Saturday, June 30, 2012

June 29, 2012

Assembled the book In the Temple of the White from an evening of reading and revising. There are times when every poem I’ve written seems a masterpiece. There are times, like last night, when few of them seem to have gotten any near to what I meant. Those are the times to assemble a book.

Evening. The cats coped with the three digit temperatures by not moving more than ten feet throughout the day. I went to the gym and saw to a million errands, including getting my will witnessed, signed, notarized. Bought a fire safe. Bought a case of the most exquisite and complicated Spanish white. Saw stocks sky-rocket, and bought twenty thousand $ worth of new equities. Rejoiced anew in the constitutionality of Obama-care. I thought I had done some writing, but I guess that was in my head, ready to be committed to paper this evening. Trained a fan directly on my face above the keyboard.

Friday, June 29, 2012

June 28, 2012

Calm morning before what they promise will be a torrid day. Wondrous silent last night, not a sound as far as I could hear. Even the cats padding around seemed sinister. Was afflicted with nightmares, wherein I was paying horribly for some trespass of my father’s. Happily, the details have faded. They were those dreams where you wake and it takes a few minutes to reason out that is not really the life you live. I wonder if our waking after this life will seem the same?

DJ and I dining at Avenue M–merry meeting with Jeff and Jacob. Fixed on the Olympic preliminaries on TV.

Helped dole out Grassroots money to local arts organizations. Was impressed by how much work organizations are willing to do for relatively little money. Was negatively impressed by how hasty and abrupt my judgments were as compared to the balanced, thoughtful, many-factors-considering deliberations of the others. My swift punches avail about 60% of the time, but when they don’t, they don’t.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 27, 2012

Virtual Palestrina. Kevin may be singing his morning song, but I can’t hear it.

The Foahs email from Atlanta to say that The Birth of Color, on hold maybe now for fifteen years, is on again, with a projected premiere next year in Rome. Lucio Ivaldi is the new composer. A month for the libretto, fifteen years for the music. Sounds about right.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

June 23, 2012

Complex and extended dreams before waking. I was in prison, though the prison was like a big summer camp, all outdoors and crammed with sports and activities. David Mycoff was a fellow prisoner–he was probably brought to mind because the last time I was onstage at Montford, he was Faustus and I was Mephistofeles– and the prime punishment seemed to be receiving a kind of magazine in which your crime was printed up like a flashy ad. As the dream ended, I was looking through all the dryers in the camp for laundry I had dried and lost track of. It was my release day, and the other prisoners couldn’t believe I was delaying my release to find a load of laundry.

Good day painting. Instead of auditioning for Richard II, came home from the studio and baked zucchini pies. Same recipe as pumpkin, only with zucchini. The odd green aspect will be covered with Cool Whip.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

June 22, 2012

Window-rattling, cat-disconcerting thunderstorms rolled though yesterday and this afternoon. Now the afternoon heat seeps back, enhanced by the fresh humidity. For a moment my patio was a lake.

My cichlid, who was merrily diving for food yesterday, lay dead at the top of the tank today, fins and tail nibbled by his neighbors.

Zach cupped me, as they did in elder days. It did feel good–made me feel tingly. He thought it brought the swelling down in my legs. I didn’t see that, so much, but am willing to trust his perceptions rather than my own.

Invented bacon/zucchini salad, whereby one of the green monsters has found proper use.

Day ends with Lawrence and me going to Montford for an excellent reading of Much Ado about Nothing. Well directed, well played-- though I would have paid attention to the usual cuts, which, having been tested, prove judicious. LH provided avocado and cracker hors d’oeuvres. The moon was the thinnest crescent.

Friday, June 22, 2012

June 21, 2012

The Falls of the Wyona received honorable mention from Leapfrog Press as a “Children’s” (probably Young Adult) novel. They did notify me earlier, but I didn’t read the email, assuming it was a total kiss-off. FW as a young adult book is problematic– and I wonder of I classified it that way, or they did– except for the fact that the characters are teenagers. Sent in the next 50 pages to the James Jones people, revising all the way.

