Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Poem for All Writers

What Became of It

Stravinsky, it is written somewhere,
was entranced by his first contact
with the pianola, imagining, then,
a music free of the unreliability
inherent in human performance.

Oh, how we cry when we think of it:
that first statement of perfection
become the summary
of all forthcoming attempts

without the interpretation of upstarts–
without the play of humidity on the strings–
without the meanness gathered
line by line while our thoughts wandered--
without, let’s face it, error.

Oh, that one first vision, once,
be cut in stone, what was meant
become immortal,
rather than what became of it.
February 28, 2010

Woke early after a day of missed appointments (except for Jim’s rather sweet memorial service, even as he deserved) and an evening of Olympics-watching. Tapped on the computer for a while, when, as I had hoped, the solution to the play Voices came upon me. Now all those corridors are open, and there is nothing left but to run out into the open air.
February 27, 2010

Holding in my hand the first copy of Short Plays to Long Remember, containing my plays Piss and Four for the Gospel Makers. I’ve opened the cover, and read a little, but for the moment I am going to let the experience of innocent expectation linger.

Did a read a little at random, from one of those plays about how affectation is the higher authenticity, a perspective I got over when I had been “out” about a month.

One of the cats was nestled against my chest before morning. I knew it was Circe when she had one of those startle reactions which causes her to speed over any surface, claws out, in inexplicable feline panic. The surface this time was my face, including my right eye, which took a direct hit from her stampeding claw. Had my eye been open I would now be blind. The multiplicity of betrayals contained in that one act have weighted down the morning.

Jim’s funeral this afternoon. Jon’s birthday later this afternoon. Allan’s birthday tonight.
February 26, 2010

Cast of Bronzinos’ Gaze announced. Means nothing to me yet.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

February 24, 2010

Andrew Ruthven will be directing Bronzino’s Gaze in Houston.

I have sometimes looked one last time before I turned right and wiped out a pedestrian in an intersection. I’ve sometimes stifled a satiric comment at someone’s lapse, without knowing that his father or his cat had died that very day. I’ve sometimes –almost always, now that I think of it–been saved from doing to another that which cannot be redeemed, and when that has happened I have thanked the Lord most copiously. I thought of it watching the Olympics last night when the Dutch speed skating coach cost his skater a gold medal by commanding him into the wrong lane. Before multiples of millions of viewers, he ruined a hopeful boy’s life– a chunk of it anyway–and immediately many of those millions began the mantra, O thank God it wasn’t me.

Presided over a freakishly well-attended Friends of the Library Board meeting this afternoon. I felt like a hippopotamus picking up a pea.

Cold returns. I can’t put enough on.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

February 21, 2010

Extravagant dreams for two nights. First it was an epic dream of living in Ireland. My two roommates were Nick Morgan and Margaret Scott. I forget what we were doing, but it was big, wide, joyful. Last night there was a sort of community along a river in the midst of a big city, and one met all one’s friends at camping places along the river, only they were young and unspoiled, as one first knew them. There were campfires and music and sex, and the city gleamed not too far off. It was a sort of Never-land. The dreams seem to be predicated on the impending release of the sabbatical.

A burlesque at the Arts Center last night, by a group called Bombs Away Cabaret. It was rough; it needed a firmer directorial hand, but it was amusing and, in places, well-wrought and sophisticated. The dancing was great. The story line was awful. The singing was adequate. I’ve seen as many naked boobs as I need to see for a while, but I admired the boldness, the glee, the not-infrequent wit. The jokes were actually funny. The crush of cigarette smokers on the porch was so great that one’s eyes stung with the smoke even though nobody lit up inside, enough was carried in on coats and hair. The show was a benefit to pay the medical bills of Jo Carson, whom I haven’t see in twenty years, but whom I remember fondly. It’s difficult not to use the event as an exhibit concerning how the people who think the American health care system is fine as it is need electro-shock treatment. Paid for by themselves.

