Wednesday, October 29, 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?
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Put MA on the bus to Belfast in the driving rain.
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
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
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.
The gulls patrolling the tarmac at the Newark Airport
make me sad.
I have just left you behind, so sadness
inhabits the unlikeliest things.
But these in particular, the white gulls,
for they are home, with a nest in the stones nearby.
Yet with their slender wings they try the great Atlantic,
riding the rim of whatever tempest
rules the sea’s heart.
But home, as I say, wing to familiar wing
when the half moon bends the sphere of water.
I knew I would miss you when I shut the door,
but that the white seabirds
and the complicated coast
and the planes soaring outward (oh, ever outward)
should compose your form in steel and water,
that I did not see coming.
Victory to you. Rule our dent in the stones till I wing home.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Imperial Hotel, Eyre Square, Galway. My window looks out on a specifically unscenic carpark. This might be well. There will be nothing to see in my room.
Threw my (quite destroyed by the Continental baggage gorillas) luggage down and hit the town, trying to take as much in as I could before jet lag and swollen legs drew me back. I sat in Java’s on High Street drinking tea, and wrote in my little journal–several times–"I’m drinking tea in Java café, looking through an open window onto High Street. And I am happy." I threw blessings around me to the left and right. If I were not so tired, I would still be out on the street blessing that Galwejians.
It has been a rainy autumn. The low places are wetlands, and the Corrib as a raging brown torrent, bashing the underside of the Wolfe Tone Bridge.
Café Journal is gone.
Outdoor market day around St. Nicholas. Bought a Camembert from the cheesemonger, which I had to do because he calls himself a cheesemonger. The fragrance of it fills the room.
PM: Launched out to find Tony O’Dwyer of Crannog Magazine at the Spanish Arch Hotel. I asked twenty people if they were him or knew him, until I slunk away defeated. Tried to take Paul Grealish’s poem to him at the King’s Head, but was told he doesn’t come in weekends at all. Like a tiger, I miss five times for every time I strike.
Newark Airport, a very long layover mitigated somewhat by a bad, slow salad, and by wandering slowly around, looking at everything that can be looked at. Still picking grit out of my teeth from the salad. Western windows of the airport, golden evening light coming through
Friday, October 10, 2008
Late night after a very long day. Snarled at a student. She is self-delighted and uncorrectable in a writing workshop, where such attitude must be set aside. Though I’ve been able to jolly over it till now, today’s notion that all her mistakes were intentional–and therefore not mistakes– was over the line. Why waste our time? I too have entered classes to be praised rather than corrected, but when the inevitable disappointment came, I had at least the presence of mind to suffer in silence.
Roof not finished. Roofers invisible.
Ken and John did not come to measure the windows, though at least their check is still taped to the door.
Return to voice lessons. Frogged my way through Vaughn Williams and Mahler.
Good rehearsal at church, and a happy session at Usual Suspects afterward. I was, though, beyond exhaustion into that exhaustion-sickness which you think is something worse until you lie down on the bed.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Rain. Though it’s mostly black paper, no rain has come through my roof. I thank either the workmen’s skill or my own spells laid against invasion from the air.
Sat in the evening light and wrote poetry, and was happy in the old way, the way I though had passed from me. Bless, and bless.
