Sunday, May 30, 2010

May 30, 2010

Came down the back path when I heard Kelly whooping and shrieking next door. She ran up the hill as I was walking down. The drama was this: she had uncovered a big black snake while lifting a pillow in the back yard. Now, I have long coveted a snake or a toad on my property, and wondered why my unmown lawn and multitude of hiding places had not attracted some before now. Zach and I maneuvered the snake under the fence into my tangle of ivy, and I was at last fulfilled, though it is possible that it has always been my snake and, for the reasons mentioned above, it was never noticed until it wandered into the neighbors’ trim and light.

Wrote yesterday morning on my new play, then painted well–I think–then returned into the evening to Phil Mechanic to a community benefit festival with a collage theme. It irritated me for the first few minutes–the chaos, everything late and ragged and cobbled together, the studiously unwashed lesbians, the squall and drama of children tumbling onto concrete, the self-importance of minor artists on cell phones, the general conviction that slovenliness proves authenticity, but the judging demon passed and I began to enjoy myself. No one had suggested it was anything other than it was, and everyone who willed to do so was having a good time. So, thus I willed. M, the puppeteer with whom I have thought to collaborate, was the first thing I saw. The puppets are truly magnificent, and he manipulates them beautifully. His ad-lib spiel was not working for him, and I kept thinking that a good script would create an evening of glory. There were many tiny kids in their fathers’ laps–the scene was quite beautiful for that, actually–and their eyes were rapt, their attention unwavering. The dads smiled over their heads, every bit as engrossed. Richmond was there, encouraging a community mural, and the sight of him gladdened my heart. One little girl wrote “You poop” under Mitch’s portrait. I snuck up behind her and said “Did you just write ‘you poop?” and she burst out in a giggle of “yes.” The buffet was exquisite. I wonder who provided it? There was a fashion show with one of my studio mates showing her recycled clothing– that is to say, clothing made from bits and pieces of other things. She had found a considerable number of very pretty girls to model for her. I’d hardly seen MB since she and Ellen parted, but there she was, doing exactly what I had known her for before, bulldozing to the left and right, pushing chairs and wrenching lights out of their sockets to alter the environment to suit herself. These changes are never improvements, but at least we can be certain that MB was there. There was unattractive drag. The bearded chubby boy was meant to be Dolly Parton, I guess. I’d actually come to the event to see Thomas’s play, but there was a misunderstanding about adult content (the audience was conspicuously NOT adult) and I left to get off my swollen legs before the play went on or was cancelled, whatever finally happened. In some ways I didn’t get it– why present to the public things that are not the best they can be, things that need to have excuses made for them, that need to have an alibi? Yet I see the attraction of doing arty things without the burden of actual ART-- of juggling and dancing before the temple door. People were having a good time. I was having a good time, too, though it was mostly from watching them have theirs.

Thomas Murphy served his first morning as deacon, and he did lavishly well. His benediction at the end was so full of young male assurance that the whole congregation left smiling.
May 29, 2010

So dark the LED lilies still gleam on either side of the garden walk. There was enough light for me to run out and inspect the garden after yesterday evening’s hailstorm. I expected the worst, but, squinting through the pale rays of the east, I saw little damage, even to the implausible, spotless orange lily sprung up like an exploding crayon. Lopped off the heads of the valerian, which I would have thought the hardest targets. I had longed for rain, but when it came it was a wrath-of-God deluge, instantly flooding the storm sewers and turning Merrimon Avenue into a series of scalloped tidal waves, great volumes backed up at the sewer mouths. We drove to church in the midst of it, and by the time we got to Pack Square, the earth was dry, and there had been no rain at all.

We had been driving to church to hear Bill Stokes’ organ recital, which was varied and engaging and excellent. People who understand such things remark what an exquisite touch he has, and I believe them. I am not a connoisseur of organ, and it seemed to me bold and clear playing, of pieces, but for one, which I had not heard before. The one was the Vidor which everyone plays to show off. Bill was not showing off, but greeting the music like a comfortable old friend. He’s been here for the better part of the week. It was great seeing him here again, where he fit back and belonged instantly. Dinner with him and other of his old time friends down in Biltmore.