Man in Mountain Java yesterday, with heavily tattooed arms, close cropped hair, a thick silver necklace, and a smell of patchouli off him. He sat in a chair by the fire reading a bible.

Shepherd’s True West at NC Stage this afternoon. The elderly were out in force, taking advantage of the daylight and the early hour. I had found a stack of free drink coupons, but didn’t have enough intermission to get really smashed. The vigor of the dialogue early on makes one think there’s more going on in the play than there really is. One sits back, then, and appreciates the skill of the actors, which was considerable.

Woke at 4 this morning to the sound of the big racoon knocking the lid off the can containing the fifty pounds of sunflower seeds. I ran out to prevent the theft, but when I turned on the light, there he was, hesitating, turning back, then looking at the door with his narrow, piercingly melancholy eyes. They said, “I can’t help it if I’m hungry. I remember you feeding me from your hand when I was a baby.” I turned off the light and let him forage.
February 20, 2010

Another day of endurable temperatures, another day at the studio, surprising myself with diligence and lack of ineptness. It’s lonely without J, but I can hear Heather trying to shush her barky dog, hear the glass blowing boys laughing their strong man’s laughter. Everything that happens in the street I can see from my window. I smell turpentine on myself. Encountered Drew in the stairway with a dramatic-looking friend visiting from San Francisco. Pete is a Japanese-American whose face is a fierce contrast of black and pale, and whose dark eyes seemed to be all pupil. He was too close to stare and determine whether that were actually true. Angelic and demonic would be equally apt descriptions. Pete and Drew were wanting to take pictures of “solitude,” which include a shot of a naked man at a party, wearing only the head of a dog mascot. I think I was meant to volunteer, but I did not. Big pile of dog shit on the floor as I exited, apparently just in time.

It would be interesting to figure out why some days are good for painting and other days are good for writing, and why some days are either good or not good for both. My deep conviction is that the impulse that leads to painting and to writing is one impulse, but if the source is one, the tone and environment are not. I would not have been able to put into words the source and meaning of what I was painting today. But I can always. . . put into words what I put into words.

Kyle phones that Jim Tucker suffered a brain aneurism and is in the ICU. There was a time when he and Jack and Steve and Randy were the steadiest components of my social life. We spent New Years and birthdays together. I was playfully in love with him for a while, and fought the urge to tamper with a committed relationship. I drove him home when he was incoherent with drink. Jim was weak and sweet. His was a life that was never allowed to flourish, but also, until now, never quite allowed to languish. Always missed him. Never sought him. Now that pattern is frozen in eternity.

He is being kept alive until his organs can be harvested for transplant. I suppose modern times soften the term “ghoul” a little.
February 19, 2010

Watched the handsome American win the figure skating last night. I was on everyone’s side as they were skating. Weir was robbed, though. The difference between Evan, the American, and Evgeny, the Russian, was the difference between fire and ice.

Level of exhaustion last evening which must be analyzed. Why so worn? Why did the days leave such a grueling impression behind? The drama class is contentious, but in the past I have usually found that invigorating. It is time and more for that sabbatical.

But, today, a winter diamond. My studio was endurable, so I painted merrily. Heather banged away next door, setting up her studio, knocking stuff off my walls trying to attach them to hers. She blocked all her beautiful natural light, being a potter and, I guess, not in need of it.

Did a sort of stretch-yoga class at the Y. I still feel grand after it. CM was there, blissfully oblivious of ignorant of how universally her retirement went unnoticed.
February 18, 2010

Blue dawn coming slowly, darkening a little, as if moving backward.
February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday.

Tatters of flying snow over condensed ice-snow on the ground.

Went to Ash Wednesday services, determined to take Lent seriously this year, or, as my bitter twin would say, to emphasize this bit of the unending Lent. The bishop preached. He looks like a boy.

The university has awarded me Professional Development Leave for the fall. I pushed so hard for this, spat out such bitter recrimination at its denial in the past, that when the letter came I didn’t know what to do. Take a deep breath. Make it count.

