Friday, August 31, 2012

August 31, 2012

Pale haze, long before dawn, of moonlight diffused through mist.

Classes have been excellent, my writers eager and productive, not infrequently brilliant.

Dinner last night with ACB. We lived on Goodview Avenue together when we were kids, and though we were aware of each other, we were not friends until the mini-reunion I had in Akron years ago, to which she came. Not surprising, then, that there was less reminiscing than there was catching up on all we didn’t know about each other. Her brother, Mike, who was older than us and on whom I had a desperate crush, died years ago, an alcoholic. Tried to look him up on Google, but there’s a baseball player with the same name, and I was worn out by the first billion entries’ being his. She brought me birthday presents, a jar of basil from her garden and a book with pictures of Ireland. She remembers my reading my poetry in assemblies at school, which I don’t remember and which I think was unlikely because I tended to be secretive about all that. She congratulated me on being such a success and making everybody proud. Not feeling a success right now, or ever, I wanted to say, “What the hell could you possibly mean?” but decided just to let it be.

Desperate letters from Ste in Cambridge. I have no idea how to respond, especially since each letter contradicts the emotion and reverses the requests of the one before.

Kevin sings. I think I was waiting for him to do so before I moved from this keyboard. The lawn is dusty-sweet with the scent of the wild clematis. I eased my war against it, and now it covers everything like first snow.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

August 29, 2012

Quiet dark of morning. Tuesday was a marathon, thirteen hours at school.  Met my two creative writing classes, and what must be said is that they may be the most advanced and accomplished group I’ve ever had, inventive, skillful, including not one of those poor souls one must drag along through indulgence and kind words from incompetence to graduation. Big discussion of Homer here, a rash of meetings there, stopping by DJ’s and drinking wine in front of the TV until my words didn’t come out straight. All I had to eat was popcorn, and I had forgotten what that does to my system, so there’s THAT to face in the dark of the morning.

Kevin sings from his tepid, lily-ridden water.

MG says I have a good fairy guarding my garden, since nothing has eaten the vegetables.

Woke feverish. Decided not to take medication, but instead to work hard in the garden, as I had intended to do anyway. That seemed to do the trick. Feverish feeling and aches are gone.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

August 27, 2012

Surprise at the Cantaria rehearsal last night, which was that we sounded brave and youthful and, at a rehearsal, the best we’ve ever sounded. We’ve added four or five new members, some of them conspicuously good, and maybe that has achieved the critical mass. I’m trying to remember the last time I’d come home from rehearsal exuberant and energized rather than exhausted. There are low D’s in the Lauridson for me.

Long and joyful morning session in the garden.

God smites the Republican Convention with a mighty wind.

No one has sufficiently sung the praises of the crape myrtle tree.

Monday, August 27, 2012

August 26, 2012

Sank back into the marathon sleeps yesterday, often thinking in the last moments of consciousness of all else I should be doing. But painted well, and late, and responded to all the playwrights who had sent their materials to Black Swan. Some thanked me for gracious refusals, which is a sort of achievement, I guess. Painting (almost obsessively) mystical landscapes of Sligo. I will never have a fine touch.

The Internet reports that all the people hurt at the Empire State Building were hit by police gunfire. One hardly knows what to say.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

August 25, 2012

Dream before waking that there was a machine that could print out an image of anything you ever saw, whether you had taken a photograph or not.  I had not quite gotten it under control, and it was printing out random images, some I remembered, some I did not, but that was fine with me. The older images were sepia, as if they had been ancient photographs. There was a group of images which I realized were boys my mother had dated.

Good painting yesterday, then rather heroic gardening. I have, of course, chosen the most laborious way to go with gardening. Planted acanthus and swamp hibiscus and a low, parsley-resembling fern that I’d not seen before. In the evening I attended the opening of the rather undistinguished faculty art show, then the quite distinguished recital of Italian Baroque works by the Asheville Baroque trio. Ate something which soured my stomach, and whose effects extend even to this hour.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

August 24, 2012

There are those nights when you think, "It is right for it to end now," but it doesn't,  and the night insects chirr in the dark. Circe licks her paws against the side of the keyboard, moving it sometimes, so what you meant to type is not what you did.

Friday, August 24, 2012

August 23, 2012

On this night 46 years ago I wrote my first poem. The sheer process of creation has been pretty much as I imagined it even at that moment, though the meaning of such an enterprise in the world has been quite other than I had supposed.

Went downtown for a haircut, and ended up shopping like a madman. Shopped the way people do in the movies, hungrily, wanting to fill a gap that I hadn’t known was there. Bought, among other things, a beautiful glass paperweight with a scene in it of turtles on a log in a swamp. The effect might have been still greater had I sought out real turtles on a real log.

Good classes.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

August 22, 2012

J did a superb job at our first class meeting last night, prepared and eloquent and inviting participation. She does mark, though the point at which openness becomes a kind of chaos. We defined “creative biography” until there was no line between it and “big fat lie.” To me there’s a thick and dark line; perhaps to them there’s really not, or perhaps they’re better than I in getting into the spirit of the moment and being less attached to their true convictions. Come to think of it, I was in college the way I am now, narrowing my eyes at the professor when he began to get it “wrong.” Do we live in an age when there are no errors? The political sphere seems to think so, where everything uttered has equal validity, no matter how far it strays from the realm of the verifiable. I imagine some unwitting, well-meaning junior high art teacher taking her class through a museum in, say, 1955, saying, in what she thought was a burst of inspiration, “Why, the painting means whatever you think it means!” Thus flicking the first domino in the long collapse.

My front terrace is a cascade of white (wild clematis) and pinkish-purple (morning glory), edged by the aggressions of the angels’ trumpets. I think it’s wonderful. I hope from passers-by toleration.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

August 21, 2012

Feel better than I have since the return from Ireland. I think meeting my first students last night helped me over some spiritual ravine.