One thing ruined by the storm was a copy of Smithsonian magazine which I’d left on the window sill, in which I was introduced to William Henry Ireland and his forgeries of Shakespeare, notably Vortigern and Rowena and Henry II. Put a plot for a play in my own head.
May 27, 2010

The Internet’s rife with message abut how to deal with predatory cops during the holiday weekend, as though thy were pickpockets on the Spanish steps or jellyfish on the beach.

Distant thunder. I watered my garden anyway.
May 26, 2010

Early afternoon. Just left Nat. What I thought was a workout was not. This is a work out. I’d lie down if it didn’t hurt too much.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

May 25, 2010

I lost my female angelfish yesterday. A few days before, she began staying by herself in one corner of the tank. Her mate would come near her, but none of the others did. Then he swam away too. For a while she would rally and take food. One day she swam toward my hand over the tank, the way she always did, but she seemed to lose interest, and let the other fish gobble the descending meal. The next day she was dead, and I threw her body on the garden. It was the human-ness of it that haunted me, the separation that fish and man both know before the final adventure, the pulling away, the isolation, not imposed, but sought. I have never feared anthropomorphizing. I say she was gathering her last thoughts.

Brian started some moonflower seedlings and gave me one. Today I painted, planted the moonflower, nursed the aching muscles left over from yesterday. I must never before have exercised the insides of my elbows.

On You Tube, watching Bono sing “With or Without You” again and again. Dear God, he was so beautiful.

Thinking of my mother tonight. Don’t even know why. She appears in the corner of my eye. I know I must have sucked the air from the room. I must have taken all the fire for myself, hoarding it in my bosom to pay out in poetry years later. I had no idea I was doing, how I knew to do it, what the consequence would be. I was the only thing in the house that was not quiet. When I think of you now you are a slight figure in white emerging from a sick room, taking the tentative steps of one who has not been part of the world for a long time. You don’t know who I am. I know you are my mother, but what does that mean? She who was gone. You are waiting for me to say something, to do something, but I don’t know what. I don’t read the signs right. I am too little, and then it is too late. I never heard you say “I love you,” and when I said it to you, you were embarrassed, as though I had learned lines from an old movie and was using them wrong. And that was exactly the case. I have to change things in memory. I have to take away the things that robbed you of your life. I have to take away my father’s cruelty. I have to take away my tempestuous heedlessness, my secretive spirit which, once rebuked, never showed its face again. I have to pretend I was the son your handsome cousins back in the green mountains had prepared you for. I have to see you as you were in the photos, a girl of sixteen, carefree and happy, a flirt, an American teenager in the great war when everything was a golden and heroic greatness. I have go back to the place where all turned wrong and turn it again. But I don’t know where that was. You smile in the shade under the trees, but reveal nothing. How could you talk to me? Even then the word was a sword in my hand, flame and whirlwind. I understand why you wanted silence. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I think if you had told me, I would have done it. I was so eager. I was so hungry to do what was wanted of me. I am older than you ever were, and nothing is reconciled, nothing is laid to rest. I remember being in Syracuse the year after you died, on the anniversary. I had class that night, but I didn’t go. I walked through the dark streets with the snow flying around me. Howling. Dark. I was the darkest spirit that there ever was. The light has never entirely come back. I have a picture somewhere. It is the old apartment on Pond View, my first home. You are leaning over me, smiling, lighting the single candle on a birthday cake. It is my face you look at, though. I am so happy. I am so happy.
May 24, 2010

Blazing, various blue and silver day. Had my second session with Nat. The work-outs I have been giving myself which I felt were fairly rigorous were really just marking time. With Nat I see another horizon. If I want to look like him, I have to raise things by several levels. And be thirty years younger, but we’ll clear what hurdles we can.

TB set me up with a web site designer in Nashville who spent the evening asking me what element and what metal I was. Turns out I am water and iron. Wonder what the site will look like.
May 23, 2010

A date, May 23, that is always significant to me. I don’t know why. I think it was when the forest wildflowers were in full and extreme bloom in Ohio, a day set aside for joy.

