Wednesday, December 30, 2009

December 29, 2009

Two incidents in Sav-More grocery. A, my student long ago-- and marginally insane then-- passing, as always, arm in arm with his barking mad mother, sneaks a bottle of hair product into my shopping cart. I watch him and wonder why. A sort of greeting? He knew it was my cart and wanted to send a message? He had no idea whose cart it was and was playing a random trick, or picked up the wrong bottle, or had filled the bottle with acid and was willing for fate to set the course-–what? Last night as I watched in fascination, a big handsome young man in a pale fleece coat scanned the front of the store, and ran out the doors with a full basked of unpaid-for groceries on his arm. I watched as he ran to his car and sped off, tires squealing. He looked too prosperous for it to be a needful act. A prank? A dare? A forgotten wallet? My mistake was to tell the clerk. It made her very sad. I had actually gotten the license plate, but I think that would just have made her sadder.

Poem for the Ensuing Year


A decade shyly ending, an age beginning–
one is meant, I think, to scribble bravely on,
struck dumb again by the howls of Hecuba,
and yet, simultaneously, stung to singing
by the rough-hewn, fire-crowned tarantara
of half-onsetting, half-retreating dawn.

Hymn we the nuptials of Natural and Artificial:
the silk-shot trappings on the sweating stallion.
Any bard with half a heart now, furtive, broods
half on the coy, the metaphysical interstices,
half on the hurt dog howling in the woods.
The magician’s toy is from his both hands gone.

I have loved you madly, but exactly why?
I have aspired, and hung my manly hopes upon
a vision both secret and insanely bright.
I read our names writ somewhere in the sky.
All was gathering to a head. And then came night,
a vampire standing on the toy-strewn lawn.

The diary page is white. The virgins are in red.
One soldier whets his blade; the others yawn.
The room still titters, remembering when I said
“Love and poetry will set things right.”
Except for the vampire who on the starlit lawn
smiles and licks her lips and whispers, “Oh, they might.”

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December 28, 2009

Spent yesterday afternoon with Brad Roth, whom I hadn’t, we decided, seen in thirty years. He brought his painter friend James along with him, as well as photos of three charming daughters, who were at a safari park outside Charlotte. Brad remembers a whole lot more about me and my life then than I would have expected. He choreographed a dance for “Sestina Altaforte” inspired by my dissertation, which I was writing when we were housemates. The afternoon was better and easier than I’d anticipated. They almost always are. He was very much more precise about date and occasion than I. He was a better friend than I gave him credit for. Then, I kept wishing he would go away, so my sexual escapades, approaching fullness, would not be curtailed by the ordinary business of life.

Monday, December 28, 2009

December 27, 2009

Yellow-gray morning for the third day of Christmas. Drove from Atlanta last night under a sky of the most vivid and tasteless sunset orange-pink, backed by a base of lilac. This morning’s peony silk is restrained, Puritan by comparison. I ate the wrong snack, and Christmas Eve service became something to get through without running out to be sick, and I succeeded, but the wonder and the mystery were mitigated. The terrible weather that night made me fearful, and I slept badly before I drove to see my sister and the kids. They are well. The boys are giants. Jonathan and Daniel and I went to see Avatar Christmas night, which they had already seen multiple times. My sister and I talked about out father until the subject began to wither and dry in my head. I think I am done with that for a while. Ate lunch at a fine pub in Alpharetta, and it crossed my mind to drive down and visit it from time to time, until the drive home into the mountains reminded me just what that would entail. Here there is still snow. It must have been hardened rather than disintegrated by the colossal rain.

Much laundry to be done. Much trash to gather and evict. Floors to be swept.

The Worst Weather in the World

December 25, 2009

Christmas morning, the worst weather in the world, rain in a gale from the south, like someone aiming a fire hose at the windows unceasingly. In moments, the flooded road and the blacked-out windshield Sigh. What happened to a slow morning with cocoa in your pj’s, and opening almost more presents than you have the energy for?
December 24, 2009

Off and on since returning last from Ireland, I have been dipping into Michael MacLiammoir’s All for Hecuba, as one sips now and then from a complicated, expensive brandy. I’ve been often enough where he has been for there to be the frisson of recognition: he stayed in the Hotel Russell in London eighty years before I did; I know the theaters he talks about in Dublin, and can follow his characters down the short Dublin streets. Most of the people he talks about I don’t know. Some of them are names now unrecoverable from the dust of time. But they were brilliant in their day, I do not doubt, and the abundance of them reminds me that I know nobody, really, of moment in my chosen arts, and have guarded and protected my obscurity in those times when I was not lamenting. It. All for Hecuba is the best of all the actors’ books and is dear to me because I actually met and heard MacLiammoir, doing Yeats at the Corn Market in Cambridge forty years ago.

My idea of the perfect Christmas is one where I don’t have to go anywhere.

Joyfully reunited with Marco yesterday. He has a little goatee almost as laced with gray as my own. We stopped trying to remember when last we saw each other, because it was clear it was going to be rather more than a year. I assumed he simply wasn’t that pleased by my company, but it is, I think now, something less personal, an obsessiveness in him that resents intrusion, even if the intruder himself is welcome. I should understand that. He showed me his paintings, and some are very good and others are not, and their excellence is in direct proportion to the degree they distance themselves from his fetishes and obsessions. His commissions are masterworks; what he does for himself. . . well, are not. I wonder if it’s a truism that an artist is at his best when he is the greatest distance from self-indulgence? I wonder if that’s true of me? Would we even know when we are indulging ourselves if there weren’t somebody to tell us? We might imagine that we were born to do the very thing that keeps us from greatness.

Facebook contact from Brad Roth. I complain about the people who undervalue me; he is one I rudely undervalued when we were roommates, and maybe I have been given, by this estimable invention, another chance.

Afternoon: Fell asleep in the midst of the cats, and woke in the middle of a radio program about Christmas music on the radio in the 40's. Woke also with a spirit of jollity in me, a perfect holiday spirit, ready for whatever comes in the next score or so of hours.

Tomorrow night commemorates one of two great Mysteries of the West. With the first Mystery, man shares his state with God; with the second, God shares His with man, that both may be full. At the Nativity, God is received into the world, protected and nurtured as fathers and mothers and friends protect and nurture. For a while He is subject to our sorrows, and though I don’t know why, I guess that without it His perfection may not have known compassion. That God should be a child in my own arms is a concept profound beyond my grasp, but also tender and immediate– a profundity which need not be grasped at all, but only performed. Protecting a baby against the cold is the first great Test, and one so simple and plain and human that almost nobody could ever fail. At the Resurrection, man is received into Eternity. As we have welcomed God among us, He opens the door of Himself at Easter. This too need not be understood, only performed, only that we welcome death and push on it as upon an unlocked door. It is a reciprocity flawless and immense. Ever since I was able to think about it at all, I have believed this was the truth of it, Time folding into Eternity at Easter, Eternity giving itself to the sorrows of Time at Christmas, and all the talk of sin and atonement a theft and a lie, the attempt of evil (or perhaps fearful) men to bind us to by the chains of human ignorance forever. Christ no more came into the world to save me from my sins than the rose blooms to give itself to the worm. The worm comes, but it is an incident, part of the payment for life, and forgotten at the doors of Resurrection. Christ is no more a sacrifice than any one of us, born into a dangerous world. He presented Himself as an example. That we have made of him an exception is the great fault of the faith I call my own. By the example of Christ we are made free; by his Church we are enslaved to sin it has, for the most part, imagined. There are sins and there are sinful men and sinful impulses in good men, but they are irrelevant to the Mysteries at both ends. God does not come because of them, nor will he leave anybody marooned in time to punish them. The Judge is a fable to justify the wicked judges of the earth. The Babe and the Risen One are truth, and one of them is born this night.
December 22, 2009

Thaw continues. Most of the city has clawed its way out of the drifts and is back in business.

Went to the Y to give blood, and was tossed out by the question, “Have you had sex with a man since 1977?” I asked the technician with the gold-furred, heroic forearms, “Who hasn’t?” and he laughed. Then I asked, “Do they ask that question of women?” He shrugged and said. “No.” I think it is possible to be recklessly cautious. In any event, all my blood is yet my own.

Walked into the Woodfin ABC store at exactly the right time, and took the right bottle (Bushmill’s Black Bush) off the shelf, and ended up getting about $60 worth of free liquor from the distributor who happened to be standing there with an armload of coupons, samples, two-for-ones, discontinued items, rebates, freebies. Christmas.
December 21, 2009

Tried moments ago to move my car on the ice. It didn’t budge. Not an inch. It didn’t even bother to spin its wheels. Must be some sort of Prius thing not to try too hard. I was frantic to keep a date with J, but when I called to make my excuses, he was asleep, so nothing was lost.

Moments ago finished End Time. By my calculation The Falls of the Wyona, End Time, Earthly Power, The Stolen Child, and Michael Furey are all products of 2009, among major pieces. God knows how many poems, occasional pieces. Those Brilliant Creatures, Coyote, Speaking of Merle Oberon, Gatwick and probably others among one-acts. Some guy (whose blog also appears in Hindi) blogs that he read The Handsomest Man in the World. I wonder how?

The dark solstice. Moon a bent blade in flat blue.

Monday, December 21, 2009

December 20, 2009

Light snow drifting through black air. The land is, paradoxically, darker now that the city lights are back on. I will not know until full light if I can move my car. My complaints about the power being off were, of course, selfish. The radio says this morning that 37,000 in Buncombe County alone are without power, and some may not have it until Wednesday.

The “Arbeit macht Frei” sign has been stolen from Auschwitz. One can only imagine the motive.

A feeder and an open platter of seeds have made my porch a resort of winter birds: finches and three kinds of sparrows, juncos, wrens, cardinals. The male towhee comes, but I have not seen the female in a while, and that worries me. All their little bodies are puffed and round with insulating feathers. A wren got his foot stuck in the feeder. I got to hold him in my hand for a moment, whole the other hand bend the metal enough for him to extract his foot. I expected him to peck me, but he didn’t. As far as mass, he was practically nothing, but such heat and vitality in the little ball of fluff.