Looked at another property in Weaverville. Loved the shed, loved the holly tree, hated the house. The dog smell was too heavy to imagine it without it. Karen was too sad over her mother’s cancer to be fully present, and that was all right. Should I have been sorry or glad to have distracted her for a moment?

Went to a lawyer to get a will made out. He was the first to answer a spate of queries I sent out while drunk the other night. I didn’t like him, but I assumed that, for this, nobody would tell me much different, so I plowed ahead. He talked a blue streak, and I was prepared to be pissed off about that, but he didn’t charge me for the time he talked, so all was well.

Harvested three gigantic zucchini from my garden. I swear they weren’t there when I looked a week ago.

Sending money to Thailand when my sister goes over to visit Jonathan. I’m told the money will buy coffee trees for farmers there. The only thing better would be if it bought somebody a water buffalo.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 20, 2012

High summer holds the earth. All is healed. All is health.

The Falls of the Wyona is a finalist in James Jones Fellowship contest. They ask for the next 50 pages, and I am suddenly paralyzed to provide them.

Reading The Iliad at the café, a book or two until the cup runs dry or the stupid music comes on. It exceeds remembrance. Homer’s quality is the most piercing verisimilitude: one feels present at the scene. One feels that if one awoke thirty two centuries ago on the west coast of Asia, one would know how to conduct oneself. One could look out on the field of battle and be able to tell who was Odysseus, who was Diomedes. One would know Hector’s sword from the other swords; one would know the purple belt Aias gave Hector after their battle. Everything is palpable, visible; the references the characters make are instantly recognizable as part of the fabric of a complex culture. It is at once the best poem and the best novel. My Kindle reading at the gym is War and Peace, so between the two of them I’m having a majestic summer.

Monday, June 18, 2012

June 18, 2012

D sang the praises of Marty Fullington, late of Earth and Owen High School, calling him a caring and inspired teacher and giving him the credit for the course of his creative life. Such things should be known.

Stack of literary magazines on the living room table. I must have subscribed or entered a contest or otherwise inspired the flood. I read each successively with growing ennui, though often the covers are beautiful, and almost always there is one thing, a poem or the opening paragraph of a story, which is gold.

Did not go to church and did not miss it. Instead, sat on the café terrace, studied my music, read DR’s book, read Book II of The Iliad, skipping most of the Catalog of Combatants. Left when they turned on the damned music.

Sick from last night’s rice at a Japanese restaurant.

Cantaria approaches Denver. The baritones have developed a hard red neck tone, dipthong-y, piercing, and at war both with the repertoire and the other sections.

Bug on the bathroom floor this morning. It looked like a tick, so I smashed it– with the edge of one of those lit mags I just mentioned. It smashed too easily to be a tick, and then I was full of remorse.

Kevin the frog sings his morning song.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 17, 2012

DR friended me on Facebook. He seemed to know a lot about me, and many of his posts were directly to me. I assumed he was a student whom I had forgotten. He called me “professor.” On line yesterday morning he invited me to breakfast, and I accepted. Turns out he is a 6' 6" kid, 24, with a tangle of black hair and a winning forwardness. I don’t know how to put my impressions into words, they were so many and forceful. He is as one imagines Keats to have been, sweetly obsessive about his craft, self-involved and self-delighted in a way neither unattractive nor inappropriate, a river of energy, ambition, uncertain genius looking for a bed to flow in. He told me the story of several of his books, which are available on Kindle, and the stories were brilliant–as one might expect from a young man–but also subtle and intricate, as one might not expect so readily. I’m almost afraid to open the actual texts, lest they disappoint after the radiance of their maker. I asked him how we knew each other, and we didn’t. He’d read my reviews in the Mountain Xpress, thought we might be kindred souls, and began researching me online. He said he knew everything about me. I decided not to test that assumption, but whatever he knows, it is sweet to think he made the effort. He may be a little mad, and he is certainly an obsessed monologist and an autodidact (whom all I seem to collect) but he is also fascinating. He is sunshine. I watched across the table thinking, “I like you. I’m going to go with this for a while.” He invited me to go with him to find some alcohol when we were done with breakfast, at about 9 AM. I declined. His energy is at once creative and self-destructive. What I was seeing was in part a version of myself that– I think it was a good idea, finally–I steered clear of. All that sparkle and vanity and wounded energy are part of me, but something in my upbringing gave me the skill–and the will-- to conceal it, and though life would have been different had I not covered those fires, it would not necessarily have been better, or as long. Throughout life I’ve made those choices, mostly semi-consciously, which would prolong and protect my art. There are things about that to regret, but here I am, whole and better than I ever was at the things that matter, so maybe it was the right course. D is taking another course, and, father-like, I wring my spiritual hands– but perhaps the gods brought us together to he can take a little of my endurance while I take as much as I can of his verve.

