Wednesday, January 28, 2009

January 28, 2009

Irish music on the CD.

Monday the Egypt lecture went well, and my playwrights, meeting for the first time, were good-looking and eager. If I look at the right things in my life, I conclude I am the luckiest man in the world. I midwife the imagination of the young.

At Tuesday’s Titus rehearsal we did real work and made real progress. It is still, distressingly, a cacophony of Herods, each trying to top the other in sheer volume. Gregory dropped out of the loudness race by deciding the make his Saturninus a whining brat-- a stroke of genius. I can’t tell if J’s vision is aided or hindered by his kindness. Certainly he puts up with things I would not, but perhaps he is confident that all will come to the straight and harmonious when it must. When Tamora is passionate, not a single syllable is intelligible.

A very strange thing happened at the Y today. When I’m on the treadmill or the cross-trainer, I usually watch one of the TVs or scope out the other people in the gym, but this time I closed my eyes and meditated, running lines for a while, but mostly trying to concentrate on breath of rhythm, or whatever image came into my head. When I opened my eyes I had run the fastest mile of my life. Though still in tortoise range for the world at large, it was blinding speed for me, better than when I was a kid, better than when I was in Syracuse and actually dared to call myself a runner. Nor did I feel spent afterwards, as I usually do, but exhilarated, and ready for the weights. I don’t know what kind of phenomenon this was, one-of-a-kind or the beginning of a new era for me. I suppose I won’t know until I return to the gym and give it another try. I still feel good now, as though I had just left the Y shower, steamy and pumped. And righteously drowsy.

Wore a tie-dye shirt to senior seminar. I was surprised by the sensation it caused. Zack said, “We just didn’t think you were a tie-dye kind of guy.” I’ve already spent too much time wondering what on earth that could mean.

I think the sky this evening was among the most beautiful I have ever seen. It was stormy, and ribbons of multi-colored clouds streamed like banners from the north. The hill opposite my window was lit shimmering gold, while the sky above was pale blue and sapphire blue and agate and flamingo. The richness of it escapes description. That something escapes description is a thing I almost never admit.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

January 25, 2009

Kenneth Y reports that my inaugural poem appeared in the Hendersonville Times-News on the sports page, marked “advertisement.”

Saw Slumdog Millionaire at Cinnebar the other night. You feel good at the end even though most of what happened in it was just horrible. Like life, I suppose. Its assertion that some things happen not out of reason or as a return for effort, but just because “it is written,” is the truest thing I’ve heard in a long time.

An Ellet classmate writes on my wall in Face Book:

Really enjoyed the pictures and seeing you in a different persona than I experianced in HS. Many moons have past and your still the invirgorous soul with his own set of rules and living your life as you feel! Good for you David. What a joy to have you as a former classmate who has touched so many lives around the country with your acting talents . Please post your schedule so those of us may be enlighted with your craft! Hope your in good health and have the faith in your heart to thank him daily. My best to you and your family!

Live Life with Passion!

Terry Lee

It is touching. . . though odd. Many of my high school classmates remember me as a “free spirit” with my own rules, while I remember myself as a calculating conformist, steering a careful course between would and ought. Maybe more of what I actually felt broke through than I intended. This same person wrote me a kind note at the death of my father.

Speaking of father, ten times I’ve prepared–before thinking– an explanation for him of the workings of the Prius, imagining him fascinated by it, and praising me for buying one.

Dreamed vividly before morning of doing a performance in a distant city, staying at a vast hotel, and realizing I had forgotten my tuxedo. Getting a tuxedo there was an unimaginable ordeal, not because nobody would help, but because everybody was too helpful, measuring just so and offering me infinite choices in style and accessories. I woke and the dream was interrupted, but hours later, when I fell asleep briefly during the sermon, the bit of dream was exactly where I had left off dreaming the tuxedo dream.

Strange perception in church this morning. We were singing a hymn in which God asks the soul if she will surrender to him, go where he leads her, without asking why or where. At one time my soul could have answered “yes’ to this. But I have been fighting for my own road so long, I wonder if I am still able to take another. I wonder even if I remember where the road was supposed to lead. I think, though, if the Voice said “do this,” I would do it. I would be relieved to have a guide instead of slashing through the underbrush on my own all the time, unable to see ten feet ahead. Any time, Driver, take the wheel.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

January 24, 2009

Yesterday was extremely social. Jason and I had coffee together in the morning, then went to the studio where we assured each other that the room was much too cold to work in yet. He set up all my light fixtures–which I had actually moved up there for storage, but no matter–and replaced all my incandescent light bulbs with those twisty energy-saver ones. He fussed at me at breakfast for drinking sugar-laden hot chocolate. He applauded my recent faithful return to the YMCA with enthusiasm. All this makes me smile inside. I’m not used to anybody taking care of me. Moved my lap top into the smaller studio, where I can make a stab, at least, at creativity in an unaccustomed space. Jason notes that I would work better there if I fixed it up a little–it looks exactly as it is, the rummage left from my moving my painting studio upstairs–but the fixing up impulse in me is exhausted for the moment.