Rose in darkness and before full dawn (which happens even now) I had planted angels’ trumpets and Jupiter’s beard. The city finally hauled away my brush pile, and the angels’ trumpets are the second step toward aesthetic reclamation. The lady at the farmers’ market warned me that every part of the angels’ trumpets is poisonous. Good, I thought wickedly to myself. Now to shower and go to church, an anti-climax if today were anything other than Pentecost.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

May 22, 2010

TB invited me to a lecture on Ray Johnson at the Black Mountain Museum. The lecturer, Frances Beatty, is VP of a New York gallery who knew and clearly loved Johnson, and the lecture was excellent. I was convinced that Johnson was a passionate and committed artist, but not, alas, that he was a very interesting one. The lecturer’s miscalculation was to put up comparison slides of Klee and others, and Johnson suffered by comparison. Johnson was clever and innovative, but you needed the story behind the works–and a certain proportion of excuse-making-- for the works to be as fascinating as the lecturer clearly thought they were. I was sitting in the darkened room thinking two things while the lecture unfolded. One is that you could almost put your finger on the moment when artists began to believe art was life rather than vocation, when they began to think that art was lived rather than made. Although it sounds dramatic and romantic, I believe it was a wrong turn, that did neither art nor any artist any good. Johnson backstroking off into oblivion is viewed as a gesture of art, I suppose understandably, but it seems to me to miss the point of art, not to mention of life. Art is always the thing made. The notion that it is a gesture of making, that it is the will to make, that it is a way one lives one’s life, all seem to me hubristic on one level and infantile on another. Even a fanatic such as Blake makes a clear distinction between the man and the material manifestations of the imagination of the man. If the thing made is good, the artist is good; if not, not, no matter what the artist’s intentions were. And part of “good” for me is the ability to stand on its own, to be comprehended and enjoyed in the middle of a desert, where there is no one to explain what the artist intended. Maybe the burden is on Johnson, maybe it was just the emphasis of the lecturer, but I can’t wrap my head around why he was so important as an artist, however lovable (or, as I take it, NOT lovable) he was as a man. The other thing I was thinking about was collage. I like collage elements in art–I’ve stuck sticks and leaves and postcards to my own art, with wax or acrylic medium– but for the artwork to BE a collage (rather than just to include collage elements) has always left me dissatisfied. It is the ultimate end of Cartesian fragmentation– the affirmation that we express nothing by fragments and regurgitations of what has already been expressed. Some believe that, but I do not. And with the exception of Romare Bearden, I have not seen a collage that didn’t look like a high school art project, if sometimes a very good one.

TB took me across the street to Sazerac, a new (to me) restaurant with a lovely roof terrace where we sat and chatted and drank cocktails named after the Muses. Dark clouds scudded across a darkening sky, and happy voices came up from the street. I was happy to be where I was.

In the Commencement procession I was supposed to walk before Bill Hass, but someone said that he had metastasized cancer, and could not march, then or probably ever again. My mind went back several years to a time when Bill found me walking to school, picked me up and gave me a ride. I told him I was walking for the fun of it, but that was not the truth, and he fathomed it, and looked out for me whenever he drove to or from campus. He was kind and solicitous to me always after. When his name was mentioned, I remembered that, and I hope a hundred others do the same, so that his next journey may be easy, quick, and end in safe harbor.

Saw a wood thrush in the trees on campus when I went to the farmers’ market

Drove to Hendersonville to attend a meeting of the Lost Playwrights. I sounded like an asshole when I was reciting my recent credits, but I swear to God everything was true. The pieces were not uniformly awful, and a musical version of The Pied Piper for children seemed to me quite workable. I am never reconciled to the truth that serious application does not, in art, necessarily yield results. The most awful scene read was as sincere and labored over as The Magic Flute, even more so, but with nothing near the end. It is not fair. It is what is. Maybe heaven is the place where such things are evened out.
May 21, 2010

Eventful Thursday just behind me, by a few wee hours. Zach praised the beauty of my garden, which was gratifying, but also a relief, as I feared this gaudy interruption in the line of lawns might be an irritation to my neighbors.

