Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April 30, 2014

Obrecht on CD. Exactly right for the inert blue and complicated morning.

Met Nick my lawn guy, and his tattooed buddy the tree guy. Tree guy thought I was amusing.

The trees round about are full of tree frogs. Blessed.

Prevented from getting to the Woodfin Y yesterday by deep water on Merrimon.

Bade farewell to my poets last night. They really are very good, and I will miss them and their work.  My Blake class was under-enrolled and dropped, but Killian and a few others wish to do an independent study of him. I said yes.

The time of the writing of checks.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April 29, 2014

Violent storm hit around two. The lightning was so close that in my dream state I pictured the food cabinet upstairs (which does not exist) with all the canned meats cooked and burnt in their cans. For a moment there was hail. The rain continues now. Distant thunder. Reports in Tolkien class last night, some excellent, some very perfunctory.  Reading my Humanities students’ journals. The same spread of the perfunctory and the sublime exists there, though not always divided the way you predicted. Some are wonderful indeed. Some are notes torn from a notebook and bound with a paperclip. One girl wrote persona poems for the great figures of history, like Gilgamesh and Caesar. One boy wrote at a fantasy novel peopled by the characters he’d heard of in class. Indignant girls. Tenderly reflective boys. The students seem to like me–one young man adores me– (though if they hated me would they say so?) and seem to appreciate that I restate the materials of the Monday lectures to make sure everything is comprehended. They praise my wit and the way my class is not boring, as they expected it might be. They like my narrative impulse, which delivers history as though it were a story (as it is) rather than a cascade of facts. Of my Myth lecture, they said either that it was their favorite lecture or that it “fucked me up.” I am joyful over either. All in all, if reflective of what they actually, think, I get an A, Humanities gets a B, and the Monday lectures get a C-.  My sadness over what comes next semester redoubles, for most of the point will be lost in professorial self-gratification. I do regret sometimes not having been political, not having served on this committee or that. It was a failure of responsibility on my part, though I thought my responsibilities lay elsewhere. It meant that I saw nothing coming from afar. In the past I had relied on gravitas to turn the tide against silliness, but in the case of Humanities (deliberately, that is clear) gravitas was given no time to work. Not exactly my fault, but my powerlessness is frustrating. The child conspirators gave their lecture yesterday. There is no doubt that it was fun.

Great roaring in the air. Pale light behind the rain.

Monday, April 28, 2014

April 28, 2014

Sultry morning. All the windows were open all night for the first time.

Finally wrestled the end of Night Music into order.

Too much church yesterday. Too much food. Sipping my lemonade to clean myself out.

When the Chancellor Announced Her resignation

When the Chancellor Announced Her Resignation

People remembered where they were, what particular slant of light threw their shadows on the frozen ground. Some were hurrying to their cars, burdened with a shade of a dread that they might have missed something significant. The dread did not stop them. It made them hurry, a little, so there would be no chance to change their minds. There were appointments to be met, slightly early lunches to be eaten. But when they heard it on the radio, or looked at it on the computer screen, it was already of the second water, as one who looked where everyone was pointing after the shadow of the great event had passed. They might have all the information. They might have avoided the first shock, the moment or two of panic, the disorientation. Their stride over the thin snow might never have been broken. Still, it was not the same.


“Well, it doesn’t matter unless her replacement is someone significantly different.”
The young man had not, perhaps, expected such a long view. The announcement has just been made. A senior professor was sharing this observation with him who had only met the Chancellor for a few moments when he was hired, and seen her at imperial distance in various meetings. He’d thought she was tall. He noted that her slight speech impediment had not impeded her professional life much. He didn’t really know to what the older gentleman referred, or in what way the new chancellor should be different from the old. But the grand old man’s glance was piercing, so he said, “Indeed.”
The old man seemed satisfied. He got that look in his eyes his colleagues had come to associate with thoughts of the Keats of the summer odes.


“I will miss,” said the Chancellor after the important announcement had been made, “the fireplaces. The fireplaces in this house are truly remarkable. “
Though she had designed the fireplaces herself, along with the whole enormous house, this was not strictly self-praise, for here she was acknowledging how good craftsmanship can see to its end even the most vaunting ambition. And they were, too. The fireplaces were remarkable. If you were Lord of the Shield Danes you could roast a whole pig in one. If you lived three hundred years hence you could lead tours in period costume and mention all the interesting things that used to go on in fireplaces. You could sit across the room from one and imagine for a moment that the whole edifice was afire, picturing the headlines blaring that you had barely escaped with your life, and that you had delayed until you were in real peril making sure everybody else was safe.
You never pass by one of the fireplaces without glancing.
You think of the holocaust of documents there could be in the dead of night, accompanied by urgent hammering on the bolted door.


Some would remember how she had her favorite poets. One of these was never oneself. One learned through time that there is an anthology of approved poems and poets for people in positions like that of the Chancellor. The poets are black and female. Or if not, then damaged in some publicly intimate way. They will be invariably mistaken in their zoology. You should be able to deliver the poem from your heart, as though you knew it before it was written.  You can bring it out at convocations and commencements and say it in such a way that it will take people half an hour to realize it had nothing to do with the matter at hand. The power of indirection is a mighty power. You escape while the curtain is still trembling.


