Sunday, August 30, 2015

August 30, 2015

Murky Sunday morning.

Turned the second, secured harvest of eggplant into a vat of baba ganouge. Invented the recipe, so there was much adding and tasting afterwards, but it finally came out right.

Class Friday was catastrophic, as out of a sea of waving hands and concerned faces I was made to know– or enticed to believe-- that nobody had heard of any of their own history before, and that I had been firing names and events into a room that had no way to understand or contextualize them. “Now, who was Abraham again?”. . . “We never heard of ANY of this before.”  I drew a timeline on the board, and that seemed to help, but I’m going to spend part of today constructing a time line that will at least give them the elements of chronology and a place to hang those difficult names. Part of it is that they were egregiously unprepared for college. Maybe in the shuffle I got one exceptionally ignorant section. Part of it is that they do not think automatically and must be told to use the many resources that are gathered for them on the Internet and the Humanities website. Part of it is this: I see now why my colleagues wanted to abandon the systematic and chronological presentation of civilization: not that the enterprise was unworthy or old fashioned, as they wanted to believe, but because it is too hard. Students are coming with less and less to build on. Secondary education is failing in so many ways, and is compelled to do so because of the press to succeed in one: the standardized test.

Off after class to Jasper, Georgia, to a place called Big Canoe to get my sister married. I thought we were camping in the usual sense, but Big Canoe turns out to be a fairly thickly populated suburb-in-the-woods with rondelays and mansions, a sort of Lorien with houses tucked everywhere up in the trees. Ours was somebody’s vacation home, round and commodious and pleasing. The boys came at night, as they were told not to do, and got lost, but when they finally arrived all was merriment. Wedding in the morning, I officiating in my most amazing capacity of man of the cloth, Jim and Linda now married, and both seeming happy beyond the lot, at least now, of most mortals. They saw a herd of deer while Daniel and I were cooking breakfast.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

August 27, 2015

Afternoon. E is on her way back north. We must have been good company for each other when we lived together, for we were this time too.

Rehearsal last night was good. We read through Mozart’s Miss Brevis in F, and I was reminded that sight reading unfamiliar material is one of my favorite things, especially if it’s pre-twentieth century and one has the pleasure of discovering patterns and being rewarded with familiar passages. Was given cake for my birthday, which I shared with E as we watched Project Runway.

Cannot shake off a clinging drowsiness. Slept badly last night, having eaten too much and too late.

Odd sky through my window, brooding and yet bright.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

August 26, 2015

Terrible dreams, about a kind of semi-spiritual zombie haunting the city where I lived and, apparently, ran a restaurant as a front for a metaphysical detective agency. A rainbowy shimmer or the disappearance of part of the body would sometimes give the zombie away, sometimes not. Not only was it horrible, but it didn’t go away once one woke. When I slept again, the same dream came back.
Class on the ancient Hebrews, realized that some of the students (more than the one who asked the question) had no idea what the Old and New Testaments were, nor where they came from, nor what they were for. I had mistaken the pained looks on their faces: I had taken them for opposition, when they were in fact utter confusion.  Maybe the zombie dream was prophetic of this.
A reporter and her cameraman were murdered on live TV in Moneta, Virginia. The Internet now carries a video apparently taken by the gunman. One awful thing upon another.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

August 25, 2015

Huge equity call from E-trade. The check from the mortgage company comes just in time. Damn China.

E arrived while I was in class last night. We have not seen each other since 1979. She was a girl then, a woman now. Very motherly. She talked a long time with her son on the phone. The first thing she talked about what her marriage– “I was blind-sided. I didn’t want a divorce at all. He left me to marry his sweetheart from thirty years ago, before we met.”  But she has a son and a daughter and a dance school in Connecticut. She turned me into a vegetarian for several years, though neither of us is one now.

Excellent evening with the playwrights. Excellent discussion of the bible in Humanities.

Days of sapphire.