Had my first training session with N at the Y. For months now as I did my weights and scanned the room, the thought had crossed my mind that I needed to get this big, handsome, not-like-me-at-all guy into my life. The Muse of Decisiveness must have reigned the other day, for ten minutes after I arrived at the gym I was signed up for personal training. I need a new friend, to fill the Jason/ Marty/Graduating Students slot of straight-arrow, good-hearted but far-away-departed normal people. The hand of God was on this one, for yes, he’s a good trainer, and I ache as I type, but more than that he is sweet and candid and all the best things one means when one uses the word “boyish.” It was like when you’re eight and you meet a new kid from the next block and you know you’re going to have adventures.

Evening, to Cucina 24 on Wall Street (which appeared while I wasn’t looking; I can’t even remember what was there before) for the first part of NC Stage’s Dinner and Theater night. Jack and Leland were in Hawaiian ensemble; I could have been too had I but warning. The play was What the Butler Saw, which Jack and I had done 23 years ago with Asheville Rep, in their old stage above what is now Table restaurant. The production was flawless, the acting excellent. Orton, though, is a little like playing ping-pong with an opponent whose only move is the smash spike. By the end of the evening I had surrender, bruised and broken, to an onslaught of “hilarious” situations and well-wrought, indeed relentlessly wrought, theatrical jokes. Situation: set up: smash spike delivery of the laugh line. Charlie and company did their best to turn perpetual motion hilarity machines into real people, but in this they were working against the playwright. I have no patience with farce. Perhaps I should simply acknowledge that and drop the rest. Several years back I was obsessed with Orton’s life, read everything, saw everything, rushed downtown to audition when the opportunity came. But the actual plays perplexed me. They seemed not the sort of thing this sort of person was supposed to write. I wanted to look at them as the juvenilia of one who would eventually blossom into his true self, but, of course, that process was cut short.
May 19, 2010

Blazing bright, cool. One all but explodes, trying to choose exactly the right thing to do to honor the day’s perfection.

Watched the DVD of Nine. It sticks in my head because Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance was magnificent, and the performances of the many female stars were each excellent, and yet the movie was quite awful. I can’t figure that out, how each particular can be outstanding and yet the overall conception fail. One hopes that adept performances will hide the faults of any script, but that is clearly not true, and especially not true when the script has– as Nine had–more than a whisper of the grandiose.

Plus, ever since I have been entertaining the fantasy of Day-Lewis playing Lincoln in my play. I would go to see that.

Love Creek Productions in New York will be doing two of my brief plays, Alfie and Greta and Conversations Involving Doppler the Cat. I think the show is at the Algonquin Theater on E 24th. I had no record of sending these plays to them, which means the submission was more than a year ago and I’d already deleted it. Sigh and hooray at once.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

May 17, 2010

Drove to Johnson City, a route affording goodly grandeur to the left and right, just now colored with that incomparable green of Mountain spring. Went to see J. He looks great. He looks healthy and, aside from wanting to cover himself up in tattoos, well. The tattoo engulfing his right arms (a sleeve, I think they call it) was fresh, indeed unfinished, and when I embraced him I must have caused searing pain. The haunted look is gone. He’s fit and bright-eyed as a forest creature. His son was born in April. He has found a new woman, Jessica, or rather she found him. When he was gone for a moment, she confided the stratagems she used to reel him in. It is well on every side. He is taken care of. I left a little sad, though, just a shade of a shade of embarrassed melancholy, because if things were not going so well, he would have needed me more. Freudenschade? Johnson City is prettier, smaller, emptier than I remember it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

May 16, 2010

Fan letter from a woman in Oregon. Always gratifying, of course, but also baffling, how someone I don’t know has heard of me, and followed my work, when I can barely do it myself. She hopes I will continue to publish. From her lips to God’s ear.

