Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 31, 2011

Lightened the challenge of this day by spreading out cooking over the last few days. A pistachio cream pie and a Julia Child cream of cauliflower and watercress soup chill in the fridge. Wild rice and roasted goose and root vegetable should be, by comparison, simple this afternoon. DJ is making an eggnog which may slay all the senses and render my care unnecessary.

On K’s sudden impulse, we drove to Johnson City, Tennessee last night to the Down Home bar, to hear Doc Bonhomie, Russell’s band. The drive was seriously dark in both directions, but the bar was merry and the band were all excellent musicians, amiable and crowd-pleasing, with nary a faltering voice among them. They did largely originals which, while impressive, lent a sort of soft-focus monochromatic lyricism to the first set, after which one rejoiced at the hard-rocking vitality of the various covers and rock allusions in the second. If I were their manager I’d tell them, don’t do two college-boy soul-revelations back to back, at least not in a bar in Johnson City. Their skill in any case was amazing. That they got their start together in the ETSU chorus is everywhere (and splendidly) apparent.

Oh, anthems at the year’s end! One may always fiddle and adjust, and there may be whole vast areas of possible improvement to which one is simply blind, but forgiving that, I don’t know what I could do to make a better life for myself, a life for myself that I desire and dream of, than I have already, or am doing, in some cases almost from the beginning of it. What is left is for the universe, and were there any way to force the universe’s hand, I would have found it, having, there also, tried almost everything. Though I am not good, I am not the worst in the world at lying back and letting it all unfold, so that is the pertinent resolution here at the end. The universe thus far has largely wasted me, but one keeps in fighting trim, keeps one’s lines solid in mind, heeds distant cues for the moment when the curtain opens.

The cats make playthings out of my cast-offs. There is something there.
December 29, 2011

A night-blue windflower blooms on the back terrace. Does it prophesy the new year or bid adieu to the old? I am frantic to save it, to preserve it, to allow its gesture to be complete.

“Ode to Joy” on the concertina.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

December 28, 2011

Used my father’s rhyming dictionary last night. The intriguing question is what was my father doing with a rhyming dictionary. Once when I was writing a poem for some church contest, he took my ideas and put them into standard poetic form. What I wondered then, bur for some reason didn’t ask, was how he knew what poetic form was. An off-hand comment once revealed that his mother had written stories. I am wild to see those stories but they have been gone–I suppose–forever now.

Watched the Cuckor flick Holiday last night, the exact opposite of the Gold Diggers of close to the same time, almost perfectly realized, witty, intelligent, the hands of both Hepburn and Grant played with immaculate skill.

Cheetah, Tarzan’s chimp, has died at the age of 80.

Serious work on the concertina. Almost successfully beat out “Oh When the Saints Go Marching In” and "Twinkle Twinkle." My progress was thwarted at first because I was holding the thing backwards.I blamed it on faulty construction, not thinking for a long time merely to change hands. My senility is going to be awesome . . . .

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December 27, 2011

Heavy rain, blown by strong wind. Beethoven from iTunes. Maud demanding her morning backrub.

Good Christmas Eve service at All Souls, if about as much as I could stand. Drove in the dark of Christmas morning to Atlanta. Was watching as the sun turned the southeast to the infinite reds. Big old red-tail in his accustomed tree. Can it be the same one all these years? Joyful time in Alpharetta. The Adam boys form among themselves an ideal brotherly community, and it was a joy to watch them and their friends together. They are a clan in every sense of the word. The probably have their holy objects and rituals, too, though they do not speak of them. Daniel chided me for staying up with the adults rather than coming down to the basement and playing with them, which I would surely have done had I been sure it would not have been an intrusion. Jon’s adventures in Thailand are good on so many sides, and breeding good as they go. I came away with, among other things, a set of harmonicas, which added to the concertina makes this a musical Christmas. To round it off, or to make it odder, I ordered a harmonium online. I have always walked through every door that opened, banging it against the wall as I came. L’s friends gathered for Christmas dinner. They were easier for me to relate to than in the past, not quite so churchy, even refreshingly ribald. Poor R was allowed to, even expected to, go through the litany of his past misdeeds, a sort of community confession, as though he had been the designated sinner. Drove home that evening, because the drive was so to be dreaded that I didn’t want to begin another day with it. Also, thought I might have a date, but did not, in the event. St. Stephen’s Day spent running errands, writing abundantly in local cafes, working out, sleeping off an unaccountable exhaustion that left me feeling, all day, like a tired kid. Not an unpleasant feeling at all. In fact, extraordinarily happy from Christmas Eve till this moment, and having no reason to expect immediate change. I have to stop thinking about my life in order to be this content; sometimes I am able to do just that.