Obsessed with the Olympics, trying to decide if I would have taken up snowboarding if such a thing existed when I was young enough. Syracuse would have been perfect.

I look behind me as if there were ghosts in the room. I’ve lived here so long they could be nobody but me.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

February 14, 2010

Gregorian chant before first light.

When this particular snow began to fall, I determined to go as I had planned to go to a reading by friends and students at Downtown Books and News. Driving was iffy, so I walked. I got within sight of the building when I thought, “This gesture is hollow. The event has been cancelled, or they won’t care whether I am there or not.” Walked back, had a salad and some drinks at the Usual, watched the snow pile up. Realized that my sudden lack of enthusiasm was not what it seemed to be, but my body telling me it was sick and wanted to go home. Watched opening ceremonies for the Olympics with DJ. They made whales swim through the floor. Spent the next day sleeping.

Last night it was Michelle and Kenn’s Mardi Gras jambalaya party. I felt mildly uncomfortable there last year, but this year was wholly mirthful. and when Kelly (my ride) wanted to go home, I was a little regretful. I didn’t know any more people this year than last, but maybe I fell in with a different crowd, for though their commonality seemed to be that they all had kids of the same age (6 or 7) I found their talk fascinating, and the handsomeness of the men (and the beauty of the women, now that I think of it) way above a random sampling. Kenn is an artist; why shouldn’t he have beautiful friends? Heard from Pam a run-down on the new art museum, which sounds not only spectacular but almost miraculous for this town at this time.

Took K and M’s beautiful child Julian a Pluto dog toy that I bought on Ebay, thinking it might be a replica of the toy I loved as a child. It wasn’t. Later, phone call from Michelle that Julian had taken his new Pluto dog to bed with him. The little redemptions add up, we hope, filling the gaps.
February 12, 2010

Vivid dreams. I’m holed up in a big hotel room in Russia, making difficult phone calls to discover the origin of my recurring phlebitis– it seems someone began long ago to pour a kind of worm into a fountain at Akron University, and that’s where it all started. In the dream I rack my brain to discover how knowledge of the source equals knowledge of the cure. The helpful Russians are all the time giving me phone numbers that I don’t know how to use.

Gray dawn, after a succession of gray dawns.

There is an actual time conflict, thank God, with the chorus fundraiser, but I wouldn’t be there anyway. The fact is that I don’t want to be represented to the public by drag queens. A straight man doing drag as a vaudeville act is funny. A gay man doing drag is vicious. A gay man doing drag defuses the straight word’s anxieties about men loving men by saying, “don’t worry, we’re really just girls after all.” It makes us clowns and eunuchs, snowy-white step-‘n-fetch-its that the straight world would never take seriously. You were right all along; we’re not really men. It’s as homophobic as a Kansas preacher with a gays-to-hell billboard.

I have friends who’ll say, “Oh! But drag is fun.” Maybe it is. So’s dressing up in leather or Marine uniforms or cowboy hats. Do that instead. Let them be a little afraid.

Light snow, coming down fast.

Ginger sent me a picture of her son Sean– 10 years old–in her Christmas card. A smiling kid in a red t-shirt, against a green wall. He has his mother’s eyes. I keep the photo by my keyboard as a kind of anchor. I don’t know what’s being anchored to what, but there it is.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

February 9, 2010

Rage over this and that. Rage over the time-gobbling, reductive, redundant process of “assessment” at the university. Fulminate for hours against it in my heart, but the worst it is is a sort of infantile retelling of an old story in words a new and business-obsessed administration can understand. The goals are, essentially, my goals, if set by a process antithetical to the Academy. All the important parts are left out, but the important parts cannot be measured in the way our reductivist colleagues wish to measure, but, I am assured, assumed, so let all that be at peace.

I think, finally, in the ensuing episode of my life I have to leave indignation behind. Like some actors and Shakespeare, I am prone to it, but not very good at it. I do not always know where judgment ends and self-interest begins. I do not always know when someone is evil and when he is simply blundering. I do not always know battles I am meant to fight from those upon which I am meant to turn my back. I wonder if I’ve ever accomplished anything by striding to war in the full armor of indignation except the shortening of my own life. Leave that behind. Practice that smile which can be taken either for serenity or idiocy.