Michael’s funeral unlocked a range of funereal thoughts. One is that I will be wrestling with my father for a long time, wondering if the strange calm of my emotions after his death was because I am an unnatural monster or because he was not the father one mourns over with real agony of spirit. I howled in Oakwood cemetery in Syracuse for months over my mother, summer nights and winter days, when I was sure nobody would hear me. I sobbed helplessly with Conrad the cat lying under the pear tree. I cried for father, but not because of missing him. It was because he had missed himself. When the thought of him brings grief, it is for what might have been. I think of certain anecdotes I know of his youth, before he became frozen into the man we knew, and I think of the ways so many paths could have led to beauty, but not, particularly, the one he took. I dislike thinking this, except sometimes I think I am right. At the funeral in Ohio I watched the other branch of the family, fully engaged with their emotions, affectionate, complicated (irritating and embarrassing goes along with that), and I envied them so much their access to one another’s inner lives. No such thing was apparent, implied, or even available in the house I grew up in. It was so important not to be irritating or embarrassing that the rest was lost too. Mother, who was part of the lively branch and could have communicated its bounty to me, had it crushed out of her by the weight of his repression before I has a chance to see much of it. He was a small man, but he had access to us when we were smaller still, and, though I can’t speak for my sister, the ways in which my upbringing retarded my emotional life cannot be fathomed or forgiven. They are also at this point irrelevant, for I found my own ways to the healing fountains, or learned to live without. If I turn away now from blame, I must also admit that I cannot conjure up posthumously the kind of love he would have scorned, but which now seems appropriate to the death of a parent. I cannot love him in the ways he never taught me, or even allowed me–in so far as he could prevent it–to learn. I do feel bad for his suffering, for the many disappointments of his life. I feel bad that I must have been one of them. I feel bad that he is gone. I feel worse that he was never there for me, though I think he was fully present –to his salvation–at the end for the neighborhood kids and his grandsons. Bless and bless for that. I blame myself sometimes for not making it better. But it was quite late before I discovered there were other ways. I was happy in a tiny patch of garden, and only introduction to the Wide World made me sad thereafter, sad enough to seek for more. I have no memory of being hugged or cuddled or cherished or confided in by either one of my parents. I think she was too sick too long not to follow his lead. He was– I have no idea what he was. He did not love and sought to embarrass all love around him, and I was not wise enough to see it, or strong enough to overcome it. This is a small, silly thing now, but a true one, and the branch bent in that way cannot ever fully straighten.
Father, please send your ghost to me with some beautiful truth or remembrance that will change everything.
Uncharacteristically, I am already packed for Ireland. The mail is stopped, the New York Times suspended, the cat food hoarded. Emotionally I am already there.
A man in England whose email name is Stu Bear writes that I am a googlewhack, which is to say that my blog "In the Country of the Young" is the only site Google finds using the words "paedogogical stipulation." Why I used those words I can’t now imagine.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Very dark before morning. Beethoven on the CD. I returned in darkness last night and saw by the jagged outline of the porch roof that Scott and John had not finished the job. They phoned while I was away to ask for $2000 for hauling the old roof to the dump. I supposed that was a legitimate expense, but new elements do keep popping up in a process which has been protracted and discouraging. John’s voice on the phone sounds hang-dog and guilty.
The new furnace, maybe petulant from being ignored all summer, does not work. Furnaces always pitch their hissies on a Friday night or a Saturday, so nothing can be done for the longest possible period of time.
Searching through the papers ruined by the deluge from the ceiling, seeing what might be salvaged, what should just be tossed away. Have not swept up the fallen plaster. My own private Coventry.
Whirlwind visit to Ohio for Michael Minor’s funeral. The Prius does, in fact, get nearly 50 MPG on the highway, perhaps even surpassing its publicity. It allows you some control over this, giving you a gauge so you can, through adjustments in your driving, keep the MPG as high as possible. It is a game that makes the time on the road go faster.
Crappy Knights Inn in Jackson TWP. Hiked across several highways to Mulligan’s Bar, which I found as if by radar. Discovered later it was all my cousins’ favorite bar.
Church of the Lakes in Canton, Ohio is a big, raw building at the edge of the build-up and the country, with an enormous activities room and a little sanctuary, which gives some idea of its (correct) priorities. I hadn’t seen most of my family since Patrick’s wedding, but they seemed to know me, or to know I was coming. I’m just coming to understand what a figure Michael cut in the lives of the people who knew him. Each mention of is kindness, his bravery, his good looks, his regular-guy sweetness, his extraordinary spirituality and beauty of written expression, caused a catch in the throat and silence as the speaker tried to master his emotions. His big lugs of best buddies halted through their testimonials hardly able to speak for weeping. One of them delivered himself of a queer diatribe against evolution, evidently based on the notion that such a man as his friend could not be a fortuitous conglomeration of random atoms, but that was the only cringe-making moment. All was tender and sweet and damaged. Rick Summers, my cousin and Minor’s uncle, delivered a testimonial at once funny and touching, maybe the best I’ve even heard at such a time. His wife told of his bashful but determined courtship. It was clear here was a man whom the world could not well do without, and yet do without him it must, and whatever the balance between grief and rage was in the room, only God knows, and only God needs to know. My cousin Diane, Michael’s mother, was monumental, tragic, terrifying. She was a four-foot-ten icon of grief, hardly able to speak above a whisper, face a mask of agony, tears starting and stopping without their maker being fully away, groans of horror escaping her lips when she thought of why all the people were gathered, a blameless Niobe weeping for her first-born, her golden son. I thought if we were three generations back in the old country she could collapse in the dust, keening and wailing, and that would work some of that out of her heart. Diane alone inherited her father’s dark beauty, and avoided the ample Summers farmer nose. She was beautiful and frightening. She thanked me for coming. What could possibly be said, about that, about anything? She was a ticking bomb, waiting to find God so she could blow up in his face.