Monday, August 20, 2012

United, nach einmal

The theater gave me the wrong dates, so I made the wrong reservations for my opening in Durango. Phoned Expedia this AM to change them. I thought flying US Air would, at least nominally, free me from the clutches of United, but it didn’t. The Expedia guy said that United owned the ticket, by virtue of owning US Air, and that in changing I would have to use a United flight unless there were no United flights going to that destination– which, of course, there are. The charge for changing the ticket? $590, about $80 less than the original fare. My Indian friend explained that it was “disadvantageous” for United to change the ticket. But he did, in the end, find a ticket that carried only $150 dollar fee– while being, so far as I could see, a slightly better schedule– so I could live with that. I am Jean Valjean. United is Javert.

August 19, 2012

Good painting early yesterday morning. I arrived at and left the studio before anyone else was there. Did some radical weeding and mulching. The roses in the backyard are in their sweet late summer bloom. The heartiest are those which were crushed by the sweet gum, rejoicing in their lives, I suppose. The tomato which was crushed and which I almost uprooted is the size of a small tree, bearing miraculously.

An agent asked to see Riding Fun House. Two days have passed and I have done nothing about it. The matter is so weighty, so fatal that it is almost impossible to act.

Kids came to the door at twilight, canvassing for Obama. For once I was able to say to someone exactly what they wished to hear.

Lovely photo on the Internet of a very young Bill Clinton shaking hands with President Kennedy.

After SIX tries, each frustrated by some one-of-a-kind glitch, did get Funhouse sent to New York. Whatever attributes you assign to the gods, you must include “cruel” and “wasteful.”

Evening. Spare drops fall on the ponds and the birdbaths. I hear it increase as I type, from the lightest rain imaginable to a sturdy downpour.

I remember when my mother’s feelings were hurt, when she had suffered an unkindness, she would retreat to bed. My father-who was generally the cause of it-- called it a tactic, but I don’t think it was. I think it was irresistible. I bring that up now because I realize that the cause of my extreme exhaustion is not physical at all. Unkindness, as it did to her, knocks the wind out of my sails. It drains me so that it is physically hard to function. It is not a tactic because I have nobody to move with it, and the One who is responsible for my sadness will not be moved by it if he is not moved by simple justice.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

August 18, 2012

Walk before dawn through the neighborhood, Venus a glittering smear in the east. It was time to break the habit of staggering directly to the computer and beginning the day with labor. At that hour everything not immediately identifiable becomes an exotic animal just emerged from the great woods. Two traffic cones set at a certain angle were a deer I waited for a long time to move. A bear on a porch was actually an outdoor chair with a big cushion.

Slept yesterday, almost literally all day. Did drive to the studio, mounted the stairs, took a brush in my hand, put the brush down, descended the stairs, drove home, lay down. I feel more juice in me this morning.

Friday, August 17, 2012

August 16, 2012

From Honorah’s web page. I’d forgotten this has been going on for twenty years:

In 1992, while putting together the World Expo Pavilion for the United Nations in Genoa, Italy, we had commissioned a young composer, Tristan Foison, to write the music for an exquisite show on the seven underwater wonders of the world. I'd loved the results of that collaboration, so I asked Tristan if he wanted to work on The Birth of Color. He agreed, as did, through another series of remarkable coincidences, the poet, David Brendan Hopes (whose work I cannot recommend highly enough-as far as I am concerned he's in a league with Gerard Manley Hopkins).

Barely got through the day. I wonder if I give too much energy away on the rowing machine at 6 AM? No, that’s an energy-enhancer. It’s something else. . . . passed up a free dinner. . . was tottering after one glass of a crisp Spanish white. . . .

Thursday, August 16, 2012

August 15, 2012

Kevin singing from his just-before-dawn pond. Bless.

First academic meetings, mostly painless, already a little overwhelming. Busy-work from administration constitutes, as ever, the biggest and most useless burden. The rest, the part that has to do with students and subject, is not a burden at all. The good academic administrator is the one who never has–nor at least never makes public–an idea of his own.

Colossal watermelon taken from the half acre of vine that has devoured the back yard.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August 14, 2012

Perfect day, as yesterday was perfect. High, blue summer.

I was spreading mulch this morning, when I lifted one of the bags to see that between the leaning bags, the tiny brown ants that patrol my house and my car had made a nest. There was a shivering multitude, with their white eggs. I moved the bag a little, and saw something else. There was a small hole in the bag, and out of this hole boiled black ants, very large and substantial, black but with a red cast in the sunlight. They and the little ants must have been in some sort of symbiosis, or merely ignored one another. They had made their way into the mulch through the hole and had turned the whole bag into an ant mansion. They were big, energetic, dismaying. I hacked the bag with a spade and it opened up into a boiling mass of big black ants and their hoard of eggs. Each time I stirred the spilled mulch with the spade I revealed a fresh layer of boiling ants. It was too much.

Driving from Sligo to Shannon, I stopped for gas. I saw something on the pavement of the station. It was a snail, carrying its beautiful shell across the asphalt. It couldn’t have been having a good time, so I picked it up and carried it to a hedgerow.  On the day I returned I was having coffee at Edna’s, when I saw a slug in the middle of the patio. It was moments before the sun would sweep that spot, so I lifted the slug up and put it in one of the jugs of flowers that line the patio. It wasn’t happy there (none of the flowers was very good slug food) and soon was stretching out over thin air, trying to get somewhere, anywhere else. I let it climb onto my sleeve. I carried it across Merrimon Avenue and set it onto the Grace Church terrace, where it had an acre or so of greenery to choose from. That time I left it charging into the depths of the foliage, satisfied at last.

Monday, August 13, 2012

August 13, 2012

Kevin the frog is calling from his pickerel weed this morning. I know he was gone, for I looked, in some desperation. But now he is back. All is strangely well. Can’t account for the oceanic sense of relief.