Left D, went to Home Depot and bought what I needed to paint the living room, which I did. Gave it a pale green accent wall. The jury is yet out on that, but there it is, and I have time to get used to it. Near the end of the painting I was staggering about, dizzy and disoriented, clearly poisoned by the paint fumes, though all widows and the front door were open, and the fan was on. I think I remember that from before. I was worried that the fish would be sickened too, but they seem not to have been. Watched CSI on DVD until I passed out.

Kevin the frog sings his morning song.

June 16, 2012

Took a huge group of friends and students to see The Tempest done by high school kids at NC Stage. It was magical: inventive, charming, the kids in most cases mastering both the language and the mood. This play can endure a wide range of tones; sweet humorousness in near one end of that range, and that’s what they, quite appropriately, played. Avenue M afterward, and evening passed in conviviality.

Friday, June 15, 2012

June 14, 2012

Have been working so hard on Night, Sleep that I’ve not written here, or anywhere else, nor had much experience to write about. Submerged, joyfully. The probably futility of the work doesn’t seem to matter when you’re in the midst of it. When it began, I thought I was going to do a brush up, but the Angel of Revision dug deep and changed the entire landscape. Chopped about thirty pages, but added many incidents, so the fat must have been considerable.

On the brink of putting a bid on property in Weaverville. There are two small houses, one which would be perfect for DJ. The land, though far from ideal, is interesting. There is a thriving frog pond, a gigantic tilted field, and a woods about the size of the one I prowled in as a kid. Contacted the mortgage lady, and she said I could get a loan at just over 4%, but if I waited until Europe collapses, it could be lower. If I have control over that, I’ll say “abide, Europe” and accept a higher rate.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

June 11, 2012

Second day of the studio stroll more fraught with event, though still devoid of sales. Many visitors– Amanda, Rick, Marco, TD and his son August, a wildly enthusiastic collage-making girl who discussed color choice with me. My jewelry-making neighbor suggested her boyfriend Adam to clean out my sapling-sprouting gutters.  Hired and done. I still left early, but not with such a feeling of disgust.

Bruce facebooks that he has won a Tony. His photo was so deliriously happy that I’d be glad he won even if I didn’t know him. What this means for our show I don’t know, except at the reading he said, “If we win a Tony, then it’s clear sailing from now on.” We’ll see.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

June 9, 2012

Fitful bouts of sleeping and waking before dawn. During sleep were bits of dreams and flashes of images so unlike what I would ever think about, so foreign from anything I’ve actually seen, that it supports my ancient thesis that we are two people.

Studio stroll today. I lack any sense of the occasion, which is probably well.

With Jon and Dalton to dinner at LAB (the most excellent cream of corn soup). Then on to NC Stage for In the Next Room, the set for which is ravishing. After the play, drinks at Sazerac. The chef herself brought our charcuterie. In the Next Room is one of those plays you hear so much about when they’re on Broadway, but when you actually see them, you wonder why. It’s structured like a farce (and, of course, needs to be a farce) but never commits to farce, but balances , or fails to balance, between the farcical and the revelatory. Jon called it “Ibsen with a dildo.” The first moment of the play indicates the last, so that the last moment, while moving on its own, carries with it the sense of exhaustion you feel when something has been explained laboriously, repeatedly, to the most stupid person in the room. It made me think what I would do if, not having seen this play, I was assigned to write a play about vibrators. It would have been funny. I don’t know that I can do farce, but if I could, it would be farce. It would not try to say something sage and straight-faced about the human psyche, because you can’t do that with a dildo onstage. The playwright was forever checking herself, trying too self-consciously to toe the line between gravity and waggery that requires the most blessed lack of self-consciousness. The play congratulated itself overmuch on its superiority to its own characters. That the vibrator is a sad symbol of abridged intimacy is too obvious, finally, to need to be said. Fine production, fine cast.