Wordsmyth wants a headshot. I have never had one. Time to obsess about that.

Take up the gavel of Chairman of the Warren Wilson Friends of the Library tomorro afternoon. It is absurd on a number of levels--
February 8, 2010

Wandering the valleys of wrath. This happens from time to time, and I don’t know whether to blame indignant discernment or hormones.

I listed my grievances about Cantaria to SC. When he summarized them for the Board, I sounded like a bitchy malcontent. Maybe it comes down to that, and the reticence I prize in myself is not, actually, nearly enough.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

February 7, 2010

Tired of unending winter. Sleet and rain alternated yesterday. This morning is too dark to see whether it is sleet or rain blocking the sky. But I resolved my circuit breaker problems and worked at the studio all Saturday, painting through most of it, but also reading through the balance of the scripts that had been sent to Black Swan. There are so many playwrights, so many plays, and few of them what you would call bad. There are reasons for not producing most of them, but clear and obvious reasons for having written them. I hope some angel keeps track of all the honest effort that goes unrewarded in the world. Jolene was also persuaded to change the location of the router, so the building is now flooded with WiFi capability. Hurrah all around.

Cantaria board meeting this afternoon, where it may (or may not) leak out that I am no longer singing with the group, at least for this semester. We are crossing too many lines at once– from concert choir into show choir, from fun into camp–and I’m not going along. I’ve fought the battle before, but now I feel that my heart is no longer the group’s heart. I don’t mind being outnumbered. I do mind being stubborn and out of step. If I’m not those things, the tide will turn.
February 5, 2010

Stormzilla fizzled a little here at its southern rim. We had an hour of freezing sleet blasted away by gale-like winds, and then hours of miserable, penetrating rain. The electricity flickered just enough to crash computers, so here I am on a battery-driven laptop to ease around the frustration.

Joy in The Beautiful Johanna and associated linguistic exuberance have led me to begin a new play, which I’m calling Voices.

Went briefly to the studio, but it was too cold, and I had thrown too many breakers to get enough light.

Crawford’s hyacinths fill the rooms with fragrance.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

February 3, 2010

Unsurprisingly, I took a dive into phlebitis on Monday morning, responding, I suppose, to the stress of the play. Caught it in time, and spent only one afternoon class and one night on the rim of unconsciousness. The chills cause muscle spasms the next day, but it has been a thousand time worse, so I go about rejoicing at dodging a bullet.

Cast and crew at the playwriting class Monday night, brilliant and expressive. Continue my joy in being associated with them. I don’t quite miss it (remind me never to produce again), but I’m overjoyed that it happened. All was well. The negative comments come from people who would scorn a cure for cancer if I’d discovered it. I do provoke people. My defense is that I seldom mean to.

We have a day between a storm and a storm. I intend to make the most of it.

Afternoon. Satisfying hours at the studio. I kept throwing breaker switches trying to run the lights and the space heaters at once, so finally I gave up, but I was happy with what I had accomplished. Painted over “finished” paintings to start again, as if I were Jason.
February 1, 2010

The weather allowed us a Sunday matinee, which had a lively audience and perhaps the best performances yet. The weight of anxiety was off me, and I enjoyed the play for the first time thoroughly, breaking into tears in Reiner’s soliloquy and not stopping before the end. Strike went liked greased lightning. After strike we shambled down the street and met at Jack of the Wood for drinks and darts. My cast and crew was happy. I was happy. Major success with or without the weather, though now it will be harder to blame people who didn’t show, because they can say, “Well, I TRIED to come Saturday night . . . “

Sound on the street last night–almost constantly– of tires spinning on ice. I watched a white pick-up try to escape from the parking lot across the street. The passenger got out and pushed. It finally, after a last running start from the very edge of the pavement, made it out onto the street.