Visited the studio yesterday, painted well if briefly in the empty, sunwashed building. Then back into the garden, where I reduced a long swath along Carolyn’s yard to order. I hope she sees it and is pleased. I think now liberal applications of mulch is the only thing that will keep things under control. I enjoyed the spontaneity of open ground, the idea that anything might come up. The problem with that is, everything did.

A K called from Jack of the Wood, and we had a get-together as he passed through town after a strenuous summer of theater. His energy continues to be cyclonic, his enthusiasm slowly polished by experience. I bet on him as the big winner among the young actors I know, for he still associates skill with character. Olympics closing with DJ, then. I slept through most of it.

Infection today. It hit hard, without the usual warnings. I think it is held at bay.  Unusual activity for all that, back to the Y, visit to school, getting the cars inspected.

Finished a story about a pianist.

Diet since I came home, mostly tomatoes.

Lingering evening, almost silent, even the cars on the street hushed, as if moving through water.

The Republican Party, 2012

Have given some thought to Ryan as the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate. The thing to praise is the openness, the clarity of the choice. It leaves no ambiguity about the aims of that party. It is also represents wondrous ideological purity. No effort at reconciliation or finding some middle path. It is as if the party, accused of radical selfishness and a too-hard shift to the right, responded by redoubling their self-delight and their extremism, a sort of Republican counter-Reformation. One continues to be amazed by the kinds of support the Republicans receive. Millionaires, yes, I can understand that. That it is the party of privilege it doesn’t even try very hard to disguise. What it does is manage to make everyone feel that they are millionaires fallen temporarily on hard times, to lure that masses into identifying with the upper class, as if their own lot in life would be improved by the enhanced fortunes of the fortunate. It’s a screwy version of a mythical reading of the American experience, that we all got where we are by pluck and hard work, and nobody helped us, and if somebody takes from us to help others it is a violation and an outrage. Nobody, especially the rich, got where they got purely by their own efforts. What excellent voodoo to make the masses believe the myths the rich tell of themselves, and to place themselves in that story, however sad, however ludicrous that placement actually is. No old person, no student, no woman, no minority, no working man, no gay, no artist can intelligently support the Republican party, unless somehow they are madly antipathetic to their own interests. And yet, some do, so one must conclude that the support is an unintelligent reaction to–something. My understanding staggers here. The Republicans in one gesture blind their supporters to crises which do exist– poverty, environmental catastrophe, education in shambles, rampant bigotry– and instill terror of ones which do not– gay and immigrant conspiracies against the American way, immediate military threat against our sacred nation, Big Brother invading our pulpits and our gun cabinets. The Republican platform is like those TV shows where ghost hunters, purporting to examine a haunted house, point and shriek and get all excited at manifestations and apparitions, where a disinterested observer will have seen nothing at all.

This can’t be brought up in casual conversation, but what disturbs me most is that the rhetoric of the Republican party differs only–and not that much–in intensity from the rhetoric of Fascism in the 1930's. We are a noble and lordly race, kept from our true heritage by inferior peoples, welfare cheats and single mothers and faggots and whores and Mexicans and Liberals and elitists, and if we could somehow sweep those people away, things would be as they were in the mythical American golden age that nobody, somehow, can quite locate. The enshrinement of social Darwinism by the Republican Party is a perversion that the future will laugh at (or, God, forbid, weep over) and yet so many–invariably those who would be annihilated if survival of the fittest were really a factor– nod and shout “amen” without giving one minute’s thought to the full implication. People shouting “Get the government off our backs!” don’t realize that the government is all that stands between them and their consumption by their supposed friends the super-rich, who, given money to make jobs do not make jobs, but make themselves richer, and then laugh in their penthouses at their success in convincing the rubes that all was for the higher good. Ignorance is made to seem wisdom, information is condemned as elitism, truth as a kind of bias no better than hysterical prevarication. There is a wizard in there somewhere, an evil enchanter whose spells blind. Or let’s say there is a gigantic angler fish, his lure waving in the deep, convincing us it’s food, ready to gobble us up.
The Republican Party in 2012 is about insuring that resources are concentrated permanently in the hands of the rich. All resources– culture, access to justice, voting rights, health care, not just simply money. That is the beginning and the end. I hope those who intend to vote for this ticket realize that is what they’re voting for, and only that.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

August 12, 2012

Went out to see if any meteors were left. No meteors, but what I saw made me cry out. The little-more-than-quarter moon nested an a tangle of stars, Venus at the bottom beaming. I thought she was an airplane at first. Such peace. Such gigantic beauty. The blue of night with dawn still an hour off.

Woke from a dream in which Terry from Avenue M and I had formed a company to exploit a lovely wooded grotto and waterfall I had found in the woods. There would be games and rides and hiking, but then I found that the stone was thin and worn over a great empty space, and liable to collapse at any time. Half the dream was joy at the discovery, half was about how to save face when it proved to be no good.

JC’s play at Magnetic Field last night. Thoughtful, humane, very funny when not sadly lyrical, beautifully served by its actors.

Made sensational soup out of the dream recipe.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

August 11, 2012

Silent morning, my frog well and truly gone, a blessing withdrawn. DJ says an owl lives in a neighboring tree, so maybe that will fill the vacuum, if I ever see it. Attacked the garden yesterday, much work and one layer of the overgrowth defeated in one place. A great harvest of tomatoes. Woke, in fact, making a recipe for tomato soup in my head.

Luggage still astray, though a report filled out, with the maximum of effort. The airline representative in India and I sort of spoke the same language, sort of did not. The two new Jack Yeatses hung proudly on the wall where they can face the rising sun, and Ireland.

Grief at not seeing a heron in Ireland–usually my token that all is well and I shall return. Saw a heron flying over I-26 as I returned from my futile sally to the airport to retrieve my bag. Had to smile.

Excellent reading at DB&N last night. I read from Night, Sleep, which people seemed to like. Excellent work from my colleagues, a SRO house. Around us Asheville was alive and happy, the night streets thronged. I thought, “Am I in Galway?”