Lovely stock market will allow me to pay off my December excesses.

– the ravishing theme of B’s violin concerto– soaring and melancholy at once.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

December 24, 2011

Cantaria Hans has died. I never knew him except when he was sick, but I think he must have been a kind and merry man. I’m glad he decided to spend his last days with us.

Lunch with SC to discuss the past and future of Cantaria.

Full day yesterday, which I rounded out in late afternoon by going to the café, sitting down without much expectation, and ended up writing. . . well, it exhausts to keep saying “the best I ever have,” but it was like the glory days composing “The Glacier’s Daughters” when the flood of words could not be stopped. That it should be going just as strong after forty years is a blessing I remember less often than I should.

Watched fifteen minutes of Gold Diggers of 1935 last night. I have to say that, especially when he’s not tethered by a strong script, Busby Berkeley is quite horrifying. Leni Riefenstahl is the nearest–maybe only-- comparison. The extras on the DVD praised his vision and technique, justly, except that it could be pointed out that vision and technique are neutrals, capable of serving either the skew or the straight. My repugnance is more instinctual than explicable. Only horrified fascination kept me the fifteen minutes.

Here is the oddest thing. I can call to inner sight every ornament that was on our Christmas tree back home, in perfect (I think) detail, even to nicks and discolorations. I saw them only once a year, and not since for forty years. My tree has its visible ornaments that anyone can see entering my house, but also those ghostly ones from long ago, hung as the palpable ones were hung, as though existing all in a separate and unbreakable continuum. I have learned the amazing, perhaps pathological, strength of my imaginative world back then–as perhaps now– and suppose that the adamantine retention of those images is part of it in a way that there is not leisure at the moment to understand. I long for them, but I don’t know why. That I yet possess them in this way is a blessing equally inexplicable.

Maud the Cat holds on to my leg, insisting that I pet her, insisting that I rub her back. She is not patient. She does not doubt for a second that what she desires will come to pass, for why shouldn’t it? It is so little to ask. It reminds me of me and God, except, unlike God, I reach out and hold her, rub her back, explain why it has taken me so long.

What if the purpose of us all were to teach God how to be a man? I would be content with that. It would suffice. He gets to try again, tonight. He gets to come back as a baby and try it all again.

My mother will not be making hot chocolate tonight and serving it in the embarrassing Santa mugs. My father will not be putting swans on a mirror lake under the tree in his mysterious way. My grandmother will not be preparing a giant feast for everybody. That “everybody” is dead or mad or scattered to the wind. I think I am here to remember them. And I do. The night is unimaginably deep.

A mallow blooms in my garden for a Christmas miracle. It is Christmas Eve and I am twelve years old, dizzy with joy, and no way to explain it.
December 23, 2011

The possibilities of my expanded vacation days send me into unexpected adventures. I drove yesterday, for instance, to Hendersonville, thinking there might be some inimitable holiday cheer to be had there. It was warm, and I regretted my heavy jacket, but it allowed me to have cappuccino at an outdoor table on Main Street at the winter solstice. I had not brought my journal, and I feel naked just sitting in a café drinking without scrawling my little notes about the progress of the world. The guy in the piano-and-Jewish-holiday-decorations store showed me how he had souped up his electric pianos so that they sounded way better than they had coming from the factory. The cappuccino girl and I formed an instant bond. But I had the feeling that I had gone there for some purpose, and was moderately frustrated and not discovering that purpose. Now that I’ve written that, I suppose it’s the summary of most people’s lives. In any event, I passed the window of a music shop. In the window was a second-hand concertina that the talkative clerk said had been left there a long time ago. I bought it. I asserted it was my reason for going there. I’ve already discovered that there are differences between the English and the German concertinas (mine’s German), and different notes are played when the bag (if that’s what you call it) goes in from when it comes out. Awaiting my instructional manuals’ arrival in the mail.