Afternoon. I was caught in a round of drowsiness followed by sleep, followed by drowsiness, a sort of cabin fever brought on by a mere two days of entrapment by the snow. So I rose up and dug out DJ’s car, and my own, and tried to move mine, which I wouldn’t have been able to do if Caroline’s burly four-wheel-drive-driving male relatives had not been there to rescue me. Seeing that I couldn’t get back up the alley once I was down it, I parked the Prius on Caroline’s pavement and took out on foot, to the grocery and the video store and Mountain Java. Ice water applied to the toes every few feet is a marvelous quickener, and now am I wide awake and ready for what comes. The nap dreams were interesting, though. I was employed by Dick Hueber, the owner of Westcott Cordial long ago, to sell concessions at a gigantic concrete amphitheater. Not only was I in charge of concessions, but of a large tank of beautiful tropical fish.
December 19, 2009

The snowfall remained gentle, but quite thick, and by eight twenty last night the power was off for the duration. It came back on about twenty minutes ago. Twelve hours. I slept as much as the intervening time as I could, rolled up in the comforter with the cats about me and candles flickering at strategic points in the house. I was morose and fatalistic. I do not handle such things well. The house is incredibly, disturbingly still without its hum of electronics. Rose long before dawn–after three it was-- put on all the clothing I thought I’d need, and headed out into the night. It was very beautiful, the streets aglow with the natural radiance of the snow, and absolutely, wondrously silent. Part of the silence was the recognition that no utility crews were at work, nor would they be until I saw them drive past me up Merrimon at about 8 this morning. Through the night the air had been filled periodically with green flashes, which one assumed were transformers here and there expiring in fire. I knocked the snow off my trees with a broom, then headed out to see if anything or anybody was astir. My swollen legs make boots impossible, so I must slog through all depths of snow and slush in my sneakers. Amazing how quickly freezing water warms up once it’s inside the shoe. The houses east of Merrimon had power, Christmas trees flickering insolently in windows. I walked from Mountain Java to the Shell Station at the expressway bridge looking for coffee, and there was none. Met figures moving like I was through the night street, figures trying to dig out their cars or assess the extent of the blackout or looking for sustenance, like refugees after some whitening holocaust. Two guys did a triple donut on Merrimon and then called to me “The Interstates are closed! We just made it in from Tennessee.” Dawn–visible mostly in the south as the east was clouded over-- came in delicate pinks and lavenders, like a great wall of spring flowers. I have shoveled DJ’s walk until my belly aches. I am going to sit a moment in the rooms where the heat’s turned up to high.
December 18, 2009

Warmish, heavy snow falling on the world. The neighborhood crows fly through it as though deliberately creating Zen paintings.

Last night’s Cantaria concert was a crowd pleaser (and the crowd was about all All Souls could hold) whatever was going on musically. I think my Christmas poem was received well. Barry, who’s been engaged in reading TS Eliot, as part of his program to read something from all the Nobel Prize winners, said, “At least I understood that.” We went to the Usual afterwards, where Kathy provided her now customary lavish free repast, from which we rose groaning and reeling.

Friday, December 18, 2009

December 17, 2009

Sitting in my tux, waiting to go sing the Cantaria Christmas concert. The evening has been kidnaped by people with deep belief in funny hats and costumes, and I wearily hang them by the door so I don’t, by will or accident, forget. I’ll be reading a new Christmas poem, which will no doubt seem to some as the Grinch dolls and purple Christmas trees do to me. It is possible that we are not practiced enough this time to let the music stand by itself. Two hours from now, we’ll know.

Phone call from Marco, after I suppose at least a year. Joyful. He says we’ll meet, but whether we will or not, it was good hearing the sound of his voice. His brief account of the past year was mostly disaster. He has the worst luck--

Met with Marty for the last time yesterday. Off to Rochester in the dead of winter to re-enter a life he left behind. Why, I don’t know, but I wish him well. It was a brief, rewarding friendship.

Strange day. I was the kind of sick where nothing really hurts, but you can barely rise up out of bed. I slept much of it away, bit worked the rest of the time on a frozen play which had suddenly thawed.

A Christmas Poem

A Christmas Poem

Maybe they shouldn’t have asked for a Christmas poem from me,
unless what they wanted was some ditty, knowing and ironic,
on the theme of “disappointment,” or some discourse on the
unbridgeable gulf between reality and desire. My mama’s creche
is in some box in the closet, under some other box with all the
streamers and bulbs and precious baby animals which hung
upon I’ve lost count now of how many trees.
I swear to God, somewhere in tissue is the first candy cane
my chubby baby fingers hung on a low-hanging branch,
saved and preserved, I suppose, against the awful
mutability of the world, shattered, inedible, hardened and embittered
wherever it was soft and sweet before, held together
by packaging, exactly like the rest of us.

I don’t put a tree up
anymore. I say it’s because of the cats, because I travel so much.
It’s really because I sit in the twinkling light of it and sob,
and I don’t know why.

If you want THAT kind of poem, I’m your man. Believe me,
I know what people mean when they say that Christmas is
the worst time of year, what with the stores playing fifteen carols
we hate for every one we kind of can endure, what with
plastic poinsettias in aisles at Halloween and the churches
hoping for a windfall from parishioners who come with
liquid checkbook and guilty heart on Christmas Eve,
baby Jesus freezing on the porch amid the unresponsive animals,
the likes of us going about with hands jammed in our pockets
and eyes glued down against the panhandlers and well wishers
whom we would with equal fervor strike from our sight above the dirty snow.

If that’s what you want to hear, all right.
Or that the guns of war have not ceased tonight, and will not,
Prince of Peace or no. The Little Match Girl will die in the cold
and Tiny Tim will be blocked by his HMO from getting the operation.

When I set up a creche of my own someday,
the Child will have as his attendants rhino and buffalo
whuffing in the stalls, the rafters heavy with tiger and panther,
their lantern eyes bright in the firelight.
The time is done
when shepherds could come out of the fields
and leave their sheep alone even for an hour.
Whatever is encamped in the nearby hills
you don’t want to know about.
Sirens wail. Sad boys stand guard with rifles loaded.

I will remember Herod’s children tonight,
the Innocents that the world was not content
to slaughter only once.
I will remember Matthew Shepard crucified
under the plate-sized western stars.
I will remember the armed children with their sorrows,
boys and girls led astray to a country from which
there is no road back.

I will remember wild souls, bewildered, raging in the broken streets,
to whom no moderating angel came.
I will remember those sleeping their Christmas sleep,
inches from where shadows cross at midnight,
white teeth, white blades glittering.
I will, finally, aim my song at those battalions in the middle of the air,
the choiring angels who seem so silly at a time like this,
their good news quaint with many thoughtless repetitions,
their hosannas so far off
we no longer remember how terrible they were,
their listeners, as the text says, sore afraid: those beings
blazing in the midnight air, wings unfurled
like hawks above the plain,
covering as the falcon covers, sharp, mysterious.
I will stand tonight on the front lawn. I will whisper, O,
Come again. Come Down. Hover and cry out. Come to me.
I promise to be sore afraid.
I promise to drop whatever I am doing and find the star you mean,
and follow it. I will leave the lights on. I will leave the doors unlocked.

And then I will keep such silence. Listening.

Come into my garden
The Christ Child said to me,
Here is the lily for what’s past,
the rose for what’s to be.

Here is the emerald mound
where love lies till the day
all sleeping souls must rise and do
what the waking trumpets say.

Here is the sapphire pool
from which the laughing river ran
all through Paradise, and by
the melancholy carnivals of man.

For every poison on the earth
here grows the remedy,
For every cross and arrow shaft,
a purple-flowered tree.

Here I will croon your sleep awhile,
then teach you how to make
a firebrand for the warfare’s,
a gold bird for the music’s, sake.

Sleep my child while I’m a child
and all wonder yet may be.
Dream of the morning, dream of the light.
My darling, dream of me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 14, 2009

Oddly bright at 4 AM, with the city lights diffused by thick mist. Every detail of my yard is visible and obscure at once.

So, Mr Treadway is indeed a scam artist. He was the one who robbed all of us at church, and kept my wallet to see how far he could take the grift. The answer is, considerably far. Nor is that his name. When he called to say his daughter had died this morning, I commiserated, but when he began whining that he would never be able to pay for the funeral, I finally smelled the rat. No one named Scott Treadway is registered at the Howard Johnson’s. No one named Treadway died at the hospital, adoring indigent rednecks gathered round. There were several tells which I ignored, in the name of human trust. One was that when I offered to drive him to the hospital to see his daughter, he didn’t seem interested. I knew. I just wanted the world to be superior to my suspicions. It isn’t.

Brilliant afternoon, spent at Warren Wilson revising the FOL by-laws. Sweet children in the sweet brief sun.

Cecilia Bartoli on the CD.
December 12, 2009

I went, after long absence, to the studio, where there was a sort of flea market. Vendors had set up tables and were selling soaps and pottery and tarot readings. I had gone to work, so it was a little annoying, but I warmed to it, and ate the vendors’ pot luck and bought a pretty green goblet from a blond dredlocked Warren Wilson boy, from which I am drinking right now. One of the visitors bought a painting right off my wall, Christ in the Wilderness, which he seemed to love. I asked what I had lost in my wallet, and he thought it was a deal. A former student walked in with four lovely children. Marty came in dressed in black. I spent most of the time with Richmond, who brought his work upstairs to be with me. He is the handsomest man I know. That he should be kind and thoughtful at the same time is almost too much. I had such pleasure in his company that I had to remind myself of the rest of it when I sat down to write. The whole day was, now that I think of it, social, convivial, rewarding. Got some canvases prepared, but did no actual work. Came home numbed with the cold of the cold studio.