Woke this morning with a welcome sense of well-being, even of relief, though I can’t think now from what. The last dream before the tomato soup recipe had me as part of a quartet of actors (all real people in my life) participating in a sort of theater Olympics.  We had gone from victory to victory ( quarter-finals, semi-finals, etc) and had just performed our last piece, an adaptation of a Shakespeare play, which I had done, and the initial word from the judges is that we had won the gold. We were still in our Renaissance costumes.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ireland Farewell

August 10, 2012

Twenty five hours of traveling got me back home. I left the lovely airport hotel at 5 AM Shannon time, and was getting into a taxi at the Asheville Regional at 1 AM our time the next day.  It is now 6 AM and I’ve slept the fitful sleep of the first night after return from the east. I can’t indulge in the calming ritual of laundry, either, as when last heard of my bag was still at Heathrow. The Yeats prints are with me, so the worst loss is my camera and my photos of the trip, but lost is not yet necessarily lost for good. The first of the three flights yesterday was handled by Aer Lingus and went fine. The other two were pure United and therefore cluster fucks. I thought I would outwit fate and pay to change my London/Chicago flight to an earlier, assuming that the time allotted would not be sufficient to get me through customs on onto my Chicago/Asheville connection. The flight on which I flew stand-by was itself delayed, losing 115 of the minutes I thought I’d bought, and the Chicago/Asheville flight was itself so delayed that I would have cleared customs in time anyway. I am meant by the gods to be in UA’s clutches. When, approaching midnight, I started to board the plane from Chicago–for which I had waited  then six hours–the little machine said it didn’t recognize my boarding pass. The system had canceled ALL my flights because I had changed one. I knew that could happen, quizzed the United desk lady about it at the time of the change, trying to insure that it didn’t, but it did anyway. The Chicago desk lady tapped away on her keyboard the way they do to “see what she could do.” Turns out there was ONE SEAT LEFT on the “full” flight. Perhaps she understood that if there had not been that one seat, I would not be writing from my desk now, but from prison, for I would have broken her neck where she stood. But, this time, we all survive. United’s incompetence is epic, burlesque, almost literally unbelievable, always worse than one expects even when one comes with dismal expectations. I don’t even know what to say. What credentials do people have to show in order to run an airline?

Sat for a while with a charming Greek-American boy returning from a visit to the motherland, and then for a while amid a British family headed for Jackson Hole, as their kids’ introduction to America. Good idea, actually. Drank at my "local" in O'Hare with a variety of businessmen trying to get home to a variety of places. Bought drinks for in-transit soldiers. The latest installment of Loquacious Asheville Airport Taxi Driver this morning told me all about the restoration and preservation of his 1966 Ford Fairlane, which he loves dearly. He wants it black and silver. His wife wants it cherry red. This thingummy had to be completely rebuilt, and that one was found in a car in which people had been murdered, so he got a real good price.

Dawn comes. I’m in a panic because I do not yet hear Kevin the frog. Returning home was odd last night. Something about the house was odd– things had been moved, the cats were freaky, as if they had been frightened by something. Circe found her way back, but Maud is still skittish. She looks thin, too, as if she had produced all by herself the gray mounds of cat vomit I spent my first hour here scraping off the floor. But I lit purifying candles, and the atmosphere was enchanted for a while. I imagined these rooms, all lit by flickering candlelight, inside the shell of an Irish cottage, and that made me happy, though it did not bring sleep. I had slept enormously on each of the flights, so perhaps that will be enough. Getting of the plane in Asheville, though, I was crippled with exhaustion and frustration, which seemed to center in my knees and forbid them to bear me up. Bear me up at last they did.

I did not see a heron in Ireland. Kevin is not yet singing his dawn song. Things could be worse than I expected.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ireland 12

Shannon. I’m in the luxurious Park Inn, from which you can walk right into the airport grounds, which I have done, because I could. It was afternoon, and Shannon was calm, after departures and before arrivals. I’d never seen an airport like that before (except when I was stuck in one all night). It was like the set for a an airport movie between shots. I left Sligo with the maximum of regret and headed south. When I got to Tubbercurry, it was Old Farm Fair Day, and I stopped. It was quite early yet, and some of the exhibitors were still setting up, but there was an array of things to eat and things to buy, and chicks and ducklings and young turkeys in cages, and horses and donkeys, and cattle with ribbons over their stalls. All the downtown was filled, and people were smiling and shouting instructions to each other. I would have stayed all day if I could. I wondered if anyone remembered me from the time when I was a visiting celebrity. Continued to Knock. I went with a high heart and an open mind, but the place still creeped me out after a few minutes. Old women with crutches moved around the shrine saying their rosaries, and in the church a mass was being said under the plaster statues of the apparition. More complicated than a simple fake, it is an attempt to domesticate the divine, to dispense it in bits embodied in cheap souvenirs and squirt bottles of holy water. Worse than a simple fake, it says at “here is the healing power of God for the taking,” and provides no answer when one asks, “Why am I not healed?” I was going to buy souvenirs for people who would be pleased by them, but the spirit went out of it when I saw them, the thousand identical rosaries, the grimacing St Pio’s, the Teutonic glower of an infinity of John Pauls. Tried to go to Thoor Ballylee, but as I headed down the narrow road a gigantic tractor came toward me, taking up the whole road, with a line of cars behind it. I backed up and found a side road and turtled into it, and by the time the episode was over my enthusiasm had ebbed. Besides, I was then and am now tired on a level I’m not used to. But I did get to Coole Park without incident. It was–how shall I say this?– special people day, and the retarded and afflicted were everywhere, walking their different walks, being called to by their various caretakers, huddling in their several corners responding to their voices and compulsions. Ordinary people were there too, practicing hurling and running and sitting in the fleeting sun. The tourist center had an exhibit seeking to reproduce the feel for a little girl–Ann Gregory– of living in the house with Lady Gregory. It was moving, charming and melancholy. I found all the seven thimbles one of the screens exhorted us to find. Another screen suggested that Yeats had stroked a pet dog in the woods and thought it was a badger. I walked past the walled garden into the forest, where for a few moments, at the side of an immense ancient cedar, I felt the most profound silence. Nothing moved. Nothing. It put the rest of the day’s experience to one side. I can hardly credit now, at the edge of an airport, with the telly blasting the Olympics, such silence.