When the great pink crabapple fell in the Quad it distributed its branches as a boy throws toy soldiers across the lawn. You could have a souvenir if you thought of it in time. Only a few noted the prophetic nature of the event. It was a several years back, but such resonance is not easily dissipated. The branch that bore the flowers is broken. The dome of shade is flown. Now students must huddle for shelter under the other tree exactly like it across the Quad–planted for symmetry those long seasons ago.
But the wild things do not forget. The jay husband and the jay wife, left homeless, skitter across the ground, shrill and indignant. The would come to the Chancellor’s window and she would not to them, and they would understand.


It was not easy to say why the elder professor had chosen him for a confidante, but he had, and the young academic made the best of it.
“The will put the same people on the search committee that made a hash of it last time.”
“Are they still alive?”
“That doesn’t entirely matter. Of those who are dead, simulacra can be made.”
“If it was such a disaster, why would they–“
"Nobody ever said 'disaster.'" The professor retorted briskly. But then he leaned in, scoping the room as if trying to locate secret listeners; he whispered,”Repetition is redemption.”
The young man thought about this for a while. When he came back out into the open, a pair of bluejays had planted themselves on a certain piece of ground. It had begun to snow, a slow, elegiac transfer of luminous gray from the sky to the earth. Steam came from the birds’ beaks when the screeched, and they were screeching repeatedly, insistently like a pair of Yeats’ prophetic purgatory birds. So the young man thought. He watched them. He realized that the point the jays had chosen was not just one in an infinite number of points available on the Quad, but the precious point from which something vital had passed from the living earth. Maybe it was that crabapple tree everybody talked about, which he had never seen but which he understood was exquisite. Maybe the old man had it wrong, and that the birds had heard the Chancellor’s announcement, crying out now, and crying out.

“I will miss,” said the Chancellor, “the most extraordinary things.”  They waited for her to enumerate them, but she was too wise for that, and always had been.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

April 27, 2014

Two pileated woodpeckers in the yard when I returned from school, They are so huge I thought one was, at first, a dog up a tree.

Wildly eventful Saturday. Got some writing done despite the Death Metal blaring away in the cafĂ©. Going back on my determination that I had done all the transplanting I was going to do, I dug up voodoo lily and acanthus and bloodroot and yellow magnolia from 62 and brought them to live with me in eternity. The magnolia I bought as a small tree, which produced a few leaves and then turned into a stick, and was then battered to the ground when the limb of the sweet gum fell. I thought I’d just let it there to rot away, but last summer it put forth a few shoots from underground, and this spring those shoots renewed and redoubled. The shoots come from, I suspect, under a graft, so I probably do not have the tree I thought I bought, but I suspect it’s a cucumber tree under all that, and that would be well enough. The day was blazing bright and dry, but with enough watering I think I brought everybody through.

Blake and David visited late in the morning, bringing champagne and orange juice with them. What great and stimulating talk we had! David gave me the CD and the score of a sort of cantata– I guess you’d say themed album– based on a paper he wrote for my class. It looks brilliant. By the time they left I was so smashed on the mimosas I slept the balance of the afternoon, rising in time to go to Hendersonville with the usual crew to see Flat Rock’s The Fantasticks.

I’ve seen The Fantasticks often enough that I could practically recite the show as it unfolded. This is a good thing and a bad thing. The good part was that it allowed me to remember all the casts I’ve seen in the past– Al Swanson and Lucia at Hiram, with John Macnamara as a sinister El Gallo. Before that, Kenley Players in Ohio, with John Gavin as El Gallo and Edward Everett Horton as the old Player. Tracy Hackney as El Gallo at UNCA, me coaching him through his anxiety about his voice. Jack played in it twice, and I know he was full of nostalgia as he sat beside me. I remember a review of the original show that said something like, “If you are the sort of person who likes this sort of thing, then this is the sort of thing you will like,” and I think that’s accurate. The singing was strong, everyone was good-looking, the music is sweet as it can be (I couldn’t stopping singing it down the streets of Hendersonville and into the Black Rose bar) but I was a little impatient with it, a little intolerant of its wide and aggressively marked thoroughfares. There was a real innovation, though. Maria as the mute was acting every moment, alive every moment, reacting every moment, as if the story were being told to her. Without a single line she stole the show. Almost unable to keep my eyes open on the road home.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

April 26, 2014

Woke to a voice out of some immense darkness calling me “The Unloved Lover.” Yes, I thought, that’s it exactly. It’s better than “The Unloving Beloved,” but only just.

Will came over yesterday to talk about 62. He was late, and I worked myself into a frenzy over that. I would make the deal where I had the time I’ve spent waiting for people added on to the end of my life. Anyway, I thought we were going to be finalizing things, when in fact he cannot, financially, finalize anything until August. This was a disappointment to me– me who hates so for things to drag on, and for whom they, therefore, drag on interminably. I had been specific about closing in the spring, but can’t is can’t. I measure the money I’m losing up against the bother not having to put the house on the market spares me, and the deal still seems good, but, again, only just.

