Saturday, December 31, 2016

December 31, 2016

Pale blue through the upstairs study window. I have slept wondrous late. Baked cheesecake, have the two main dishes to prepare today, and to set the rooms for festivities. And to sleep, so to make it through to midnight. Defections already through sickness and making other plans at the last minute. I might once again be throwing away a couple hundred dollars worth of food.

Last night my father was a sinister ghost shaped, now that I think of it, like a spine. He came whispering terrible things into the room of the dream.

Odd, instant sickness, nausea and chills. I took a vitamin C pill, an iron pill, and an antacid all at one time. A mistake? Passing–

Facebook entries ask, “What was the most beautiful thing you saw this year?” “What was the best thing that happened this year?’ The best thing that happened is that I managed a truce in the war with God that’s been waged at least since I came to the South. The most beautiful thing? Moonlight on Saint Istvan? The Rijksmuseum? The two men in the café with hawks on their arms? Sam smiling?  Something I will remember hours from now and forget before I get it written down? The worst of course is the Fall of America, represented by the mixture of fear, cynicism, and drop-dead ignorance that got Trump elected President. Fear, cynicism, and drop-dead ignorance look to be the catchwords of the months to come, and those of good will must resist every move, every statement, every nano-second. Nor can there be any patience, any honeymoon period, any impulse of “wait and see,” for the lineaments of the enemy are fully known, and re-asserted by every public move. But to our power, hostility and hate,  Untamed reluctance, and revenge, tho' slow, Yet ever plotting . . . .Odd that his minions– who were the bugbears of times past–seem positively moderate in comparison.  We were not prepared. In our defense, it’s something out of comic opera that one could not credit ever coming to pass.  It is some other America never fully comprehended by the reasonable before.

If public fury must end one year, private lovingkindness must begin the next. And so--

December 30, 2016

Early early at the gym, working on the VIIth Canto in the café. The whirlpool, which I have been visiting for the sake of my legs, was immovably chocked even at that hour with adolescent girls, an unexpectedly repellent situation. Inconsiderate, at the least. Chat with Brent. Chat with a big happy galoot who kept calling me “bossman.”  Made a cauliflower casserole for the party. Bought supplies. Wondering what I’d say if somebody forced me into a valediction on the passing year. I’d say it was professionally the best in a decade, but a superstitious fear of courting the enmity of the gods would keep me from dwelling on it. They must hear only the unmodulated cry, “More!”

I must throw a party in order to have company on New Year’s. Among tribulations it is not great, but--

Friday, December 30, 2016

December 29, 2016

Wednesday spent painting, nearly the whole day at the studio, after the obligatory morning gym visit and writing session. It went well, and I see if I stuck to it time-wise as my neighbors do, I would have been able by now to fill a museum. Many visitors from Florida longing to experience “winter weather.” Good feeling on the second floor of the Phil Mechanic.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

December 28, 2016

Met at the door of the gym. The dome when I left was turquoise, flawed at the edges by purple cloud.  Wrote at the gym and at High Five.  Decided to buy a Froggie the Gremlin toy from Ebay, in the course of which I rediscovered the Indian series Andy’s Place featured, which I loved as a child and which lingers in my imagination as something rich and strange. There I heard the phrase “first century” applied to Indian ruins, and I came to terms with time for the first time, reasoning that those beautiful things could not have been built in the very first century of man’s awakening. I learned that one first century we know; the other is yet to be discovered.  When I think of these things, or when I’m reading my Archaeology magazine, my bitterness at no longer teaching Humanities briefly returns. That the program needed me made no difference. The Boy’s reign was an early glimpse of Trump and his contempt for all things, regardless of worth, that are not him.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

December 27, 2016

A day of gratifying accomplishment, beginning with a good workout, followed by writing in the bare bright café. The Racquet Club parking lot at dawn is becoming church, for looking up I behold a sky of shifting glory– today pale blue and flamingo and wholly aflame– and have occasion to praise the Maker.  Drove Brevard Road to get my car serviced. The sun continued his ascent, and I ran into a man whose dedication and attitude I long admired at the gym, B. He is a dentist from Michigan, and his breathtaking fitness is a result of fighting back from a terrible traffic accident. Went to High Five and wrote till my hands cramped up. Went to Lowe’s and bought throw-away houseplants for $1.99 each, determined to nurse them back to health. In this I follow my sister’s path.  Potted and watered them. Invented and baked a pistachio cake for Saturday night. The batter was delicious, and it held together through the rigors of de-panning, so I assume it went right.