Ireland 11

August 8, 2012

Clucking of crows and calling of gulls over the high roofs. Took the car out yesterday and drove to Drumcliffe to do homage at the grave of Yeats. A man had been buried in 2011 only one space away from him, and I wondered what a man would do to be able to be buried beside William Butler Yeats. There was nothing on his stone to indicate he had done anything at all but lived and died. It was a scandal, I thought, that there wasn’t some list or hierarchy associated with being buried there, and that I wasn’t on that list. I arrived before the crowds and exited when a busload of, I supposed, Poles flowed in. While there I walked the river path, beside the red cows and the overflowing meadows, and found a house I covet, with one face toward Ben Bulben and the other toward Drumcliffe churchyard. The cat and the cock I remember from times passed were not there On the way I veered into Leitrim to Glencar Lake and the Glencar Falls, both lovely under the shifting soft light. I imagined horse drawn wagons and carts tottering down the same roads to bring the young of Sligo to the falls to woo and dream, the Yeats boys, maybe the Yeats girls, among them. One couple was being a bore, blocking everybody’s view with trying to get exactly the right camera angle and take a multitude of photos. I assumed they were German, without any further evidence, Continued to Mullaghmore, and put my toe into the freezing Atlantic. People were swimming, but in wet suits. You have to be in fine shape indeed to look good in a wet suit. My mind the whole time was dwelling on an image from the day before, of the red-beaked moorcock in his lake cove, all the paradise of green around him, clucking the cluck of one home and safe.

I was sad through the day in the number of ways a traveler is sad. Walked up Pearse Road, where I had dwelt for a while. The one time the whole journey when the sun was hot. A drunken man caught me looking at the sign outside the chapel on High Street, and explained to me that if I went around the other side, I could see the ruins of the high altar, and the place where his da had played the electric organ, which he still plays today despite the paralysis in his hands. “Me dad must be about your age,” he said. I asked him how old he was (he looked to me at least as old as I) and he said forty-seven. “That would have made me twelve when I begat you,” says I. “Ah, they say America is a miraculous place,” says he. In the evening I tried to hear music at the Chapter Café, but it was sold out. I protested, “But I am wearing my Years t- shirt!” but it did not avail. Instead went to hear a poet at the Methodist church read her dull, intelligent, over-long poems in a tone that suggested a ten year old who had just been presented with a snare drum, but I find her images stick with me this morning. She’s from Belfast, and I asked her if she knew MA, and she did not. Lucky to drop by The Harp afterwards, and joined seven young men from Glasgow who were watching the Olympics. They were clearly a cohesive group, and respected each other. One lad said they were some kind of class and the dark man in the center had been their teacher. The Glasgow accent prevented me from hearing what kind of class it was, but I think something to do with heating and air conditioning. When the Irish boxer won, they turned down the TV and their leader began to sing to a guitar. He was a strident, pleasing tenor, and his men, when they knew the song, provided a bass harmony, pretty much on one approximate note It was wonderful, one of those blessed moments of artful spontaneity that seem to happen here, and if they happen across the water I miss them. My heart was filled at last, and I could go back to the room and sleep.

Interesting that the thick Glaswegian turned into pure American when the lads sang.

In the last dream before waking Jack Parsons and I were in a great attic trying to find the clothing we had worn to some event and then inexplicably left behind. The attendant accused me of trying to get something different from my own, which I was, in fact, doing.

Morning constitutional down the river to the two holy arches and back again.

I would have done fine as a Sligo boy.

Ireland 10

August 7, 2012
“An Extravaganza of Traditional Music” at Hawk’s Well last night was spectacular, an extravaganza. Steve Wickham of the Waterboys organized it for the Yeats festival. There was a woman from Leitrim named Dee, who looked like a ditz, like Lisa Kudrow in Friends, but when she played the music she had composed in the Irish mode, I was ravished. Some of the most beautiful work I’ve ever heard, and of course I left without sure information on how to find it again. Happy Spanish kid beside me, swiveling around to take everything in. My knee was cramped and I couldn’t stay to the end. The things that interfere with art! One woman came in very late, to the front, carrying her wine past the “strictly no drinks in the auditorium” sign. She wasn’t that beautiful anymore.

Ended the evening on the hotel patio with three women and a man from the North, who were here for I forget why. We shouted over the roar of the plunging Garavogue. The Northerners are great smokers. They bought me drinks which I eventually carried to my room and did not drink.

I have written less here than I intended to write, but more than I have in the past. The day is roofed with gray, fissured here and there by paler gray. On the river path yesterday people greeted me with “A fine day at last!” when in fact it was dark, drizzly, cold. I think they meant it was not an outright hailstorm.

What a little town Sligo is! From the hotel windows I can see all corners of it. I can see the holy mountain, and where the river snakes into the harbor.  If I were taller I wouldn't have to stand tip-toe.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ireland 9