Yesterday the phone rang and it was a man named Scott Treadway, who said he had found my wallet in the New Morning parking lot. I had replaced everything by then, so I almost said “forget about it,” but he told me what effort he had gone through to find me, so I thought that, at least, should be rewarded by my coming to get it. Treadway grew up in Marion, but lives now in Cincinnati, where he works at a country club. He and his wife are separated, and she moved back down here. He is in town because his daughter is in Memorial Mission Hospital. “Oh, how is she doing?” says I. “Not so good,”says he. The fact is, she is dying from congenital heart disease, at the age of eight, and Scott is holding off taking her from life support until he can get his mama and little sister to Asheville to see her before she dies. We met at Hardee’s It did cross my mind that he had been the one who took the wallet, and was adding daring to larceny by returning it face to face. How does one guard against superior guile? Not by becoming hard-hearted, so I decided to see it through as if no suspicion had crossed my mind. There was a 50/50 chance that his story was genuine. He said he had been starving himself to build money for his mother and sister to get here before his daughter died. “How much do you need? “ I asked. He needed $160. Sometimes it is astounding what small thing will change a life. I took a deep breath and steeled my resolve to stand apart from cynicism, We went to the bank, and though all my ID was either invalid or still coming through the mail, I managed to get out $300 and give it to him, so he could both eat and send for his family. He kept saying that everything was all right and that God would take care. When I handed him the money he said, “I guess I was right about God having it all in his hands.” Being the Instrument is a satisfying thing. I would do it every day if I were needed. I hope it was needed, if it was a scam, he went to a lot of effort for comparatively little.

The final thing to be said about this event is that I KNEW my cards, and the wallet itself, would be returned. I went, nevertheless, through the effort of replacing them. This is a triumph of prudence over faith, and I am ashamed.

In the dark dark evening, off to Waynesville to see Barbara Bates Smith in her one woman show The Christmas Letters. Steve gave me a HAMLET T-shirt.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


December 8, 2009

That my wallet has been stolen I knew as soon as I reached into the empty pocket. And stolen, on top of it, from the choir robing room at church. It’s funny how much time I used looking for it anyway, not wanting the worst to be the truth. Have been spending the time you spend after such a thing phoning banks and credit card companies and sitting in the soul-destroying DOT office waiting to get a new driver’s license. Any idiot can see the ways in which the DOT can be run more efficiently (don’t have 3 of 5 employees troop off to lunch together when the number of customers waiting has backed up beyond forty; hire a secretary; don’t have the same people answering phones as taking the license info, etc) so it seems clear that it is deliberately and intentionally agonizing, maybe to instill correct fear of state government. There was about $70 in cash in it, and the replacements fees have come to $33, so the cost inches up beyond $100. Not to mention the wallet, which I got in Limerick, and I liked. Against some things there is no protection, except mindfulness and vigilance which, in their way, subtract from the quality of life.

The cassoulet was a success, and I served it last night at first read-through of The Beautiful Johanna, which was also a success. The play is funnier than I thought it was.

All Crawford’s posters and handouts have the wrong dates. That’s $300 down the drain, except I decided to ignore it and use them anyway. The wrong dates are a week too early, which means no one will miss the show by believing them.

It crossed my mind that if I live as long as my dad, I still have thirty years ahead of me. That’s a solid portion of lifetime, a whole lifetime for the righteous few. It was a good thought, for it lead me into the mind of deriving ways of making those quite sufficient years abundant. I will be at the Y first thing in them morning, begging a new membership card because of the thieving of the last one.

Have been buying those 1950's brightly colored Pyrex nesting bowls on Ebay, as part of my program to gain back lost images of my childhood, a quest which the Internet has made almost easy. The little blue one and the big yellow one–the popcorn bowl, back in the day–have arrived. The yellow arrived from Mississippi and the box was infested with bugs.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

December 6, 2009

Later night than I am used to since returning from London. I finished Michael Furey, the first draft, anyway. My wallet is lost or stolen. Made the necessary phone calls today, which can yet be unmade if, against hope, it is locked in the Y safe for safekeeping, and I will find it tomorrow. I think it was stolen from the robing room at church. That would be very sad, so I have not said it to more than one or two.

I was thinking of the places where I’ve been, London, Dublin, New York, and the fact that knowing them, how their streets lie, how they look in the morning or the evening light, is a little scandalous–the scandal of particularity. Before I knew them they could be any way at all. Now, they are but the way they are. How Dame Street turns just so. The grubbiness in front of the Bank of Ireland. The ugly modern building at the end of O’Connell Bridge. All this should be better, different. It should be able to grow and change as my knowledge of them changes. Imagination should be able to make real change in the things imagined.

As I was talking on the phone (to one of the credit card operators) I was watching out the window, and a turkey vulture flew very low over the house, south to north. Maybe I’m the only person in the world who would have taken this as a very good omen.
December 5, 2009

Bought a little electric Christmas tree that sheds a blue lunar light from its clusters of bulbs. It’s not very Christmas-y, but it is wintery, and I have burned it all the night since I set it up.

Trying my first Julia Child recipe, cassoulet, for the read-through Monday night. It is stupendously complicated, yet I chose it because it was relatively uncomplicated, compared to the rest of the book. Those French peasants had time on their hands.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

December 4, 2009

Cardinal Javier Lazano Barragan assures the world that gays are not going to heaven. I assure the world that A) his satanic eminence has no idea who's going to heaven and not, and B) it is Cardinal Barragan who is destined for the hell of his own creation, by reason of arrogance, malice, and blasphemy, blasphemy being the assigning of one’s own hatefulness and corruption to God. When will we have done with this? Does the Catholic Church have to be pulled down stone by stone before Christ can reign? One would have been content to let it die its long-delayed death in some suffocating scarlet corner of the Vatican, but perhaps in this patience is not called for.

Read Byron on the crosstrainer.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

December 3, 2009

And when I rose this morning and went to the Y, the moon was round and huge, set in a sky momentarily flawless.

It looks like I’ll be summering in Cambridge this year.

Critcher sends me the annual Christmas toy. What a sweet touch from the past!

The school day and finals and reading papers and the unfolding of Michael Furey take up almost all my energy. I can barely press the keys. I’m due to see a vampire film with friends in a few minutes. . .
December 2, 2009

Miserable weather, a sort of underwater gale.

By night, though, flotillas of cloud torn over the full moon.
December 1, 2009

The moon last night was far in the north. When it came through my bedroom window–whether it was an optical illusion or not–its light was emerald green. When I rose in the dark to go to the Y, it was dented a little, but white and tremendous.
November 30, 2009

Four in the morning. Very detailed dream. I was at a camp, a huge camp with hundreds of people in adjoining tents in long rows. There were vast common areas, like the covered pavilion at Covent Gardens. I was unfamiliar with everything in the camp, as though I had come late. Even the contents of my own tent had to be investigated with some surprise. If I had packed, I had thought of everything. I recognized nothing of my own. There was an elite group in the camp, like Order of the Arrow or Special Forces. Everyone wanted to be in it. I discovered that I was in the group, but I had no idea why, since I had spent most of my time trying to get oriented. But, there was my name, on the slowly turning silver sphere engraved with the list of the chosen. Then I went about trying to discover why I was on the list, so I could guess also what I was supposed to be doing. Was it scientific? Paramilitary? What duties were connected? I visited one of the few friends I had made, a heavy girl with glasses. On her table were laid out the fronds of ferns, which she was going to preserve and identify for a private herbarium. “Do I have to make a collection?” I was thinking, identifying ferns–real ones that I could identify now–at the end of the dream.

Began a play about Joyce’s Michael Furey. The badness of The Habit of Art mingled with the greatness of Othello to send me back to the keyboard in some fury. Yesterday I counted four projects that were trying to rush simultaneously out of the narrow portal of my time.

Monday, November 30, 2009

London Last

November 29, 2009

Uneventful but very long voyage home. In the midst of it I was sick of traveling and pretty certain I would not soon do it again. This morning I was planning, in the vaguest sort of way, my next trip. Went to bed at 8 last night and rose before 4 this morning, as I will do until my internal clock synchronizes with North America. I never lose a beat on the other side.

The man in the next seat was a Brit with one blind, milky eye, a middle aged man in good shape, with shaggy blond hair, like an ex-footballer. He prowled around looking for another seat. I said to his girlfriend, “Is it me?” and she said “No, he just likes changing seats.” He was unsatisfied and always in the aisle until the flight actually began. Then he was merely flummoxed by all the belts and gadgets. I realized at last he was entertaining his girlfriend, who probably loved him first because he was a scamp. A hugely fat woman had some sort of episode and paramedics came on before we could deplane in Charlotte. Turned a great wad of pounds back into dollars in Victoria Station, having spent less than half what I planned for.

As the driver was leaving me off, I was afraid of stumbling about in the darkness, the uneven ground beneath me. But when I got into the backyard, the moon had spread a silver blanket, and the way was clear.

Persistent, curious dreams through the night. I had joined a PR agency in some nearby town, and the hours with filled with me receiving ideas and making them better. Each member of my “team” was distinct and clearly characterized even now. It was a happy dream, though I was perplexed then– as I would be in real life–by the hitherto unexploited talent. The dream took up again after each round of brief waking.

House cleaner and pet sitter rearranged things during their guardianship just enough to be irritating. BMc smashed my British Museum Egyptian cat after it was too late, for a while, to replace it. The real cats have been both affectionate and mischievous, trying to get my attention after the desertion.

A few pink roses still bloom in the tangle. I don’t think we’ve had a deep freeze yet.

Friday, November 27, 2009

London 4

November 27, 2009

Black Friday in the US; nothing in particular here. The blazing clear winter air continues.

Marathon walking, from Parliament to the Tate Britain, and then from the Tate to Westminster Abbey, up Whitehall, through Covent Gardens, and finally back to the hotel. I think Tate Britain is my favorite London gallery. It feels lighthearted, in a way. Perhaps that is a quality of British art, never having been a religion, as In France, or too much in the service of religion, as in Italy, always making room for colorful–or sometimes sublime–eccentricity. Samuel Palmer gleamed like gems in his dark corner.

Slipped and fell on the steps of St. Martin’s in the Fields. I was so tired I was no longer picking up my feet.