Jason’s exhortations, added to others in the past, led me to buy a Blackberry, which I am still wrestling into submission. The man at the phone store was a self-declared nerd, and showed me how I could download, among other things, boxing and racing games, and the ancient, Ur-version of Donkey Kong. I passed, but accepted the website in case I changed my mind. Nathan the phone man said I sent out joyful vibrations. I was glad of that.

Departmental wine and cheese in the Common Room. We are convivial without being exactly friendly. That must be right for us.

DJ and Kyle and I joined MP at Scully’s, to comfort him, or perhaps help him celebrate, his temporary return to bachelorhood. Afterwards, DJ and I scooted around to Commerce Street to take in a little of the Asheville Fringe. In the past I have not sought out local Fringe festivals, assuming them to be a sort of salon des refuses, where works which maybe shouldn’t have seen the light of day, do. I’m not sure that’s not the case, but I had not added into the mix the question of fun. The evening was great fun, belly-laugh and jaw-cracking smile fun–whatever vibration it had artistically. An earlier show ran over at the BeBe, so DJ and I had beers at the Thirsty Monk, which I liked, and which was full of former students, now drunkenly and rather contentedly unemployed. The show we saw was Chall’s production of Rock Saber, by Julian Vorus. I’d seen Vorus’ work at No Shame and thought it of exceptional promise. Part of the charm of Rock Saber is that it starred buddies of mine, each of whom covered himself in a kind of glory, playing to the hilt caricatures of the drugged-out life of the 5th-rate rock and roll band. The piece had exuberance to recommend it, a sort of boyish energy and gleeful vulgarity which sailed it out and over any criticism that it really wasn’t about anything, much. Gleeful vulgarity is one of my favorite things, and I laughed practically from beginning to end. Vorus has great talent. His verbal skills are superb, but he needs a vision worthy of those skills; he needs some shade of Cervantes or Voltaire peering over his shoulder, guiding him to something more lasting than the peal of laughter. Not that there’s anything wrong with the peal of laughter.

Commerce Street was alive with kids, not only at the BeBe for the plays, but down the street at a café, whose hundreds–or at least dozens-- milled around in the bright light inside and spilled out into the street in their costume shop clothes and their earnest expressions. It was beautiful. I will keep to myself that it was lovelier than Galway or Leicester Square, places I thought couldn’t be surpassed in youthful celebration. Students have mentioned the café, in such a way as to make me think it is dedicated to poetry. Obama’s inauguration and the crowd outside the poetry café on Commerce Street have been the best things so far this year, the things that give me a smile with a foundation of steel.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

January 21, 2009

Can scarcely type for shivering, having just come in from the cold, from a Titus rehearsal made exhausting by too many directors.

The Inauguration is still the talk of friends and airways. For ths first time since Clinton I can bear to think about politics. For the first time since Bobby Kennedy I am joyful about politics.

Inaugural Poets was a triumph last night. Cantaria was excellent; the Dead Poets were sublime; the Provost was inspiring; the featured poets were each worth a listen, and most of us considerably more than that. I haven’t been thanked so much in recent memory. It was a good thing, and I am happy to have done it. Our little voices sounded at the opening of an age.


The Inaugural Poets

Humanities Lecture Hall, UNCA
January 20, 2009

House Music by GREENWAY (Tom Dolce, CoCo Palmer-Dolce, Wind Motika)

Greetings from Walt Whitman

Greetings from the City of Asheville: Robin Cape, Asheville City Councilwoman

Greetings from Jane Fernandes, UNCA Provost

Inaugural Poem by Rick Chess

Inaugural Poem by Sebastian Matthews

Inaugural Poem by Ann Dunn

Music by CANTARIA, the men’s chorus of Asheville, directed by Michael Porter

Inaugural Poem by Gary Hawkins

Inaugural Poem by David Hopes

Inaugural Poem by Allan Wolf

Music and Poetry by THE DEAD POETS (Allan Wolf, Tom Tracy, Alex Alford)

Inaugural Poem by Glenis Redmond

Inaugural Poem by Gary Ettari

Inaugural Poem by Laura Hope-Gill

Valediction: Stephanie Hickling, "Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Wheldon

With special thanks to Asheville Public Radio, WCQS

When I came home tonight, a big opossum was on the back stoop. I took him by surprise, and he was the perfect picture of indecision, not knowing whether to run or to freeze. I said, “Sweetheart, I have to get to the door. You’re all right. It’s all right.” My voice seemed to unfreeze him, and he scuttled off the stoop to the edge of the light, where he turned and watched me disappear into the house. Such pity I felt for a creature cold and stupid and frightened in the great cold dark of the world. Heaped my cats’ dish with food, in case that would somehow even things out. Threw cat food onto the front porch, on the off-chance he would waddle around the house and find it there.
January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day. My Face Book friends’ notes are all about how happy everybody is for a beginning more pure and total than any of us remembers. I was too young for the Kennedy glow. This is my moment in the politics of joy.