Evening. Most of the day spent at the gallery stroll, where I painted not very well, sold nothing, and only really talked with a few people. Calamitous waste, which I will repeat tomorrow. Tim, the new owner of the Wedge, led the media to believe all would remain as it was, all artsy-craftsy and casual, but this is not what is happening. He has warned his renters that they will be culled to make way only for “good artists.” Part of the space will go for a restaurant. Since the breweries marked their space, the burnt-out shell next door, which failed to sell for $500,000, has attracted three buyers at $1,000,000. There may be something to stand against the tide of gentrification–and thus the destruction-- of one of the most vibrant art quarters in the South, but it’s hard to know what it is.

Friday, June 8, 2012

June 7, 2012

Vinho verde on a sunny afternoon.

The prickly pears are in bloom for the first time. So is the pickerel weed in the water garden. For the sake of the prickly pears I launched an attack on the thickets of the front terrace, ripping away about 100 tangling pounds of vines to give them more light and less competition. A few more days like that might clear the terrace, but I have been going carefully, because I know the mockingbirds’ nest was somewhere in that thicket. The mockingbirds didn’t seem to be particularly agitated, so maybe all their babies are fledged and flown.  Blue flash of the bluebirds in the corner of my eye. Electric blue-green of the dragonflies.

Revising Night Sleep.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

June 6, 2012

The day is still deciding between dark and fair.

Jack’s birthday at Avenue M last night.

Was not offered the Howerton Distinguished Humanities Professorship. Though I knew this exact outcome at the outset, I decided to go through with it (as I almost always do) to give the universe a chance at surprising me. The university has held me–oddly, I think; maybe it makes sense to them–at arm’s length. I have not been chosen for tasks I was perfect for, and when I volunteered I was, almost without exception, rebuked. When the decision was too idiotic, I fought, which made me look like a boor. The university has never asked or wanted full value from me, which forced me to go and make most of my career in the outside. This is, ultimately, good for me, but perplexing. I am the most widely-known professor here, maybe that there ever was– except Bob Moog-- but all of that begins at the edge of the campus. This was not my choice. They had a Porsche in the garage which they never drove. There is, however, something to be grateful for. This ends all need of loyalty to the institution, either financially or biographically. It will be to me as I was to it.

The successful candidate has not been announced. Perhaps (grin on my face) it will be someone wonderful.

New furniture arrived yesterday. After the necessary arranging and rearranging, I think I have the living room in a state where I can stop noticing it again. Napped on the sofa. The love seat is still virgin.

Ray Bradbury is dead.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


June 5, 2012

Light rain and a dim but inevitable dawn.

Charleston lay under perfect summer light, warm but not too warm, brilliant blue, our last night there the full moon glittering on the fountain of the Square. When I first went to Charleston, in my famous graduate school Southern summer adventure, I came flying from events in New Orleans, and when I reached Charleston I thought that would be the haven, that I would find a lover and live out my life in one of those inward mansions with the long verandahs and mysterious gardens. I found Nick and Tradd Street, but what was meant to last for years lasted for days. Each time I return, that first determination reemerges in my mind, and I look for invitations from the universe to stay.

The Embassy Suites, I finally figured out, was installed in the old buildings of the Citadel, the courtyard covered over into an atrium, the famous staircases painted pink and climbing into the rows of rooms. The people at the hotel were lovely, and there were cockatiels in the lobby and free cocktails in the evening, but the experience was damaged by the fact that our room had no windows. This disturbed me more than I would have guessed. All my personal rhythms were thrown. We drove down with Bill, and that first evening we strolled around renewing old acquaintance with certain bars and certain street corners. By the end of the evening I was so drunk I could not possibly drive Bill to his digs in North Charleston, as I had promised to do, so gave him money for the cab. One of the handsome bellboys grew up in Baltimore, and we each knew the other's stomping grounds.