Early evening. I am always terribly sad on the last day of a trip, and always put it down to causes deeper and more severe than simply not being ready to go home. I think that I will make best friends at every pub and in the lobby of every theater, and when that doesn’t happen, or happens in a way clearly ephemeral, I wonder what’s wrong with me, what’s wrong with the world, Odd, as I was emerging (maybe for the last time) from the woods of Russell Square, I ran into myself. Rather I ran into the man I might have been had a whole number of circumstances been different. He was red gold and handsome and powerful and erect and self-contained, in way that resembled me, if but the world had said “yes” evert time I asked, if but in Eden. I stood and watched until he disappeared into the darkness. He never looked back.

The University of London has been across the Square from me the whole time, and I never knew till I went wandering.

London 3

November 26, 2009


Went last night to War Horse, a play with huge puppets representing horses and farm animals and, sometimes, men. It was your standard boy-and-his-horse fairy tale, but beautifully done and as sweetly and predictably moving as those things are. I tried to get a ticket at an agency, but was told that the play was sold out. I decided that the play was NOT sold out, and went to the theater, where there was exactly one ticket left. I sat next to the man who had turned that ticket in, his companion having decided not to attend. Stopped at several pubs, including the White Hind, which claims to be the oldest licensed pub in the city. The barmaid said it dates from 1260, though of course the building itself burned down one or twice. It was a thrill to drink where men were drinking in the reign of Henry III. Also drank at the Sun, which bragged on the wall that it had been patronized by Oscar Wilde and Oliver Reed.

Today the undergrounds were jammed, so I walked everywhere. Hoofed it to St. Paul’s, but was blocked, as Jack and I had been six years ago, by a Thanksgiving church service for Americans not including myself. Crossed the Millennium Bridge in blazing light, the city cut sharp and clear all around. I felt like Wordsworth, but unfortunately only his words came to mind, so there was no poem of my own. Gulls sailed white against the winter blue sky. On to the Tate Modern, in whose dining room I had my Thanksgiving repast of salmon and watercress. All the galleries are full of children, which is right. Some day they must take possession. I had sparkling water in the café overlooking the Thames and gazing up at Saint Paul’s. Beside me was a beautiful red haired boy, whose alabaster skin was marred by long scrapes at the elbow, I guessed from a skateboard mishap. As I watched, he took out a sketchpad and began to draw Valentine hearts.

I visited my old favorites, but none of the art there is very impressive, when it comes down to it. The big show in the turbine room was in immense and probably staggeringly expensive steel box, like a component of a bridge or a skyscraper. Its purpose seemed to be to create darkness, for one walked in the dark back into it, eventually bumping into the back wall, whereupon one turned and exited toward the light. As one entered, it was interesting seeing the people leaving dimly lit, like ghosts. But it wasn’t THAT interesting. Much of the art there is ephemeral and shoddy–“junk,” one might say. The only convincing defense of these pieces is the question, why shouldn’t an artist make these things if he wants to? The answer is that there is no reason at all why he shouldn’t. Same as there’s no reason why a cook shouldn’t prepare bad food if he wants to, or a contractor build a bad house if he wants to. But in every case there should be some warning, some signal that self-indulgence is being exercised rather than imagination. One should be warned when things that purport to be are not nourishing or safe or genuine.

Walked down Ludgate to Fleet to Aldwych and Kingsway, and so back to the hotel, pacing out parts of London that were new to me. Entered but didn’t have the stomach to drink at the long-famed Cheshire Cheese. Will save the company of those lordly ghosts for another time. Bought a delicious apple and a T-shirt with a rude message.

Almost midnight. Walked to the National Theater to see Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art, the first disappointment of the week. It is a bad play whose badness was somehow intensified by a fine cast and an opening night prepared for by hopefully positive press. It purported to be the story of the relationship between W H Auden and Benjamin Britten, but instead it was about the rehearsal of a play (and a bad play, the playwright was careful to demonstrate) about a fictionalized (and libeled) Humphrey Carpenter gaining information for future biographies of these two giants. All three deserved better. The playwright shied away from his duty and his craft and took refuge instead in witty repartee three times removed from the heart of the matter, There was no drama. There was talk of drama, which was put into instant perspective by the playing of Britten’s music at the end, a genuine article which blew two hours of dust away. It made me angry that so much effort went into what was a shirking and a sham from the first, and which must have been known to be by those responsible. I know what happened. The playwright chose a topic, or had it chosen for him, and could not come up to it. It was too hard. It would require too much daring, be open too much to ridicule. So he settled for irony and archness out of which could come no blame, but no passion and no meaning either.

Nevertheless, the evening was joyful. There was food and music in the lounge beforehand, and I talked with a woman who was there to see Mother Courage in another theater, and who had directed it at a school in Dover.. She loved theater, and that was lovely to see. Plus, crossing Waterloo Bridge with the city around me ablaze with moving lights is one of the great memories of my life.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

London 2

November 25, 2009

Cold and bright through the day. I had to wear my cap pulled down against the white blaze of sun low in the sky all day. Now half a moon rides high over Russell Square.

National Portrait Gallery first thing. I was on my way elsewhere, so I didn’t see everything, but I saw the floors with the horrible Victoriana– horrible not because badly done, but steeped in the most sentimental, sickening, and uncritical praise for empire. In one called “The Secret of England’s Success,” an angelic Queen Victoria hands a kneeling African a bible. Then Victoria and Albert are rendered in white marble as Celtic chieftains, she wearing the crown but looking up into a face as a puppy into the face of her master. A colossal portrait of a previous royal family features George V, Mary, Edward, and the Princess Royal, but there is no trace of poor George, the future king, or their sad, sick, hidden brother. Had he misbehaved that day and been left out? These imperial portrayals meshed, somehow, with the visitors who dominated the galleries. There was a group of
schoolchildren in blue uniforms, very tiny children six or seven years old, I would guess. They were mostly Arab and black, and their chaperones, aside from the white British teacher, were silent figures in full black burkhas. The very pink-and-white museum docent was telling them about the paintings, but in this child-voice that infuriated me from afar, and must have cut their attention off at the outset. Every verb was followed by “very quietly”– now look very quietly at this part of the picture. . . now turn very very quietly to the sculpture over here-- as if the art were an invalid to be protected the voices of children. Control was clearly above education in their order of things. When the children were released from the docent, matters were even worse, for their teacher accompanied them through the corridors uttering a searing Shhhh! literally every fifteen seconds, a piercing, ugly, ignorant noise many times more disturbing than whatever happy sounds the children were making. I hated that teacher with hatred for which there is no name. She brought into focus all those lordly portraits, all that trapping of empire; she was Blake’s Nurse of Experience, repression and loathing; she was every Dickens evil schoolmaster. I had to leave the building. Left into the National Gallery, and Trafalgar Square, which was a blaze of light.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

London 1

November 24, 2009

London. Green-y beige and red-y-beige room on the 3rd floor of the Hotel Russell, looking down on the little bistro in the park where I had an excellent house red. My luxurious bath is as big as my tiny room, but that’s all right with me. I’m about to take the bath of the gods, a book in my hand and bad English daytime TV in my ear. Spent the time between landing and room-availability at the British Museum, and then wandering around so I’d know where I am between here and Whitehall. Featured display on Moctezuma at the BM. What a glorious place his city on the lake must have been, minus, of course, the perpetual blood sacrifice. The Staffordshire Hoard, Sutton Hoo, the lion hunts of Nineveh, the great doors of cities which are no longer there to guard. Popped the button on one pair of pants in the BM, which leaves me with one pair for the journey, unless I break down and buy another. Three women at the museum café helped me refold my map. The concierge took especial care of me. I do cultivate an appearance of mild retardation while traveling: it encourages kindness in others.

Late. Went through fitful rain to Trafalgar Studio One to see Othello. Arrived early, drank in the Silver Cross, where men who have been working together all day reluctantly part hours later. The Othello was an actor named Lenny Henry, whose major fame, I gather, lies elsewhere, in comedy perhaps. The Desdamona was weak and the Iago was too often inaudible, but the production was a rocket not even these flaws could keep grounded. Othello was sublime. Cassio was sublime. Emilia was excellent. The production was visionary. Tears leapt to my eyes when Iago said, “Now I am yours forever,” at the wicked majesty of it. They did not stop until the end and past. A group of students filled most of the balcony with me, and the kid beside me, seeing the tears running down into my beard, said, “It didn’t hit me that hard.”

I answered, “You have not yet made a terrible mistake,”

Just finished performing Hamlet. Now this London Othello. Hamlet is a juggernaut, messy, passionate, immense. Othello is a spear sailing target. The plays together are two cannons, a mile long, blasting away in the heights, unanswerable.

This Othello has entered the top ten theatrical experiences of my life.

Monday, November 23, 2009

November 23, 2009

Diotima says in The Symposium, “Love is wanting to possess the good forever.” Nothing comes closer to expressing my feelings on the matter. It also addresses my ability–which others find shallow or suspect–to fall in love in moments. Sometimes the good takes a while to reveal itself. Sometimes it is does not. The good is a momentary flash of beauty as well as an unfolding richness of nature.

Travel anxiety has become travel excitement.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

November 22, 2009

Stressful Sunday morning. All stress comes from outside. It arrives betimes. And, it being Sunday morning, very little can be done about any of it just now.

One more performance of Hamlet. This has been an outstanding experience. The cast is sweet and funny, the play a continual revelation. I have been happier backstage than I had ever been before. I will feel bereft in a few hours. I feel bereft now. I don’t know why exactly this experience should have been so memorable. Maybe it’s the greatness of the piece we’re addressing. Adam sets the stage by being the most committed and yet the merriest and least temperamental star imaginable. Contact with the young is the finest unstated perquisite of the work I do. I leave early, though, skip the parties, lest some delicate something is worn out by my dwelling too long.
And that is pretty much the story of my life.