Gilgamesh stepped aside for Barack Obama in my Humanities class today. It was better to be glued to CNN, taking in history as it was made. I did share my observations about the evident differences in governing style between the two men, as proof for my thesis that the human condition really does change. The inaugural poem was disappointing. No, it was actually bad. I expect every poem read tonight in the Humanities Lecture Hall to be miles better.

Fluffy snowflakes directly out of the north.

Monday, January 19, 2009

January 19, 2009

Our poet laureate cancels her appearance at the Inaugural Poets. I want to fire back, “You’re not that sick, be there!” but such things are not done, or done less often than they should be.

Some reaction to my poem on the radio this morning. Ken Youngblood hears it and asks to publish it in the Hendersonville paper. Turns out he’s actually paying to have it done–

Jason says that my water jar is frozen solid in our be-wintered studio.

Blocking for Titus begins, with J unable to say a line without directing everybody. It’s not that he’s wrong (except for the bit about directing other actors, which is always taboo) but that in wanting it set first time through he’s subverting a process which might reveal something better than the obvious. Though there is competence, there is nothing of discovery in J’s approach. Jason plans to block three scenes; we get through one.

Re-wrote The Handsomest Man in the World.

Gentlest snow.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

January 18, 2009

Kyle’s birthday at Mela’s. I’ve never eaten there that I haven’t thrown up violently afterward (not its fault, but the spice’s) and last night was no different, for I initiated the bathroom of a new (for me) bar around the corner, the Vault (which I like), and when I was finished I felt better, and drank my 7-Up and listened to the Pretenders and the conversations of my friends, and afterwards I convinced DJ (rather surprisingly) to accompany me to No Shame Theater, which was the worst it’s ever been, but still a crowd-pleaser, and everybody (me included) left laughing by the pale remembrance of the disintegrating moon. Casey was in one piece that was touching and rather lovely (that’s one out of fifteen), and Nathan’s song would have been brilliant had anybody heard it. Adam sells the piece he’s in no matter how awful. He like Liza Minnelli, but with brains. I was glad I went. I’m not even that tired, and woke when the light of the aquarium snapped on, a subtle signal if ever there was one.
January 17, 2009

JK is going to Cambridge this summer. The conviction that it should be someone new each time lasted exactly long enough to eliminate me.

Good, hard work on The Falls of the Wyona. The end is within grasp.
January 16, 2009

Still worse cold. I am glad for the work Ken did on my windows and doors.

In his end-of-administration apologia, Bush brags that there were no terrorist attacks on the USA after 9/11. There didn’t need to be. He handed them total victory. They needed only to strike once to cause a gutless administration to change the American way of life as far as it was able quickly to be changed, to cause us to abandon our Constitution and our assumed personal liberties and to turn us into a nation of sheep on one level, and cowards and bullies and torturers on another. That American life changed the way it did after 9/11 is the sharpest indictment of the Bush administration, and one which may see no immediate correction. George Bush handed terrorism the victory. Torture was being discussed on the radio as part of the confirmation hearings of the new attorney general. The new administration seems to be on the side of the angels, but the old one was still trying to talk itself out of punishable crimes. Every military man on earth had just expressed the opinion that no useful intelligence comes out of torture, and two seconds later some Bushite says, “But, what if the person knows something really, really important! Aren’t you going to wish you had torture then??” They didn’t listen. They didn’t think. They didn’t observe. They didn’t imagine. Like dogs they were taught one trick and stayed with it. Now, like dogs who have learned but one, bad trick, they shall be beaten with the stick of history for as long as anybody can foresee.

Friday, January 16, 2009

January 15, 2009

Furious cold. The windows steam and then freeze.

Met three of my classes, and they seem well. Went to three Titus rehearsals, and I don’t know how it seems at all.

Dream at waking. I was looking for space to rent in Syracuse, along Westcott Street, and found a long, oddly shaped space where Westcott Cordial and the bar used to be in real life, though it faced a street leading into rows of old houses. As I was considering the space, a person known to me appeared with a skinny, silent friend. The skinny silent one was a barber just starting out, and my friend was explaining to me how wonderful it would be if I rented the space to him (free for a while) as a barber shop. We explored the rather complicated space, discussing how to fit it out to best advantage. I think I had decided on the barber shop before the dream ended. The skinny, silent friend was a boy from my poetry class a few years back, who attended seldom, said nothing, and presented intensely (even disturbingly) Christian poems.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