Monday, August 24, 2015

August 23, 2015

K and I took in Company at HART. Excellent production of a piece that does not, somehow, get me where I live, but whose cleverness I appreciate. Asheville apparently suffered a deluge while we were at the theater, Kyle reading on his phone about flash floods. The city was indeed sodden– the world was sodden almost t the sidewalks of the theater. People were trapped at Montford Park because the streets around were awash. Good for my garden, anyway.
This evening in 1966 I wrote my first poem. It was the beginning of a life which I have yet to understand.
Good Cantaria rehearsal. New faces which I hope we can retain.
Friend asks for money. With the Market down more than I ever remember it, I don’t know how to satisfy him. Then a check arrives from my old mortgage company for $5900.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

August 22, 2015

Grabbed some calm, sat in the garden and wrote yesterday evening.

Rose up and went from one café to another, grabbing more calm.
Michael Collins died today.
Two men greet each other at Starbuck’s. #2 is reading a bible.
    One: “Hello! How ya doin’?”
    Two: “You know I’m doin’ fine, and you know why.”
    One: “Yes, yes I do.”
    Two: “He is on the throne. That is the only reason.”

 Ten minutes later: a woman at Starbucks stares at me for a moment and says, “You’re Pope. . . Hope. . . what is it?”
    “Yes.  I’m Lee. I know you. You are the poet. When Asheville was changing into what it is now, you put an indelible mark on it. You gave it a written word.”
    She got her coffee. I pried my chin up off the table.

Can’t stay awake. It’s the pain medication. After every labor I must go lie down. Theater tonight in Waynesville.
Everything blooming.

Friday, August 21, 2015

August 21, 2015

 Days washed away with obsession with pain. I suppose if it’s REALLY prolonged you learn to deal with it. I would have to overcome rage first.

Having skipped me twice, the cleaners are downstairs, eating away my afternoon, when I was specific in their needing to come in the mornings. Rage at them deflected because they are not the ones who make (and demolish for bad reasons) the schedule. Besides, they cleaned out my oven, gratis. Can’t get to my medication. Can lie down and sob myself to sleep, which is what I want to do. Sobbed in the car hearing about 13 year olds in prison (life without hope of parole) for one mistake, or for no mistakes at all, unjustly condemned, raped every night of their life. That is something to weep over. Me, I’m just futile and frustrated and exhausted and at the end of the week when everything has gone not only bad, but worse than anyone could have imagined. Even rats have their bolt holes. . . .

Went to the Magnetic Theater to see J’s latest.  Two of my students were there as well, so we made a merry company. The show was admirable in every way, skillfully acted and presented. It was meta-theater– a kind of theater I neither do nor appreciate very much. The fact that I respected and admired it nevertheless speaks the more for it. It was all brain, to be taken in and appreciated by the brain. This is startling to me. If J and I were the same person, we’d be the greatest playwright in the world.

Tired unto whimpering. Must go down and get for myself at least an aspirin.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

August 19, 2015

Pain wipes the slate clean of anything else .It interrupts every thought, deflects every line of reasoning. Every revery ends with consideration of it, what you might do to soften it, what position you might take to mitigate it, what medications, what food, what exercise. If you try to concentrate on something else, pain brings you back to itself if you relax even for a moment. So the last few days I’ve done my work, met my obligations, answered my email wincing with pain, thinking of nothing for very long but pain. Wake at two AM after the pills wear off, mind bright with pain, pain the one thing in life in the dark hours, encompassing, inescapable, reasonless. It’s not that it’s a very great pain, but it is enough. It endures, it returns, it sharpens and dulls so there is no extended consideration of anything else. I’ve whispered the sentence “I hate you” into the air more times in the last four days than in all the rest of my life. Whatever target I intend, I hope it’s hitting home.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

August 18, 2015

Came upstairs and Maud was lying in the strange gray half-dark by herself. A melancholy cat. A poet cat.

Went to the Y despite it. Interesting doing my circuit with my foot dazzling with pain.