CL is certainly in the running for handsomest man in the world. I sit backstage and look at him. Each expression on his face exhibits a different form of beauty, a smile, the vacant look, attention, the other worldly glittering of dark eyes.. There is no way the features compose that is not beautiful. It’s like staring at the best painting in the world, except even the best painting in the world does not possess dignity and kindness, as he is. He is beyond even envy.

Dinner last night between acts with Crawford, and TB and his mother. Our waitress was obsequious to the point of irony.
November 20, 2009

Minutes until I leave to go to tonight’s performance. The one review I’ve seen was judicious. It didn’t mention me, but that could be well as well as ill.

Work proceeds on several fronts at once, plays and screenplays, a review for MountainXpress. I am a tsunami of energy. I’m going to ride this wave until the next loping disappointment comes, which I have learned will subdue me, regardless of my determination that it not.

Lunch with DJ and Kermit. Laughed so hard that I gave myself a stomach ache.

Cold gather outside the windows. I am fearful of it. And of practically nothing else.

Made paintings of their scenes for Trinity and Adam, will haul them to the theater tonight.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

November 18, 2009

Deliciously awful weather, affording the opportunity, after a quick trip to the gym, of staying home and writing all day. So I did, at least in part, but some of the time and much of the energy was taken up wrestling Final Draft in submission. Also, alas, my lap top with the Max Ernst wallpaper died in my hand, going out with a brief hiss, like the snuffing of a fire. Went through a cautionary round of backing-up before I finally got down to work. Cathy lent me a DVD of Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent, which for some reason reawakened my interest in screenplays. They are far more tedious to write than stageplays, if more fun to think of.

Sat in Irish Renaissance listening to my students deliver their reports, speaking names that I haven’t thought of since graduate school. They discover Stephen Hero as I did thirty years ago; they will forget Stephen Hero as I did until yesterday afternoon. But I am reading Ulysses on the cross-trainer, which, for its atomic, compact structure, like the varying rhythm of running feet, is exactly right.

Maud the cat climbs to an eminence, beside the Christmas cactus, where she can have loftier perspective on the world.
November 17, 2009

Stepped into Walgreen’s, where I was confronted with aisles of Christmas stuff. A wave of sadness came over me that I have not yet shaken.
November 16, 2009

Studio stroll was, as it always is, a bust financially, whatever virtue there was socially. Painted scenes out of Hamlet. Sank into my stroll daze. Who knows what happened?

Monday, November 16, 2009

November 15, 2009

Studio stroll yesterday, fully uneventful, but also not annoying. I have that vast lovely space to myself, and though I miss J, I DO have that vast, lovely space to myself. I think we should hand out sheets of studio etiquette at the door, though, which would specify that visitors should not comment so much on the beautiful light or the quality of the space, but on the work. Could do no detail work because no canvases were prepared, so when people came in they saw me slathering on gesso and brushing vast planes of underpainting.

Cantaria sang for UNCA’s Picturing Human Rights Anti-Conference. The event turned out to be sweet and energizing. One didn’t foresee that it would be.

Last night was by far the best Hamlet yet. A was coherent and centered, whereas before he was inclined to be a little wild, his spontaneity occasionally flighty. I felt better than I had about my little scene, thinking I had hit the right mix of pathos and eeriness.

SW says, “I was a medical student. On the day John Lennon was shot, I forgot to shave. I have had my beard ever since.”

Meetings at school tend to revolve around the question of assessment. It is both amusing and exhausting to see with what alacrity people fall behind a process-- and a principle-- that is at once demeaning and idiotic, in that name of–what? Cohesion? Collegiality? Cowardice? The whole mess is imposed by people who have too little to do and are overpaid for doing it on people who have too much to do and are barely compensated for time already encumbered. It suggests that numbers measure all, not because they do, but because the people who think they are running the show have no understanding outside of numbers. And though our whole lives are spent convincing students that the numbers are only a start, here we are genuflecting to idols we would abhor in our own classroom. You begin to understand how tyrants rise and tyrannies persist, noting how easily we obey those who, from any rational or academic perspective, know less than we-- to the point of clearly not understanding how education works-- consenting to measure the immeasurable in order to win favor in the eyes of those who should be held in general contempt. At the end of it, it’s simply a waste of time. We laugh and mock, but we square our shoulders and get down to it, as if we didn’t trust our own laughter and our own mockery. We are Laputians licking our way through the dust to the thrones of our inferiors.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

November 14, 2009

In bed barely before 1 in the morning after one of those silly, but ubiquitous, “talk back” sessions at the theater. It was worth it to see A still bubbling with energy, fielding questions with elfin delight. Expenditure of energy breeds energy, we know, and at the end of the show he is a volcano, while I can scarcely stagger out the door to my car. We had a full house last night. The show was slow, because a number of us were playing to the audience, adding bits that seemed like they might work. The good will toward us in the community is vast and general.

Elaborate dreams of returning to the first house I ever stayed at in Ireland. During the dream I assumed it was a faithful return and reconstruction, though when I woke I realized there had never been such a place, or, if there had, I had never been there. The house was painted in murals on a green background all through (rather oddly Pennsylvania Dutch), and girls in frilly aprons sailed every which way with trays of tea.

Looked in the Mountain Xpress theater blogs for a Hamlet review. Read two samples: one was awkward, the other bloviating, so maybe absence is blessing.

Here is something to chew on: Theater is not about pleasing the audience. One hopes to please the audience; one is joyful when one pleases the audience, but if one sets out with that achievement solely in the center of the mind, the result is not theater.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

November 13, 2009

Peopled preview last night. Other, better-sighted cast members reeled off the names of attendees, and it was a great chunk of the theater gang, one’s best and hardest audience. How they felt I don’t know yet, but I felt it was a good performance, not the best in every aspect, but in the main better than one would have expected a week ago. I’m having more fun backstage than I ever had before, laughing and joking with the convivial cast, so much so that my exhaustion heading home comes as much from hilarity as anything happening on stage.

Murphy finished off the pile of seeds last night. I saw nothing. Heard nothing. The world was my bed.

Afternoon: declining light, gathering stuff together for the show. Today has been a strange one. Woke tired, and went to the gym for a workout, which nearly always wakes me up. It didn’t wake me up, so I assumed real exhaustion, and spent as much of the day as I could napping with the cats. Feel almost human now. Could use another nap.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Visitor

November 12, 2009

Dim but distinctly blue morning. I slept late, having arrived home at midnight stupid with exhaustion. Nevertheless, I sat for a minute at the keyboard. As I did I heard something on the porch. Actually, I thought it was in the livingroom, but hoped it was on the porch. It was a big, prosperous raccoon, just having pried the lid off the steel can where I store sunflower seeds for the birds. I went out on the porch with him. He wasn’t aggressive, but neither was he terrified, thinking, I suppose, it was as likely I’d give him a treat as shoo him away. I did shoo him, but then relented, and shoveled a shovelful of seed for him down onto the porch. He returned and leisurely munched away until I turned out the light and went to bed. Where such a large animal hides during the day I have no idea. His name is Murphy.

Maybe I’m bewitched, but I think Hamlet is going to be good. The boisterous green room sat silent last night, eyes glued to Adam pumping out a soliloquy we’d heard fifty times, but by which we were entranced wholly. Polonius is tedious, but I suppose he’s supposed to be. Claudius conveys nothing much, but most people will already know the story, so it may not matter.

Picked up all the promotional material for The Beautiful Johanna at the printer’s yesterday. I feel like a diver balanced at the end of the board.
November 11, 2009

Bless all Veterans.

This looks to be the first year in my life when I will not set foot in Ohio.

This is the first time I have experienced a President younger than myself.

This is the first time when I can trust that my perceptions and analyses of my past life are true and accurate. A cloud of something has dispersed. Perhaps hope. I can no longer hope that I might turn out to be something other than what I am.

Last night’s Hamlet rehearsal was three hours long, and then some. It had fine moments. We laughed backstage between our scenes at wanton butchery of other lines from Shakespeare. A is having projection problems, but maybe he is saving himself for the real thing. Tonight is the last rehearsal before tomorrow night’s preview, to which I have invited a multitude. Driving in the rain would be dreary without JW as a passenger. Neither of us is talkative, but that doesn’t matter so much. He was eating a pomegranate, which lasted him all night.
November 8, 2009

Francine informs me that the title of the book in which Piss and Four for the Gospel Makers appear is Short Plays to Long Remember. It was everything I could do not to bitch about the split infinitive.

Sat beside Amanda in the choir loft this morning. It was wonderful. Her voice is a great bubbling contralto fountain.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

November 6, 2009

Waiting to go to LL’s opening at the Pump. Comforting sounds of the washing machine, of a distant radio, of a cat walking on the debris of the desk.

Phone call from the Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s Playfest, saying that Edward the King is a “finalist”. I wasn’t here to get the call, but the last word the caller said was “congratulations,” so I assume it is well.

First run-through of Hamlet last night. I don’t know how my desire that it be good cushions and tampers with my perceptions, but I’m pretty sure it’s better than it might be, better than it was when I began watching rehearsals. Adam is spectacular, though an audience who saw him last night might not think so. He experiments; he dares; he tries new things, which is exactly right, but a person watching at this point might interpret all that as lack of coherence. He’s electrifying to be onstage with. The intensity of his listening is almost violent. You check yourself to make sure what you have to say is worthy of all that concentration. The Ghost does not wear glasses, so Hamlet’s visage fades in the stage light to a pale oval out of which two dark eyes blaze like coals. Some of the scenes–the massive court scenes–are probably not salvageable, presided over by an inept king and a lusterless queen. Some characters, though they do everything right (or at least nothing wrong) are still tedious. I can’t explain that. R & G are funny, and, indeed, all the soldiers and guards are engaging, very contemporary, very brotherly. The last sene with Horatio holding the dying Hamlet is the one point in the play which, now, can be called stunning. Some scenes will be agony every night; others I will anticipate from the wings with ever-renewed delight. I hope mine is among the latter for somebody. My spooky reverb ghost voice has not yet functioned properly.