Trapped into attending the Lit Club party at Merritt’s last night, but glad after all that I did. Happy time, with good talk, among students many of whom I will not see again, unless I see them walking across to get their diplomas, which, according to my recent record, is by no means certain. Several tables groaned under the food people had brought.

K, who was healthy three weeks ago, now has a stint bleeding slowly in her shoulder, through which they’ll pour the chemo for her breast cancer. People hug her without realizing how painful it is. She comes to me for support, and I’m all jolly and jokey, hoping to God that’s the right approach.

Friday, April 25, 2014

April 25, 2014

Planted red raspberries.

Planted blue columbines.

Kelley and her mother, walking the dog, took a tour of the house.

Enraged at students who, never having asked a question about the subject matter of the course, ask meticulous questions about the exam. Thinking of putting it on my syllabus: “if you’re not interested in the course material, you’re not interested in the exam.”

“What should we expect on the exam?”

“Same as every time before.”



“Short answers?”






“Maps aren’t fair.”

“Why aren’t they fair?”


“Because you actually have to know something, right?”


“Something particular which can’t be bullshitted. Right?”

“Some of us think that rote memorization isn’t education.”

“What’s the difference between rote memorization and remembering? Education IS remembering. By my lights, I haven’t asked you to memorize a single thing, ever.”


Public education makes very clear that education is knowing what’s on the test. There are fewer of me; therefore I must be vehement in making clear that is not it at all.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

April 24, 2014

Sense of well-being slightly mitigated by the lack of a sense of accomplishment. My interview yesterday turned out to be at Pack Library. They told me I did well, though I felt I was spending a lot of energy making up in elegance for what I lacked in actual information. Had determined to buy some art, but nothing I saw in Blue Spiral tempted me this time. I did go to Village Antiques and bought a beautiful greenish table that completes my kitchen. They were kind and solicitous, and I realized I knew them and had not taken a good look. Stopped at the riverside and acquired two pitchers, to support my new determination to have necessary liquids housed as elegantly as possible. Planted a few mayapples, a white columbine, and dug up from 62 probably the last of what I’ll dig up: a golden tree peony, another kind of peony, and an iris which I think is nearly black.  Will has engineers coming out to look, and if he expands the house he must retract the garden, and I would save as much as I can. The helebores have grown too huge to transplant. Perhaps they will divide. I pick at little things, wondering, now, what the great thing is. Even a wild wolf like myself sits down on his haunches if rebuked too often.

News from Hiram: my old botany professor Dwight Berg has died at the age of 98. His class dwells in memory as one where I actually learned things which I remember to this day. His description of flower sex was classic: “and the pollen leaves the stamen and flies through the air with the greatest of ease–“

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April 23, 2014

Poetry reading at the Glass House last night. I made my writing students go because it seemed the right thing to do, but I wonder what they could have learned from it. Part of it was “this bad poem is good because it’s about a lifestyle currently above criticism.” Part of it was better than that, but still in the nature of vivid chit chat about the poet’s family. Like slam poetry, purely self-referential and purely annotation. It was nice being in the greenhouse. Cats thumping on the wooden stairs. I meet with some guy today at Riverside Cemetery to talk about Zebulon Vance. I’m going to try not to say, “I wrote a pretty good play about it, but you wouldn’t know it from the production.” Dream last night about trying to find an American Express store so I could get a return ticket from some place I’d flown to, then trying to get them to wait on me once I was there. Too crabby and too early to have anything much to say.

Bloodroots bursting through at the new house. Jack-in-the-pulpits pushing the soil aside. Good good good. But the old house is a sea of peonies. I can hardly stand to look.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April 22, 2014

Damn, I feel good. Walked out under the half moon this morning even before the robins were awake. Gout quelled. The long-standing, debilitating stiffness in my shoulders is gone too. There were times when I couldn’t put on a jacket or arrange the covers over me without crying out with pain. Gone. The amateur chemist in me wonders if the gout medicine didn’t defeat that, too. Went under that half moon-- the white iris beside the driveway blooming-- to the Y, where I had a workout that made me feel like a god. Nat was being dead cute. Tolkien students doing there presentations last night, also dead cute. Maud cute with her head lying on my shoe. She who loves feet.

Easter music going through my head are mostly the pieces I hated.

Monday, April 21, 2014

April 21, 2014

Easter Monday. Gout medicine disagreed with my stomach, so it was an interesting night. In its last dream, Julie Andrews had turned into a champion of Icelandic culture, and I was an Icelandic schoolteacher who was to receive and honor her in my classroom. Despairing of how to decorate, I’d asked around, and returned to find the stairway to my classroom blocked with pots of vibrant red flowers, which were, apparently, the symbols of local culture. All I had to do was arrange them about the room and wait for Miss Andrews to arrive.

