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.