Despite the weather, or because of a glimmering rift in the darkness of it, I walked eastward up the Garavogue, past Doorly Park, past anywhere I’d gone before (they’d extended the river path since my last visit) to a place where the path turns up a great hill, and comes to a gate in a sheep field. There the hills begin. I could hear a road behind a line of trees. The path went on, but on this day I did not. The woods on either side of the path were alive with wildflowers. I think now especially of the purple fringes of vetch. I coveted the multitude of ferns, but here was no way I could get them home. Away from the lake stretched flooded lagoons, full of dinosaurian flora. I came to the parking lot where the lake ferry docks. There’s a long, low pier now, and that pier was peopled by ducks and terns and gulls, and a pair of swans with two sooty cygnets. I sat down to write. I wished a woman in the parking lot didn’t have her radio on. As I sat, I saw a strange sight, which resolved into the arms of two human swimmers. They came by no means directly across the water. Humans are fairly loud swimmers. At one point the lead swimmer began to weave around. The other swimmer began to call, David! David! David!” It was everything I could do not to answer, though I knew he didn’t mean me. Finally David heard, and they began to discuss where they would come to shore. The obvious place was the pier, but the swans were on the pier, and David and not-David discussed whether they had cygnets or not. They did. While the swimmers were redirecting their swim because of the ferocity of swans, a family with a little dog came down to the water. The cob hissed violently at the dog who, confused by the level of aggression, beat a retreat to me, who petted rather than hissed. When the men were on shore, David had a leg cramp and needed to be ministered to by his friend. The swimmers were friendly, even eager to talk about their exploits, so I spent the next hour with them. They got a ride to someplace on the lake and swam back to their car, in the lot where I was. They’re practicing for a long swim from Parke’s Castle sometime next week. Did they say 6 kilometers? 6 miles? They were older men, and David was quite handsome. You’d cast him as Odin or Finn McCool in a film. The other turned out to be Dermott (Dermott had said “David” twenty times for the once David had said “Dermott), and he was distinguished by having one ear (apparently artificial) at least twice as big as the other. They were happy and friendly, and had done a deed that morning. The Irish are not great swimmers, they said, and there are few pools and they that learn learn in the rivers and the sea. “It has something to do with the cold,” says Dermott. “There are fishermen who can’t swim,” says David. They blessed Michael Phelps for the change in this he might inspire. I asked them what they intended to do with the rest of their bank holiday, and they said their wives would have them working in the garden. I envied them their swimming ability, their easy friendship, envied even for the moment the condition of being married and knowing what you were going to do when you get home.

In the pools thrown out by the river moor hens chattered and paddled. They seem more human than other birds for some reason. Maybe that’s why they show up in so many poems.

Since I first walked the banks of the Garavogue I have had the conviction that the life of my spirt began, or obtained its present form, on the hills above Lough Gill. Nothing since that time has altered that conviction. Should I walk those hill until I find the Ur, the creche? And if I find it, what then? Lie down and return to the ancient home? Perhaps exactly that. But this time I turned back. Save something for later and the last.

I mentioned the first time along the Garavogue. It was 32 years ago. It was May. It was evening. The light and the water were golden. I kept walking and walking, unable to believe how one beauty succeeded another. Fish were rooting among the reeds, making them move in ways contrary to the wind. A group of kids were huddled to one side of the river, I thought they were gathering to attack me or rob me, but when they approached, they had found a puppy they couldn’t keep, and they wondered of I wanted it. Oh dear God, the puppy is gone, the children are old, and I hold it all in my heart as if it were this night.

Bells somewhere are playing “Flow Gently Sweet Afton.”

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ireland 8

August 6, 2012

Yesterday was my sick day. Did rise up onto the streets from time to time, but spent most of the day sleeping or near sleep, letting the Olympics creep into the windows of my brain. Yet another bartender at Furey’s told a story of going fishing and having a pod of dolphins surround his boat, all frolicsome and merry. The tone of wonder in his voice was beautiful.

Woke from a extended dreams about joining a theater troupe, the other members of which didn’t like me, and I had to spend time and energy winning them over. I quoted difficult lines and spoke in amusing voices.

Some rolling blue and white over Knocknarea. I may venture forth.

As I was writing that, the clouds closed in again. I am not a casual traveler. I’m incapable of having a “vacation” in the usual sense of the word. In every new town I try to build a life. I learn the history. I identify the weeds in the empty lots. I try to find boon companions. I entangle myself in strands of lives that will cause me grief when I have to leave. I do each kindness, each smile, the courtesy of assuming it to be an overture to lifelong friendship. Therefore I’ll sit in the Shannon departure lounge and weep, even if United doesn’t manage to screw up the flights.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Ireland 7

August 5, 2012
Gulls cry in the dark air. A cloud has settled on Sligo, and the roofs are hard to see, let alone distant Knocknarea. Though I think the time has been hard to fill, I somehow haven’t found enough of it to report here faithfully. Friday afternoon I went to a lecture by a nun, de Lourdes Fahey, on the history of the Barony of Kiltartan. She was a good historian and a good speaker, and observed what I had been observing, that Lady Gregory’s Kiltartanese were the best documented peasantry in Europe. That evening there was a show at Hawk’s Well called “Perfect Beauty,” wherein a visual artist and a musician chose Yeats poems to interpret. Except for some photographs which could be presented as representing “Romantic Ireland’s Dead and Gone,” the visual art ranged from weak to ludicrous. The music, though, was uniformly good, and in some cases superb. I went out afterward to some places I had not been before, and met some people I had not yet met. I had mixed red wine and Bailey’s, though, and my stomach suggested the folly of that. I did meet someone beside the river, and did not spend the night in my hotel.

Saturday morning early I went home, showered, and hiked to the station to take the train to Dublin. The man I had spent the night with turned out to be the station master, or whatever you call the one who opens the door and writes something on your ticket. We had not talked about what we did for a living. He is a very big man, with a square head and the confidence of one who has always been the strongest in the room. His arms are twice as thick as mine, and his big belly shows when it hits his belt, but blends in more handsomely when there are no clothes. He lacked finesse, but I didn’t care. When we saw each other, beyond a quick smile at the irony of things, we knew we should say nothing. He wrote his little mark on my ticket and I took my seat. But just before the train pulled from the station he walked over and put his open hand against the window where I sat, so all the way I looked at the passing countryside through a frame made of his fingertips. Beautiful horses were in the fields that morning, and in one a red stag and a doe, a steam of dew coming off their shoulders. A troupe of children got on at one point, the boys in Boy Scout uniforms, they were very loud and most of the others moved from the car, but I didn’t. I loved hearing them. One boy had a laugh so pure that every time he laughed, I did too.