What strange energy has been upon me of late! I don’t know how to describe it (because it is unsettled, various, slightly different from day to day) and I certainly don’t know where it came from. After a few days of such languor I could barely move, I have been up early and active late, writing, painting, gardening, the days so (blessedly) long that what I did in the morning seems as distant from what I did in the evening as the far side of the moon. Inventiveness, too, hits the roof. This idea. . . that idea. . . and when I sit to put them in effect, the power to do so. I remember this from graduate school, but after? If so, the memory has sunk into the general blancmange.

The garden a blaze of orange after night rain and the explosion of ranks of poppies. Golden columbine and the white wild rose volunteer in the shade in front of the cottage. On the front terrace, the roses and the honeysuckle bloom at once– gluttony, parody, voluptuous excess.
May 15, 2010

Walking on the porch in my bare feet, I felt I had stepped on something. It was an ant. It was writhing and jerking about the way they do, and I decided to watch it, having noted in the past miraculous healing powers, how they seem crushed and in hopeless agony one second, and are up scurrying about the next. This one writhed a little, but then stretch out, resting, I suppose. As he did, a midge came out of the air and settled near him- within a fraction of an inch, but on that level I suppose it preserved the most finical conception of personal space. Seconds later a blood mite zoomed across the floor, and came to rest the same distance from the ant in a slightly different direction. It looked like nothing in the world so much as gawkers at an accident, or perhaps comforters waiting to hear final instructions, waiting to bear the news to help or to survivors. The ant was feeling along the edge of a crack between boards when I turned away, whether restored to his mission or contemplating a plunge into the darkness I don’t know.

Commencement this morning. Sweet. Still, the address was saved from being bad only by being brief. I think the time when merely mentioning how one was part of the civil rights struggle amounted to automatic credibility is over. It might get you a “Pass” but not an “A.” When the new graduates throw their caps into the air, I mist over.

Friday, May 14, 2010

May 13, 2010

Re-energized– the secret may be as simple as working out before anything else, to convince the body it’s up and running for good. Lee the Chinese guy always says something to me at the Y which I don’t understand, but the tone is friendly. Hugely productive after the work out and the Chinese greeting. Hacked invasive vines, worked on two plays, worked on a poem, painted barrier-breakingly. Black landscapes lit by moons and snow white birds. JM’s mother was in the studio building, to see her daughter graduate Saturday. She is one of those women so bent on emotional seduction that she will keep talking–like a drill grinding into earth, like a machine gun covering the horizon-- until she senses the extremest possible tension of surrender, and then call to you several times as you, released at last, are walking away, so see if her power still holds. I would not have picked her and JM for mother and daughter given a hundred tries. DM arrived at the studio as I was leaving. I wanted to say I regretted that we would have no time together today, as we used to, but somebody told a joke, and the moment was gone. I’m at a loss to cover all emotional bases.

Attended–for the first time–a Cantaria concert, at the UC of C downtown. It’s hard to know how to judge what I heard, having always been on the other side before. The soloists were excellent, the tenors strong, the basses weak to nonexistent, the program full of delights, if too relentlessly various to leave much form in the mind. I think the group from the first has filled a need not entirely artistic, and that kept in mind, the evening was a rousing success. I would rather have been there than not. But if I had been a stranger wandering into the venue, I might have said, at the end, "Oh, that was really nice," but then never needed to come again. Not entirely sure why. Maybe it was a group too clearly working at the upward limts of its potential.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

With a rake

May 12, 2010

Painted furiously. Painted furiously after encountering Jolene and her young helper digging out the garden with a rake. They had shrubs they wanted to plant, with a rake. The helper was young enough to assume that gritty application of force will make any tool serve any use. I got them gloves to pull the poison ivy (which I eventually did myself), identified what plants they had already in the ground, what they might like to keep, and suggested the eventual size of what they had bought-- so they’d know where to put it-- and generally busied myself with butting in. But I also bought them a spade and a trowel, without which the day would have been a Laurel and Hardy comedy. Then I painted. Henry and Auto (who are dogs) wrestled without interruption in the dark library.

Writing a play which wants to be a Platonic dialogue. I’m going to give it its head and see what happens.