Good meeting with the playwrights last night. They’re all on board. The lad I have a crush on– he being my opposite in every way–is there. Will remember to behave.

Terrible night last night, bringing its exhaustion into the day. I cannot lose for there is nowhere to retreat; I cannot surrender for the opposition is cruel and wrong.

Monday, August 17, 2015

August 17, 2015
Nephew David’s birthday. Cloudy skies, grayish yellowish.

Pavel is my advocate at the Blank Theater in LA, whose interest in Edward the King forced me to prepare a submission I had decided not to on my own because of the unnecessary effort of the application. But, there it is. Done. I feel like those Irishman during the famine who were forced to work all day on one of the famine roads for a bowl of soup.

AWP announces that no winner was chosen in their non-fiction prize category because no manuscript was of a publishable quality. My own In the Country of the Young was one of the entries, and so I know part of that is false. Years ago, when I submitted a novel entry, no novel was deemed worthy of the prize. It is hardly a defect of the imagination to assume that some evil sprite would rather have a vacuum than to allow me peace or justice for half a minute. In any case, whatever the actual details are, profoundly and objectively disgusting. I hope they are put out of business. How much dishonesty blots out a history of good deeds? How many murders until you are considered a murderer?

First Humanities lecture was, I think, a triumph. I was happy doing it. The overflowing room was smiling at me. And my toe stopped hurting long enough for me not to be distracted. Pain going in and out today, as though trying to decide whether to linger or to subside.

It is just, objectively, too hard. That one survives is not an argument against this statement. It was still too hard.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

August 16, 2015

Gout enhanced by rather spectacular leg cramps last night. My usual response is to get up, hobble around, screaming profanities and drinking water until the spasms go away. Last night I lay there, calm as I possibly could be, watching the dark while the cramps went through their process. I could feel them passing wave-like from one muscle to another, each muscle responding with a slightly different agony. They did in fact calm and cease. Why? God knows? Went to High Five and studied my lines, but my toe hurt too bad for me to make the trip to school, as I meant to do, to prepare for tomorrow’s lecture. Maybe the pain will lesson as they day goes. Learned that turning the foot so the outside can press hard against the ground allows me to sit for quite a while at relative ease. Early in the day. I may accomplish something yet.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

August 15, 2015

Ran into B as she tended to the grounds around an office complex on Chestnut. We chatted. We talked about retirement, and I said, “Maybe I’ll retire and come sign up to work for you.” She said, “My policy is NEVER to hire men. Even gay men. Every time I’ve tried it it’s turned out to be a disaster.”
 “Why?” says I.
 “Because when you tell a man to do a certain thing in a certain why, he always looks for a better way to do it than the way you explained.”
I acknowledged that, yes, I would do exactly that. I was at a loss to know why she wouldn’t want that. Men and women!

Finished revision of The One with the Beautiful Necklaces this evening. Radically revised both Night, Sleep and the Dreams of Lovers and The One with the Beautiful Necklaces in one week. Revision now does not mean necessarily to make things better. It means to conceal originality so that the gatekeepers are presented with something they recognize, something they do not have to expend thought on, something they think they can sell because it is like the last thing they sold. And yet somehow how to preserve that striven-for originality. “Better” in that imperfect sense. A feint. A sleight-of-hand. It’s not about quality, but about second-guessing lazy or corrupt imaginations. And yet, quality does count. They will accept excellence if it is not too excellent, or if it is excellent in ways that do not tax their expectations. Hiding skill almost successfully is itself a skill, one I am not unhappy to acquire. All skills are skills, and if I can fool them into thinking the world I want to live in extends an invitation to them as well, I will think of myself not as a sell-out, but as cunning and worldly.
Sharp/dull ache of gout in my left big toe. One pain fades into another. At least they haven’t all come at the same time. Yet. Returned to Reems Creek, where they fussed over me and welcomed me back. It was nice for them to be concerned.  I bough joe-pye and hardy geraniums and a plant that bears yellow pearl-like flowers and is meant to grow in the shade. The strain of planting them brought on the gout. I could feel it happening. Sigh.

