I stood still beside the water gardens long enough, and the frog forgot about me and kicked up from the depths. He is a big, stout bullfrog. He looks heftier than he did last year, but maybe he profited from having all my bugs to himself. I bought goldfish for the pools, to combat the larvae I saw dancing in the water like dust in a storm.
Went to the studio late today, mostly to try to rearrange, but did a little painting. Most of my paintings are back from the restaurant, and “Rough Beast” comes down Monday. I don’t know how many people saw “Rough Beast,” but certainly no more of my friends than managed an appearance at the opening. I long ago grew accustomed to my colleagues’ and friends’ indifference to what I do (maybe a scar over the place rather than full reconciliation) but what continues to perplex me is what I interpret as a lack of curiosity. You’d think there’d be interest in knowing what people you know do. Morbid fascination, even. I think I have such an interest. I think I go where I’m invited to see the people who invite me in action. My students thought it was canny of me to assign a book that had two of my plays in it, making that fifteen cents royalty and all, but I did it because I would have been devoured by curiosity if one of my professors has been a playwright, or a poet, or an exotic dancer. I would have gone to see, whatever the cost. Earl Wassermann’s book on Shelley came out while we were his students, and the few copies that could be had at first were treated as sacred relics. So much community is available at our fingertips, so many devices and social networks, that perhaps curiosity is a thing of the past, like hunger in a place where the tables are always laden.
TD has me watching a TV stream of Smash, a show about putting on a Broadway musical. It is funny, slick, horrifying. Most of its horror is that it rings true. One line did stand out, the assertion that most shows take three or four years to reach the stage. I think the tears I wept over Lincoln may not have been so much wasted as premature.
Devouring time, now that I have it, like a rich dessert.
The roses are in bloom.
A pair of mockingbirds is raising their brood in my rose thicket. It turns the yard into a war zone, them attacking everything that moves. They’ve stopped attacking me, probably assuming I’m a sort of lumbering ruminant who means no harm and has manifested no bird-eating behavior. I blame them for banishing my towhees. This is a grievous thing, and I don’t know how to make it right.
Thunderstorms across the land, like the trailing hems of violent dancers.
White iris in the front yard, a cloud of them. Apricot and purple in the back yard.
David Nard is dead of a stroke. It is a shock; there was no mark of imminent mortality upon him.
One of the cleaning girls left her jacket behind. I hung it from the dining room lintel so I’d remember to return it, and the scent of cigarettes filled two rooms.
First hummingbird to the feeders by evening light.
The frog–or at least a frog–is already in the water gardens. I rejoice.
Gave two exams yesterday, peered at empty spaces in the grade book, as I do semester after semester, wondering what to do, wondering what they could be thinking. No simplicity, no number of repetitions of the requirements seems to be enough. Perhaps, as on TV, they expect to be saved from mundane failure at the last moment by discovering they’re a superhero or a concealed interplanetary princess. I’ve little room to talk myself, twisting the evidence in my mind to find them a pass, searching for ways they might have gotten the information without being in class, without writing the paper, trying to convince myself that they tested badly rather than just didn’t bother opening the book, trying not to compare them to their brilliant or diligent peers who somehow managed to do everything right. He was ill. Her parents are crazy. She couldn’t hear the instructions, maybe, past her earphones. He has a kind heart, so maybe these test scores don’t matter so much. I think I made a mistake by trying (irrespective of success) to do everything right in my own life. The energy, the concern go to those who screw up. I have to force my mind from wringing its hands over the weak students to rejoicing over the (more in number) successful ones. This is a kind of fault I don’t even know how to define. People think it’s harder, somehow, to screw up than to succeed. I detect that belief in myself. I turn off the computer and rest my brain.
Senior Gala at Barley’s last night. I had organized it, so I was more committed to it than in times past, and perhaps that was the reason I had a good time. I think I made a friend of the bartender, John, for in my anxiety that everything be right I came early, and we had a long time to talk. The faculty came early and the students stayed late. Thunderstorm as I made my way to the car afterward.
After turning my yard into a sort of war-camp, temporary structures lifted above the ground over every delicate plant, I don’t think it frosted last night at all. Well enough, though, for it gave me something to do at first of morning, packing the bivouac away, leaning over to smell the white cup peony, inhaling the most amazing fragrance on the earth, natural and unnaturally sumptuous at once, heady and lingering. Why is there a bee anywhere in the world but inside that cup?
