Sunday, August 30, 2009

August 30, 2009

Meeting of Cantaria in Rich’s garden. I thought it was going to be worse than it was. DJ thought it was just as bad as he expected. By this he meant that some people still blame MP for wanting excellence, and some people really don’t want excellence at all, but a sort of party with a theme. I don’t know what I want. I want a chorus of Thrones and Principalities that order and delight every ear that hears them.

We had nametags with glue on the back. I came home and stuck mine on Circe’s back. I thought we were playing, but her reaction was immediate and ghastly. She ran off, panicked, trying for a second or two to scratch or shake the thing off, but, being too afraid, would take off running again before she made any progress. I had to trap her in my room and close the door against her frantic escape before I could get close enough to pull it off her myself. She disappeared under the dresser for a long time. I couldn’t understand what would cause her to react that way to something which couldn’t actually hurt, something the likes of which she could not have experienced grievously before. But mostly I thought how inscrutable are the minds of others, even if they are a cat, how their strengths and weaknesses remain invisible until the unsuspecting moment.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

August 29, 2009

Early morning. J has me eating a protein supplement, claiming it would raise the metabolism and keep drowsiness away from of my current exercise-and-diet regime, and he seems to be right.

Ran into Michael C’s birthday party at the Usual; hiked to Darren’s at Asheville Pizza & Brewing. Festive, unexpectedly low-key in each case. My own birthday Tuesday looks to be almost uncelebratable, with all the duties that hedge it about.

Accomplishments slender for several days, but I have been happy. Concentrating on classes, exercise, letting the beard grow. I did buy myself a ticket and a hotel room in London for Thanksgiving week. Transferred from Paddington to Russell Square, where I can fall from my front door into the British Museum. Leave the day after Hamlet closes.

Broke the mold of the last few days with a whirl of activity. Exceeded three miles in running today, my mind lost to the pain, and boredom, by running lines from Hamlet in my head. Spent time with J in the studio, though I never actually lifted a paintbrush. Spent time in the office downstairs archiving old poems, and in finding some that could be re-written and resurrected. Progress on that front surprising, gratifying, to me, glorious. The lost have come home to me. Dug away some of the tropical overgrowth of the garden. Scratched many insect bites. Planted sky-blue iris for the spring to come.

Monday, August 24, 2009

An Anniversary

August 23, 2009

Cranky, restless Sunday evening. Choir started back this morning, and I had to convince myself I was glad of it. My voice cracked often and memorably. I wondered if that is a sign of a summer’s disuse or of anatomical change; if the latter, it may be the sad but time-saving door out of my long commitment to vocal music. We had a very long run– from the 7th grade on, at least. I sat in the choir loft wondering how much I would miss it, and the answer came that, at some point, enough is enough. In any case, I don’t think I’ll be one of those codgers cracking and whining away twenty years after beauty and harmony are gone.

Attended Amanda Porter’s recital, which was a masterpiece of selection and presentation. Most of the pieces were unfamiliar, and delightful. Purcell’s “The Blessed Virgin’s Exposition, Z.196" was flatly wacky. Both that and Copland’s setting of Dickinson’s “Going to Heaven” were examples of truly serious music in the service of awful poetry, an intentional frisson which I always find tasty. Amanda’s voice was more under control than at the last recital I heard, a truly supple and flawless instrument of interpretation. She convinced me that songs from Meet Me in Saint Louis could serve perfectly well as Leider. She and three other women sang a selection from Mark Adamo’s opera Little Women. If the rest of the opera is anything like that selection, it is a stunningly beautiful, profound work. She ended with Quilter’s setting of Shelley’s “Love’s Philosophy,” a turnabout-is-fair-play piece, showing that great poetry can be set to trifling music, and the result then, too, if everyone has the right attitude, is fun.

It occurred to me during Amanda’s recital that there is a fine symmetry in my picking up that box of poems when I did, for today is the anniversary of my first poem. August 23, 1966– a teenager alone in his room, bitterly unhappy, having fallen in love with his cabin-mate and having no idea that was actually what happened, but only knowing his misery was inexpressible and without bounds. He was reading a book of Poetry from Around the World, the Arabian section. The moon was rising or barely risen. He picked up a pen, and wrote. He is reciting that poem in his head right now. No ear but his and God’s will ever hear it.