Actually, the day began in mystery. I was hauling the trash and recycling bins to the street when I heard a noise-- a call, then a kind of flutter-- in the dark corner. I said,”Whatever you are, welcome. I mean you no harm. I’m just taking out the trash.”

December 26, 2016

Customarily rapid Christmas. Party in Alpharetta with family and their friends. I was happy, though my life is, by and large, less chaotic, and tumult takes some getting used to. All seems gratifyingly well there-- D1 on his way to Germany, D2 girlfriended up, L happier than I had ever seen her. One of L’s friends suggested the TV show Mozart in the Jungle, which I am watching now with pleasure. Terrible night’s sleep lengthened the drive home, which was again lengthened by 1/3 by congestion, traffic sometimes stopped dead on 85. The cause was always the police. You got to the bottleneck, and it was, every time, cops ticketing someone or showing their presence by parking two abreast into the lanes. I suppose traffic could just keep on speeding by, but that’s not how it works. A three and a half hour journey became five hours.

Went to R’s ramshackle manse on Cumberland to join in the decorating of a Christmas tree. Only when I left did I question why it was being decorated the day after Christmas. Both the Rs are gone, and this seemed an event organized by their daughter to continue a long tradition. I misunderstood the plan to “hang an ornament on the tree,” and brought one from my own tree, a red and green enamel star. They had boxes of dusty ornaments of their own which we were actually supposed to use, but I went ahead and left the star, since it was out of my pocket and the only one in the house with a usable hanger. I lingered maybe ten minutes, put to flight by the ambivalence I’d always felt going to that house, part the recognition of their personal kindness and importance to the cultural life of the city, part revulsion at truly toxic squalor. Strata of artifacts, household implements, theater memorabilia, toys, ancient food, personal memories are held together by aromatic grit. The house could be used as a set for Long Day’s Journey or The Royal Family after a good steam cleaning. Noting these things is a flaw on my part, but I acknowledged the flaw and fled into the spotless night. Daughter M showed me some photos of myself from Montford’s Olympias. It was shocking to me. I was beautiful. I was never used to thinking of myself in that way.

Monday, December 26, 2016

December 25, 2016

Dark morning which one assumes and believes to be bright. Long journey which one assumes will come to merry end. Silence in the house, which one hears as the final reverberation of secret song.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

December 24, 2016

Sending Night, Sleep to Carlos took a load off my heart. At he very least, what is out of one’s hands cannot be helped. I can think of everything that can go wrong with this project, barely imagine one thing going right. Nevertheless, I have made the move.

Downtown last night to meet C at Jack of the Wood in his brief sweep through town. He is constant, steady, hard-working, and like A deserves unusual success. He has fully conquered Chicago. His skin is like moonlight. Two others came, and we gossiped, a little about the museum culture here, mostly about the theater. Five hundred miles away, C is more current with the Asheville theater scene than I. We talked about various people prominent in the scene whom most everybody hates and have collected demeaning anecdotes about. In no case did I have similar feelings. I said about one in particular, “He hasn’t treated me like that at all,” and one of our companions responded, “That’s because he’s afraid of you.” The town was beautiful last night, twinkly and merry and inviting. I do love the nightlife, and the ease of sitting home with the remote in my hand makes me forget that.

Took cookies to Steve at the Phil Mechanic. He hugged me–hard and long, I must say–and said “I love you.” A curious thing: when people say “I love you” the first thing I think is “I love you back” if I do, but whether I do or whether I don’t, the second thing is always, “Why?”

Trying to get the 6th Canto transcribed before church.