My storage area has considerably less in it than I remember, and that means that my nightmares of getting another space to store the stuff were for nought. Made one emptying trip today, wherein I rid myself of old picture frames, an aluminum easel, unsold Urthona Press books, and the plastic hydrangeas acquired for the production of Piss. I was in a hurry, so sealed boxes went to the studio unopened. Two more loads or so should do it. Once upon a time I had TWO of those vast storage rooms. Sic transit gloria mundi.
Last night my students did their original brief plays in the Grotto, using mostly actors from the drama department. I have orchestrated this more than twenty times now, and this one was the best– nearly the best in terms of the quality of the plays, far and away the best in terms of the ease and drama-less-ness of the process. I said “do you want to do this?” and after they said “yes” I did practically nothing else. I was so proud of their inventiveness, their application, their orderliness. The ten consecutive days when I think about retiring are interrupted by one day like that, and the tally is set back to zero.
William Billings in my head from last Sunday’s anthem. MR gave me a liter of moonshine. “Never‘shine in cut glass had such clarity.”
April 23, 2012
Covered the tender plants last night. The news suggests that tonight will be the night of frost, but I do not regret getting in a day’s practice.
Breakthrough on Dinosaur Movie.
Have a Persian rug which I rolled up and stored in the garage because Titus and Conrad kept vomiting on it. Now that the dear vomit brothers are gone, I got it out, beat it clean of dust and laid it on the living room floor. Maud and Circe change their pace when they reach it, stretching their legs out and going very carefully, as if unsure of what, exactly, they are walking on.
The motion lights on the side of the garage were on all night, interpreting the fern fronds and branches whipped by the wind as someone passing by.
Return to the Y. Treadmill. Feel 600% better.
April 22, 2012
Cool morning. The purple Dutch Iris are in bloom, the white and yellow German bearded right behind. In the time before Bach rehearsal (which went less badly than before) I planted peppers and melons.
Drove to Sylva last night to read at the City Lights Bookstore for an anthology I’m in called . . . and love. . . Some of the literary lights of the west were gathered in the upper room, reading our poems to one another. People seemed to know and love my books, and to remember my readings with delight, whereas I go around imagining myself in a well of profound obscurity, so the evening was both a puzzlement and a pleasure. The drive to Sylva was wondrous beautiful, the mountains in their most delicate shades of green, a tapestry of infinite green offset here and there by purple threads of pawlonia. I’m always delighted by Sylva and always vow to spend more time there, but when it comes to it I never do.
Woke this morning with a feeling o physical well being, notable because I have been ouchy or sniffly or logy for so long.
April 21, 2012
Have lost hope for the complete healing of my arm. Range of motion is somewhat better, but interesting pains shoot up and down, or hunch like bits of glacier in unreachable places.
After a haircut I cruised downtown, having an excellent Japanese lunch, calling at Blue Spiral 1, where I had not been in a while. Bought two works, which I will have forgotten about by the time the show is over and I can pick them up, so there will be a nice surprise. Went to the art show of one of my humanities students. She does hieratic shields, which I liked. Didn’t buy one of hers because her step-mother had laid claim to the one I liked. Bought a handmade iron and wood table at the Owen Hall art show. Ran into MG’s ex-wife, and couldn’t make the connection.
Feeling bad about the house hunt, worried that Karen takes me to place after place that I don’t like (or which, in some cases, she doesn’t like) and that I’m wasting her time. She says not, but who knows? I sold my Priceline stock yesterday (to protect a huge profit from slow erosion) and realized that the results of the sale of that one stock would have been a 50% down-payment on any property I have yet viewed, so if money had been a worry, it was a mask for apparently unconquerable indecision. I don’t want to move. I don’t want to die here. Part of me is waiting for the opening of a golden door and a voice saying, “Come hither.” Part of it is fear for my garden. When I leave someone is going to plow it up and plant grass, and, fearing that, I would never be able to pass this point on the earth again.
My storage people inform me that the place has been sold and a brewery is to be built there (on stilts, I hope, right there against the river). Must move my junk somewhere. If I can find time today I’ll go and see what needs to be saved, what needs to go to the studio, what can be discarded. The central purpose of the storage area had been 1) to store the remnants of Urthona Gallery, and 2) to store the boxes and boxes full of publications in which my work appeared. I allowed the thought of just chucking all those boxes of magazine to enter my head, and now it seems reasonable, unregretable. Will I regret it nevertheless? Will I forget all that the moment the dumpster lid slams shut? It has been a season of deaccession.