Blame, too, that dark angel, is being exorcized by the last few days. A habit of thought, especially since my father’s death, has been to search back into our family life to see how I was twisted in the ways I think I was twisted, whom to blame, what percentage of my original self is still salvageable. The urge fades. I think now that I was a spirit of almost toxic creative energy born–by some cosmic joke, and not a bad one at that–into the last family on earth which could deal with such a thing– a sort of hillbilly Feanor engendered among accountants and tire builders. No hatred hovered over my cradle, no violent opposition, just blank incomprehension. People would love me to the exact degree that I hid my scary self away. Even infants know how to work this. I lacked Feanor’s galactic confidence, but possessed something he didn’t, adaptability. I was able to sense when people– beginning with my family–thought I was weird or had crossed some line, and was able to veer away and cover. There were doors that could be shut even in our tiny houses. I was able to find a path for my energies that was recognizable and approvable: to be a poet was not recognizable, but to be a scholar was. I found that, dug into that, triumphed with that. It was not me. Everyone, including myself, forgot that it was not me. When I found those discarded poems, I found me, the hidden one, for not one eye but mine has seen any but the few that came at the end, when I began to offer them up for publication. I failed at Johns Hopkins because I was about to give myself over wholly to the scholarly, and my guardian angel (whatever on earth he could be) put the brakes on. I have not know that surely until this hour.

Now that I have said this, I must backtrack a little. My father, as evidenced by the little projects he did with mechanical fairies and toy scenes set in rock walls, could be quite fanciful, if hidden even deeper than I. At the end of his life, when no excuses needed to be made to anyone, he began to paint, fancifully and memorably. I think his reaction to me was less incomprehension than horror, and the horror had to do with his shame at the same strain in himself. Father almost successfully masked a lifelong disgust for his son, based on his son’s being less successful, or less interested, than he in subverting his essential nature.

Here is the strangest thing. I think, after all, it was well. Feanor, given his head, consumed himself and his race. I would have no particular effect on my race, but I could see that those energies, the unbounded Luvah that I could have given myself over to, could have been destructive to me and those around me. The forces of antipathy that, maybe, my parents feared on my behalf really might have come to bear. Running down the “wrong” path gave me a secure and rewarding career, and credibility in areas my natural inclinations would have missed entirely. No one beat me up at school. I did not starve in a San Francisco alley. I did not die of AIDS in a West Village walk-up. I did not become one of those jackass careerist poets who exhaust everybody with illimitable self-delight. The degree to which I am a jackass has very little to do with my art, and that is something for which to be grateful. That I am a solid person is attributable, I think, to the fact that I had to build a far wider foundation for myself than my natal character, if indulged, would have required. Yes, I might have been born amid artists and boundless minds, and gone to boarding school and Oxford and been lifted up for my true self by those who loved and understood me. Would that have been better? Perhaps not. Perhaps not at all. In any case, the experiment cannot be performed. I think it was well. It seems that I have been granted enough life to make good on discoveries made beyond adolescence, and as discoveries go, this is a whopper. I will not say “all is redeemed,” for that is to tempt the gods. I will say all is in the process of redemption, and I am trying to comprehend, and employ. I am trying to understand–strangely, unexpectedly, inexplicably– how lucky I was.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

August 22, 2009

When DJ commandeered my old desk, he found a drawer full of poems, which he put into a box. While attempting to reduce the garage to order, I found that box. It is shocking, grievous, amusing, stupefying to look at the poems now. There are hundreds of them Perhaps thousands. And I know there were five times that many at one point, which I winnowed and discarded, or hurled into dustbins or onto the sides of streets in the grip of one fury or another. The ones I’ve uncovered so far date from the 70's and early 80's, a few from the 60's. I’m going to preserve them somehow. . . slip them in plastic sleeves. . . bind them in binders. Something. It’s not that they’re good, very many of them, but that they are fragments of me. . . pieces of me that had some influence on me, even if, like Sauron’s ring or Voldemort’s horcruxes, I was not in contact with them, had forgotten that they existed. They make me laugh. They make me sad. The last thing I had planned to do this weekend was to deal with them. I did, in any case, write and write back then. Three, four poems are dated sometimes on the same day. Some are paths that led to the spot I inhabit now. Many seemed to be dead ends, or derived from energy not really my own. In my hand I hold “Tellus,” typed at Koinonia in 1973, which was to be the culminating statement on my experience in Baltimore. It mentions almost nothing real, but it is very lyrical, a bird of paradise beating its wings over a jeweled forest. It was written with blood. There may not be a single line in it I can use today. It is grievous, amazing.