People blame wine for the gout, and I have recently increased my intake, so–

Made a comment about Easter on Facebook in which I said it is experiential, that if you have been transformed by the event, you believe one thing, and if you have not, another. Amid the cloud of agreements were one or two who flatly insisted that no such experience existed, and to have had it, then, was a form of delusion, or that one lied in saying so. My original point was that if one had not had the experience, it lies outside of one’s sphere of competence to evaluate, but there are people who are, evidently, so wise as to be excluded from that rule. Cynics do not generally understand how faith-based their convictions are, how much rests on vehement scorn for things which, to wiser people, are everyday truths and open doors– on things which the cynics do not, in short, understand. Let me not sit in the seat of the scoffers. Even when I think something’s really stupid.

In moments I will go back to 62 and fetch the pitcher plants back to Lawrence’s pool.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday

The morning of Holy Saturday I spent finally, joyfully in my studio, where much that was amiss came right. The rest of the day, regardless of reason and outcome, was too much singing. Some sort of hysteria takes over: “Your voices sound very tired. I know you’ve been singing a long time. OK, let’s do it again–“The Holy Saturday service was first dark, and then joyful. I no sooner got to church Easter morning when the vague ache I had noticed putting on my shoes became a full-blown attack of gout. My pills were miles away. But, made it through two services, and then a happy Easter brunch at the Blackbird, where our waiters were supernaturally cute. Home for nap, aggressive digestion, and, finally, a pill. With all that I feel more Eastery than I have for many a year. Happy, though the pain in my toe is a little nauseating. The birds that sing now welcome evening. Without the pain I might be too happy. I would be without context for it. I might walk through a door that is not yet open.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April 19, 2014

Tea heating downstairs. Troubled dreams, that I was traveling through Ireland (in a deep winter freeze, white on all sides) and all the B&B’s where I thought I had made friends were turning me away because I was gay, and though they liked ME well enough, there had recently been an incident. . . etc. One B&B, way out on a frozen peninsula, was having a birthday party for little girls, all dressed as purple witches. There were no cars but mine, and I assumed they had flown cross the water on broomsticks. It was very cold in my room. Maybe that accounted for the wintery Irish landscape.

Secured my tickets and my hotel rooms for Vienna and Budapest. Even to type the sentence is thrilling.

Daniel is thrilled with his acoustic guitar, which I didn’t know was buying him when I sent him graduation money.

Something wonderful happened at Maundy Thursday service. The church had been stripped and the bishop was washing the altar with bucket and rag. Something in the bareness and simplicity of the scene moved me, and suddenly I a soul adrift in a great void– not horrifying, but new and curious, as though I had just been born. I was drifting toward a golden light. The golden light was God, and he too had just been born. He embraced me, and there was no history between us at all. All had started new and pure. I must have slipped from the pureness in half an hour, but I keep that image in mind, wanting to feel as new as I can before the Lord, and He before me.

Good Friday at noon yesterday. K said our chanting was wonderful, and I hope that was true. The very long St. John’s passion was read by one of our deacons, who does most of the Gospel readings. She is a saintly woman, and sets the place on fire when she preaches. But her readings are halting and incompetent. Yesterday a sponge of bitter wine was lifted to Jesus on the end of a stalk of hibiscus. And that was just the most nearly amusing of a horde of errors. I could not help myself from complaining about her lack of preparation. I was told it was not that, but that fact that she is dyslexic and tries very hard and those are the best possible outcomes. My next question concerned why her colleagues didn’t assign her a different ministry, for unless she wears a sign around her next saying “dyslexic,” she sounds merely stupid or careless. Whatever the cause, she potentially ruins the experience of communicants who come to hear the lessons and not, necessarily, to honor a disability. I think it is cruel of the church to put her through that. I think it is cruel even if she desires it. And I think it is at least willful to put the congregation through it. I do some things quite well and some things very badly. I do not expect anyone to honor me for publicly doing things badly, however hard I may be trying.

Theater last night, Julian Vorus’ short play The Bog. The first thing to say is that it was delightful to be downtown with nothing to do but wander around for a while. Went to Isa’s quite elegant bar for the first time, liking it, liking it in part because it reminds me of the bar I love so much at the mouth of the Waterloo Bridge in London. The streets were alive and happy. The electric sign outside the parking deck informed me I’d gotten one of the last three spaces available. Was that not a portent? The play in the BeBe was intense and intimate, and I sat smiling because it reminded me so much of the theater I loved at the beginning, the theater which drew me in and which I first desired to emulate. I felt like I was looking at a photo of myself some years back, and wondering if I had advanced since then, or gone astray. New York changed me as a playwright. I do think of what will “sell,” but I also think that is helpful rather than compromising, for it gets me a little out of my own head. I don’t think I could write The Bog now, and that makes me nostalgic. Steve and Julian had the total commitment of their actors, which was beautiful, and a bit of a contrast to the off-hand attitude of those in the production I just finished. It’s wonderful for concentration if everybody’s on stage the whole time. The skill of the playwright was more in evidence than the finish and significance of this particular play, but I would go to see another Vorus piece in a minute. It was probing, passionate, proportionate, and probably funnier than it came off last night. A playwright’s ear listens for any rhetorical misstep in the work of a rival playwright, any violation of his own established aesthetic, and there were none. Every passage was part of an imaginative harmony.  I’m not sure this play has a future (an audience admires it, but does not, I think, enjoy it), but the playwright does. I’m sitting here thinking that a theater which alternates Vorus and me and maybe someone with a lighter touch than either of us would be a sensation.