W.D Snodgrass

January 13, 2009

W. D Snodgrass is dead. I remember after I’d come home from the debacles of Baltimore, Heather said, “If I were going to do graduate work in poetry, I’d go to Syracuse and work with Snodgrass.” So I did that. I headed to Syracuse determined that I should find a mentor and father in my art, and that he should be W.D. Snodrass. Snodgrass had other ideas. He hated my work–rather extravagantly, I thought. I recall with undimmed mortification the conference we had during my first workshop, where he made clear that he thought my talent was minimal and wondered why I had chosen poetry as my life’s work. I realized during that excruciating hour that he meant something other than what he was saying, but if he thought I was going to give him credit in time to come for administering the tongue-lashing that set me on the upward way, he was going to be disappointed. That I survived his talking-to and kept to the path I set for myself clearly annoyed him. Later, when we did not have class together, and we could find common ground in our mutual interest in ancient music, we were friends. I performed Troubadour songs with both him and his daughter, the Heart’s Needle girl– who played the viol da gamba. His new wife was still a department sensation. She was young, pretty, hardbodied, and wore high leather boots. She treated me as though there were great respect between me and her husband, and that changed my behavior accordingly. I was willing to pretend, and saw the advantage to all of pretending. I took an oral interpretation class from him which was brilliant, and the insights of which I continue to use to this day. I had no particular respect for his work, but I put that to one side as I was choosing him and his university, thinking that’s what a disciple did, thinking I was attaching myself to a man and his discipline rather than the fruits of that discipline. Concerning his work, I never did see what the fuss was about. However keen it was in tracing the outlines of his own emotions, it lacked both restraint and abundance. Though it was full of passion, none of it was compassion. None of it pointed outward. Insight into the human soul was something that cut the sharp edge of self-pity, and therefore to be avoided. His hatred of greatness and his praise for the mediocre was revealing in ways he must not have understood himself. His lecture on how Hardy was a greater poet than Yeats set my heart at ease, recognizing then that there was nothing real to struggle against. I admired that he did not for one moment hide his preference for the attainable height. The point could have been made, though, without the bitter assertion that the Himalayas and the Andes were frauds. He helped me adore Whitman, who seemed to be an exception to his scorn of greatness, perhaps because they resembled each other physically, a detail which I assumed was deliberate on his part. I wanted him to be my master. He declined. He is gone and I miss him, without assuming any right to do so. The obits I have read so far mention his kindness. I’m glad that was part of his nature. I blame myself that it was never aimed at me. We had oral interpretation on the day Robert Lowell died. Snodgrass sat on the desk in the front of the room, batting tears from his eyes. He said, “They are all gone now, Elizabeth, Cal, Randal, John. There is only me.”

I should mention that I did find mentors in Syracuse– Philip Booth, Thornton Parsons, George Elliott, Arthur Hoffman, Paul Schneider, to name a few. It was a good time. And at last Snodgrass and I could lift a glass and laugh like old friends. Only hours like this brings back the sadness otherwise forgotten.

Adam came here to talk about the theater last night, and leave me the script of a play he feels he and I can do together at HART. He sheds a sweetness around him which one wishes to protect, but which is probably strong enough to be its own protection. He bravely declines to remind me that he is allergic to cats when they are crawling all over him.

Dark night, torn veils of snow. Leland installed the gaudiest, pinkest and most candy-resembling pink chandelier in the dining room, which I love with unaccountable love.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Poem for the Inauguration of Barack Obama

For the Inauguration of Barack Obama

I see you, Waldo Emerson, looking down from the white steps
of the white church in the green town square, your shadow
longer than the steeple’s. I see you with your calipers out
to measure the progress of the Republic.
I see you dragging your stepladder to the center
where all the political speeches are made. I see you
climb to the top step, arms outspread like wings,
waiting for somebody to take you up, waiting for somebody
who, with words like a flight of new stairs, with hand
beckoning at open door, will take us out and over.

I see you Abraham Lincoln, stirring on your great stone seat
in the nation’s capital. I see you stare through the Potomac fogs
and the smog of automobiles wondering of the flags that fell
into the dust when you fell will be lifted up by anybody, ever.
People who stand before you day after day
have seen the great head tilt, the eyes turn the slightest turn
to the north and west. You are listening.
Thunder rolled once from the plains of Illinois, and I think
you hear it again, the first report, the gathering of voices
under a troubled cloud fringed with glancing brightness.

I see you, Walt Whitman, eyeing the men in their white shirts
coming out of offices, wondering when, if ever, to announce
the long-awaited wedding between politics and poetry,
the white knot to unite the tenderness and the will of nations.
I know who would lift his beard to the rising moon
to sing the prothalamium. I know who would dance naked
where the real Potomac meets the Potomac of the mind,
with its clear stream watering all the nations. Souls you saw
for sale and sweating in the noon sun have taken the harp
and the scepter in their hands. I hear you dancing on the bent grass.

So I say to you now, you old solemnities with your gray eyes
and your worries and the bit of deafness from the continual bombardment,
you martyrs from the sad gone past, warriors
and nurses and mostly-ignored, poor-dying poets,
breathe deep. Put grandma’s casserole under the checkered cloth.
Take the cider and the moonshine from their alcoves under stone.
Tie the ribbon on you haven’t worn these twenty years.
Come down to the water to drink.
The tables are spread and the fiddlers are tuned,
Come down to the dancing place to dance.

Barack Obama is President now. I’m saying this in a quaint old way
so my grandmother gliding from the ghost of the Shannon
to the ghost of the French Broad, seamless and mystical, will understand.
I’m saying this all down-home and elementary so Sherry from the third grade
and Jesse who fished the ponds with me and red John from the Projects,
who were children when I knew them, and may be children still,
come running unafraid. It is a new day. Have you seen such
gold on the flowers of the riverbank? Come down to the water to drink.
Justice is spreading white cloths on the tables,
and Generosity is heaping them high, and finding room for more.