I remember now I stopped, walking home at night, on the corner of Beaumont Avenue and York Road, to sing the verses as they came to a great oak, who I assumed was the only being who would listen to me. I thought, “When I vanish as blown smoke, the oak will remember.” I touched its bark with my outstretched hand and whispered “Tellus.” I was pretty safe, as nobody but fools would be walking that stretch of street by night. I suppose I really was invisible as smoke. Perhaps that’s what saved me.

Before midnight. Though it was far from what I planned, I spent most of the day with the crate of old poems, sorting them, sleeving them, putting them in order, binding, recalling the circumstances of their composition. Different emotions flooded over me at different times, but the one which remains as the day ends–the one which came upon me finally, and with some surprise– is an emotion of completeness. What I was is restored to me. These are the depths which uphold the breaking wave of the present. It is the sea I sail on, vanished now, hidden away, but massy and deep. It is very well. Most of the poems are quite awful. Or, if not awful, unreachable–in a language very like English, but somehow failing to commit to communication. Reading them as a stranger, I would know that the author was well informed, interested in many things, fond of words, but I wouldn’t know one thing about him personally. I was a miracle of abstraction. Any personal interest was deflected by allusion or verbal complexity. Everything was intellectual, universal, rhetorical, a series of propositions an alert mind was weighing within itself. I looked at poems from when I was in agonies of love over G and H and K, and not one sign of that appears in the work. When I was suicidally miserable in Baltimore, what I wrote betrayed nothing except that I had been reading Pound. Only when I began The Glacier’s Daughters did immediate emotion begin to inform the technique I had been building all those years. Maybe it’s well it went that way. My students embarrass by pouring their real emotions into bad verse. I mildly engaged the intellect by pouring intellectualism and verbal gymnastics into able verse. If I had never grown out of it, my fault would be by far the worse. But I grew out of it. The poems which are very good I look at and murmur, “Where the hell did you come from?” Bad and good, I am glad to have them back with me.

Friday, August 21, 2009

August 21, 2009

Revising The Ghost of All Saints, re-titling it Showings. It’s a good play which I let languish, typically, because I sensed antipathy or resistence. From whom? I don’t even remember. The tendency to throw up my hands in bitter despair is a great flaw in my program. I’m thinking of Ben Lynch, who originated Simon when Ellen played Julian in 1996. He is dead long ago, of an overdose. Sweet, skinny kid. David, who originated the Man in Black is dead too. Suicide, in despair over HIV. Jenifer Paterson is dead. Len Whitaker is dead, stabbed to death on Montford Ave. Maybe that isn’t an especially high mortality count for one playwright, but it seems so. I miss them both. I miss Ellen. The stages were filled with people I never see.

When you open the front door you see a cloud of mosquitos hovering against the white siding. They’re probably everywhere, but visible mostly against the white.

A kid who wants to stage manage for The Beautiful Johanna also wants $500 for doing so. I’m inquiring as to whether that’s a reasonable figure, but even if it is, it’s indicative of the state of affairs wherein technicians in the arts are compensated far more (and consider themselves worthy to be compensated far more) than actual artists. Whatever those thieves and incompetents at Bailiwick paid themselves, they paid me nothing. Despite a contract. In this I am somewhat to blame, being too disgusted with them even to e-mail But, should I have to? I remember being asked in Atlanta to help cover the expenses of the actors who were doing The Faith Healer. Whatever I end up paying my personnel in Johanna, the idea that something will be left over for the playwright, for the father of the whole event, is probably far-fetched. Crown of Shadows made, officially, a profit, but part of that profit was $1000 from me, expenses borne and never compensated. That I might have received compensation for the scripts surely never crossed anybody’s mind. Our light technician, who slept through an entire show, was paid a quarter of the outlay and howled for more. How did writers and artists let it all become such a buyers’ market?