Reading the bible in Italian from my Kindle as I tread the treadmill at the Y. Have made it to Genesis 3. Tom remarks on how odd it is to say the sentence, “I’m reading the Italian bible on the treadmill at the Y.” I’m all the time trying to translate things into Italian, which is working better than it once did, and I usually remember to double check the gender and the verb ending. Sia luce! Et cosi fu. Italian is not hard-edged enough to have been the language of creation.

Friday, December 23, 2011

December 21, 2011

Late start– the sky already paling gray.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December 18, 2011

Green-gray dawn, Lauridson coming from my computer. Painted yesterday, wrote, worked out and slept: in some ways, perfection.

Vowed to write a sonnet a day in December. At 13 now I am behind, but not so far behind as one might have anticipated.

Rhetoric surrounding the Republican candidates illuminates a problem I had with Tolkien, with his vision, specifically, of Mordor, of evil. The problem I had was that evil in the books did not seem to give any advantage to those who practiced it. Did an orc or a man of Harad really derive pleasure or advantage from wicked deeds? They denied things to others without seeming to retain them for themselves. One imagines that fear of punishment could drive a being to do selflessly wicked deeds (think, in actual history, of all those Nazis) but eventually flight or inertia or rebellion would certainly kick in. Climbing the dark ladder, the captains and generals of Evil are to be feared and that fear might drive those beneath them, but might not even they ask if their quality of life were actually improved by what they were doing? Not even Sauron, presumably, liked living in soot and brimstone, never being able to rest for fear of usurpation. But I read where people were speaking out about Newt Gingrich, fearing that he was not “conservative” enough, that his “conservative” credentials were in doubt because, once in a while, he advocated policies that were not thoroughly selfish and inhumane. Actual advantage, actual value were lost in the desire for doctrinal purity– dedicated parties expecting a purity– in this case of evil-- no thinking human can sustain. It dawned on me, the awesome power of rhetoric, which, once adopted, replaces reason and humanity and even self-interest as the mind’s governor. Adherence to the party line becomes the whole field of vision, which no greater good or greater reasonableness may ever budge, because the first tremor is the prelude to collapse. To make an exception or to moderate a bad policy cannot be considered, for to consider the policy is to reveal the badness of it. Conservative theorists cannot admit reason or proportion, or compromise, or statesmanship at any point, because only blind assertion will allow their ideas to exist at all. “War Against the Light” can impel the throngs of Mordor so long as they never put it that way, so long as it is described as resistence against interference and creeping otherness and absolute self-will. That the will is resigned as soon as one signs on to an inflexible doctrine cannot be admitted. Investment bankers convincing waitresses and dock workers that they all have the same interests is like the captains of Mordor drawing men into the ranks of evil– a deed so incomprehensibly contrary to self-interest that it must tap some inner, reptilian impulse to cast one’s lot with Power, no matter how inimical the Power is to one’s own well being. Finality of blind assertion is the great power of conservatism. Many Americans think that what is reasonable, provable, scientific, is a kind of elitism, and that blind assertion of untested principle is a kind of self-determination. Of course it is, but the freedom of Mordor, to be made at once cruel and miserable by the sanctification of one’s prejudices.

Played Saint Nicholas at church today. Each year it’s bigger and rowdier, and I hear myself getting louder and faster to overcome it and get through. It is gratifying afterward to have a toddler point at me and scream, “Saint Nicholas!”

Saturday, December 17, 2011


December 17, 2011

Transcribing my New York poems from my notebook, almost defeated–wholly defeated in places– by my execrable handwriting.