The back terrace is a galaxy of white anemone.
May 11, 2010

The magic lilies were still lit in the dark of the morning.

Visited N in his odd little house in his neighborhood in West Asheville like those towns people put under the Christmas tree. I didn’t go expecting. . intimacy. . but as the signs that it was coming arrived, I embraced them, and N. It was easier to record sex on this blog when I thought nobody was reading it. . . .

Monday, May 10, 2010


May 10, 2010

Dramatic lack of energy. I’ll put it down to the weather or exhaustion from the semester for one more day, then I’ll do something about it. Coffee with Thomas B, who has, I think, brilliant ideas for new theater pieces. They’re more like performance art, but performance art approached from the direction of theater is more honest than that approached from the direction of “art.” Beyond that and some errands related to Cambridge, did almost nothing. But evening approaches, and that is the time, recently, when I have come alive.

Lena Horne is dead.

Assertion of memories, isolated, unbidden. I’m singing with the Johns Hopkins Madrigal Singers, under the direction of George Woodhead. We’re doing “The Dove Descending,” and we’re doing it for its composer, Aaron Copland. We finish, and Copland lopes across the room and shakes my hand. He is fantastically tall, very ugly and kindly. I’m quivering because I’d never before met anybody so famous, and he’s shaking my hand in front of two hundred people, whose cheering I can hear, but whom I cannot see because of the stage lights. I’m afraid he’ll ask me something musical, and force me to reveal what a fraud I am in such company. But he says, “The bass is always the most important. I could feel you through the floor. Thank you.”

I’m living in the dive-hotel in New York, on the corner of 8th and 42nd that is now a complicated subway entrance and interchange. I work nights in the dance hall and in my room in the hotel. Days I have to myself, so I’m heading up 8th Avenue to see how quickly I can get to the Park on foot. A block away I spy a tall stranger who looks confused. He asks me for directions, and I give them, almost unable to speak after I realize the confused Brit is David Bowie.

I’m singing with the Baltimore Opera, so I know Rosa Ponsell. I know the commune I’m living at lies right beside Villa Pace, her estate. I sometimes climb through the woods to one of her meadows for peace and privacy. One afternoon a horse is wandering by itself over the hill, a man shouting from below for me to get the horse. I stand up and take the reins and wait for the man to come fetch the horse. The horse nuzzles my pocket, snorting, as if my not having sugar or apples there were a faux pas quite beneath mention. He takes me back to the villa to receive the thanks of the mistress for rescuing her horse. I’m mortified because I’m dirty and sweaty and really didn’t do anything, but I’m ushered into a room and given a glass of iced tea. I set down to chat briefly with the two ladies on the divan. One is Rosa Ponsell; the other is Bidu Sayao. I don’t know how old Sayao was then, but she was beautiful. Sayao asks me if I can sing, and I say I can. She asks me to do so. Rosa Ponsell reaches over and gives me a pitch from the piano in what she discerns from my speech is my right key. She is, of course, right, I’m so flustered all I can come up with is Si Beg, Si Mor, an Irish tune for which I do not know the words, so I sing it on folk song syllables. The women and the horse groom applaud, and then Ponsell gives me the number to call when I want to come visit her again. Of course, I never do.

My father and mother are taking a Dale Carnegie course, which is supposed to make them more comfortable in social situations, to build confidence and further careers. They’re practicing the sentence, “Boy, have I got enthusiasm!” as an assignment for their next class. They tell me to say it, and I do. I can tell by their faces that they’re genuinely impressed, and my father says, “He’s the one that should be teaching the course.” They phone their friends and have me bellow, “Boy, have I got enthusiasm!” over the phone at them. I don’t even know what I’m doing that is so remarkable. I begin to develop the notion that adulthood is quite disappointing.