MB has a play in the Turtle Shell summer festival, the one Werewolves of London was dropped from. He sends out notices of it, and every time I see them, I cringe. I have prayed for the failure of the festival. Of course I worried that might be a nasty and unworthy prayer, but maybe it’s a just prayer. Who knows? I figure if it’s unjust, God won’t listen and no harm will be done.

Tonight I sit, apparently, on the chair of justice. It’s not all that comfortable.
August 20, 2009

Ancient music on the CD. Outside, rain alternates with the music of crickets and night insects. Even at this late date, I have to break myself of ever new, ever emerging bad-- or at least distracting-- habits, in order to get down to work. You can spend all night watching videos, reading ever-diminishing-in-significance bits of news on the Internet. Everything conspires to trap one in distraction. I do not think it is accidental. I do not know whom to blame.
August 19, 2009

The first golden waterlily blooms in the water garden.
August 18, 2009

Thought I was picking up last night’s neglected mail, but instead got myself tangled in a bout of weeding and vine-pulling on the front terrace, part of my endless war against the wild clematis, against the spirit of chaos which governs my ground. Was driven out finally by awakened-too-early grumpy bees, so I’ll come back this afternoon to see what progress was made. Was stung on the left nipple. That was twenty minutes ago. The spot feels, oddly, wonderful now, as though some elixir was injected after the acid.

A fat raccoon is battening on my tomatoes. I am only mildly resentful.

My sister sends me a news report about the murders of gays in Iraq. Eventually one conclusion is inescapable: too many of the world’s problems stem from, or are excused by, public religion. If it’s not the Muslims, it’s the Christians. I wish it could be better understood that all public religion is false, and the only true faith is private, taciturn, modest. All prophets are false who do not speak to the individual soul, and to that alone. The Nazis were interesting in that they based their murderousness on science. This is better, marginally, because at some point science must be verifiable, whereas no such obligation ever impinges upon faith.

Not too grueling opening day of classes yesterday. I did take a whopping nap, though I think a step aerobics class first thing in the morning contributed more to that. I feel unusually energized, as though I had become a somewhat different person over the summer, and I’m excited to see how I’ll behave. Anxious to take her on the road and try her out--
August 16, 2009

Strewn across the kitchen floor is a set of cookware that I’ve had since grad school. It’s aluminum, white, with blue lids and blue floral decorations on the outside. I’ve been acquiring quasi-professional cookware (seeing the Julia Child movie added fuel to this fire), and I was wondering if I should pack these pieces– a couple of sauce pans, a couple of skillets, a Dutch oven– away to make room. They’re cheap, aluminum, hard to clean (being white). But they were the gift one birthday from my father. I think he got them as a premium for opening a bank account. He gave checks, but almost never gifts. I never use them without thinking of the surprise and pleasure of that.

Hamlet rehearsal at HART. It was pleasurable, somehow, even delightful. I reveled in the company, the words, the corporate creation of a thing of beauty. Steve wants me to grow a beard, as the lines suggest. I said yes, but resisted in my heart, out of vanity. My beard is white now.

Strangely sentimental all day. I thought of people I have known in the past. During my scene with Hamlet on the midnight battlements, I missed a father terribly, though I don’t think it was actually my father I missed. Emotions are always something of a jumble, and mine have been particularly jumbled, perhaps by the beginning of a new school year, perhaps not by that at all.

Brought Landscape with Stigmata home to hang on my wall. It is the best I’ve yet done.

Wrote a poem to God:

To Him on a Summer Evening

Like some carved-in-an-instant image of the panther
in full flight from his precipice upon you,
arcing in beauty that is the ending of a world;
as a shotgun out of its case, random and annihilating;
as the sea opens at the ship’s knuckles knocking,
seeking to go down, go down--
you have you been in this life
which is all the life I know of.

Perhaps I overstate. Like the hourglass spider
under the rose. Like the merchant who packaged
the wrong merchandise, far less than what was paid for,
and again paid for. What was sent we did not order,
cannot be used, and of the real thing all supplies
are, apparently, exhausted. The shimmer of garments
at sight’s edge. The beckoning
of those cities called “dreadful” in the stories.