DJ and Russell and I went to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie, and, returning, saw a car speed up Merrimon, turn sharply in front of another car, and disappear down a drive between two businesses. Another car had been chasing that one at a similar high speed, but kept on going. When we passed the drive I saw that the car was lying on its side, pouring out smoke. We stopped and I ran back to see a small crowd (mostly diners from the Thai restaurant) exhorting the driver not to move. He was conscious, but I would say not fully cognizant of what happened. That he was alive was incredible, for the car had taken out a retaining wall, and turned completely around and flipped onto the driver’s side, and was a wrecked as anything I have ever seen. The driver was trying to crawl out through the peeled back roof. The pavement was strewn with glass, and the people from the restaurant kept trying to convince him to stay inside the car until the paramedics came, as there seemed to be no danger of explosion. Either drunk or in shock, he kept murmuring, “no broken bones. . .” His face was bloodied, and had clearly bashed the windshield from the inside. His scalp was torn and gushing blood. As I had nothing to say to him that the diners were not already saying, I began walking up the sidewalk. It was apparent then how narrowly the event missed being worse, as the woman he had cut in front of and the boy who had been walking up the sidewalk at almost exactly the spot of impact were both standing in the dark, shaking off the shock. DJ observed that if we had not been slowed by the idiotic obstacle course on Murdock, we might have been even closer to the crash than we were. He might not have missed us as he had the shaken lady.

Friday, December 16, 2011

December 15, 2011

After I woke the first time and fed the cats, I lay back down and was seized immediately by the most elaborate dream. I was on my way home from New York, but decided to stay another night. I wanted to revisit the National Hotel. It is long gone in life, swallowed up by the complex of buildings which now stands on the corner of 42nd Street and 8th Avenue, but there it was in the dream, far more squalid than it had been in life, when I had my memorable adventure there. The room was long, the corners of it so dark that unexpected roommates or passers-through kept appearing out of it. The floor of the closet was a deep pool of water, and one had to be careful not to drop anything in it, for you couldn’t tell how deep the water was and whether the dropped thing would be retrievable. The room, I realize, was flown in by the dream from the long high room Nick and I had in Cobh, but darkened and windowless and filthy. Derelicts wandered in and out, and prostitutes, each more debased than the last, but somehow none of them very threatening. I must have chosen that place for human adventure, but when one arrived, he was too dirty and, probably, disease ridden to be appealing. I dropped one of my shoes into the pool. That was the last straw, and I packed up and snuck out, at each step expecting somebody to bar the way, but they never did, and then I was out on contemporary 8th Avenue, and then Maud banged the cat food can in the kitchen, and I was awake again.

I was not ready to return from new York. All day yesterday I was planning adventures which could only be realized if, when I opened the door, I’d be looking out on W. 46th.

Bought and erected the Christmas tree yesterday. I was– what is the word?–blithe. Caught myself singing through it all.

Dear God, I stand at the brink of age and still worry about what I worried about as a teenager, suffer the same hurts I suffered as a teenager. Less piercing, less long lasting? Yes, of course, but I don’t count diminished appreciation even of suffering as much of a blessing.

I tempt God by saying, “All would be well, I would behave if things went well for me, one day, all day.” He does not take the bait.

Crystal attached to the window blind caught in the sun, blazing blue-white, like the hottest star in the galaxy.

Evening: The Cantaria concert--audience packed to the rafters-- does, again, five times better than any rehearsal would have led us to expect. Somewhere there is a choir rehearsed to perfection which ctrashes and burns at every concert, to balance us out.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New York