Sent Godzilla: the Musical to John and Bruce in New York. It actually seems way more their speed than Lincoln.
Last day of most classes. I had, apparently, said “I don’t read my faculty evaluations.” so a gratifying number of students said, “I know you don’t read your faculty evaluations, so I’m going to tell you personally that I loved the class.” I DON’T read faculty evaluations, but I’m surprised I said so.
Yesterday was Undergraduate Research Day on campus, and I must say it was the most exciting day this year. I sat in sessions where the students summarized their senior papers, or accounted for their year of research, and was amazed by the skill, confidence, by the mastery of academic idiom, but the genuineness of the discoveries. It was like listening to colleagues rather than students. Sophie had organized a Dionysia Festival, and various time constraints assured that I could only go to one session, but that session was a student conceived and directed Agamemnon which was right in every aspect, including a new translation by our students, which was noble and appropriately grand. New vision for how to teach, and what to expect in return.
The students are good-natured in their frenzy as the semester ends. I too have been good natured in recent days, so there is a sort of panicked harmony.
Rolled through slashing thunderstorms to Montreat to hear Nathan’s senior recital. He has turned into a composer, and these were his works. It was an evening of interest and promise, and of the half-dozen things I was expected to do last night, I’m glad I chose that. The recital was in the Chapel of the Prodigal, with its famous mural of the Prodigal’s return. The painting is ruined by preposterous teal shadows which, once you really take a look, dominate the composition.
Reading at Posana’s last night. Excellent vodka tonic. M’s new poems were exciting, a new direction for him. The woman who read with him–and whom I’d heard at Downtown Books and News-- was, despite her long list of awards, gawdawful. It was the shape of poetry, the attitude of poetry, without any poetry. Some writers are like those animals that mimic other animals, harmless snakes pretending they’re adders, harmless butterflies pretending they’re bitter poison. They sound like writers, look like writers, have the attitude of writers, so few sit down and consider what is actually being said.
Violently ill two nights in a row. One night it was excess eating at Eileen’s party; last night it was iffy spare ribs. The sick feeling is not gone, but no longer acute. I’m used to restful sweet nights even when my days go awry, so this is spiritually disturbing as well. Circe waits for me to come back from a session with the toilet, then snuggles up to broadcast her medicine.
Maud alerted me at dawn to the presence of our big opossum in the yard. He looked right out there, rooting amid the flowers. He was the completion of the picture. The golden laburnum will be in bloom when I enter the back yard. The purple Dutch iris stand in glory. Took Sunday morning to myself and planted three kinds of mint, eggplant (restored) and zucchini. Ripped out strips of wild honeysuckle and imperial myrtle. I was happy. I guess some people would be amused that the question of whether I should do what makes me happy actually causes confusion and anxiety. Working in the garden made me happy. Going to church would not have done, but it seemed wrong in every possible sense, except in a sense of self-indulgence, for me to have chosen as I did. Of course, everything that becomes a burden was once a delight, and one holds on meaning to honor a one-time glory, or in the hope that lightning might strike again. What would my life have been like if I had done what I wanted to do rather than what I thought I should? Impossible to tell, ruinous to think long upon.
Maybe I should go to church only when God and I are on speaking terms.
The yard’s drama is a pair of mockingbird tormenting a crow. I throw scraps out for the crow, and it must approach sideways to escape the attention of the territorial mockers. The male scolds me, too, but I’m not as easily started as the crow, and he gives up after a while. I think they must have a nest in the rose brambles on the front terrace. That their exertions call attention to this probably does not occur to them.
The Durango Arts Center chooses Alfie and Greta and Conversation Involving Doppler the Cat for performance at their one-act festival on May 18. There had been a theme– animals?– but I forget what the theme was. One hundred thirty entries– two of mine got in. I am happy. I weigh the possibility of a flight to Durango.
A man is working at Carolyn’s. The cats watch him with the same concentration they employ for the opossum.
Cold bright nights, cool bright days. Dawn is almost colorless this morning, a sort of beige smoothing into robin’s egg.