And I am invoking allegorical characters so that Locke and Paine
and Rousseau and Aristotle under their crowns of laurel
may feel at home, wandering in from their Elysiums, the invitations in their
hands written in bold American, come home, come home.
The President of a Land Made New in an Age Made Just invites you.
You names were mentioned but you never sat down at the table.
Sit now, Walt gossiping at your side and Abraham with his long arms
passing the platter. Come down to the water to drink.
The feast is prepared and no one has been turned away.
I bell thee, I summon thee, I sing thee home.
January 12, 2009

Closed on this house ten years ago today. Still seems like a recent acquisition. I consider it a burden unless I’m looking at my flowers.

Rose with a feeling of vitality and eagerness. Either it’s Glasser’s herbs or a simple turn of the wheel. In either case, it’s better to feel better.

Read-through of Titus Andronicus Sunday afternoon, most of which I had to miss because of Cantaria rehearsal. Orated my first oration, then out the door. Merry group, in the midst of whom I am happy to be. Jason had us introduce ourselves by saying name, character, favorite cuss-word. Poor Nathan chose “cunt” as his (and blamed me for using it in The Beautiful Johanna), and no sooner was the word “cunt” out of his mouth than the feminist chorus blasted forth with, “THAT IS NOT A CUSS WORD!” Didn’t know what expression to hold my face in– busting out laughing seemed out of the question.

Ann, Gary, Laura and I recorded our inauguration poems at WCQS this morning. The program is falling together– though there is always a bit of strain to keep it from falling apart. You remember who is needy and who eases along with the flow. Bless WCQS. Barbra stepped from the heights and made this seem a worthy endeavor.
January 10, 2009

Moon glorious in his rising. I saw him set this morning ice white and far to the north of anywhere I remember him.

Pot luck at Jack’s last night. I’d been so sick and so medicated all my energy went in to staying awake. But I did cook a heroic Brussels sprout and sausage casserole.

Sang for Marty Fullington’s funeral service this afternoon. He was nine months younger than I.

It’s odd that I can’t speak but I can sing. Force is necessary to make those snotty vocal cords resound.

As I rounded the corner of the building, heading for my car after a nightcap at the Usual, I heard the Voice. The voice that is cold and clear, that is truth without nuance. It was the third time it spoke to me. The first time was on Nimmo’s Quay in Galway. The second time was in St. Thomas in New York .
It said, “David, do you fear me?”
Knowing what it meant, I answered “Yes, Lord.”
Yes, I fear that you will waste my life, that you will steal from me my heart’s desire, that this all has been an absurd futility. You will say it is not malice, but that there are reasons I do not understand, and I will half believe you and half not. Three quarters not. It asked, “David, do you fear me?” I think it really wanted to know.

Sometimes Circe cringes and backs away when I make a sudden gesture. I was going to build an similitude out of that, but the comparison is faulty: I have never hurt my cat.

Visited the Irish dance class at the Arts Center, Heather wants to collaborate on a program for her dancers at the Wortham. It formed full in my mind as soon as I saw the dancers enter with their hair askew and their sweaters tied around their waists.

Have written massively in the last few days. Wrote my Inaugural piece. Wrote Cream Cat Cantos. Put together In a Garden Overrun out of little poems, none more than a page, with that metaphysical tone that is a minority–but a strong–presence in my work. Some very old work–Syracuse, even Akron, one, I think, from Hiram. Haven’t written seriously on a play since Chicago: that’s something to add to the ledger.
Strange how many poems I have about my friendship with Dan. It started so lyrical, but–I won’t say ended– dwells in such exhaustion.

DJ fell coming out of church, and when we parted he was in that fury that comes after a fall. If I knew anything to say, I would say it.

Strange, mystical sleep last night. It was light and dark at once. There was a presence in my room.
January 9, 2009

Full moon in the pale lavender of the east.

Wasted the morning (“I was sick,” I whine), but have been productive through the afternoon. Made a homemade dish for a potluck, a concession so rare I hope somebody remarks on it.

Drinks at the Usual last night after choir. I can home heroically tired, with the tiredness you have when you’re a boy and you’ve run all day, lying down under the quilt in delicious pain, almost whimpering on that edge between distress and comfort, feeling the warmth gather around me. The cats shored me up on all sides, as otherwise I might fall to ruin. Not one dream, not one movement until morning.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

January 8, 2009

Morning coffee with TD.

Electric transformers explode with odd frequency, dimming lights and sending concussions through the bright air. Blasting, riotous cold. I shake the air with coughing. I’m wakened at night by the gurgle of my own snot.
January 7, 2009

Went to a Doctor Glasser in East Asheville about my lymphadema. My skepticism is deep and long standing on this issue, assuming that no one can help and those who say they can are after money, but he did make them feel better, even look better, and when I checked his suggestions, they were medically acceptable and backed up by at least as much testimony as appears on the Internet. It pleases me, actually, to be taking colloidal silver, as though I were after a slow cure for lycanthropy. A hundred bucks at the health food store gets me most of the drugs and apparatus he suggested. I remember, though, why I shy away from doctors of all sorts: the complicated self-obsession, the bottles and liquids and timetables, the time-consuming and mind-distracting regimens that compromise life on one side while (allegedly) prolonging it on the other. I would be taking 20 pills a day and spending two hours douching and mummifying my legs if I were to follow the doctor’s exact regimen. A middle path must be found.
January 6, 2009


The Class of 1950 is semi-finalist in the Hidden River playwriting contest.