Birds have begin singing in my flowery trees.

Friday, April 18, 2014

April 18, 2014

Good Friday

Last dream of the night was a remarkable melange. I was attending some sort of celebrity wedding, though whether I was a reporter or a family member or just curious is obscure. One of the families was tremendously wealthy and famous. They had a whole section of the hotel to themselves, where there were always parties or events, and into which you couldn’t pass without official documentation, though you could press your face against the glass and peer into the lights. The bride was a member of that family. Her two brothers were famous twin Adonises, athletes whose beauty stopped traffic. They were swimmers, and they seemed always to be emerging from a pool, naked and beaded with water, to everyone’s delight. Even in the hotel lobby they were wet and naked, but, again, so beautiful that nobody raised a fuss. The mother was some society harridan whom everybody feared. Now that I think of it, I might actually have been the groom, who’d come to the hotel early and in secret to see what I was up against. I was more interested in the brothers than in the bride, whom I cannot now picture. Hunted through many elegant rooms for– something.

Infection in the sinuses and ears, which will make singing for the next three days interesting.

Talked with J about our departing Provost, and got a new perspective. Her good works were many and vital, and ether they were not well publicized or I looked the other way in my pique. I am not exactly ashamed of thinking what I thought of her–the offenses are real and I interpreted them correctly– but I do feel foolish for having assumed my little glimpse was all the scene. I was as one getting splashed in the street by someone hurrying on to greater tasks. I don’t like that image. . . . I was like someone getting a bad judgment from a judge who made thirty good ones on the same day. Of course, thereafter I listened for those who had also been wronged, and assumed there was none but us.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

April 17, 2014

Chill moonlight on the brown grass. . . blue, I suppose, if I reported what I actually saw. Were I in the front yard I’d see the moonlight glittering on the mugs I set over my plants to help them endure the cold. Planted a wisteria tree yesterday, the most expensive plant I ever bought.  It was a bare stick, so I figured it wouldn’t mind the cold. Circe woke me by stepping claws out on the tender spot at the base of the thumb nail. Of course, when you shout the claw goes deeper. She disappeared in my moment of rage.

Moments of rage coming too hard upon one another. Maybe it’s the times and maybe it’s me. Too many people grabbing for more time or energy than you offered, yielding up less as a reward. Reciprocity is gone. I need new friends. . . I need to revise my personality. . . I need to find a retreat in the wilderness. . . something.

Our group has been among Avenue M’s best and loyal customers since it opened, and before that when it was the Usual, and last night we were denied seating, or rather told to wait until a table emptied. OK, but two of the three serving rooms were completely empty. I understood the impulse to close up the rooms and go home early, but you don’t tell a customer, any customer, that they can’t be seated when ten or twelve empty tables are visible. Or you do so only if you don’t care if they ever come back. The owners weren’t there or it wouldn’t have happened, I hope. I faced off with the hostess and we got our table, but I had to work too hard and there was no joy in it.

A sense of physical well-being makes a contrast with the grumpiness. I will try to bring the two in line.

Blazing cool afternoon. Starbucks coffee and gossip with TD, then to Phil Mechanic to tend the garden there. My mulching made it easy to get the weeds out, and, so far as I can tell, nothing was lost from last summer. Happy with that. Drove to Reems Creek nursery and bought a herbaceous peony and a purple baptisia and scarlet ice flowers. All went into the ground along with the hollyhocks I delayed planting because of the freeze. . .  Which also seems to have taken nothing. When I got home my housekeeper, who charges by the hour, was having a cigarette on the back porch. Now, do I mind if someone I’ve hired takes a break? Of course not. It was her own rictus of apology and excusing-making that made it look suspicious. She named a price to clean the house and I accepted it as reasonable, and if she gets it done in one hour or in three I don’t care, except that if it’s one hour I wish she’d tell me so I don’t have to think of excuses to stay away on cleaning day. Have eaten nothing and am not hungry.

Met my neighbors, Charles and Delight. They spelled “Delight” lest I should misunderstand that was really what they meant. We decided the trees that irritate me are their trees, so I’m very glad I didn’t have them cut down. Delight is the daughter of the good witch who used to live in the house when it was drowned in flowers.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April 16, 2014

Yard flooded with moonlight. New lawn furniture tossed by the deep wind. Gardens studded with mugs where I tried to protect the new plants (lilies mostly) from the sudden cold.