December 13, 2011

On two New York days–yesterday, Monday, was one of them– I sat in the lobby of the Paramount Hotel and wrote poetry, big slabs of happy poetry, with all that din around me. Yesterday when I wandered away from the Paramount I found myself at Bryant Park, all greeny-silvery sylvan with its middle-aged sycamore, all Christmas card-y with its skating rink and little temporary shops. One of the shops was a café, and I perched there with my cappuccino under a radiant heater (which grazed my right ear only, but that seemed to be enough) and wrote still more. I’d wondered what I could do to fill the morning before I met Owen for lunch, but in the end I barely got to Columbus Circle on time. Lunch with Owen was delightful, and full of revelations about the future he has planned for himself, a future at once exiting and, giving his potential, modest. Luxuriated in my room for a while, then made my way to 64th street to JoJo’s for dinner with Philip Cheah and Jon David, and Sue, and Shirley the president of the Central City Chorus-- the fancy dinner I had asked for my fee. I am not a “foodie,” but was awestruck by my tender sweet duck and the clouds of dessert which floated out following our meals. I took the wrong train from 59th street, and ended up in Queens Plaza, with the intercom blaring that there was no service back to Manhattan from that station that night. I had no idea what to do, at midnight in a part of the world I didn’t know at all. Two random guys coming home from work appeared in the vast emptiness, and I asked them for help, and they not only helped me but walked me to the stop to make sure I got the right train (the 7, as it turns out). Today at Newark airport this little Indian guy chased me through terminal A to return a credit card I’d dropped when I was checking my bags. The guy at the museum shop gave me his employee’s discount out of thin air. It was the Weekend of Being Helped.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Tightened String

December 12, 2011

The big bookstore in Madison Square Garden is gone, and it was one of my designated destinations.

Shopping. . . and a go at MOMA for the Diego Rivera exhibit. What did I learn? Rivera’s social consciousness is impeccable, but he was not, really, a painter of the first rank. Innumerable black suits in the lobby. They didn’t look like museum guards all assembled like that, but I assume they were. More like a cartoon about fascism. My first stop at FAO Schwartz afterwards. It truly is magical. The towering guy in the wooden soldier costume at the door was greeting and joking. In answer to a question I didn’t hear he said, “Naw, I have the greatest job in he world.” He did look sublimely happy. The kids stared at him and smiled. A street kid inside was demonstrating some toy that catches a ball midair, happy as Santa’s elf. Glad I stopped in now. Would have exploded when I was a kid. On to Columbus Circle, where there was a kind of bazaar, and the bored, cold artisans were eager to smile at you. Lunch at Huey’s diner, where my waiter was an opera singer and an angry Chinese girl at the next table never left off scolding her brother.

It’s starling to see women walking down the street in full length furs.

Made my way to 87th Street, a little later than my usual wont, to find the line for the concert already wound around the corner onto West End Avenue. This made me happy. There was my name on the poster, along with Jon’s and Samuel Barber’s and Johannes Brahms’. That made me happy. Eventually the crowd overflowed little St. Ignatius of Antioch, and more chairs had to be brought, backsides had to be compacted on the pews, and still a mob stood around the back and sides. Owen and Thomas appeared. They were both looking handsome, and having friendly faces in the crowd was icing on an ample cake. Met Jon’s father, who turns out to be the producer of Jersey Boys. Jon warned me that Central City Chorus is a “mid-level community chorus” and that there had been problems with our piece at dress rehearsal. The first piece, Barber’s “adagio for strings” set to the words of the Agnus Dei, was iffy in pitch all the way through. I expected the worst. Jon kept murmuring, “I made it too hard. . . maybe it was just too hard. . .” But when they came to “The Tightened String,” a miracle happened. Maybe because it was so hard and they had to concentrate, the performance was– so far as I could tell– perfect. It is a beautiful piece. Tricks like “prepared piano” usually annoy me, but they were used with musical logic this time. The thing I should have been most concerned about–the setting of the words– took me some time to express an opinion about. It was an apparent act of adoration. The words were set in blazing, expressive clarity, and to say I was happy falls short. I was amazed. It was as if Helen Mirren and Patrick Stewart were starring in one of my plays. I did not truly understand what music can do for poetry (always sort of assuming a composer was a poet’s natural enemy). I’m still thinking about it, still fathoming the power of true collaboration. I suppose it’s what a baroque poet felt when Monteverdi set his text. If Jon asks again, that’s what I’ll tell him.

The Tightened String as follwed by The German Requiem. Whatever else happens, one must grant Brahms the higher seat.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

New York

December 11, 2011

Full moon over Times Square. It was dim and Friday last night, bright and full last night, almost holding his own amid the lights of the city.

Shopping this afternoon. I never shop, so that was worth noting. Found difficult gifts.