Rushed through the winding darkness to meet Mickey at the Usual, but she was gone. Talked with her on the phone. Asheville has lost her forever. I went to bed far too late, rose far too early. As night falls, I sit trying to recall what I did with all the light.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

November 4, 2009

An eventful and productive day. Also one dominated by three friends and their phone calls. J has moved to Tennessee to give his marital turmoil space to cool. I would have advised him not to volunteer the truth, but he did, and a word uttered is like red wine spilt on white cloth; it can never be recalled, it can never be as though it hadn’t happened. Truth sometimes can hurt widely and deeply while retain very little of what one might call virtue. Getting it off your chest is putting it one someone else’s. I say all of this in the abstract. The thing on my mind is that he is absent and unhappy, and I miss him. I look at the objects he left in the studio and I am bereft. It perplexes me why I am the last to know everything about this, that I learn incidentally by a rumor or a random phone call, but I will accept his explanation that he dreads my bad opinion.

JP called months ago and I ignored him, remembering the trouble that surrounds him and all his deeds. He called again, sounding vulnerable and–well, interesting–so I called back. I know far more about his last decade or so than he imagines I do–having been contacted by business partners and detectives when his ship was sinking-- and I listened to hear if he had turned over the least new leaf, if truthfulness had found even a toehold in his narrative. Negative, sorry, sorry to say. I do believe his mother died, but other than that, it is likely that every single statement, anecdote, detail is false. The time I know him to have been in prison he filled with tales of traveling, living in California, association of some sort with the Marines. Does he suppose I live under a rock? Perhaps he is so pathological he doesn’t care whether his lies are believed, so long as he has the freedom to tell them. He does remain, however, interesting.

JS, at the other extreme, phones from U Va that he is seeking work with a group of attorneys in Harlem who protect those vulnerable and friendless people– Harlem Neighborhood Defenders-- and would I mind recycling my earlier recommendations for him. “Fine,” I say. What I mean is, “You are the most upright soul I know personally, and I would lobby Satan if I thought it would open a path for you.”

Bade goodbye to my old studio, locking the door behind me for the last time. I felt bad. I felt I had failed it. My imagination is too anthropomorphizing for my own good.
November 3, 2009

Moon rode with me all the night.

Election day. I was first at the polls at the community center, with the moon blazing in a sky that had turned the subtlest shell pink.

The exhaustion of the weekend hit yesterday. Wanted to totter home after class, except that I didn’t want to get into the habit of tottering home after class, so had drinks at the Usual with DJ, where, in no time, I slid into hysterical laughter mode. Should have gone to bed right off. Extremely complicated and extended dreams once I did get to bed. At the end I think I was the subject of some bizarre psychoanalysis.

Ancient memory: We’re still in the house on Goodview, and Mr Houck has come to pay a visit, for some reason. I arrive home to find him just leaving the house. He and I carry on a brief conversation, and when he goes, my mother comes inside in a rage and begins beating me with the plastic handle of a fly swatter. I have no idea what I did, and when I say “What did I do?” she says, “You know very well what you did.” In the midst of the beating I consider, very cooly, that it is unjust, and that I am perfectly capable of taking the switch away from her and ending it right there. I also consider, very cooly, that doing so would change our relationship and my status as “child,” maybe forever, so I forebear until she wears herself out. I still have no idea what the issue was. . . unless. . . as I sometimes think. . . Mr. Houck had arrived to seduce my mother and I had made some–quite unknowing– comment too close to the mark. Parents have no idea how far children will go to suffer them.

Cassie Rutledge, a former student of radiant cheer and sweetness, was found dead in her apartment. I looked at her obituary online, and amid all those who were 80 and 90, her details rung like a leaden bell.

Buncombe County elections: the bad is that Robin did not make good on her gallant write-in campaign. The good is that Cecil Bothwell won and not-quite-sane Mumpower lost.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

November 1, 2009

Two autumn images: A jay is flying amid the golden leaves, his blue against the yellow a scream louder than his voice. In the back alley, an orange spotty cat walks in a tunnel of gold, fallen gold leaves, gold leaves still on the trees. Overhead the crows are cawing at him, but he struts on, as if their opposition were proof of his being.

We had supper at Scully’s last night, and watched all the downtown people come in their costumes. I was happy being in their midst.

Mozart’s Requiem this afternoon. I think it was beautiful. I remember at this moment Barry’s “Tuba miram,” his voice, even with me standing behind him, flowing out like honey and ruby. The performance was unusually sensual to me, the singing physical, strenuous, rewarding, like an excellent work-out. I learned something about singing tonight, though I am not sure I am ready to give it a definition. It is something in addition to what I have allowed it to be. If it weren’t so late and I so tired I could think of something better, but now I stop with, “it is like sex.”

Halloween Wedding

October 31, 2009

I should stop writing “dark of morning,” for the sake of variety, though it almost always is.

Eventful Friday behind me, eventful Saturday looming on the horizon. I met composer Nathan Shirley; we rehearsed briefly, then went down to WCQS to perform live on the radio. When I signed on to this project I assumed Nathan was somebody’s kid brother (he in fact is) and the project was a bit of a vanity. Shirley turns out to be, so far as I can judge, an important modern composer, a piano virtuoso the likes of which–with all quirks and excellences–I had never met before, though one reads of them in the New Yorker. He and DK were finding flaws in the studio piano I would not have noticed given fifty tries. The music he has written for Poe’s “Annabelle Lee” and “The Black Cat” seems to me a cross between Prokofiev and silent matinee piano, with Liszt looking over everybody’s shoulder, and I mean that in the very best way: dramatic, often meltingly lovely, the themes intelligent, passionate, and clear enough for me to recognize untutored, and build my understand of. Were I to criticize, I’d say the compositions are too momentous for the pieces they are meant to accompany. They should stand alone. It could be that Shirley is simply not good at choosing texts. It could be that the rest he has written is so majestic that the tone he took with Poe’s bonbons is really just right. It was fun to read the pieces on stage with his music. Poe’s first person narratives make for a good read. The gods worked things out so that the searing pain in my foot distracted my body from its urge to cough. When the light turned from me to him, I stood on one foot and coughed as gently as I could upstage. There is a DVD which I did not see; I hope all of that escaped notice. The soprano, who had voice problems and flubbed twice before getting in the groove, will not be going unnoticed. I though he would allow her to start over, as she clearly wished to do, but Shirley went plunging forward. I don’t know what the etiquette of such things is. But I will remember this event. Shirley is the real deal, completely contemporary music that rewards the listener fully.

When I came home from reading that horrible story, I fondled the cats with extra gentleness, to make it up to them. Poe’s reputation does confuse me. He’s like an actor who substitutes panting and flinging his arms about for real emotion. Inventive, I’ll give him that.

Gigantic rehearsal for the Mozart Requiem. Orchestra, soloists sound great. Perhaps we do too, but who can tell from the midst of it? It’s hard to sell the notion that the reflexive, grimly determined correction of mistakes is not the way to greatness, yet that the case. It’s also hard to sell the notion that over-rehearsing is not the cure for imperfection, but, once again, it is the truth. The Buddha says “do nothing.” Imperfections fall away when not too hard beleaguered. Understanding comes the moment it is unbidden.

Joe and Tiff’s wedding was sweet. I felt so comfortable with their families that I stayed through the reception to the point that people were rising and going away. I am usually the first to go. Got along especially well with the bride’s furniture-moving dad, who, with two daughters, was dewy-eyed with joy at getting a son. The bride and groom wore black for Halloween. The little ring-bearer, maybe three years old, was a lesson in correct behavior, for the natural is always correct. He sensed the occasion was extraordinary, so adopted a strange little walk as he approached the stage. When he got on stage, he passed the rings off to the best man to hug the knees of the groom, whom he loved.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

October 29, 2009

Staggering with exhaustion, hobbling around on one sore foot. . . Cloudy moon. . . vast, brooding dark of the forest between here and Haywood County.

Heartened by Hamlet rehearsal tonight. Horatio has become wise and beautiful. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are funny. Everyone has taken a step forward. Adam is by turns antic and agonized, exploring the role with the perfect actor’s intelligence. I sat and listened to scenes tonight, Hamlet’s soliloquies, the Player’s speech about Pyrrhus, and I was struck, as if I had not been before, not only with the greatness of the play, but with the greatness of the individual lines, of lone words spoken with power. The play is a stone palace hung with purple. It is a sea pounding on a craggy shore. It is the shadow of the hunting bird passing over bare stone. I writhe with sorrow that one might not write like that now, that the world must be remade for one to write like that now. I come home and sit at the keyboard trying to conjure again that vast music. Oh, yes, it can be done. Who would listen? Who could bear it?
October 28, 2009

Shining blue autumn. I was at the gym in the still-dark, and when I finished and went out to my car, the hills hedging in Woodfin were a gleam of gold and scarlet, not the vulgar blaze of two weeks ago, but subdued and elegant.

Changed plans because of the beauty of the day, and dug in the garden, burying a new shipment of bulbs I didn’t remember buying, nor did I know what everything was from the Latin names printed on the bags. I trusted that small bulbs made small plants and large, large. The lilies I knew. All their beds I lined with shredded paper, much of it from misprinted or discarded manuscripts. I like the idea of one creation feeding another. Th worms like the paper and the flowers like the worms.

Received the water bill from the city, and supposing it’s all finished, it was less than the least I had imagined. Huzza!

Sudden odd flash of the imagination–I guess it was the mention of worms above. I had died and was at the Gate, and somewhat to my surprise, it swung open for me into paradise. I was shown an image of me picking a worm up off the pavement and throwing it safely back into the dirt. That had made the difference. In the vision, or day dream, I was sobbing, barely getting out the words, amazed and grateful and astonished, I was saved by that?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

October 27, 2009

Sent Francine proofs for Four for the Gospel Makers. Jenny Bent Agency in Brooklyn asks to see The Falls of the Wyona.

Longest run of modern times on the cross-trainer: 4 miles. I was engrossed in reading The Crock of Gold.