Like the voice of one calling in dreams, one now long dead,
and you wake to sob again as you sobbed then,
aloneness in the prison built twice, in the dart twice shot-
As the lover turning away, and your hand out,
and he could take it and the story have a different end,
and you know, yet, never, never--
as the work of your hand is lost in the chaos of works,
and your labor in the retort of mockery.

O, yes, O yes,
have driven the argosy upon the rocks
because I heard you singing--
Have stepped into the fire because the gold was
your garments dancing, the scarlet was the rose
that lay upon my bed at morning--
Have plunged into the darkness for that fragrance
that was you, so I thought, beyond, fleeting and secret.

Be sure of this. My sadness would climb to heaven
and throw you down. My hunger would chew your name
from the pages of the books. I would whirl with my red hair
in the avenues blaspheming down all the stations of the night.
I would, if sung to, silence.
I would, if called to,
turn from all.
Coming running. And come running
August 15, 2009

Painted well, based on inspiration derived from watching a video tour of the National Gallery, London.

A dazzlingly handsome young man has a display of sketches on the second floor of the Phil Mechanic. The subjects of the sketches then write an anecdote of their lives on the same sheet that bears the sketch. The sketches are pretty bad, and the whole effect is shoddy, though there are thousands of them, and the artist finds welcome wherever he goes. I think that has to do more with his face than his art, but–. He asked me if I would pose for a sketch, and my reaction surprised us both. I didn’t answer, but the look on my face must have been withering, for he physically recoiled. I was ashamed of myself, and made it up to him by giving him hundreds of dollars worth of acrylics to use for his sketches. He filled his bag with the acrylics and went out into the hall and, after “thank you so much,” didn’t speak to me again. I understood. My face had betrayed something it shouldn’t have, and even I don’t know exactly what it was. It didn’t have to do with his sketches. It had to do with my usually-under-control-but-nevertheless-advanced dread of seeing my own image. In photos, even as a young child, I am clearly trying to shrink from the camera. There is on exception. It is a photo of me on my first birthday, in the kitchen of the apartment at Pond View, one lit candle in the cake before me. I look so happy. I am pure happiness, with no self-consciousness at all. That was practically the last time.

Departmental potluck convivial. A great oak stands dead in their forest. Four pileated woodpeckers rattled and shrieked in one cherry tree.

Friday, August 14, 2009

August 14, 2009

Weird exhaustion, but like the day itself, when I look out on the heavy, damp grayness of it all.

Seated amid a (virtual) heap of completed poems, stories, novels, plays, that have not been submitted anywhere, or grossly under-submitted. I work two hundred days on new material for every day I spend selling that material, and though I would like to present that as purity, on that one day it is resentment and frustration. Tonight I’ve tried to make inroads on the heap, but each gesture is like swimming in lead, or moving at all through this thick, cement-colored, torrid atmosphere. I have to look out on the marigolds to remind me this is the world. I know one is supposed to have an agent for this, but are there agents who are actually beneficial? I have had agents, but never one who was beneficial, never one who associated with anything which actually sold, precious few who were. . . let’s be honest, sane. Like a runner with a bad finish, or a swimmer with a lousy butterfly, or a singer with iffy high notes, I fall short as a writer on this issue of marketing, and my unhelpful response to this shortcoming is fury.

Blessed Event

August 13, 2009

Steve the fish guy brought “rainbows,” which are indeed beautiful, and discovered that the angelfish have spawned. He said that I could just let the other fish eat them when they hatched or try to raise them up. I chose the latter, and will be getting a tutorial in fish husbandry in the next few days.

Creative writing program think session. At the end of all such events I come away assuming I am the least careful and painstaking of everybody.

Took the Myers-Briggs online It says I’m ENJF. Didn’t seem right to me, but maybe skepticism towards like kinds of tests is part of being ENJF.
August 12, 2009

Day spent at a conference center near Hendersonville. I think it’s probably a lovely spot, though it was hard to verify that under the driving rain. Our day in the rainy woods was an extended attempt to find something to fix in an institution that isn’t, at any point, to any credible degree, broken. Though we could have been forging ahead in any number of ways, we forged a little sideways, and a day was gone. Yet, the fellowship was good, and it was well to see for sure that nothing much needed the attention we turned upon it. I think I could have assured everybody of that before we began. Perhaps not. Perhaps if I had gone about my preferred labors a roof would have fallen in on my head.