In Dublin I was oddly un-nostalgic. I didn’t go to all the old sacred places, but jogged from the station to the Temple Bar bar for tea. The other patrons at that hour were six happy German boys who were there for a bachelor party– a very big deal in Europe– smiling continually and laughing at each other’s comments. I wanted to be one of them. No one on earth was having a better time. It was Zombie Day in Dublin, with a stream of young people got up as zombies passing one on the street. Went briefly to the National Gallery to get reacquainted with old friends. New friends included a display of surprisingly fresh Yeats cartoons for Punch. Visited the Leinster Gallery. Again, Loretto was not there, but I found a pair of tiny Jack Yeats prints (from a series of playing card designs, I think, a full set of which are in the National Museum) and wanted them, and a phone call to the absent Loretto allowed me to have a deal on the pair. They’re even small enough to go in my carry-on, with some readjustment. Crossed the street from Loretto’s and ate at an Italian wine bar, toast with tart cheese and honey, surprisingly delicious. Wandered Grafton Street, then back through the Temple Bar and, in good time, to Connolly Station. The ride home was exhausting, unending. I slept sometimes, sometimes watched the landscape, sometimes blazing and beautiful, sometimes dulled with squalls of rain. Watched the Olympics for an hour, then back to Hawk’s Well for a vaudeville based on the songs mentioned by Joyce, with a few songs added for the Yeats people, including a sing-along of “Gather Round Me, Parnellites.” Good show, revealing the surprisingly rich music hall repertoire of Edwardian Dublin.

In the lobby before the show a blond woman called me by my name. I had no idea who she was. She reminded me that her name was Margaret, and by slow accruement I gathered that she and her husband Michael and I had met at Furey’s that famous night. I have no memory of this whatsoever, and when I met Michael later on in Hagardon’s I had no memory of him, either. They both were pretty well informed about me, so I must have still been coherent. I apologized for having been blind drunk. She said she saw no such thing. At one point I said, “I have to go now” and went out the door, looking steady and dignified, said she. I do remember saying, “I have to go now,” but I thought I was talking to myself, and it was at the last moment before complete incapacity. Should I worry about this? Apparently I did not disgrace myself in any way, and the people I met that night did not fly at the sight of me. I could not believe I’d had conversation of which no trace remained whatever. Margaret said, "Here all this time I thought you were Irish, and you can take that as a compliment." I did. Margaret and her friend Brigid were dressed in period costumes for the Yeats Festival desss-up day, which I missed, substituting for them the zombies of Dublin.

Came home last night and chatted in the Glass House lobby with a big guy from Chicago. He’d been a swimmer in high school, so was glued to the Olympic swimming events. He told me I must see Wiesbaden, and I have no doubt must.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Ireland 6

August 3, 2012

Mooned about in the hotel in the lousy weather, watching the Olympics. Bestirred myself to go to Furey’s for a night of Blue Grass by a local group, something Grizzly, which had just won a Battle of the Bands. Their first song praised Johnson City, Tennessee. When I told one of the band members I lived thirty miles from there, her eyes lit up and she said, “You are a very lucky man.” It was a sensational evening. The room was full of happy people, and no one can be happy like the Irish can, even as few can be as morose. I was talking with a round-faced man named Aidan who said he could find me excellent Irish real estate. He was some sort of investment banker. We talked abut bands we had heard which were excellent but somehow never came to anything. He said, “Those buildings on the side of the river weren’t always there. The houses on O’Connell street had gardens that went clear down to the water.” I was happy, too, happier than I had been in a long time, in a Keatsian spasm of happiness for the sake of the happiness of others. One of the quirks of the band was that their fans came to their gigs dressed up in suits and evening gowns. I had been buying drinks for the girls to thank them for looking so fine, and after a while people began buying me drinks, too– I don’t think for the same reason-- and when I finally headed for home I was as drunk as I’ve ever been and still able to navigate. Actually I was not sure of my navigation the whole way, but here I am in the morning light, not even hung over. Furey’s is lucky in its bartenders. Paul was back for the crowd, but the main one was a humorous, kind man with a pony tail. Once you got over the panic in the face of chaos, it must be blessed to enable and ride the waves of such a Dionysian revel.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ireland 5

August 2, 2012

Hagardon is the name I have consistently misrepresented as Hagerdorn.

Crazed girl on Bridge Street, standing in front of cars, with her dog on a leash. One man or another would pull her aside, and then she would rush back into the street, crying something none of us could understand. The dog was calm and perplexed. I think it was theater and he was in on it, except that for theater she was in mighty danger.
After a number of misdirections, a reading of a Lady Gregory play at The Harp. I think it was called The Workhouse Ward. In any event it took place in a workhouse, and lay all in the expression. I thought that Synge had invented that lush, singing, supple stage language for Irish, but perhaps Lady Gregory did, for her language is as good as his, and the use of it possibly more “modern.” Had a longer talk with Peter there, wherein he filled me in further on the changes of his life since he came to the Blue Raincoat. It sounds like he’s trying to convince me it was the right thing, whereas I never thought otherwise. He introduced me to David Williams, who teaches theater at an OSU branch in Newark, Ohio. Also met Niall, the dark god who is the leader of the Blue Raincoat. He is the one I had in my mind’s eye when I was describing the difference between the Irishman and the Irish artist. Peter is in a play in Tobercurry Sunday night. He didn’t tell me the title but kept saying it was a “very old Irish play.” I have a ticket to something here, but may do that instead, for the sake of a friendship all one sided anyway. Both Peter and Liam mentioned how long and informative my letters were, and how glad they were to get them. I wondered if it was necessary to say, “Then why didn’t you write back?” Didn’t say it in any case.