DJ swerved his car in front of me returning to the alley after drinks at the Usual. He had seen three bears, probably a sow and two cubs. Motion-detecting lights went on in backyards, but I didn’t see the bears, even when the reportedly crossed the alley again. I am he who never sees the bears. But they were on my mind when I went out in the rainy dark to prepare for trash pick up. My eyes were extra wide, my ears pricked.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

October 25, 2009

Delicate pale blooms of the Christmas cactus. Last year they were more white than pink; this year they are more pink than white.

Dropped my wallet at the Mountain Java café, where the blessed lads and lasses found it and returned it to me intact.

J and I hit the town last night. The strangeness I felt from him was the effect of strangeness he expected to feel from me when the top floor studio gossip settled. But I had heard the worst from others even as he concealed it, and I didn’t care, and when he saw that I didn’t care, it was merrily right between us. Each of us was trying to read signs and gestures rather than opening the subject directly. I suppose I should feel flattered when people conceal shame from me, but the truth is I’m non-judgmental almost to the degree of turpitude. Certain people I love more than abstract moral principles, and the effort to extract outrage from me for anything they do will be disappointed. In any case, my friend is back. We ate tapas at Zambra’s, sitting beside that guy who plays the father, Red, on the TV show, That 70's Show. We crossed the street and saw The Beauty Queen of Leenane at NC Stage, a superb production. Impossible to imagine more flawless acting. I was especially proud of Casey, who crossed from student to pro in one brogue-ing leap. The woman behind us fell asleep, and woke at the instant of the hot grease flinging, and exclaimed aloud, “I just woke up! What the hell is she going to do!” This is the second time I’ve seen the play, and I think now the sudden outburst of insanity is not totally justified, not totally convincing. I would have felt the same pathos–maybe greater pathos, not having to wrestle with a stagey hallucination-- if Pato had simply gone to Boston and been seduced by the girl who was available to do the seducing. Still, I laughed and was horrified, exactly as I should have done. From the theater to Tressa’s, where we had the worst food in the world, bad music, a superb cocktail, and as much intimate conversation as we could over the noise.
I’m disoriented when a night goes as well as that one. I find myself wondering if I read everything right.

A boy was selling pirate jokes on the street. I bought two.

First birds calling at the rim of night.
October 24, 2009

Red leaves of the dogwood fill my bedroom window.

Got almost all the remaining bulbs in yesterday, moments before the rain began to fall. I emptied the mostly-spoiled barrel of last year’s sunflower seeds on the plumbing- ravaged front slope, thinking viable seeds might root, and I’d have a ribbon of sunflowers in the spring rather than a red scar.

Spent hours at the studio today, not doing much painting, but getting it put together for the time when it is mine alone. I think the space is workable. I’m happy when Alex or Logan come in to borrow something or to chat. It makes me think I will not be isolated. Visitors before were always for J, or so I thought. The Flood suffers from a plague of stink bugs (who knows why?), just now dying and leaving behind pebble-colored envelopes of chitin.

FT’s book of plays continues to be an opportunity almost buried beneath infuriating, minuscule, and never-ending corrections of format. I would have let the “opportunity” pass had I known it would be such a lead weight on the spirit. Her scolding tone eased a little when we realized my lack of response (for which I had been roundly chastised) was the result of her sending materials to the wrong email address.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October 21, 2009

Tide of warmth, the windows open, the jacket left hanging, bugs zooming over the garden. All is sliding toward night now. Maybe the toe of summer will hold, maybe it will not. I did practically nothing all day, though when I rose in darkness my plans were laudable.

TD and I surrounded by beefy, jolly cops at Starbucks this morning. Did they like us, or was it PR?

Finances will not soon recover from the plumbing debacle, which is not yet over.

Began an essay last night, to explain whole rafts of the past several years to myself.

Circe snuggles and nuzzles as if every instant she expected me to disappear.
October 20, 2009

Obrecht on the CD, Missa Caput, spooky, wintery.

On campus I saw a shimmer in the afternoon light. I went toward it, and it was the wings of hundreds upon hundreds of winged ants swarming from the terrace behind Philips Hall into the sky. It was beautiful and appalling. I stood a long time watching to see if anybody would look but me, and nobody did. Panthers stalk through the gardens. Eagles preen on the cornices. Whole passages of the world pass us unseen. All is still secret.
October 19, 2009

Saw RC looking bedraggled and wasted by the urinal. He hadn’t slept well the night before. He said, “I almost never sleep well.” I considered that I have not had a totally sleepless night in my life. This is a huge blessing, and I know it. If anything, I must struggle a little for full consciousness from time to time. This minute I am almost too sleepy to continue, but I do continue, putting off sleep as a hungry man puts off his meal so that when he has it he will be groaning with delight.

The white Christmas cactus bursts into bloom. The summer porch sun discolored the leaves, but apparently that doesn’t matter.

Reading excerpts from our favorite authors in fiction class tonight. Several of the students, clearly not prepared, stumble over words. One poor girl encountered such a word several times in her passage, and said “Oh, that word I can’t say” whenever she came to it. I was very angry, but couldn’t explain my anger to myself, and so said nothing. Now I can explain it– anger at the slovenliness, at the carelessness that this generation doesn’t seem to notice, or to deplore, if it notices. I sound like an old grouch in a movie. . . .

Monday, October 19, 2009

October 18, 2009

He was a point of light, one steadfast star that rose always in the same place. A flicker in the tangled wilderness to guide. A spark in the twenty-sided gloom to cheer. The light goes out and I am only half way home, and I have no idea where to turn.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

October 17, 2009

Mist of frost on the picture window. Cold tea. Dark before morning. Moved the Christmas cacti off the porch last night in anticipation of the first skirmish of winter.

DJ and TD and I went to see Bright Star, the movie about, or at least featuring, Keats. It was leisurely, but also delicious, the portrayal of the poet plausible, if not as Cockney as one expected. Fanny Brawne gets better than she deserved. The film got my spirit moving over the face of poetry again. The making of poetry was so nearly effortless (or, I should say, so much a delight) that I never anticipated that the life of poetry would be so hard. There is in fact no “life of poetry” except for those who are very lucky and dwell in very special circumstance– which one was and one did when one was a graduate student, but never after. Keats and Brown lived that life for but a moment in the film. Poetry is surrounded by enemies, some of ignorance or indifference, some of actual malice. The local poetry scene wears before the community a face that has little to do with poetry, but rather professionalism and public relations. This may not be damaging to Apollo himself, but it is to his votaries. It is like the man who sells motorcars on TV getting credit for the invention itself. Poetry’s enemies are subtle and unexpected. Some poets are, the way some parents seem to be in that game mainly to destroy their children. The New Yorker magazine is a subtle and sinister enemy. printing poems that are all but unreadable for coyness, in-group allusiveness, emotional remoteness and the impenetrable self-satisfaction which comes, sometimes, to intellectuals who think they are artists. Those who can no longer love or feel poetry try to destroy it by asserting, in the Cadillac of venues, that it can no longer be loved or felt. I suppose the word “inspiration” would be greeted with hysterical laughter in the rooms where these pieces are concocted and chosen.

J has his stuff packed up and sitting in boxes in the studio, waiting to take flight. I tried to paint yesterday, but could not in the face of that sad witness. Maybe it is well I never married. Would I constantly be taking things as signals and ambushes which were not meant that way? Or would I be oblivious to signals and ambushes until my partner, wild to secure my attention, turned to total war? Does anyone who forms an attachment or a relationship anticipate the veering to the Byzantine, or assume, as I always do, that things will be clear sailing as long as there are honest hearts at the helm? I’m making too much of this. In a week I will be resettled and glad for the space. The mood at the studio is hurt and tender and distracted because of J’s precipitous move, everyone making allusions and stopping short of saying what they mean, unsure of what I know about the situation, of what J wanted me to know. It’s a soap opera. I never watch that, even when I’m in the midst of it.

Still, I was there last night to hear music for the harpsichord, recorder, and viol da gamba. The Flood is perfect for that, a resonant, and surprisingly warm, box of stone. Stared at this boy for his beauty, then met him, hearing about his organic gardens and what you need to grow vegetables all winter long, and how he is teaching himself the Music of the West little by little, and did I really like what I heard, Bach and Haydn and Marcello, or was I there, like him, to consume experience?

Went to the Blue Spiral to see Daniel Nevin’s new exhibit. He has left the figurative language behind which allowed him too easy access to sentimentality. His new paintings are organically abstract, and magnificent. The awakening slap of the Muse interposed between now and his previous show.

Took advantage of a breath in the rains to plant lilies, allium, iris, transplant things that were in the shade or made homeless by the plumbers. Somehow there was less dirt to put back in the trenches than there was to take out, so I am left with clear and deepening canyons in my yard. As a landscape feature they are not without interest.

DJ showed me his tile-shedding bathroom wall, unable to let me recover even a week after emotional and financial ruin by the last disaster. I sigh into an empty room.

Evening: J said we should meet this morning at the studio and go for coffee. I was there from 9 to 4. Alone. But I did get most of my office moved off the mezzanine and into the studio. It will save me $3000 a year. I am trying to be thrilled over that.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

October 14, 2009

Back stiff and sore, the thicket’s revenge for my onslaught. Head aching, payment for slamming down too much Bailey’s on ice when I was finally off that interminable black road last night. Route 40 is a monster of construction, which begins at one end just as traffic is beginning to move around completion at the other. The otherworldy darkness of that stretch of road is inexplicable. The end of these trying peregrinations is rehearsal. What I have seen, but for A, is pretty dull. Claudius is not dull, but, to add to my welter of metaphors for him, he delivers his lines like a ballplayer being interviewed in the locker room after a victory, all “up” and cliche and thoughtless gush. This king is not a villain, but a lout. A was in New York over the weekend and came back with a photo of himself with Broadway’s current Hamlet, Jude Law. Steve had arranged a backstage meeting, and Adam was still treading cloud over it. Law is a kind and generous man, to A anyway. and I hope this is remembered when people speak of him.
October 13, 2009

Painted a while. When I went up to the studio, Alex was seated on a sofa, holding a baby along his forearms. He was grinning at the baby; she was grinning at him.