Went to the Y, stumbled upon a zumba class, which turned out to be exactly what I needed to flush the day away.
August 11, 2009

Thunderstorm again, though milder than yesterday. I only closed half the windows.

J found one of my photo albums from the glory days of Urthona Gallery down on Patton Avenue. It filled me with the most profound sadness, an emotion which informed the rest of the day. What possessed me to do things the way I did? Where are all the people who surrounded me then? Did all that energy merely dissipate into nothing? I think that what I lose leaves me, but what if I drive it away? I don’t think that is the case, but how can I test it? How can I quiz the lost?
August 10, 2009

New record for the mile: 9 minutes 6 seconds.

Thunderstorm of vast power, inches of rain in a few seconds, the trees still visible through my window laid out parallel to the ground, a steamroller approaching from the north. The lightning which I thought had struck quite close had struck willows by Beaver Lake, and laid them out on Merrimon Avenue, backing up traffic and giving the cops something to stare at with scowling uncertainty. Many of the streets were scalloped with tiny, instant mudslides.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


August 9, 2009

Invented a verse form and churned out five poems in it in two days. It is 17 lines, three stanzas of five lines, xaxxa, with a concluding couplet. For some reason the form is extremely amiable to me. I think I’ll call them Dixsepts: 17's.

White Iris

The white iris blooms again in brass-pan August,
as the catalog said it might.
I am grateful for this. Purity and cleanness are not
what rule these torrid afternoons.
She and the waxing moon are white.

My specialty is the making of over-subtle connections,
such as that between the moon and the periodic iris:
their pallor anyone would see;
the frailness, the mutability, the palisade of swords,
these another might just miss.

The moon is coming. The iris stands still, fairly still,
to meet him. The moon, I think is a brilliant man,
searching down and in for an image of himself.
Look, here, the iris, by the world’s whirl made into an orb!
Didn’t notice? I do what I can.

I planted them by the garden path to mark
those nights that promise to be exceptionally dark.

How Shall We Praise the Magnificence of the Dead?

For Conrad Aiken

How shall we praise the magnificence of the dead,
sewn into their dinky, exquisite clothes
amid their towns—it seems to me-- of alabaster?
Glean the junk shops. Sack the archives.
How did they manage?Someone knows.

How shall we praise the magnificence of the dead,
who pounded their empires into scree and dust,
and bore such terrible names as we--
with our augmented firepower and all--
have not yet equaled? Though someone must.

How shall we praise the magnificence of the dead,
their iron cradles and nurseries of quicklime,
who like skaters in some gaudy Games
had their best and worst
rubbed off the stone memorials by Time?

Me, I've kept most meticulous accounts.
The fragments testify. The witness mounts.

By the Time You Get This

By the time you get this I will have planted
a sycamore tree almost too heavy to lift.
I will have written a sestina
which, though bad, will suffice
until the standards for such things shift.

I will have read all these difficult poems
by Spender and Rodgers and their kind,
that are in the book I got as a teenager,
and the like of which I would have
written myself had not-- well, never mind.

By the time you get this I will have
finished my iced coffee and moved on
to some further artistic and improving activity,
concealed behind achievements as a leopard
behind orchids. A night hunter. It is almost dawn,

By the time you get this I will have forgot
what was given, what so dearly bought.

James Dickey Died Owing Me a Bar Tab

James Dickey died owing me a seventy dollar bar tab
I picked up for his vivid drunken self
and hammered proteges somewhere in
I forget where goddam South Carolina.
No house booze for them. Strictly top shelf.

I have alternately gloried in this and
resented it for however many years,
trying to decide whether a brush with fame--
sweating and profane as it was then—was worth
the tribute of a couple of beers.

When I read “The Heaven of Animals,” though,
the ninetieth time, I think it is all right.
I think I should have bought him something
further to take home, something to
comfort through the poem haunted night.

At the cycles' center prowl abroad such men.
They fall. They are torn, They rise. They walk again.