Party to say goodbye to Eileen Crowe last night, an excellent colleague, whose thread is woven into the tapestry, and whom we shall miss. I think everyone from the department was there, and mirthful at the edge of the golf course, ducks flying overhead to Beaver Lake, geriatric dogs pulling on a rubber loop with what they remember as playfulness. One of the dogs was so crippled with arthritis he could barely run, but run he did, with that dog smile plastered over his face, chasing after Peg’s grandson. One admired that. One hopes for that fortitude for oneself when the hour comes.
First rehearsal with orchestra of the Bach Easter Oratorio only minorly disastrous.
Slept the night without being awakened by an aching arm. Progress.
C’s prognosis is quite bad. The cancer is something rare and interesting, which I’m sure she finds a comfort. Our society doesn’t give us clear ways to react to very bad news which is not personally our own. Our sympathy is sincere, but badly put, individuality of expression in this case not being a virtue.
Day began with an impending computer catastrophe, which I think I have diverted. Spent hours doing things other than what I needed to do.
Hours yesterday exploring properties with KS. The idea of moving is sweet to me unless I am actually looking for someplace specific to move to, in which case it becomes confusing, exhausting, by the end of the day, horrifying. Twenty nine acres in Black Mountain struck me as wonderful at first sight. Deep woods, ferny ravines. Maybe will think more on that. The house is built like a cabin in the woods, and though I want a woods, I do not want to live in a cabin.
Read poetry and was interviewed on the local Wordplay on Ashevillefm. It allowed me to be reacquainted with A Dream of Adonis, and I was satisfied with what I heard. If I wondered if anyone would be listening on Easter afternoon, “Dan from Candler” called the station later to confirm that some, at least, were. He found my little poems revolutionary and blasphemous and end-time-ish and some of them were spoken from the mouth of God (all things he meant as negative) and he had to sign off now to comfort his daughter, who had been shaken up so by my broadcast. I had to admit that given twenty tries I would not be able to link his impressions to what I actually said or read.
Reading of Amadeus with NC Stage at Malaprop’s last night. The crowd was faithful, so I suppose they were enjoying it.
Pale golden tree peonies in plate-sized flower. Warnings of a freeze tonight. The peonies won’t mind, but others— in any case, I have decided to ignore it. I have fought the elements enough for one lifetime.
Vast moon even now blazing through the backyard trees, radiant even though the sun sits just below the eastern rim and the sky is peacock blue.
Woke with pleasant memories of my opening last night. Surprising people came, and several paintings were sold right off, and, of course, the weather was beyond perfect. By levels of magnitude the most satisfying opening I’ve ever had. And, crassly, the night’s proceeds almost pay for getting my intricate taxes done.
Easter Day. Lilies’ Lord, welcome. My faith is small; my gratitude is large. Find Thy way.
Justin invited me to dinner, and Graelin, and Justin’s roommate Max came along. We sat on the Avenue M terrace, and it was a sweet evening. They were the illustration in the encyclopedia beside “Good Company.” As I walked home, the giant moon was rising over the Wells Fargo roof, and as I awoke this morning, buttressed by cats, the moon was setting over Carolyn’s parking lot, so I may think of all my sleep as a circuit of the moon.
My piano is set up in the library at the Phil Mechanic. I was there early today, before everybody, and I sat down and played the piano for a long time, improvising through the keys. I wonder if I was the first to play it in its new home? The upper notes are hideously out of tune. I didn’t care. I was strangely happy.
A big crow comes down to eat the uneaten cat food I throw onto the terrace.
Planted and mulched. Looked at old poems and thought they were pretty good.
Had to leave Maundy Thursday services early (got through the Offertory, which is what I thought I should.) I was ill, but I didn’t know what exactly with. Everything at once. Nothing very specific. Maybe just exhaustion, for I rise this morning exhausted but otherwise symptomless. Maybe God was driving an impure hear from the midst of his people. Nobody called to check on me. I suppose I'm not the type one calls to check on.
Reading by student poets in the library yesterday. One of the readers was the fair-haired boy of the department who, apparently uncharacteristically, seldom came to my class. This made me feel bad, for everyone has tones praise on their lips for him, and I could not, and I assumed something in me was to blame. Couldn’t hear a word he read, so the possibly comforting judgment was aborted. J did well, and bothered to remember the event was at least in part about communication. Whitman in poetry class. I was happy. Maybe they were.