Friday, December 23, 2016

December 23, 2016

Brilliant day. Took ten pages out of Night, Sleep, and the Dreams of Lovers, and I think it’s ready to send to the publisher. Tried to talk to my mailman, but he’s an ass. Who, under regular circumstances, would know that? Russell and DJ and I at the movies yesterday afternoon, the latest and by no means worst Star Wars. Disappointed by the finish of this season’s Project Runway. Remarkable dreams last night, sexual dreams, extended, playful, satisfying sexual dreams, not the usual thing for me. I woke once or twice and put myself back to sleep, to enjoy more of the dream. Signed the Night Music contract with Greensboro City Arts. Looking for the source of my unease, but it’s not visible. It may be pathological, or it may be prophetic.

December 22, 2016

Strange day. Drove aimlessly down Brevard Road, where I bought seeds I didn’t need at Eden Brothers and stopped at an antique store and got two old glass tree ornaments. Made it through most of choir rehearsal with my voice intact, so maybe the humidifier was not a waste of money. Pulled back oddly from the flood of poetry that had been gushing forth each morning. Minor, yet inexplicable, dread. Perhaps I really am that affected by world events. Trump is a danger not seen in the West, ever, so maybe I should allow myself dread and quiet action. The crows holler at me when it’s been too long since I left something on the lawn for them.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

December 21, 2016

Longest night.

Before 10 AM I had worked out hard at the Racquet Club, written a Canto, baked a batch of cookies. Autumnal warmth for the first day of winter. Everyone at the gym is friendly enough, but there seems to be no pushing past that toward a deeper relationship– probably because I go so early in the morning, when everyone is strictly business. You know a little of each enough to make some guesses.

Questions from the director of Night Music show how careless I am capable of being, but also elate me, because SOMEONE is paying close attention.

Maud makes tiny sleep noises as she naps in the slash of sun beside my desk.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December 20, 2016

Stood in the Racquet Club parking lot at the exact instant of dawn. The sky was low and radiant dark gray, embroidered with the paths of flying crows. The Infinite seemed very close. I danced my dance there in the graying darkness, and when I was finished I looked around to see if anyone had seen, and all the world was empty, but for the One for whom it was all intended.

Encountered K at High Five. He purged in an instant all sadness that was between us. The honor is his; the relief, mine. It was the best way to start a day.

Wrote a Canto, watched T and W working at their futile screenplay, they like Sisyphus, useless but possibly content.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

December 19, 2016

Was useless at the Cantaria concert, but kept flapping my jaws as though sound were coming out. Bought a humidifier, which turns out to be a giant vaporizer, which I’d cast off in disappointment in the past. This one is, at least, silent.

Weights at the gym, writing in the gym café, then writing in the High Five. Another Canto accomplished.

Taking out the trash, heard a rustling above my head, too loud for just a bird taking off from a branch. It was my red-shouldered wrestling with a squirrel. I think I startled the hawk and, this time, the squirrel won, clinging to the pine limb trembling as the great predator sailed away. I’m sure the squirrel is reassessing its life.

Huge naps with impossibly vivid dreams.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

December 18, 2016

Walked out in the dark of morning to a world soft and damp and misty, sweet as spring.

L wished me luck in my application for a state arts grant this year. I’ve stopped wondering how people know the things they know. It would be ironic to get one this year, after 22 failures, the very year my hatred of my adopted state’s government has reached the level of ecstasy.

Celebrated Russell’s birthday with our traditional trip to the movies, this time to see the Harry Potter prequel, Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them. Sweet, I thought. Dinner afterwards with Kyle. I wonder if I keep my friends sufficiently supplied anecdotes concerning my adventures and foibles. It seems to me I live the blandest of lives, partially intentionally, from a lifelong habit of fending off distractions.

A complicated day ahead, partially dependent on the status of my throat.

The gas heater breathes like a cat over in the corner. The real cat curls on my left foot.

The cry for years has been, how do I incorporate the political into my work, the way Yeats does? And still leave it poetry. The answer may have come in the High Five yesterday morning.

December 17, 2016

Party at the Gs last night, in part of the town where I never go, so there was a lot of driving around in the dark squinting at addresses. Met a throng of fascinating people, most of whom I did not know. One explained how to make mead; one starred with Dolly Parton in a TV movie;  one studied the making of tablas in one town in North India, and now is a dissertation editor; one is head of publicity for Asheville, and reveals that Lonely Planet has named Asheville the Destination of the Year for 2017. I pretended to think that an unalloyedly wonderful thing. C’s interests are evolving and eclectic, and the wide variety of guests often had nothing in common but having met him at some point in his journey.