Lightness in my life over the Humanities controversy; I had thought we were arguing over principles of canon and pedagogy, and that battle could not be lost. But we were turning our backs on principles altogether in order to save ourselves effort, and flatter ourselves that what we know already is sufficient. We were refusing the charge by pretending to reform it. I understand. It is an old story, but one I didn’t recognize right away in this guise. I have exceeded the mark, and whatever fate that once excellent program suffers now, I’ve done what I needed to do. Will continue so. I think this is where the lightness comes from. A battle lost but irrelevant so long as I am whole. The lightness comes from somewhere--

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15, 2014

Misty dawn. One of my tree peonies is about to burst forth pinkish white. Who said transplanted peonies won’t bloom? Turbulent night. Restless. Many dreams. Calmed by strolling the yard at dawn, taking in the violets and dogwoods and the redbuds and the peonies and the one scarlet tulip.

Monday, April 14, 2014

April 14, 2014

Twittery birdy morning. Put Man and Superman to sleep yesterday afternoon with no regrets on my part. The last performance was underwhelming, full of fluffs and flubs. I could hardly move for exhaustion at the end of it. It does make me anxious for another acting project. I still have it. It’s still easy. Hazel and John Robinson were in the audience, looking incredibly old, but also, as they have always been, handsome. They must have been quite the pair. I’m hearing Hazel’s laugh now.

Palm Sunday, never my favorite, saw me giving forth St. Matthew’s Passion three times, beginning at 7:45. I know it now to the depth of my soul. I wanted a palm for my garden, but I’m not sure, in my haste, I came away with one.

Catch up time for all the things I set aside.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

April 13, 2014

Twittering of birds in the dark treetops. Palm Sunday. I face gospel-reading at three services this morning, beginning at 7:30, Matthew’s unlovely text. Then to the theater. Backstage is too giddy and tumultuous not to have an effect on the performance. Surely the din is audible in the audience. People go on stage laughing, or just having set down their cell phones. I could see the results last night. Our best crowd (loud, laugh-eager, attentive) was rewarded by what was in some ways our worst performance, lazy paraphrasing, distracted entrances, inattention, many of the actors so involved with lives off stage that they were on auto-pilot. You could see them blink into full consciousness when they realized their next line was not there. The set was set improperly and I was mid-speech in an action which involved a wastebasket, and the wastebasket wasn’t present. The one last time this afternoon is going to be a relief and a salvation. There’s a strict age separation backstage. The young people are not impolite, but their segregation from us old folks is firm and unwavering. We may break in, but we are never included in their conversation. Was it thus when I was on the other end? It wouldn’t do me good to enter their conversation, actually, for they are all fans of series of fantasy books that I never heard of, and fantasy TV shows that I’ve heard of but not followed. This seems to be their primary cultural material, and they relate incidents from them constantly. Is it just these, or are kids everywhere consuming fairies and sorcery and –apparently– nothing else? Anyway, I am weary at the hour I arose, and look a long distance to the end of the day.

Held the house last night for the late-arriving Bill Gregg. One actor from Titus Andronicus asked if I were feeling well, remembering how I dropped out of that play because of phlebitis. I said I was feeling well, but I knew my swollen leg had captured more of the audience’s attention than I wanted it to.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

April 12, 2014

First staggering day behind me. The second is tomorrow. Today I breathe.

Reading in the Grotto for UNCA’s Arts Festival. There were eleven readers (thirteen were scheduled) and that’s too many. Of those eleven, four were worth hearing. On such occasions, it’s hard to know whether to go with inclusiveness or to vet things a little, and if to vet them, by what criteria. A is in pain, and it’s sad to watch her move, but move she does, pushing the world before her as she always has.

The more comments I get about Man and Superman, the fewer anxieties I have about my performance. It seems to have worked. Not all of the performances do, but the production does. Last night people laughed heartily all through. Drinks and salad with L at Olive or Twist afterwards, where the old folks were dancing to a live band.

Everyone who asked yesterday was told I would spend today in an orgy of gardening, and that’s exactly what happened. Never was there a clearer, brighter day. The streets of town are Edenic with flowering cherry and weeping cherry and redbud. Stuart left me with two strapping redbuds overhanging the walk. I bought Adirondak chairs and bench for the back lawn. I lay down on the bench and had immediately to leap up, because I was falling instantly asleep. Will keep that for a better time. Planted a scarlet single peony, red poppies, beebalm, baptisia, several kinds of iris that the lady at the farmers’ market had to explain thoroughly, daisy, spearmint, golden ice plant. I dug up a clump of violet violets from the old yard and resettled them in the new. Then I slept and dreamed I was in an airport and our plane could not quite make it off the ground, a clear reference to my not being able to wake up and get about my labors. Golden evening now. I will sit on my porch with my toes in the sunlight. Then I will go to the theater.

Friday, April 11, 2014

April 11, 2014

After class I drove to Jesse Israel’s and bought a golden laburnum, planted it in my yard, and am happy. One discovers it is a giant pea.

Planted yellow and snow white iris. All for those hours was well.

Dead mouse on the kitchen floor this morning, with a surprising amount of blood under his snout. He was warm and pliable, so the drama had happened not long before. It’s hard to imagine why a mouse would enter a space with no food and two cats. Didn’t know whom to praise, though I suspect Maud is the mouser.