Spent a chunk of yesterday afternoon painting with Jason. Already he has the effect of slowing me down, making me concentrate of technique rather than the swiftest possible concretization of an idea, which is what my art has been basically about.

Reading Pound, The Cantos, page by page from first to last. I would say “rereading,” but I’m not sure I read it that way even when I was writing my dissertation on him, when I was, briefly, minimally, a recognized authority. I dived in then looking for passages to tingle my emotions or prove a point. I did not read systematically, as indeed the structure of the piece discourages system. Here is the impression I have so far: Pound was lonely for peers he could not find in 20th century– I was going to say “America,” but in 20th century anywhere–so he gathered around himself a gang of Malatestas and Sforzas and Cavalcantis to run with, gave them bantering nicknames and invented an argot for his chosen company, who could engage in war and choose stone for building with equal aplomb. He was not so much the little boy who never got picked for the team, but the little boy who couldn’t find a team to play with, nothing golden and bloody and eclectic enough for him. He stepped into history, and played with emperors.

Adam K came over after rehearsal, and we had tea, and talked about girlfriends and school and the theater, just as if we were characters in a novel. And a transformer blew somewhere, and the lights wavered. He is one whom most people must love on sight. We will see how he carries this blessing through the years.

Back in touch with John Bliss, from the apartment in Syracuse. He says he never imagined that I thought of him, but I did, not only for his beauty, but for his kindness, which I never repaid in anything like proper measure.
January 5, 2009

An artist named Brendan Keough writes in his blog that he and his friends are “looking at nature through the eyes of David Brendan Hopes.”

Small crowd on the street in front of the Lakeshore Garden Apartments revealed itself to be parents (mostly fathers) waiting with their kids at the bus stop. It was sweet. I considered as how a parent in our day would no more have waited with us at a school bus stop (often, as in my case, several blocks away) than have flown to the moon.
January 4, 2009

Venus blazing bright, half moon cut as if with a razor.

Surprisingly good version of Ulysses, called Bloom, with Stephen Rea and Hugh O’Conor.. Reminds of something we forget about that vast text, its pervading humaneness.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Savannah Farewell

January 3, 2009

Attrition to the “real world” left Amy and Bill and DJ and myself in Savannah. We wandered, shopped, drank, till, at my great importuning, we agreed to take the Dolphin Magic tour, which I remembered fondly from my last visit. Our first mate and contact with the sea was Beau, a personable young sea dog who exposed us to a remarkable expanse of his life in a remarkably short time. He described his time at boy-heaven summer camp in Brevard as “Lord of the Rings, with counselors.” We saw, in fact, teams of bottle-nosed dolphins out in the river, including a tiny one identified by Beau as likely the last baby of summer. The baby breached and dived so synchronously with its mother that they looked like one creature with two dorsal fins. When the dolphins first appeared, Beau cried out, “I’m still stoked every time they appear. I’ve got the greatest job in the world!” Beau is waiting for his captain’s license to appear from the Coast Guard, in which he once served. He presented our staying in the river instead of cruising out into the salt marshes as the result of encountering so much dolphin activity close in, though part of the reason was surely that one of the engines had conked out. Coming to shore, we drank, and I got very drunk indeed, and cannot say surely what else we did. Rose in the dark of the morning, cleaned the condo and glided through sleeping Savannah, home. The point where experiences become memories is always sad to me, though I am glad to have the memories. Goodbye Beau, goodbye Jersey Boy, goodbye Ambrosia at the first of morning, goodbye Pirates House, goodbye dark squares and the dim lights of mansions.

Liked the dolphins and the creche best. Liked just about everything. Vacationing in the same time zone has appreciable benefits. Ride home with DJ rich with conversation and silliness. Changes of travel plans and my reluctance to re-assess people who said “yes” with a particular price in mind leave me just under $500 in the hole. Will swallow it in the spirit of the New Year. Will tell anyone who asks where they can go which is not Ireland, "Savannah."

Savannah, still . . .

January 2, 2008

Stephen and DJ and I hit the streets early on New Years Day, veering a little south of our usual haunts. The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist stands out, for its luscious and colorful interior, and the huge Nativity scene that curves around one side of the altar. Mary and the Holy Family are attended by Shepherds and Kings of all qualities, from quite valuable pieces to dime-store plastic, with a heaven studded with descending angels and the rolling landscape of the piece thronged with St Christophers and Lambs of God and St. Francises and Little Flowers; while among them, adoring the Babe, alligators and elephants, dogs, camels, pieces of barnyard sets and fragments of zoo sets, a throng of playful cats near the Presence Itself. Away in the distance, Bethlehem stands in pale adobe lowliness, hung with stars and angels, seemingly birthing new hordes of wonder-struck creatures to cross the bed-sheet plain to the Manger. The little mocker I carry with me thought it was hilarious, but his big brother, the Santa-expecting open-mouthed believer, was struck with wonder. I think if I were an actual child the sight of this Creche might change my life. How is this different from the Eleusian Mysteries, which have nothing but honor in my mind? We think they were holy and solemn because we never saw them. Perhaps they were but toys and bits of tinsel strewn about in such a way as allowed that Spirit in whom Mirth and Holiness are seamlessly conjoined to manifest itself to the believer. In any case, I thought the Saint John the Baptist Nativity Scene profound and beautiful, while being (or perhaps because of being) childish at the same time.

