’t really understand why someone would want to present it as a play, except that it was a thoughtful argument intelligently expressed, and I suppose that has a place on stage. I was already drunk and staying awake became an issue. I had forgotten how oddly and roughly Irish theaters treat their audiences, gruffly telling old ladies that it was "too early" and they would have to stand outside until the mystical right moment imbued the ticket booth. Big theaters like the Abbey have a bar to take off the chill of it, but for the most part, and irish audience is tolerated more than welcomed. It’s something we do better.

The fat, imperfect moon sailed over the waters of Galway Bay as the old ladies and I waited to be admitted into the theater. Maybe that’s why the management delayed.

Wanting to get a running start, I visited as many bars as there was time for. The ones we patronized in summers gone by have changed. Zulu is now the Salt Box. I actually got lucky with the ladies last night, a sort of irony, but who knew except for me? Holly and I at the Salt Box talked for a long time. She passes the hours at her boring job reciting the names of the American states. We did it as the bar, only one of the M’s was missing. Only two people in the world knew what was happening when I rushed into the street and shouted, "MISSOURI!" and a blond crossed that street and hugged me joyfully. The Pump that Ellen liked so much is a date bar, happy and lous, with a band jammed into the corner. I liked it. But then, I always liked it, even when its clientele changed from the grubby sailors whom I sought and found there first. Met Nick at the Salt Box. He came back to the hotel with me, and even stayed while I vomited the night’s revels, rather tempestuously, if I recall, into the toilet. Nick was unhappy that I smelled better than he did and wanted to borrow some of my cologne. I assured him that no such thing was necessary. Being violently sick before deepening an acquaintance is not, I suppose, a turn on, but it didn’t seem to matter that much, and I woke in the morning clean-headed and chipper as if I’d teetotaled all night. I do remember in one place they set a vat of Hoegarten in front of me bigger than anything I’d ever drunk out of before. I do believe I finished it.


Seeing His Son in the Street, Perhaps

When you get old you start too many sentences
with "Remember when?",
the tone of reminiscence creeping in
when you meant to order coffee
or ask for the window to be closed.

You scold the restaurant boy
because they once served thick cream
in old bone china and do not now.
I saw it happen for my forty years, and smiled.

I have been walking and thinking all this day
on what to do to stop myself from growing old
and coming to Galway twice a year
to subtract from the old Arcadia
one more landmark gone, one more dark corner
reduced by the intrusive light,
from lamenting the swans, the two
and their chaos of cygnets, whom one knew,
who came to nibble from one’s hand,
who are gone, and the generation after them,
into the swan-transforming sea.

The boys that I remember are married, probably.
I’m a couple of nights they do not tell their wives about.

Yet, I did plight my troth, such as it was.
If they appeared on Quay Street
with their dark hands out
and their gray hair in their eyes,
their patience would be paid.
Perhaps they have, and we have passed as strangers,
such strange things have the years and hours made us.

I look into the shop windows, seeing the faces
I saw then, gold in the late light from the Bay,
the slow smiles, the hesitant raising of hands.

Here is the miracle:
I do not cry out.
I do not sink down on my knees upon the stone
and howl against the evening that has come upon them,
and on me,
nor against the ones to whom now all of it has passed,
so young, so accidentally beautiful,
levitating out of the shops
with their stupid parcels
and the gem green in their shadows.
Give me credit for discretion,
I do not say to one of them,
I think I knew your father.
White as the swan’s wing.
Black as the crow’s eye.
Red as dawn above the sea
The like of him will not be seen–
unless in you–again.

All Ireland is in a panic about the fall of the equities market, and now the crisis in Iceland. You have to be here to realize how much America is interwoven.

Waiting for MA to arrive from Dublin, I stood at the edge of Eyre Square long enough to hear a Chinese kid break out in a perfect rendition of "Fat Bottomed Girls," and then an Irish band strike up in the drizzle in the dark of the square.