Hiked to the Model Art School, which is new and glorious since my last visit. Yeats, father and son, in two rooms, works I had seen before when they were in the library. The rest is given up to European artists whose work is not as good as mine, and I had my fizzy water and gloated over that.   A bride walks into and out of the Glass House door, freezing. I bet she thought an August wedding would be safe. We'd grumble at an October like this.   Some poems from the day:  
Laurel for the Laureate

This morning early I watched the
   sea-cloud over Knocknarea,
concealing her sometimes as if she were
   a table or an ordinary hill,
then revealing her of a sudden
   in a flash of blue swords.

I thought of this when you stood on stage,
   sir, sometimes an old man
with trouble remembering,
   sometimes the blue fire falling
and the jeweled fields flattened with it,
   in the field the white flowers wrenched aside.

The Crazed Girl

The crazed girl is stopping traffic
on Bridge Street, running n front of cars
with her dog on a leash
and her dark hair a cloud around her.

I think “what a country, that can
have crazed girls!”
Bring the sane girls out to drink the water,
eat the herb, whatever it takes.

Sligo Man

Do you think it’s possible to love a Sligo man
with his rolling farmy walk
and the way he glances from side to side?

Some say can’t and some say can.
I’ve heard all the travelers’ talk,
but, finally, listen to me; I’ve tried.

In the Historic Place

The gray stones of the houses
and the gray stones of the houses
and the gray stones of the houses–

and the sudden light where the shells came through,
and the instant stars when the pitched roof went,
and the red flowers of the garden bent aside.

Ireland 4

August 1, 2012

Saw Yeats’s Purgatory at the Blue Raincoat last afternoon. It was glorious to witness such a thing, in the most appropriate place to witness it. Sligo, and the Blue Raincoat in particular, have taken Yeats on as a project, with seriously valuable results. I tingle whenever I hear Yeats’s vision for the theater, something lofty and poetic and raised above naturalism. But seeing it in the flesh is perplexing. Perhaps Yeats was not the man to carry out his own vision. The concept is revolutionary, but the plays are static and forbid engagement that is not purely intellectual. I think that is the fault of the poet rather than of the idea, though no one seems to have given the idea a second go. John from the reading the night before was there, and we chatted about the theater. Peter Davey was there too, looking younger and happier than he looked in Tobercurry. We shouted at one another across the crowd, and it seemed he was happy to see me, but he was happy at everything then, so who knows? I told him I’d come to him.

There’s a clear distinction between the Irishman and the Irish artist. The artist–and the Blue Raincoat lobby was full of them–goes about shaggy locked like some ancient Celt. The effect is pleasing.

Hit the bars after an unsuccessful attempt to attend a trad music session. Chatted a time with Paul at Furey’s, who gave me a list of music evenings around town. Hit several on that side of town, where the people were kind, ending up at McGarrigles, which was loud and happy. One big woman said, “I thought you were Irish, sitting there minding your own business like that.” I drank far too much, and am feeling it this early gray morning. Unlike yesterday, I can see Knocknarea under the clouds, so the sky is a little higher.

Seven hundred million without electricity in India.

Evening. Towers of alternating light and cloud over the sea and Knocknarea, The day has been inclement, but with moments of brilliant beauty, which I took in mostly through the windows of a bus. Set out early for Galway, where it was raining so hard I hurried through the tour I was giving myself. One day in Galway is not a good idea. One is never a good tourist in a place which has been one’s home. But I ran past most of the old places. Had the handsome boys serve me coffee in the King’s Head. Ate in the space that will be the Café Journal for me no matter how many times it changes hands and names (it’s now the Quay Kitchens). Walked to the harbor. I took toast with me from breakfast, but there was no gentle feeding of the gulls, for the wind was a gale from the Atlantic and the Corrib was a torrent. Lace curtains covered Pat Jourdan’s windows, but whether that means she’s there or not I don’t know. Galway has suffered far less than Sligo in the hard times, for most of the stores were occupied and the streets were thronged, though it may have something to do with the Galway Races. The trip gave me no reason to revise my assertion that Galway is the happiest, youngest town in the world. I was in odd and extended fury on the bus, worrying the ragged edges of old griefs and present dilemmas, obsessing over things I can’t possibly remedy this minute. Maybe that is hell, or a kind of hell, fully to be submerged in that over which you have no power, imagining the worst, thinking it is a way of being prepared for anything. Even the beauty of the landscape irritated me a little, as though it were a green gold mask over a face of hideous disfigurement. But maybe that was just the misery of a miserable ride with a stop at a thousand boring little towns, a progress of hesitations that I was not, to say the least, in the mood for today. But, on a driveway on Collooney, I saw my first hedgehog. I longed to cry out for the bus to stop.

In the evening it was the readng by Seamus Heaney at the Hawk’s Well. In the lobby I met Jill, an elegant red head from West Virginia who’s taking Irish Studies at Notre Dame and is in Connemara for the summer learning Gaelic. We discussed the intricacies of Academia. We came up on the bus from Galway together. She wants to be a professor of Irish Studies. In the balcony I met a beautiful blond schoolgirl from Sligo, who had been fed Heaney all through school, and now had the chance to see him in person. Heaney is a very old man, gray, a little vague, a sort of monument to himself. He recited “Digging,” and when he forgot a line, fifteen female voices prompted him anxiously from the front rows. One can’t say the reading was very good, but it didn’t have to be. It’s like looking at Ben Bulben and judging its beauty one day to another. He is the most famous poet in the world, and he was humble and funny and direct, his poems in his mouth simpler and more immediately expressive than they seem sometimes on paper, altogether magnificent.

Curled around the long street and ran providentially into Liam unlocking his door. Ten seconds before or after we would not have met. He looks well; he said I look well. He talked several times of my painting which hangs framed now in their house. I’m glad he ended up with it. It is the view from the tiny window of the tiny room he gave me when I first stayed in his house, in 1995, with the moon and crows and Knocknarea and the crooked chimney as it then was.

Bars afterward. In the Troubador I learned that the Irish boxer who won the gold medal is a Traveler, and I was given a tutorial on the deviancies and subtleties of those people.