Rescued a neglected lily from the Common Room.
Good Friday sees me trying to attend to one duty, one appointment after another. I have a feeling this is not how it was supposed to be.
Removal of the piano 1) allows me no place to set stuff, 2) brought back to my attention the large military trunk I bought in Ithaca long ago (The man said it had contained a typewriter? Camera equipment? He said something, anyway) and which has been filled with the negatives of thousands upon thousands of photographs. I throw them away today, not having used them in all these years, not foreseeing a use for them in years to come. I remember dad saying “You’ll take a picture of anything, won’t you?” and that must have been true. There are also five large folders of slides, which I won’t throw away until at least I’ve looked at them, and some quite dramatic and beautiful pictures I took with one of those cameras which produced prints of various sizes, panoramas, deep vistas. I wandered some city in the rain–was it Atlanta?– take lonely and lyrical shots. As a photographer I was quite good sometimes, merely gluttonous for color and complexity at others.
One big muscular man, one enormous man, and one wiry thin man are in the living room wrestling with the baby grand. I don’t think they are enough, but let’s trust them to know their business. I want to cry to them, “For God’s sake, stop taking phone calls and get the job done,” but, again. The upheaval of this moment should be balanced by the fact that Marco got my show set up in not much more than an hour, it looking professional and elegant, as good a setting as those paintings are going to get. I had produced too much, and several things had to be left out. At least today the anxiety of not being at the studio producing is fully mitigated.
Rain impends. They wonder how to get the pedals off. I am useless.
The rain has started and the piano is gone. The “Mighty Movers” were quite sufficient, it turned out, with a functional knowledge of physics far superior to my own. The piano is the last vestige of my contact with the Yeagers, that odd and ultimately unprofitable interlude. The very big man had to run out on the porch every five minutes to spit. The other two had the bodies of superheroes.
Called Marco about the hanging tomorrow, and he said, “I’m sitting right outside your house.” I told him how to get in, and when I got home I found he had left me a cactus and one of his dramatic orange-y fetish paintings, very large and striking. I hung it in my bedroom where a crucifix had been. Marco will be a godsend today during the hanging. Not only am I mediocre at that at the best of times, but my shoulder makes it difficult for me to lift weight above my head-- though I did hang his painting, and in its glacial way, that’s getting better.
Led the talk-back for Tartuffe at Carol Belk. It was a deserved love-fest, and I was happy to be part of it. Behind some of the comments was “Too bad it had not been like this immemorial times in the past,” though no one came out and said it. Clearly the Tartuffe production was free of the self-dramatization on the part of the stage manager that made Our Town seem a penal sentence. There is no reason why that program cannot sail from this point onward and upward.
Crow amid the blossoms of the dogwood. Whenever the crows come, mockingbirds follow to torment and scold them. One would think that the crows would win a head-on battle, but somehow they allow themselves to be bullied. I threw the bread of my sandwich into the garden. The crows approach, cautious both of me and the two mockingbirds who seem to have divided my yard between them. In the branches of the little dogwood the crow seems a very big bird. Remind me not to lie down very long in the grass.
Yesterday my shoulder throbbed and certain motions were nearly impossible, and the stiffness began to communicate itself across my back to the other shoulder. I’d twisted my left knee so that certain motions caused sharp pain there and a screech of “ouch!” Hemorrhoids caused me to fill the toilet with blood twice a day since Malta, and so I’m light-headed and disgusted from that. My stomach was upset, my leg was swollen so that regular pants were out of the question and I had to wear sweatpants, and still the seam left a furrow down my leg. A pervading sadness lingered from unspeakable events and perceptions of the proceeding week, AND it was time to go to a dinner part at J and L’s. It was almost funny, to have mirth expected of me at such a time. I felt terrible the while, fearing that I might be a shadow on the revelry, wanting to go home and close my eyes and be out of everybody’s way. I wanted to sing with the others singing at the piano, but I couldn’t force myself to get up from the couch. No quarter held mercy. I wanted to show kindness to those who are kind to me, but all was gravel and broken glass.
Shoulder is better, especially. Though my back is stiff, I can close the car door or slip on a T-shirt without a screech of pain. Went to the studio and redeemed two paintings which I feared we lost causes. Was at the Fresh Market check-out when someone from the deli was fired for pilfering. A white narcissus blooms amid the wood hyacinth.