Nostalgia drove me to 36th Street, to the Barrow Group Theater, where Edward the King ruled the boards for a while. Met two actors in the lobby, who convinced me to see their play, Any Which Way Thou Wouldst Have It. Sarah was good. John was not, though very handsome. The play was a pastiche of Restoration Comedy, and though the author understood the genre, he added nothing to it, did not bring it into the present, and the afternoon wore on. The costumes were glorious. The woman playing the pirate captain had fans in the crowd, who laughed uproariously at the least thing she did, which caused her to ham it up in a way she’s probably ashamed of now. I wanted it to be good because, however briefly, I felt I knew people in the cast. In the evening I went to Theater Row and saw Balls: the Musical., which was unexpectedly funny. Sent me smiling through the moon-haunted streets. Had time before the show, which I spent in Dave’s, an Irish/Mexican bar on 9th Avenue. Rough. Two people were thrown out while I sat at the bar, one invited back with copious free beer and apologies. The waitresses Tanya and Diane were treated like daughters by the hairy workingmen on the stools.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

New York

December 10, 2011

Slightly hung-over, ensconced ln my remarkably tiny room on a ventilator shaft in the Paramount. Except for bold mural-like attachments to the wall, it would look squalid, which is a lesson in the efficacy of canny decoration. I must have “give him the ventilator shaft” written beside my name on some big hotel book in the sky. Anyway, a lively evening in New York. Subwayed down to the Village. Getting off at the Christopher Street, Sheridan Square stop used to be such a thrill, with the promise of excitement and multiple partners for the night. I never knew what the Village itself looked liked, but just the faces on it, which I cruised with what seems now to me to be touching, if fully rewarded, eagerness. Stopped in a few of the old haunts–all of them changed and far less dangerous– ending up at Marie’s Crisis (the least changed) before walking to the Lucille Lortel for Wild Animals You Should Know, a new play by Thomas Higgins. It was neatly written, finely acted, and for a while pretended to be frothier than it actually was. Initial laughter drew us into a rather dark complexity of emotion. Good night of theater. Came back and stood on Times Square until my legs buckled under me. Cosmos at the hotel bar, and then I remember nothing. Notable faces: the red-blond angelic countenance in the Aeropostale, who tried to direct me to the right place to buy a G force watch for my nephew; the tall, gaunt man beside me at the bar at the Italian restaurant on Times Square, who ate more than anyone I have ever seen at one sitting, including two tiramisous; the check-in girl at the hotel, who told me of the play she wants to write about working in a restaurant. She gave me complimentary WiFi for the trouble of my listening.

New York

December 9, 2011

Singing carols at the Asheville Country Club, with a view of mared Paradise in all directions.

Asheville Regional Airport, sucking down soda water and lime at the bar where Kim the waitress tells me the history of the big bow she wears in her hair. The TV monitors indicate a good day on Wall Street, which dissolves my last hint of travel anxiety (ie, how am I going to pay for this?), and allows me to face this day with unusual alacrity. I feel ready for it, eager for it. Even the diarrhea that carries with me from last night seems more a recollection than an immediate threat. Everything in the airport is Christmas-y and expectant. The TSAs were jokey and confiding, explaining to me the variety of things which could cause a false positive from the metal detectors. Swinging the arms is one, which I was doing.

Friday, December 9, 2011

December 8, 2011

I know. The end of hope is the end of sadness.

Set colored lights up in three rooms of the house, three different colors in three rooms. The green I saved for my bedroom, so that I can imagine that I am sleeping in a high radiant forest.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December 5, 2011

Have been retiring early, which leads to the most amazing run of dreams, some of them plausible enough to pass, for a while, as life.

Awful rehearsal last night. The baritones behaved as though they had never seen the music before; there are two more rehearsals till the concert. The basses are worse. We are too old and our voices are rough and wide and stiff. One of us has the temperament of a diva while possessing no talent, not even adequacy, and his efforts to avoid contamination by anyone who might have the right note is the stuff of sketch comedy. Afterwards ate mushrooms and commiserated with DJ over the ruin of all at Charlotte Street Pub. The wild boys there were wild for their football, which was refreshing. I think most of us are not loud enough over our enthusiasms. No such blame at the Pub.