We called the others and drank the afternoon away at McDonoughs bar, and then sat the afternoon and evening away in front of the giant TV, passively swallowing three movies in a row, all uplifting in some juvenile way. We ate again, at the Pirate’s House. So January 1 began in joy and discovery, ended in gluttony, and I suppose it could be worse if the whole year mirrored its first day.

I also had my largely inexplicable laughing mood on me most of the day. It must be a tribulation to all.

When I went outside in the deep of night to be sick, a dozen, at least, large opossums gathered in the dim street lights, attended by three or four cats. I have no idea what I came upon, but it was a strange and beautiful assemblage in the ghost light.


January 1, 2009

Amy and Bill arrived yesterday evening, so the complement is complete. Everyone faced wreck-related back-ups on 95, which must be going through a bad spell, or is the most accident-prone, rubber-neck inducing stretch on earth.

We hit the former-spinster-mansion museum with the statues in front, the Telfair. Its collection is small but elegant and well-chosen. It was lovely to hear the docent misinform DJ about the history of the Black Prince, whose dynamic image was featured both on the wall and on mouse pads. The paintings linger individually in mind, perhaps because there wasn’t the usual surfeit of them. Rembrandt out front held a mockingbird in his hand. The mockingbird–I swear it–froze when he thought anybody was looking at him, so to appear part of the statue. We rode on the Georgia Queen, a riverboat, which really didn’t have anywhere to go except past some warehouses and towering cargo cranes, and then back again. We did see a falcon arrowing over River Street. I did buy enough pralines to make myself sick, my companions sick, our neighbors on the riverboat sick, and finally to provide a New Year’s surprise to the derelict who sits at the end of our drive.

Also toured of that mansion which is made of tabby and takes Regency symmetry to Homeric lengths– Owen Thomas, I think. I was exhausted by sideboards and carved plaster and went out with the others to sit in the winter sun. The haint blue the slaves painted their portions was the best.

Ate Chinese food before we hit the town seeking New Year’s festivities. Our waitress was Russian and had a hard time with the English language, but was quite beautiful. Bill and I discussed how, except for matters of history, Asheville has it over Savannah in every way. Lovely mayhem at the Town Market before midnight. I was happy there, but Jack wanted to get close to the river, and Leland asked me to lead the way, and I plunged through what I thought would be the easiest passage, but when I turned around, I was quite alone. It was a disturbing moment, and colored the rest of the evening, and the end of a finally disturbing year, for me. I was not frightened to be alone, of course, but I was angry. I felt I had been set up-- which is unlikely, I see now by the not-quite-light-of-day-- but for the rest of the evening I felt I was definitely not among friends. Thinking back on last year, too, I wonder if perhaps the world has formed a habit of handing me something a little dark as a parting gift on the last day of the year. Anyway, I resigned my commission as finder-of-sights, whereby we spent the stroke of midnight in a rather odd bar (odd in the sense of not for us, particularly) and were blocked by buildings from the fireworks. The streets were happy with well-wishers as we wound our way home. When we arrived, our row of houses was suffering a brown-out, which was both lovely (for the soft coppery quality of the light) and unsettling. Moments later all the power went out, for many blocks westward (eastward is the river) and we sat in the dark, discussing our nostalgia for the little light that was. Dark in a place dependent on electricity can be very dark indeed. Lying down in dark and closing your eyes into dark is not a proper transition.

I have not slept well here, and missed my customary afternoon naps. Strangely, I have felt no ill effects, but rather continued to be energized throughout the day. I was indulging myself, thinking that feeling tired meant I should rest, when in fact it means (mostly) it’s time to set out for my next adventure.

Traveling at New Year’s diminishes the urge for introspection, but I will reflect a little before the others awake. 2008 began in Dublin and ended in Savannah. Dad’s death was a major and Anna in Chicago a medium-sized disaster, but beyond that the keel was pretty even, and sometimes danced over the waves a little. I am out of debt and, on a minuscule level, an investor, and I enjoy it. Is that the major life change? Perhaps it is. Between dad’s death and a few weeks ago, I thought life had changed more radically than it had, that I had lost interest (curiously, inexplicably) in what had been the central passion of every day and hour before. Turns out that was not the case, but while I thought it was, I discovered that it would have been all right. I would have gone on, and in time may have recognized my new self. But I’m writing again, painting again, and the moment of either a temptation dangled or an opportunity offered by the world has passed. Age tried the doors of my body for the first time, and I understood how hard I will have to fight to keep it bayed. My face is different from the face I remember. At some moments that is almost too hard, and I look away from the mirror or the photograph. I’m pretty much in control of what can be controlled, and that is about all that reasonably can be asked. My father’s last, bad hours signaled that what I must watch in my own future are wrath, suspicion, paranoia. The old tragedy of longing for what is clearly going to be denied to me by destiny endures, but one understands at length what makes one who one is, and without that longing I would be unrecognizable to myself. Still, if offered. . . If offered I would give in one second all that I have for what I want. I would refuse God’s gifts for the fruit of my own will. God knows I would do this without even a glance behind; thus I am fairly sure that the offer never will be made. It is almost too late to accept without absurdity.