There are times when I cannot even speak, and singing is a distant improbability.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

December 16, 2016

Got through the Cantaria concert, but was only periodically an asset. The coating of mung in the throat was too profound.

Good work-out at the Racquet Club, good writing at the High Five while it was yet majorly dark.

My sassafras arrived in a long box, six feet of green wand with a little wad of frozen mulch on the root. Decided I must plant immediately, so went to the hardware store and bought soil and mulch. The boughten soil was frozen so that I had to bash it with the spade to get it around the roots, but the ground itself was soft and malleable, but for a lace of frost an inch below the surface. The spot is still lumpy, but rains are predicted, and I’ll trust them to settle the area. Maybe THIS is, finally, the last planting of the year.

Friday, December 16, 2016

December 15, 2016

Took recycling out and saw the bamboo bent horizontal by the weight of wind in the backyard. Everything is more frightening by night.

The Republican state legislature, having lost the governor’s mansion, now introduces bills to strip the new governor of his powers. You expect mischief, but not outright subversion and treason. The election has been effectively nullified. The level of indignation could not be enough unless the state house were in flames.

Night Music is cast. I don’t know them, except the Internet photos testify that the boys are cute.

Stomach bug. Cannot sleep enough, Cancelled massage. Planning on carrying on with Cantaria, despite my hoarse frog voice.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

December 14, 2016

Vehement students attack works we’ve done in class for not conforming to their world view. Someone somewhere along the line persuaded them that prejudice is an actual critical strategy, that an artifact’s not honoring one’s illusions is a form of disrespect. I do not try to correct. I ride it out.

Good days in the studio. Ray hammered nails into the brick of the entrance hall so I could hang some of my work along with the others’.  I’ve worked for years and produced rather little. But I haven’t worked like Ray or Steve, who are there full work days, every day.

Dry, hoarse throat. I can hardly speak. It doesn’t look well for the Cantaria concerts. Almost faint after the long lines of the Lauridson.

Began composing Cantos.

Emotional roller coaster. I think this happens every Christmas break, and I forget about it from one year to the next.

Nine handsome men at one table in the High Five this morning as I ate my toast and sipped my cappuccino and wrote my poem. An environment can be too rich. One doesn’t know where to look. They were having some sort of business meeting, and were not only handsome but sharp and well dressed. One woman was present at a table over by the window. She stroked her boyfriend’s back as he read.

The nursery people inform me that they’re shipping my sassafras now. It will be my Christmas tree from now on if it lives.

December 11, 2016

Picked up a literary journal to see an old friend’s (an old crush’s, actually) work. We’re both still slogging along.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

December 10, 2016

Gave an exam, popped in at the department Christmas party, skipped two other parties on the schedule for the night, all of which was well.

Had an extraordinary day at the studio, long and productive, during which kindly Ray, my neighbor, introduced me to others of my new neighbors, Sandra, from Bosnia, and her mate (as I take it) a giant and impressive Cuban whose work is quite beautiful. They’d taken the space with a woman I hated instantly, but it turns out that they hated her too, so she is gone. They’re from Atlanta, but rental prices are so high there they think it actually pays to rent a studio here and come on the weekends. I left my studio only when projects needed to dry before I could continue with them.

Sat in the light of my Christmas tree thinking fatal but, queerly, undisturbing thoughts about mortality. I feel disengaged from things, doing the work, at some points harder than ever before, but anticipating no outcome, content, upon reflection, to foresee no outcome. It is as if I’m being invited with unexpected tact out of this world. With unexpected equanimity I expect to accept the invitation when it’s firmly in my hand.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

December 9, 2016

Woke from a dream of incredible energy, wherein I was painting up a storm based on a new image, which I remember: a man crawling on hands and knees, which the dream found mightily important.

Hear the windchime singing away n the garden, blown by this bitter wind.

Decorated the tree. Immovable with body pain by the end of the task; took two aspirin, the pain subsided. One is almost willing for the affliction if the remedy lies close at hand.  Wept when I took out of their tissue the decorations with the names of my dad cats. Covered the second little tree in my room with my spirit animals. Determined to do everything right.