Attacked the thicket at the road with great savagery. Bulbs came by mail too late to get them in before the promised rain.
October 12, 2009

The female angelfish is ill, and floats by herself in the far side of the tank. I think she laid too many generations of eggs and forgot what they were and joined her mate and her tank mates in eating them. That must take a toll on the spirit, however oblivious one is.

J emails that he is moving out of the studio, to work in his big new house. I read the words and let out a sound as if someone hit me. Circe raised her head in momentary concern. I’ve watched J woo and divorce a considerable number. He said it would never happen to me. I sort of assumed it would.
October 11, 2009

Everything with a battery has a battery charger you plug into the wall, and a tiny light that turns from yellow to green as the apparatus charges. In my room last night there were three of those, plus the ghostly green of the clock. They colored the white walls of the room, like a grove lit by fairly lights. One of those nights when I went to bed very early, exhausted in more than body.

Cantaria sang the opening of the first annual Blue Ridge Pride at King Park, an unexpectedly sweet enterprise. Sandra Parker was there. We chatted about Hiram, and about how she never contacts me when she is in down for fear of interrupting my bust schedule. I found that hilarious. Sat in a chair and read last night until I couldn’t hold the book, and it was still early.

Friday, October 9, 2009

October 9, 2009

All digging muscles throb. Peonies and ferns go into the ground as part of the healing of the great wounds left by the plumbers, who broke the basement door by kicking it open rather than turning the doorknob, who threaded hoses crooked and left light sockets mysteriously dead, who took the spade I brought from my father’s house. I will say nothing. Anything to have them away from here. DJ remarked on my lack of patience with the process– “lack of patience” being the gentle way of describing straight-ahead fury.

It seems to strike others as funny when I am actually hurt by things. Perhaps they think I choose the wrong things to be hurt by. In fact, I don’t choose at all.

Drove 90 minutes last night between here and Waynesville, and, though scheduled, never set foot on stage. Luckily for everybody, the plumbers had drawn off my fury and I had none left for the players. A was more remarkable still last night, making discoveries and daring illuminating business in the R & G and player king scenes. He is already the best Hamlet I have even seen on stage, or at least the young and antic equal to C’s contemplative maturity. He’s funny. He’s transparent. Not always the smartest, he’s the most perceptive person on stage. The tiny stature of his body he makes into an asset, a terrier, a bare wire, a hyperactive atomie energizing every tableau. T’s Ophelia can match him. She’s a sadly intelligent Ophelia, regretful rather than confused, and their scenes together, at least, will be sensational.
October 8, 2009

Woke to this dream: I had rented a store front on the rose garden in Pioneer Square in Akron. It was to be a theater headquarters. The space was very dusty. I was gathering co-workers around me. I was very happy. I was coming home. Upon waking I asked myself if this is what I really wanted. The answer was no. But something within at least posed the question.
October 7, 2009

My first real Hamlet rehearsal last night. It was a bit shocking. We are far from the finish line, but we have far to go. Hamlet is going to be–is-- very good, but can he carry the whole show? Will he have the stamina to fight the inertia round him? A as Hamlet is a real actor truly trying in all the right ways to shoulder his way into one of the most difficult roles on the English stage. To watch him is to watch discovery, exploration, daring, community with the other actors. In the brief time we are on stage together I feel electricity. I am grateful he is the only person that I, being the Ghost, ever relate to. He is a living presence in what is otherwise a waxworks of community theater stylization. Horatio is inexperienced, but possesses the right spirit and the right look and was better with each line delivered. Ineptitude is easy to cure. Set-in-concrete misapprehension is not. This was only Act I, and not all of that. Experience tells me Ophelia and Laertes and the Player King are likely to be on the mark, though I didn’t see them in action. As for the rest– Claudius is an automaton, spitting out his not-comprehended lines like a musical comedy actor delivering a pattersong. Unbelievably, he offers notes on the performances of others. Gertrude vanishes before that gale.
October 6, 2009

A few days of sleeping 15 hours a day, and the keel seems to be evening out.

Rain stops Steve the Plumber yesterday. As for today, he says, “I forgot I promised that I would be a poll worker at the primary Tuesday.” This is over the phone, so I cannot throttle him. But he is sending his brother. . . to do what I don’t know. Something with a ditch witch. The next time I see him I will stand with my face in his and I will say, “THIS MUST BE OVER.” Except that he is 6 foot something and I’d never reach his face. I don’t know enough about plumbing to judge whether he’s incompetent. I do know that he has varied and process-prolonging interests. I do know that, right now, I hate him with a hatred he has only minimally earned.

Every effort at saving effort– taking on assistants, hiring a website designer– results in expanded effort. Is this a rule they neglected in school? Things must be explained, the slightest gesture graded and approved. No effort is saved at all, and one acquires another master.

One of my Humanities students is picking a quarrel with me. This is curious to me, as I was so spontaneously well disposed toward him. Shoulders sometimes come equipped with chips, and there’s nothing to be done.

My students informed me that next week is fall break. If I don’t have a ticket to Ireland, I don’t pay attention. Still, what a relief. Have to hold on for a few more days.
October 4, 2009

Swine flu. At least I suppose it is. NPR says the flu this season is swine, and so I participate in a great cultural experience. It’s not that bad, not any worse than any other flu, unless there are surprises down the road. It was a relief, actually: first to discover that it wasn’t phlebitis, and then to explain the crushing gloom of the last few days, which I hoped wasn’t fully assignable to plumbing. The cats lay on me as I slept, radiating cat chi and wild healing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

October 3, 2009

Full moon. Every detail of the ruined garden stands in stark blue detail. By day the butterfly bush and the butterfly weed are, as advertised, aflutter with butterflies. The monarchs are moving south.

Bad day. Worst. If it had been somebody else’s day, I would have said it was comically bad, but I actually didn’t find it very funny. Steve the Plumber fixed the visible leaks, but the meter kept spinning. His theory is that the whole pipe between my house and DJ’s is gone, crushed, Swiss cheese. Sometime when he gets to it he will dig up the back yard, and the shade garden, and replace the pipe, and we will hope that the plumbing god is finally satisfied. The bill begins to rival the downpayment on the whole damn property. Jolene observed that my last month’s water bill was larger than the whole Phil Mechanic Building’s for a year, and with the bio diesel boys using thousands of gallons. I do not know where all the water could be going. The entire Carolina aquifer must be restored by now.

Tried to format Piss and Four for the Gospel Makers for Francine’s book. The whole formatting thing is a source of fury to me, and is the reason why I let Urthona Press slide away. But there I was, in the midst of it, having to try again and again, eventually realizing that part of the required formatting simply could not be done. One command prevented the other. Too exhausted for rage. So final is my hatred of this that if Francine hadn’t finally said, “I’ll do it,” I would have withdrawn the plays.

A bit of flu, too. Not much to it, except for the digestive system. Haven’t eaten–permanently-- in two days. Thought I would not eat until the plumbing is fixed. If God can prove a point, so can I.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

October 2, 2009

After three days of upheaval, Steve the Plumber whacks a pipe with his shovel and opens a new gash probably as big as the old one. The other interpretation is that after all that in the front yard, he finally found where the leak was. In any case, I’m exactly where I was a week ago. And $3000 poorer. And no real end in sight. At least the shut-off valve is in the basement, where I can climb down and turn it off and on a necessity dictates. He couldn’t finish it tonight because he has plans with friends. He wasn’t going to come in tomorrow because he was going hiking, but he graciously postponed the outset of that. On top of it, a grueling departmental “retreat.” Seven hours of mostly–though, in fairness, not completely-- superfluous yak. The administration is to be thanked that most of our labor has nothing whatever to do with our actual jobs. The good thing about that was that it kept me away from home and observation of the various plumbing fiascos. At lunch I told BH that I was on the verge of a crying jag. He did me the honor of thinking I was joking.

Jason’s opening at the Pump.

Friday, October 2, 2009

October 1, 2009

While Steve and his cohorts were installing my new water system, the pipe leading from the city system to my meter burst into a geyser, famous locally as the moon rides toward midnight. The city replaced the meter and the linkage and all. My water is on but DJ’s is not. They assume there’s gunk in the line branching to his house. They ripped my hose attachment out of the wall. It is never over. I tended a little to my wounded transplants as the moon rose. Cannot write. Can barely stay awake.

Read in The New Yorker about the Dreyfus affair. The author said that the anti-Semitic, anti-libertarian forces in France, instead of learning their lesson by defeat, became intractable and monomaniacal, reduced to mindless nay-saying and hysterical opposition. This is exactly what has happened to the Republican party, which no longer seeks to have a part in government, but to disrupt government whenever it can, out of sheer envy. Everything the Republican party has said about President Obama’s plans and actions has been a hysterical lie. You’d think they’d throw something rational in once in a while just to keep people interested.
September 30, 2009

So, Steve the Plumber fails to find the leak, suggests that the only thing to be done is drive a new pipe from the meter to the house. This will correct, he says, the bizarre meanderings which mark the present set-up, and amend the fallible antiquity of the hardware. I agree. The new route, though it misses Jocasta now, drives through the north garden, and I have spent the morning frantically transplanting. Before that I had run two miles and done a double weights set, so if I am alive at then end of the day, amazement will abound. I try not to think of the garden. I dig up what I can. I reconcile myself to losses. I threaten the workmen with death if they damage the tree peonies, which seem, anyway, to be aside of the route. The city utility guys arrive to tell them where not to dig. Stocks plunge. But Ty, the sweet Warren Wilson guitar playing country boy they have digging for them, works with his shirt off. One tries to prize the compensations offered.

Evening. I come home to a long trench gashed through the garden, from the street to, and through, the porch. Though it will be filled with pipe and covered with dirt, I almost wish they would leave the trench, so I could watch it erode, the walls soften, the floor rise, to see how long it would take to disappear, to see if something would grow in it that was buried long ago and grows no more in my garden.

Crawford Murphy brings over the proofs the The Beautiful Johanna poster.

I watch a DVD set in Sligo. Terrible homesickness.