Bright morning along the brown Savannah. The holly trees at the door are dressed for Christmas.

Poem and a folded sheet of on Broughton Street after midnight on New Years: It had been stuck into the rough surface of a power pole for somebody to find:

Good thing we don’t wake
Puntas: result: crying child, broken bottle, no crying
Piggy bank–result crying child broken hammer
Puzzler– can’t solve the puzzle
chimneys– children don’t get presents from Santa
Good thing we don’t wrap presents

Savannah 3

December 31, 2008

Full day yesterday, so much so that when I rose this morning I did not take a constitutional, but barely dragged myself to the computer.

Bus tour with the Oglethorpe people, opinionated, amusing, informative. They reminded us 35 times that we were paying $10 and people on the other busses had paid $23. Miss Joan, our guide, began with, “Since you paid for the cheap tour, I’m going to show you cheap sights. Now, to your left is a dumpster. Right beyond that, a ditch.” Miss Joan vilified Yankees and especially General Sherman with understandable bitterness. I know now almost as much about Savannah as I care to at the moment. It is a compact and enjoyable town. Had forgotten the wonderful truth that at first lawyers were forbidden in the Georgia colony.

Walked much and ate little, which suits me, since I caught sight of myself in the store windows, where I thought that belly attached to me must belong to somebody else.

Jepson Center for the arts, with beautiful glass, striking portraits, a striking atrium, and landscapes by a disciple of Romare Bearden that look like me preparing my canvas.

Deep into my customary mode of thinking I should find clubs to join and favorite places to inhabit, and that everyone we meet–such as the tattooed barista at the Ambrosia Café-- is going to be a lifelong friend. DJ and Steve are excellent traveling companions, though it is possible that, if asked, they would tell a different story about me. I am too energetic too early in the morning. Evidently.

Jack and Leland arrived after horrendous delays on 95. We took them to the Pirate House (which turns out to inhabit the oldest building in Georgia) where I finally acquired my hideous pirate skull.

What shall I say to the universe at the passing of the year?

Please, if you can, release the stranglehold you have on my life.

Take care of my father wherever he has gone. I believe he is a child again, and begins this time with health and love. But, of course, I do not know.

Keep me from being the man I fear to be. Lead me to be the man I have not even imagined. What is here is not enough.

Savannah 2

December 30, 2008

Rose before the sun and hit the streets in my green sweatshirt. I found the River Road but a block away, and followed that into town. The strangeness which blocked the streets yesterday and forced us to guess our way to the condo was an underground explosion which set fires and blacked out whole city blocks. Savannah exploded at our very approach. Police cars with their flashing lights were still barricading intersections and workers were still digging under blazing arrays of illumination at that hour. Bought coffee at the Express café on Barnard. Walked with my coffee as the town was waking, feeling the old and thrice welcome exultation of the new man on the new street, free, flooded with possibilities. I was happy. Whatever I felt of this venture and this town before, I am now joyful, the tingle of the outdoors still thrilling my bones a little. When I reached home, the sun was rising in orange splendor at the end of Broughton Street.

Steve arrived last night, and salvaged the night with his sweet candor. He drank an elaborate drink at The Pirate’s House, and they gave him a mug shaped like a skull, which I covet.

So far to this day I say “Glory.”


December 29, 2008

East end of Broughton Street, Savannah, Georgia. Long ride through unaccountably tangled traffic on 95. The Pirate’s House is on one side and a deep inlet on the other, with large ships passing through as though they were on the next street over. The TV doesn’t work. We don’t know where to park. No one is here but DJ and I, nor do we have anything but vague promises earlier on to suggest they might be coming. So far I am not having a good time. But we did walk the streets of Savannah at twilight, and a delicious citrus-y perfume came from the homely flowers of a homely shrub, and the live oaks were a knotty firmament. It is December and we’re walking in our T-shirts. If I had not planned this venture and this feel responsible for everything, I might be having a better time. I’ll go walking again and pretend it’s Dublin.
December 28, 2008

Because I keep track of such things, I know I sent out 2008 pieces of mail in 2008.
December 27, 2008

Napped the nap of the dead early in the afternoon, dreaming vivid dreams that were about and encouraged travel.

Dick Salzer phoned and we talked, for a short time, considering it was one of two conversations we’ve had in thirty years. He seems well and at peace. He is near the head of the list of friends I undervalued.