Lymphoma will not be reasoned with, will not be persuaded. It cannot be swayed by a mother’s grief, or a wife’s, or a friend’s. It cannot be convinced to choose someone less loved, less in love with life, or to retire itself for the world’s good.
I think we would be all right if we could find some way to break God’s heart.
I sat in the sanctuary myself in a mixture of rage and grief, realizing, astonishingly, that part of it, a minuscule, glittering iota way back in the corner, was drama. That I really did believe that behind all, all is well, and whatever sleep we enter, we wake to glory. It cannot be said, for the saying sounds hollow, but it can be cherished and pondered upon in secret.
At rest stop on the West Virginia turnpike I ought a CD of some Irish tenor singing Irish folksongs, listened to that through the pastel mountains, with the fat curve of the moon coming up, and all the west burnt orange. Wept every time "The Parting Glass" came by. I am such a cry-baby.
Red rose and scarlet dahlia welcome me back.
Goodnight, and joy be with you all.
Jason says he wants to be my "assistant" after graduation. What I need to be assisted with I wouldn’t know how to explain, but the gesture is graceful nevertheless. Did invite him to share my new studio space. His presence may be my only hope for continuing as a painter. He says that he and his wife want to adopt me, and that when he is a rich and famous painter I will come and live in a wing of their house. Does take the anxiety out of my dotage. Jason is better than a son or a brother, for there is no bitter history behind the present joy.
Brian Charles Rooney, my first Gaveston, receives a great one-line review in the New York Times for his role in a musical called Bedbugs. It seems actually to be about bedbugs. It calls him the highlight of the show. He looks buff in the photo, too.
Have decided to drive to Ohio for Michael’s funeral. It is so rare to have a weekend free that I took that as a sign.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
My roof is bare and my roofers are nowhere to be seen.
In my email this afternoon:
My grief over cousin Michael is inexplicable, except as it is symbolic. You shouldn’t fight so hard and lose. You shouldn’t have so many people pulling for you and lose. We stand our ground and shake our fists at the gods. In one sense it is absurd. In the other, it is a necessity of iron and diamond.
This is JP. Jenny asked me to post this update. I think it is only fitting
that while I was on the phone with her, Joe Ross walked in my front door. So we
sit here together trying to communicate to you the events of the last 48 hours.
Mike is at rest. 2:30 am the morning of October 1, 2008 Mike seamlessly and
peacefully moved from the loving grasp of Jenny’s arms into the restful embrace
of the Lord’s arms. He was surrounded by friends and family. Some sang, most
prayed, and all cried. We packed up Mike and Jenny’s things and left the
We made sure he knew we love him, and that we would be okay, that
Jenny would be okay. That we are proud of him. That the impact he made on the
lives he touched would last forever. That we are all blessed to have known Mike
and are better for it. That no one can ever say they fought harder or more nobly
than him. Cancer didn’t beat Mike, it may have ended his time on earth, but not
for one second did it ever beat Mike Minor!
Join his family and friends at
Church of the Lakes as we celebrate the life of Mike Minor. Calling hours will
be Friday, October 3rd, 2008 from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. The funeral service will be
Saturday, October 4th, 2008 at 11:00 am. Church of the Lakes is located at: 5944
Fulton Drive Canton, OH 44718
Took down my show, Night, at the Flood Gallery. It was a melancholy task. Two paintings sold, about enough to pay for framing. No reviews, of course. I have no idea how the works affected anybody. Is it silly? Is it sublime? No one says– which leads me to believe it’s rather closer to silly. September started with Anna Livia in Chicago and Night at the river-front, and however bubbling with expectation I might have been, both ended in disappointment. Is to have experienced these things and felt disappointment after better than not to have experienced them? Yes. Take that, Buddha.
This has actually been quite a hellacious half year.