My turn to save the first act last night. Tanner goes into auto pilot and doesn’t even notice when he veers away.  You keep circling back until he recognizes a cue. J and L in the audience. Also Charlie F-M on a busman's holiday.

I stagger thinking of the day ahead.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

April 10, 2014

My students hated the Monday lecture with rare vehemence. “Just shooting facts and quotes at us,” they said. I had rather liked the facts and quotes, and told the lecturer so, but the students found it aggressive and missed any sense of analysis.

Each time we come to Persia in Humanities class I am reminded of what good sense Zoroastrianism makes. The balance of the majestic and the hideous is so close in the world that dualism seems more and more plausible. If God is God He is not good. If God is good He is not God. Religion was dropped out of the lecture, I suppose because it demanded analysis rather than the barrage of facts.

The next four days are hell. No, not hell, merely busier than I like. If I am to choose between the Light and the Darkness all the time, I must straighten out my terminology.

Weary of the cold. Weary of not feeling quite well for days on end, but not nearly sick enough to cancel anything.

Funny sound of cat paws on the wooden stairs.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

April 9, 2014

. . . the way you jam you feet into your shoes without unlacing them, in order to have a victory in something. . . .

Red-shafted flicker in the yard yesterday.

. . . the way you hear you inner thoughts murmuring, at no one in particular, at every possible listener, have mercy.. . .  have mercy.

You wonder about your friends. . . what there is about you that does not inspire loyalty or. . .  You can’t think of what it is you want to say. No one has your back or ever has. You think you’ve had plenty of backs, but it doesn’t appear to matter. It seems part of a different, inferior order of creation that somehow doesn’t count. You’ve been part of a group that drove to Charlotte to see one friend on stage for five minutes, and the same group won’t bother to drive downtown to see you in a lead. It happens so consistently that they can’t be at fault. You must be at fault in some way.  The room empties and they’ve all gone somewhere for drinks and not mentioned it to you. The laughter passes by your open door. They make a list of people who do what you are better at than all, and the list does not mention you. You probe so much, turn things over in your heart so much you realize that if you don’t know what’s wrong, you can’t know what’s wrong. Praise for A and B for what you did fifteen times without being noticed . . .the pouring of the heart out to one you catch looking somewhere else. . .  “Who will help me?” you ask, and not one name drifts out of the lamplight. . .the way you hear you inner thoughts murmuring, at no one in particular, at every possible listener, have mercy.. . .  have mercy.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April 8, 2014

Disturbing bureaucratic dreams left me with the impression that I had a restless night. I think the dreams came from the latest Humanities staff meeting. I had been rather overestimating my colleagues in assuming that our discussion had to do with the canon and what texts are appropriate for our students. Turns out not to be that at all. Turns out to be a way of making it easier for the faculty, who, stunned by the rigor and breadth needful to introduce the great works of the past, react not by learning new material, as we did in our day, but by neglecting the landmarks when it suits them to teach what they damn well please. Too hard to learn all that stuff? Well, teach what you already know and use your time to argue why actually delivering the needful information is outmoded. This is not even an interpretation; the exact words were said at least three times in the meeting. Our chairman said he was changing from a plan centered on the needs of the students to one centered on the needs of the faculty.  Another said, “Yes, it would make it a whole lot easier of I could teach what I already know.” A visitor, hearing the plan, said, “Well, even I, who have no knowledge of the subject matter at all, could teach the course if it looks like that.” She meant that as praise. There’s not that much point in discussing it further, since it’s a fait accompli and our “discussion” is placation for those of us who still stand aghast. Plus, I love been lectured to by a grad-school infatuated popinjay whose second semester in the program this is. I tolerate it because of the suspicion that I may have offended similarly in my day.

The garbagemen bang away in the dark of the morning.

Monday, April 7, 2014

April 7, 2014

A load of whites tossing in the washer downstairs makes an unexpected harmony with the rain on the roof. I wish Linda’s visit could be longer, but I had too many things to do here and she too many in Atlanta. Huge cheap breakfast at 5 Points. We both noticed the spongy quality of the soil in the backyard, which I coupled with the fact that nobody knows where the graywater pipes lead, leading to the conclusion that one should not inquire too deeply for now. Our director came backstage yesterday to tell us the day’s performance was “low energy.” Since I have the first two lines, and most of the opening scene, I take blame for setting the course. The experiment was to see if I could do the lines without going over them in my head while waiting backstage for my cue, which is usually all the reminder I need. Not a good idea. We ran over the usual time; I refused to stay for the cast photo (because of Cantaria; someone must announce these thing beforehand), Will S was late for work. I am never in the cast photo. I have gone through my life undocumented. Exhausting Cantaria rehearsal, then a celebration of Steven’s birthday at Avenue M. Awake part of the night with bile eruption, which I blame on the wolfish consumption of birthday cake. Troubled dreams, involving a cave or a long corridor made of stone.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April 6, 2014