The lad under the umbrella has smiled twice.
The pourer of coffee is – well, flirty.
I don't puzzle over this the way some would.
I'm not cursed with excess introspection.
I look to myself the same as I looked at thirty.

You can buy cream in any store
to smooth the dry and flaky spots.
You can tread the treadmill in the gym
to regain the belt's more youthful notch.
And do I do so, ephebe? Lots.

Not vanity, ephebe. Wipe the smirk
of knowing recognition from your face.
I hunger still, is all. I am not ready
for the gray translucent hands to sweep
my feast away and set another place.

One day I'll be set to drop my toys and go.
The playhouse, empty. And you the last to know.

Was driven away from the studio this morning by the loud and infantile behavior of our next door neighbor, not in her space but in ours. She was evidently not annoying J, so I assumed the fault was mine rather than hers, so off I took. As I exited I was called to, and with quivering voice and fainting heart I offered the honest critique J had asked for several times already. I knew what I wanted to say, but perhaps banked fury helped me put it into words. He seemed to think I was right, or at least he didn’t blast me away before company. J is a major talent aspiring to the niche of an eccentric, and perhaps I am here to prevent that. Exactly the reverse could, perhaps, in painting, be said of me. Except that I don’t aspire that much, and am content with being as fulfilled an eccentric as possible.

Seven are killed, including four children aged 1 to 7, when a high speed police chase ends in a collision near Fresno. The alleged offense? a traffic violation. I wonder if the police think of that as a satisfying end. Seven murdered, and nobody will pay. I understand that gangs don’t think of the police as the symbol of civil authority, but rather as a well-armed and advantaged rival gang. There are convincing proofs that they are right.
August 8, 2009

Crushingly hot. Have not recovered from spending the day in the hot studio, where I finished Landscape with Stigmata. My work is totally different in appearance (not so much in inspiration) since Jason came upon it. This is a good thing. It tells me I shouldn’t have been so insistent on discovering everything for myself.

The moon rose in white majesty last night, as far south as I remember it. Hoping for the same tonight, when it is clear, and every aspect will be visible.

The white iris re-blooms, multiply welcome.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

August 6, 2009

Whirlwind trip to Atlanta with DJ. The reasons were to see the High Museum and the Aquarium, and we saw them, but also found a choice neighborhood bar called Sidebar and sat in the Hyatt Regency lobby with a convention of investors from Morgan Stanley. I don’t know what to prize most. The draw at the High was Monet’s Waterlilies, which is big and atmospheric, but I wonder how good the painting actually is. I suppose it doesn’t matter if you’re good when everybody loves you. Saw my beloved Bellini. She understood why I couldn’t dance for her this time. Was impressed by the American landscapes, especially the moonlit ones, and a lovely image of Ninsun on loan from the Louvre. Loved the aquarium. It was full of happy kids. You watched them watching the happy otters. They fed the whale sharks by rowing a bucket of krill before them in the water. The belugas are not organic creatures, but mystical apprehensions shared equally by all.

When I took a bus from new Orleans to Atlanta in 1981, I stayed in the Georgian Terrace, where I made my room into a kind of joyful brothel, with the gleanings of the local bars and the basswood-perfumed streets below. It was a glad time, and I remember it smiling, and I remember how the vast window of my room opened onto a parking lot, all the winged insects of the South beating around the white street lights. I was happy. Robin. Gary. Eddie. I remember some of their names. One night I walked to the new Hyatt in my jeans and grubby t-shirt. I assumed they wouldn’t let me in, but they did. The lobby was a swirl of beautiful women in evening gowns. I looked up into the soaring atrium and thought it was the sort of place that would be forever closed to me. I was wrong. I don’t know that I was fully recalled to that ancient moment when I picked the Hyatt off the list of possibilities, but in any event, there we were, lifting our vodka glasses under the soaring oculus, beside the cream of Atlanta and the pin striped warriors of Morgan Stanley. My secret is that it was exactly the thrill I hoped it might be.
August 4, 2009

Took my first yoga class while thunderstorms ripped through downtown. I cannot sit cross-legged, but that is the worst of it. I feel good now, relaxed and energized at once, as everyone said I would. Cindy, the instructor, says I’m a “natural.” I was just happy not to be the class spaz.