Friday, August 14, 2015

August 14, 2015

Reception in the Glass House. Rocky the mascot dog was there. I hadn’t realized there was an actual animal. He was sweet and friendly. When I went back for seconds, I saw a man sitting alone at a table, so I sat down with him. Missed the name in the loud room, but he is a graduate of the Sorbonne and his concentration is the study of Unitarianism in Transylvania. You can’t make these things up. Met A and  afterwards at the Funkatorium, a brew-bar on Coxe. Talked about the theater. I probably don’t want to talk about that any more today. If A gets the part he auditioned for yesterday, he has promised the gods he will ride his here bike from Brooklyn. Delicious evening rains.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

August 13, 2015

Arvo Part on Pandora. Low golden light through the eastern windows.

Was writing outside at the High Five, saw T cross the street pulling D behind him. I thought two things before I recognized who it was: “Wow! There’s a handsome man,” and “There’s a man in a tremendous hurry.” He was working on his screenplay with W that morning, and not to be disturbed. I walked up to the window just to say howdy, and the look on his face was wrath until he realized I wasn’t going to stay.  Made me feel contingent. Of course, I usually feel contingent, but you’d think there’d be some exceptions. There aren’t.

But The Poems continue.

Thinking of NSDL. Will readers, should there be any, think everybody is kind of a jerk? Certainly didn’t intend it that way, but the world doesn’t INTEND it that way either. It just happens. I THINK I excised all that which was just getting stuff out of my system.

Dramatic dreams at waking. The paper had done a savage article on me, and everyone was talking about it. When I finally read the article, it said that I had brought two guns and $400 to a school to pay for target lessons for my two sons. I spent time in the dream trying to figure out why everyone was scandalized, when my boys went to a school where they taught gun safety, and  when the article itself hadn’t put any particular spin on it. Circe was watching me intensely when I woke. I must have struggled in my sleep.

First Humanities meeting today.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

August 12, 2015

Mendelssohn on Pandora

I am genetically predisposed to dread things such as the Literature Department retreat yesterday, but it turned out to be lighthearted and productive, and set me on a much better path for the semester than I had anticipated. For one thing, we changed our name, and for the first time in 32 years I am a Professor of English. Revolutionary ideas for the creative writing program. I feel professionally renewed, and lounged around the last lingering gold evening in a state of euphoria which could not wholly be attributed to material things. Rose today and ran two miles at the Y, studied lines, went to the High Five and wrote my daily poem. Ready, then, for the day, for the week. About to check my mail to see what I’ve forgotten or neglected, noting it’s yet early enough to save the day.

My crape myrtles bloom purple and magenta at 62. My only jealousy.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

August 10, 2015

    N came for our conference about his production. He smelled amazing. I wanted to bury my face in his shirt. Rain, finally, not enough, but some.  Finished the most radical of all revisions of NSDL, inspired by Sunday morning at Pack Place. Dryness of spirit. Not bad, just dispassionate in all directions.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

August 9, 2015

Went to write at the High Five Saturday morning. There was some sort of lesbian gathering there, and it has been a long time since I have encountered such a power and variety of body odor. Maybe they had been on a camping trip, though their garments didn’t look like they had. Every woman I came close to stank. Maybe it’s some sort of political statement that you have to be in the inner circle to understand. I made for the outside quick as I could, where I did, in fact write. I watched a family, and wrote about them. The great flux, the great Giving continues.
This morning I went downtown at dawn and wandered Pack Square. The homeless occupied all the benches in front of the restaurants there, and I was glad the police weren’t summarily rooting them out. I planted myself at the prow of Pack Square, where I could watch everything. The shadow of the Vance Monument–with the rising sun directly behind it-- lay as far down Patton Avenue as I could see. Maybe it was built that way, to point due west down Patton at sunrise on the 9th of August. A homeless guy came over and we chatted. He lives in Sioux Falls, SD, where there are excellent shelters, one you can go to when you’re drunk. He was visiting his sister in Dana, but she’s schizo and off her meds, so they had a terrible fight and he took the bus to Asheville, where last night he slept on concrete in one of the parking decks. All the shelters are full. I did not share that inspiration came across me as we talked. Maybe it was his doing. I gave him $20. The trees by the fountain are slippery elm. The fountain pulses, sometimes on, sometimes off, like a great animal breathing.