Monday, December 5, 2011

December 4, 2011

Happy Saturday yesterday. I painted quite well, and allowed myself not to go to the gym. Sang a sweet Lessons and Carols, which, unlike so many services in the recent past, lightened my soul. They gave Blake’s “The Tyger” as the last of the readings, and I read it as though it were auditioning for the bible.

Resolved to write a sonnet a day during December.

Blessed is the cup about to overflow.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

December 3, 2011

Unsuccessful date last night. I’d been looking forward to it, too. Maybe a person should think twice before he invites someone over and then talks immediately, obsessively –weeping copiously-– about his former boyfriend. Or maybe I should resign myself to possessing the face–if not actually the disposition–of a good listener. Too much gin–there were generous cocktails, anyway–and then home–nearly sideswiping a car on 19/23 which had not turned its lights on, then to odd dreams in which I was an editor choosing the winner of a novel contest, then finding A) that the chosen novel was entailed in some complication with its agent, and 2) that the author, in frustration over these complications, could shoot up high in the air like a rocket, then turn and come down and land on his toes. In the dream this was a display of the most transcendent anger.

In fairness to my date, I realize that I’ve always thought that conversation is a deeper intimacy than sex, and so believed that physical contact should come first, or at least quite early. There was a time and a place when this was a more common conviction. To me a kiss is less provocative than a confidence. And far less invasive. Why would a person want to know your past or your beliefs or your tragedies or your experiences at yoga camp if he does not yet know your body, the simplest item of them all? Unwanted monolog is, to me, as threatening as unwanted sexual advance, and usually far more time consuming. The body is the door, and one should enter there even before knocking on the ears. Consensual physical contact should be the least complicated thing in the universe, and that upon which all the complexities build. So I think. Maybe I’m the last of us in all the world.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

December 2, 2011

Student in creative writing, on the second-to-last day of class: “Do you have an extra syllabus? Somehow I never got one, and I don’t know exactly what I’m supposed to do.”

Student in humanities after the second-to-last day of class: “Now, what is it we’re supposed to do about cultural events?”

DJ and Russell and I went to Magnetic Field to see this year’s edition of the Christmas show. What was funniest was what reprised from last year, but I guess that’s how tradition gathers. Trinity underused: there are some roles she’s just too smart for. Had a delicious creamy cocktail and remembered how much I love the music of trains.

Happy day. Two miles on the machine before morning, good painting in the afternoon. Thought all day that I was going to meet L, but that has not yet materialized. Heard from Chris L, who broke his leg and was alone and in distress here without calling anyone, or at least without calling me. Back home in Ohio now. Somehow I knew his adventure here was a wrong path. Easy to tell when it’s somebody else.

Semester ends raggedy and raveling, as though we were all made of sharp edges and tore everything that passed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December 1, 2011

Left school late last night, though, as ever, I was in a panic to get on to the next thing. One of my creative writing students has something to show at each class, and I have to put her off–yesterday rather gruffly– saying that we need to hear from somebody we haven’t heard from the last fourteen times. At the end of class she asked if there were time to do one more poem. I said there wasn’t, but as the class filed out I suffered a twist of vision and realized she wasn’t selfish, but rather as we wish all our students to be, eager, over-eager, striving, gluttonous for improvement, and I said I had time myself to look at her poem. I don’t know why my thought turned around like that, from irritation to appreciation, but I’m grateful it did. We made real progress on the poem. Her lines are brilliant and flat footed in an almost predictable alternation, and we worked on telling the brilliant and the flat-footed apart. My reward for staying late was that when I stepped onto the Quad, the fat crescent moon and the hard shard of Venus held up a sky graduating from deep blue at the top, through the most exquisite lilac, to flame orange at the western end. It was the most perfect sequence of colors I had ever seen, and the black outlines of trees and the two pools of white fire set it off and gave it scale.

Tiny black spider in the bathroom. She’s built a web in a magazine I was reading, and when I ruined it by picking up the magazine, I saw her scurry, in rather a confusion, across the white floor. She has built again in a safer place against the tub. Her web is very elementary– just one thread, as far as I can tell, to lift her a little above the floor. She has a week before the cleaning lady comes.