At a table on the hotel patio we met Peter and Linda, an older couple who offered to share their table in the crowded evening. They were pleasant company, but in the course of discussion I learned that Peter had been close friends with Omar Pound at Hamilton, and that Linda had gone to high school in Port Arthur with Janis Joplin. Omar has been one of my curiosities, as so much is said about his father and sister, and so little about him. Peter’s description of Pound’s personality made him sound a little like me. Peter had also been a pilot, bombing Laos and Cambodia from Guam. During the Cuban missile crisis, he was one of the pilots who rotated endlessly over selected enemy targets, ready to veer into Armageddon at a signal. He is a dapper little man, still handsome, who has lived a remarkable life. He is also a composer, though whether thwarted or modest I couldn’t tell. He came to our concert.

Sunday morning I had time for the largest breakfast of the last twelve months, and a stroll down King to the Market, and then through the art show on the Square, where I bought jewelry made cleverly out of broken porcelain– which is found in quantity whenever a hole is dug in Charleston– and a beautiful painting called Violet Dawn. The painter was skillful and very talkative. I hope I kept her information, for I would like to collect her. She is one of those painters who layers and washes and proceeds meticulously, whom I admire and envy a little, but do not actually wish to emulate.

Only recently did it materialize–or at least did we fully understand-- that our gig at Spoleto was actually at a retirement village, Franke’s, north of the city. This was a disappointment, and I might not have made the trip– which, all in all, cost more than my weekend in New York– had I been fully aware. But when it came to pass the crowd was appreciative and I was glad to have provided them pleasure, as it seemed we did. The program presented us as adjuncts to “the Singing Doctors” who, apparently, perform there yearly. Pleasant conversation, partially in halting Italian, with our Charleston accompanist, David, whose skill is remarkable, and whom I like. Sunday night we ate magnificently at Coast, and I had to sleep on the couch because of reflux. Years pass between my visits to Charleston; each time I ask myself why I do not go more often. The drive is grueling, but one would get used to it. As we headed home, the roadside was alive with egrets.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

June 2, 2012

The thrasher has nested in somebody else’s yard. I see him in the alley sometimes, dashing over the fence, his elegant rust color flashing in the light. I am envious. I ask myself what I could have done wrong. How could he prefer another yard to mine?

Off to Charleston. Slamming down chai at Edna’s, reading a magazine called WNC Woman. Hilarious, a glut of gender self-delight. If men spoke of women as it speaks of men, there would be outrage. Ungrammatical, on top of it.

Friday, June 1, 2012

June 1, 2012

A tall thistle somehow got past me in the garden. I was going out to pull it when I noticed it had sudden golden flowers– no, not flowers, but a pair of goldfinches, gobbling its seeds. The thistle stays.

When I got home from New York, a fledgling mockingbird lay drowned in the water garden. The parents are still vigilant, so there must be more.

Anecdote from Newark Airport. I wore my Black Keys T-shirt (the unexpected heat in New York having forced me to sweat through everything else) home. It’s black and features an image in white of the Hindenberg blowing up, with the name The Black Keys written on the descending fire. After I’d gone through security, the officer on the other side pointed at my chest and said, “What’s that?”
“A Black Keys T-shirt. It’s a band.”
“How do I know it’s a band?”
Now, I considered responding, “Because I just said so,” but I did say, “It’s a sort of grungy rock band from Akron. I follow it a little–“
She says, “I don’t think so.”
Me: “You don’t think so?”
She “I do not think so at all.”
Me: “Well, what do you think it is?”
She: “We are trained to follow our gut feelings, and my gut feeling is telling me you ain’t quite as smart as you think you are.” She crosses her arms and pops out her eyes in that knowing black woman gesture you see all the time on TV. I turn around, finish repacking my carry-on, and walk past her toward the gate without another word. Nothing happened, so I assume her gut simmered down. There is just enough chance that she was joking. Otherwise: Cow.

Bach on Spotify.

Revising since I got home, with a renewed sense, I think, of what the stage wants.

C and L have had a son. Blessed be.