Friday, August 7, 2015

August 7, 2015

Met Z coming into the gym as I was leaving it. I felt virtuous. I might have just completed the most strenuous work-out in the world.

Leg back to normal, I guess, except for my scanning and analyzing every twinge, fearing it will send me back to the moment of paralysis.

Laborious fertilizing of the roses. I say “laborious” but the labor was actually a sort of meditation, calming. When I looked at the clock and saw that time had passed, I couldn’t really account for all of it. Couldn’t remember all that I had done, just a sensation of sun and water and wafting perfumes. Oh, I squashed a few Japanese beetles.

Durango’s river flooded by acids.
Idiot Republicans on the TV last night. The Governor of Ohio was the best of the lot, and he only so by virtue of approaching normal from the underside.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

August 6, 2015

The late emergency room escapade reminds me that another reason people pair up is so they have people to call at such a time. People like me are an immediate, unavoidable imposition on the lives of others. It can but get worse as time goes on.
B left a bag of chocolate for me on the porch.
How can I nap so much? And still sleep at night?
Letter to C in the land of snows.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

August 5, 2015

From this room the north–which is my only perspective– seems dark with cloud. Probably a deception.
My leg recovers phase by phase, so that when I rose from my noon nap I was not limping at all, and could feel no trace of tightness or pain in my leg. I do not understand physiology very well. I should think if a condition lingers, the symptoms should too, but this is not the case.
Retrieved my truck from the nursery. The plant ladies seemed genuinely pleased to see me out and about.
Excellent day at the studio, hauling myself up those difficult stairs. Harry called to check on me.  Happy workers were refurbishing a studio a few doors down. It was good listening to their laughter. Painting well as I have been writing well– some block removed, some barrier battered through.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

August 4, 2015

Active morning yesterday– another one clear and beautiful, but its very clarity and beauty decreed that I must water the gardens. Was going to the studio, but made a prior trip to Reems Creek Nursery to get, I thought, a hydrangea. On the way to the back lot I slipped on loose gravel on a slope, and when I came out of it I was in excruciating pain, and could not walk. Not even a step. I got standing, but couldn’t put an ounce of weight on my left leg. They brought me a chair, but I was afraid I couldn’t sit down and if I did I couldn’t get up. They called an ambulance, run by two nice kids. I told the kids that my need to go to the toilet must supercede the emergency room rubric, finally convincing them. Even hobbling to the toilet on the young man’s arm I realized things were already better than they had been at the nursery. The service at Mission was quick and efficient– might have been a slow day. The man in the next room was vomiting with a vehemence I wouldn’t have known the human body could endure. I knew nothing was broken. I could move my foot every which way, and the diagnoses was not a surprise. My knee is full of arthritis, and, as the doctor said, I “stepped on it in a way it didn’t like.” His next quip was, “that’s what you get for living so long.” The diagnosis made sense, and explained things back more than ten years, when I began having difficulty (sometimes) sitting in theater seats unless I could stretch my legs. Twice I have screamed with sudden, passing pain just stepping out of a car. It all made better sense, though I can’t say it was exactly a comfort. What I can’t understand is why something like that is a bother sometimes and at other times not. But, I’ll take the “not” times with alacrity. Phoned Harry to drive me home. He took care of me. Used to be an EMT as it turns out. Drove me to get my prescription filled. Kind and strong. He stayed with me until I was walking without hopping and screaming at every step. The last time across the grass he wouldn’t let me use the cane. At every step he was right. No problems during the night (I only took one of the prescribed painkillers) and this morning when I walk the pain is big and dull, but no longer sharp. I picture my knee bent correctly before I step each step, blaming hyperextension for the event. My truck is still at Reems Creek. Not sure whether I can drive. Should try a Starbucks run this morning to find out.