Some friends and I drive from Hiram to Kent State to see Stephen Spender read. He’s the handsomest old man I’ve ever seen. After the reading, we linger. Because we are young men, Spender gravitates to us. He chats candidly and sweetly. After a while he turns to me and says, “You’re the one who is the poet. Am I right?” I said that he was.
May 9, 2010

Yesterday was cool but blazing bright. The rhythm I’m finding is unfamiliar–that is, my major creative work is coming in late afternoon and evenings, which makes the day, somehow, seem longer and richer. I don’t see a significant break until I leave for Europe– which volcanoes or economic turmoil may yet prevent. I finally cleared away the last of the great stand of brush–much of it twenty feet high, a many-trunked tree-bush that I never identified– which ruled the northeast corner of my property since long before it was my property. The city sanitation workers have so far managed to ignore a pile of brush at streetside the size of a small house, and a phone call to draw their attention to it. The garden is perfection. The scent of peony lies heavy near the ground. The iris now have their day. Over the years I seem to have acquired something in every color, even a sort of flesh-pink which, beside blooms that are nearly black, is quite dramatic. The roses which have sailed through the various droughts and plagues are mostly yellow. All is well.

Michelle Denham died in Akron. I remember her arrival at Betty Jane School. Third Grade sticks in my mind, but whenever it was, she always had the feel in my head of a “new kid.” This is quite ridiculous. She was laughing and merry, and it was a bad idea to put us together, as the silliness quotient would soar. He tried to teach my father how to use his computer.

Jacob came to meet the cats and fish and to orient himself in the house. I’ll have to write everything down, as we spent most of our time chattering about other things. I thought he was married, possibly a father. In fact he has a lover named Peter, who lives in Atlanta for professional reasons and visits when he can. Just shows you can’t tell by looking. The image of that big, blue-eyed lug devouring poetry that way he does is itself erotic.

Night. Bought two LED lilies, which soak up sunlight during the day and pay it out at night, one gold, one scarlet. I thought they would be beautiful in the garden. I’m not sure they’re beautiful, but they are striking and vivid. I keep walking to the window and looking at them, amazed each time, glad that I am old enough to remember a time that makes this time look like a world of wonders.

Adam K and I brunched on the New French Bar terrace, where the line between warn sun and cool shadow was as sharp as on the moon. Great afternoon, great talk. It may be the last time I see him for a while, and it was good to part on a note of intimacy.
May 7, 2010

Hating my dumbshit investor colleagues for panicking themselves into three days of Wall Street calamity. Over Greece? Greece has the economic impact of, what? West Virginia? What I have not yet gotten my head around is the stampede to create the situation the fear of which is the excuse for the stampede– the haste to send the Market plunging for fear the Market may plunge. It’s like going over and hitting the big dog with a stick out of fear he may be hostile. It’s idiotic. I wear a mask of contempt on my face for them all.

Painted satisfyingly at the studio, trying to get now into a summer rhythm.
May 6, 2010

Red poppy opens in full spring sun. It is the reddest red in all the universe.

Revised Earthly Power for Ford’s. Whether it’s what Ramont wanted or not, it’s what I want. It’s better. I resent it, but it’s better. My good fortune is that only once has a producer insisted on revisions that were actually and objectively worse than what was already on the page. And that was the very first time. I took the call in Denny’s house in Hiram. I refused. They did not, as they might have done, appreciate my integrity and go on with the production anyway.

Students, three or four of them, faced at the end with not having done anything through the semester. How am I supposed to feel? I do feel sadness, but that is a sentiment rather than a judgment. Mostly I feel perplexed. People put no wood on the fire and still expect to keep warm. People sow no seeds and still expect to harvest. And I do not always know how to separate the needy from the players.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May 5, 2010

The garden suddenly exploded in multiples. Though the morning was active, the afternoon and beyond has been mostly sleep and sitting on the porch staring at the garden. It took the hummingbirds perhaps one hour of daylight to find their sugar water. As for the sleepiness, the exhaustion, it is unnatural. If I even look at a sleepy cat, I have to lie down, not to rise until an hour later. Was the stress of the semester really that much?

Have been trying to get to see so many friends in ACT’s Little Shop of Horrors. Failed so far. It’s all right. Going to musicals is like masturbating: you understand the temptation, you even catch yourself doing it from time to time, but it is not the way to build a healthy adult relationship with theater.
May 4, 2010

The sad anniversary.