Brief chat with AG, after a long absence. He has a son I didn’t know about, and lacks a wife I thought I did.

J worries about my health. It is sweet. BE did long ago. That was sweet too. We leave too many things behind. Some of them catch up to us again; most do not.

Sound of Carmen from the living room, from my instructional set “Listening to and Understanding Opera.” It’s always something.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

August 2, 2009

Watched the swallows in the sky last evening, riding the winds, too high for insects.

Watched Helen Mirren as Elizabeth I. I think it is the greatest prolonged performance by an actor that I have ever seen,

Poems poured out of me on the Starbuck’s terrace. I asked them to turn the canned music down and they did, ever so slightly.

Painted with J. When the torrent came, we discovered that our studio leaks like a sieve. Either the leaks are new or the rain seldom falls that hard. Came home and napped. It was a long, hard nap, and that was because I was making a chart in a dream. The chart was the way to prove that a child whose ghost haunted the dream had been raped and murdered. It was the only way he could be at rest, and I could not wake completely until the chart was done. I woke as I put the last pictures into place. The Y was closed by the time I woke, so I jogged along the perimeter of Beaver Lake, which I had not done in a long while. I saw a heron and an egret. The shallow water was lit golden with evening light, and fish floated in it like flaws in a jewel. Plants were stirred by turtles rooting around their stems. I stood and looked at the teeming waters, and I was happy.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

July 31, 2009

J and I drove to the Parkway Playhouse in Burnsville for the premiere of JM’s play Esley: the Life and Musical Legacy of Leslie Riddle. The drive through all that green land is, by day, very beautiful, and by night, haunting. I’ve performed at the Parkway, so there was little excuse in my getting as lost as I did. I think I frightened J with the violent level of my not-getting-there-fast-enough frustration. After all my swearing and veering around slowpokes, we arrived with 15 minutes to spare. The playhouse situation reminded me of Penguin Rep in New York– dark wood, golden-agers tottering up and down an easy rake, re-made barn-- except the dress, behavior and, I suppose, life stories of the audience were as different as could be imagined. I think it’s an excellent idea to remember local heroes in plays. The task for a playwright or a producer is to tell the story with a minimum of summary, as though it really were a story. It requires an imaginative re-visioning, and a courageous disregard for received pieties. Esley did not achieve these things. The man was never allowed to tell, or have, his own story. J described Riddle as being presented by the play as the Carter family’s “house nigger,” which I am certain was not the intent, or the historical truth. JM brought on what one thought was a completely superfluous “reporter” to utter big chunks of exposition, until one saw the second act, which was, except for the interruption of songs already heard in act one, entirely made up of this “reporter” reading Riddle’s biography off a sheet of paper. Had Rob not memorized his lines? Was this the way it was actually planned? Incidental matter such as the accidents which robbed him of leg and fingers, courtship and marriage, indeed anything which threatened action or discovery, were left out. I’d guess this was in the name of decorum, so Riddle could come of as a humble and talented colored man, lifted up by the attentions of a famous while family. If he went whoring or got plastered or lay in wait for an enemy or fell in love or snapped back when he was turned away from a lunch counter, it was not told of. I did enjoy the evening after all-- the music and the pretty girl playing Maybelle Carter and the opportunity to investigate another playwright’s skills-- which I suppose is the final judgment.

Finished This Paradise Apart for Black Mountain.
July 30, 2009

Email from Turtle Shell Productions:

"We were unable to cast your play Werewolves in London {sic} and will have to pull it from the Festival. I am sorry and I wish we had more time in the search."

I pursued the matter, and pried out a little more information, but that seems, finally, to be the end of that. I am not good in the presence of the arbitrary.
July 29, 2009

Yesterday on the cross-trainer at the Y I broke my old mile record, at 9 minutes 30 seconds. Molasses, I know, but blue blazes for me.

Summary of the past week: Merce Cunningham is dead; Michael resigns as Cantaria director.

Jason and Richmond and I have lunch at the new café under my old digs at the Railside.

Working on the Black Mountain piece. The thing that strikes me is that the faculty and visitors at Black Mountain College were far more significant and accomplished than the students. What does this say about the kind of education it offered?