The One with the Beautiful Necklaces has won first place in the Chanticleer Review’s historical book contest, Xxth century division. They want me to come to Seattle for a conference and to honored. Must research this a little, to see if it is. . . something. I think I deserve. . . something.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

August 2, 2015

First read-through of The Weir, at my space in the industrial park. My accent was not the worst, and I was afraid it might be. It is a better play than I thought it was when I read it to myself.
The consequential grill that defeated me the other day was beaten into submission, and I grilled my first steak, and it was as miraculously different as people say. Harvested the next ripe eggplant before the ground hog got it. Harry and his friend came by on bikes, and the friend casually answered the question I had not thought to ask, the minor twiddling which was keeping me from firing up the grill. Providence.
Read Bridges’ The Testament of Beauty. Am I the last person in the world to have done so? The original owner of the book was one Katherine Gault, who had underlined inevitably the right and best passages. A fine reader. Even with lovely lines here and there, the work is awful. I wonder if I would have thought it so awful 100 years ago, when it was still possible to write lines like “the dignity of prayer” or “the God-kissed moment of loveliness” without anticipating scorn or doubt?  The good thoughts of a good man versified. What could be worse? As I read I wondered what it was for. My suspicion is this: Bridges watched his beloved friend G M Hopkins storm the bastions of Heaven in a way he could never– nor anyone else either. Bridges said to himself, “I am as good a Christian. I can affirm Beauty and Divinity in my way, too, by affirming the faith of our cradles and truisms passed down from Wordsworth with tearful solemnity. But he could not.
Each night since I have looked for the luna moth. Maybe this is a blessing that comes once only.

Amazing nap-dream. My sister and I were invited to a family reunion that consisted mainly of the family of my Aunt Marian. All of them except Aunt Marian herself were made up by the dream. Aunt Marian made an appearance as a ghost dressed like a Byzantine empress. She floated through the family house, which was colossal, empty, badly lit and had tilted dirt floors. All of her family were apparently trailer trash of some kind, but they had come into fortune and were dressed in gowns and tuxedos. In the dream I thought that terribly, terribly wrong, a kind of cosmic deceit. Some of them were handsome or beautiful, and this too I thought a kind of horror.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

August 1, 2015

The miraculous night was not over when the sun went down. I walked out into the front yard to watch the blue moon rise over the trees, and fluttering over the grass was a luna moth, pale, huge, silvery in the moonlight, looking more like a Victorian painting of a fairy than an insect. It fluttered a long time before it took shelter in the hollies. What does it eat? I wondered, ready to scurry out an obtain whatever it was.

Morning I rose and went to Biltmore Park, to the Y, where Harry wanted me to take a Tai Chi class. I had not taken a Tai Chi class since his, twenty years ago. I went. His son Patrick was there. We gathered in a parking lot under tall hedges. Towhees called unseen from the hedges. Kent actually led the class, but Harry took a splinter class of beginners off to the side. I remembered most of it, though time had not improved my line. He is a good teacher, patient and thorough and metaphorical. I learn by metaphors. I am unlikely ever to return, but I’m glad I went. Breakfast afterward. A signal mark of Harry’s success as a man is that is son is kind and noble and without self-consciousness. I forgot we were not contemporaries.

Drove from there downtown to meet L and J for lunch. Ran accidentally into LEAF downtown, which was crowded and fun. I lingered as long as I could. I bought a paperweight which looks like it recedes into infinity. Lunch was compromised by their morose and uncivil children, which I wondered about, as they are anything but morose or uncivil. Passed through the carnival again on the way to my car, and was again joyful. Fasciitis lit up my foot at every step, but I tried to think of everything else.

Swore I would look at collected emails from school today. Perhaps I will and perhaps I will not.