Eventful Saturday. I rose early, and though it was bitter cold & windy, I was determined to do some gardening. Planted pink dicentra and all the lily bulbs that had been gathering here and there waiting for their time. I hope it was their time. Linda arrived from Atlanta. We visited the old house briefly, and DJ, lunched, and then it was time for the play. Linda said she enjoyed the play and that it didn’t seem overlong. The Saturday audience was wholly attentive, responsive, delightful. The audience should realize that when it does its part, everybody has a better time. I’d never gotten a chance to ask anyone about my performance before. Received no notes after the first few days of rehearsal. The cast doesn’t discuss each other’s performances (this is well) and to corner somebody and demand “how am I doing?” is just too needy. Apparently I’m doing just fine, and people around her were nattering about my acting skills and remembering when they’d seen me on stage in this and that. In lieu of an actual review–ever–this is good enough. Pinot grigio at home, and then a bottomless sleep. Untimely, I dream of having an evil sister. Breakfast and then a drive to seek baby chicks, which we, providentially, did not find. Now it is almost time to return to the theater. I will be elevated this afternoon, knowing I am doing well.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

April 5, 2014

Lively performance last night, buoyed by the liveliest crowd we’ve had yet. An entire row may have been filled, but with theater people, such as Trinity S, and that makes the difference. One loud woman cried “Bravo” or “Brava” implacably as each man or woman took a bow. I wanted to suggest “Bravi!” Our review in the C-T was by a man who had not seen the whole show (he was there, but it is long and he is old) but who had diligently researched details of Shaw’s life online. Asheville actually demands no better, so–

Great dark bird flying outside my tiny attic window, circling to stay in the span of the window. Dark and rain-squally, I think, which may compromise my plans for planting.

Woke in a bad mood without knowing exactly why. The last dream was of my beautiful spring-green sports car being in a fender-bender, and my having to hire a kind of wreck-narrative performer to sing the story to my insurance company. I hired Trinity. She had to wear a costume the same color as the car.

Friday, April 4, 2014

April 4, 2014

Planted white dicentra. The guy who owns the nursery (or who was at least driving the tractor) is heroically handsome, like some old Viking chief.

Did my best performance yet, before an audience of nine. The human energy cost of doing a three hour performance of Shaw for nine people is too great, and I would have pulled the plug, I think. No one complained, though: not even I at the time. Some policy–perhaps choice of play, or venue-- should be reconsidered. I appreciate a chance at the repertoire, of course. Stopped at the hotel for a vodka afterward in my spiffy tie and vest. Met T at the bar. He followed me home, but I was exhausted, and so he watched TV until I don’t know what hour. Still trying to figure out how he locked the door behind him without having a key. Maybe he left through a window. Many dreams of travel.

Writing goes well. Having opened a new door, I find that the corridors are endless.

Gossip at rehearsal last night made me realize that I had passed a notice on the university listserve by without full comprehension. Our not-beloved provost is likely heading out to be President of Guilford. Though that’s good news for us, it amazes me that she could have done such a horrendous job here and still get what I assume is a kind of promotion. It’s like the Catholic church, where child molesting priests were passed on to new venues rather than defrocked. The upper echelons of university administration is a caste which perpetuates itself without reference to how good or how bad a job an individual has actually done. Poor Guilford, though.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

April 3, 2014

Too many cosmopolitans last night. The other interpretation is exactly the right number of cosmopolitans.

Excellent classes on the pre-Socratics. It’s a shame Brian wants to fire me, because I really am very good at this.

Linda coming to be the first houseguest.

Sleeping with the windows open. Friendly rumble of the town around.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April 2, 2014

Taking delight in my new house, as I was almost afraid to do, lest some jealous spirit be watching. I think that I’m not superstitious, but then things like that come up. . . . Sitting in the sun on the front porch. A few windows open a crack last night, the furnace off. The week before, rehearsal was called on account of blizzard. Gobbling up my time off from the theater like a glutton.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April 1, 2014

Between classes I opened the accumulated cartons and took out of them and planted hellebore and sanguinaria. There is a backlog of lily bulbs waiting, but I fear it is still too early.

Realize that the humanities war is pointless. We will be digging a hundred holes five feet deep, when the water lies at ten feet, and we will be congratulating ourselves on breadth. This could have been avoided had the new chairman conferred rather than rashly ordained. He is in a position where there will be no going back, except after failure. My certainty faded a little before a lecture he gave yesterday on philosophy which, though thinned out by his own precepts, was brilliant. . . . but brilliant if you already know the entire historical and contextual background, which is what the new plan insists on leaving out. We’ll see what the students think.

Loud crying of birds in the trees between my study and the street.

Tolkien class thrashing through the Silmarillion.

When I came home a mockingbird was in Lawrence’s pool. I ran to save him from drowning, but he had judged rightly that Lawrence’s rocks is less than an inch below water, and he can drink from the great and fishy pool whenever he wants. How does a bird judge these things? Does he account for refraction, for illusions wrought by the water? I imagined fish and bird chatting from their separate worlds.