Hung the hummingbird feeders.

Wandered onto the part of Facebook where they suggests friends to you, and found it eerie. How does it know I know those people? How do they know Cathy is my cousin or that Meagan was in one of my plays in New York? In the list of suggestions they didn’t miss once. I knew them all, obscurely, sometimes only half-remembered by myself. Is it still possible to be off the grid?

Flood of excuses from students, mostly now backstories about absences and tardiness, the codicils concerning which they apparently did not read on the syllabus until finals time. Many students think that oversleeping or a faulty alarm is an actual excuse. For a class that begins at 11. I never found getting to class at whatever hour a problem, so I may not be as understanding about these things as others. When I skipped, I damn well meant to.
May 3, 2010

Rain, and enough. The garden is so riotous that I can scarcely even name the things coming into bloom: scarlet lupine, yellow rose, pink poppy The peonies space themselves out, some in bloom now, some in bud, some finished. A great white single at the edge of the garden, white with a scarlet center, has pride of place now.
May 2, 2010

Great mass of storm clouds last evening, but, after all that, no rain.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May Day

May 1, 2010

April’s last day was a corker. Met with the Cambridge crew for the first time. They’re nearly all girls and nearly all gorgeous. Jeff has already noted that his view of the world and mine are various enough that it should be an interesting month. He calls it the difference between a Teuton and a Celt.

Attended the reading for the new issue of Headwaters. MO was a courtly emcee, as well as being drop-dead handsome. I wonder if anyone else notices that, or if they do, why they don’t mention it? He looks like Daniel Day Lewis. The student work was quite good. I left itching to get my own pen to my own paper.

Evening, I was a reader at a do thrown for Cathy Smith Bowers, North Carolina’s new poet laureate, at the Black Mountain Museum. I have the relationship with poetry that some men have with women– I want everything to be right for it, everything from it to be the best it can give. If Apollo isn’t in the room, why bother? But, there were moments, and Bowers herself read a poem about her brother’s death from AIDS– actually about her trying to find a god willing to stave that off-- that I would not hesitate to call great. Re-acquainted with Seb Matthews and my old co-conspirator Ted Pope, and they brought me joy. Ted gets teary-eyed thanking me for being kind to him and his wife when they were young and vulnerable. I remember no such deed, but it’s sweet that he does.

From there to the New French Bar, where a couple of bands were playing. DJ had arrived early and got us a table. I gobbled down a green apple and Gorgonzola salad as though I’d never eaten in my life. We’d gone to see Mike and Casey in Poor Mouth, but the band that opened for them–whose name I never heard–was excellent too, with lyrics I knew were subtle, even though I could hear only fragments. Poor Mouth was sloppy, noisy, merry, goofy, badly miked, lyrical, drunk with poetry, inspired, aflame, sublime. People danced at the edges of the crowd, as of course one must. Apollo might not have been in the room, but Aengus the Young was-- golden and fresh and half-drunk, honey and poetry dripping from his lips when he sang-- and my jaws ache even now from smiling & smiling. I wrote MA in an email that it may have been the best time I ever had out in Asheville, and it may have been. The bass player from the other band thanked me for coming–it must be novel to have the elderly in the crowd– and assumed I was Casey’s dad. Had I thought fast enough I would have claimed it. Yes, I am his father, and his, and hers, and the father of all the rest. The All-Father, claiming even what might not claim me.

Rose at dawn and shaved my beard, one of the not-optional options for May Day.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

April 30, 2010

Hamlet ended last night to a good crowd and a lively response. The director spoke to me about how it was a tight, good show, with no weak elements, and how remarkable fro a community theater; one of the other actors talked to me about how weak and sorry it was, uneven, disappointing except for a few peaks. Who knows? I loved doing what I did and those I did it with. I think it was probably better than anyone expected it to be.

Cut brush, planted on the ruined terrace slope. Went to a reading by students in Headwaters Magazine and was inspired in my own work. We teach them to be marvelous observers, and that is the right start.

Blooming now: dusty pink antique rose, the big lemony tree peony.