Trump’s cabinet strategy is pure and simple: Appoint the enemy of the thing to be the caretaker for the thing. Appoint an enemy of education to head the Department of Education, an enemy of the environment to head the EPA, so on down the line. Were there no pacifists to make Secretary of Defense?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

December 7, 2016

Day of achievement. Ran a mile on the crosstrainer. It took more out of me than what would have been indicated by complete recovery, but I made it, and walked away on my own two feet. Wrote a poem in the Racquet Club café. Painted well, and blazed a new trail off a new trail. Everyone was solicitous of me because of the flood. Bought and set up my Christmas tree, though I haven’t decorated it yet. Last night I wasn’t sure there would be a tree; as I sat contemplating it, I thought two things. The first was a memory of how on some day before Christmas I’d come home from school and the house would be decorated like a wonderland, every surface covered with elves and bowls containing glass balls and little creches and Yuletide what-nots. Embarrassing for an adolescent, I would nevertheless cry out in wonder. I still don’t know where my mother got all that stuff, or where she stored it between Christmases. But I thought, “I will do it for my mother. I will think of her and decorate in my pale imitation of her grandeur.” The other thought was, odd and unbidden: “This will be your last Christmas, so why not?” The idea that it would be my last Christmas was, unexpectedly, comforting. My mood lightened like a bird taking flight. I have no idea what that was about. The sky through my study window is streaked blue and white, like perfect agate.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December 6, 2016

We who prayed for rain are answered with shimmering curtains of it. My pond is full to the rock rim. There’s an overflow mechanism, but I doubt it can keep up with the downpour. But I think of the bulbs and roots underground battening this away for the winter, and I rejoice.

The end-of-semester crash is upon me, and I dare not pass my bed for the desire to lie down upon it.

Conversation in the Post Office with a retired colleague. We both noted that the university has finally gotten lucky in its administrators. I’ve heard not one negative word about either the Chancellor or the Provost, and certainly never uttered one myself. It makes me wonder less why they are good than why the others were bad. The present ones don’t seem to be exerting themselves overmuch to stay on everybody’s good side. Our former leaders seemed, even while they were with us, to be going out of their way to offend and frustrate. I wasn’t in on the private councils of any of them, so can scarcely speculate, except to imagine that the present group respects the traditions of the institution, while the former had–and showed–contempt for them..

Monday, December 5, 2016

December 5, 2016

Caroled briefly at O. Henry’s after rehearsal last night. I was dreading it inordinately, but it turned out to be sweet and sad. I haven’t been there in, maybe, ten years. Looks the same.

Pipeline shut down in North Dakota, finally. Proves that intransigence works. Proves that sometimes the right side wins.

McCrory the Scum is, finally, out.

Maud stands by the window and watches for the crows. Seeing her, I fill the feeder so she has something to look at. Do I train the crows to come or do they train me to feed them? Is it Maud who trains me to provide her with diversion? This is not actually a conundrum. I began it all. They joined in, and now we dance in our circle.

Was noting in the church kitchen Sunday that K, in what is now a rather long association, never initiates a conversation with me, responding cordially if I make an overture, but never making the initial move. As the thought was passing through my head, he contradicted it by, more or less out of the clear blue, accusing me of “impatience.” I knew what he was referencing. The Boy is the end of collegiality, the end free academic speech, the end of scholarship, the end of student-oriented pedagogy, the end of peer review, the end of honesty, the end of academia as a principled pursuit, and yet in at least one circle I am to blame for being “impatient.” I try to find it all funny.

Tom the Furnace comes and fixes mine for $85. My spirits revive.

December 4, 2016

Sweet Lessons & Carols last night.

Phone call about flooding in my studio, the worst yet, and what I think may be the last straw. Someone had cut off the power because water was in all the plugs, so there I was sloshing around in the dark with cold water inches deep, canvases floating, sodden canvases collapsing against the wall, me thinking, “Allow a sign to be a sign. This should be the end of this.”

Sunday, December 4, 2016

December 3, 2016

A day at the studio, doing not much painting, but a whole lot of socializing, which is the danger when everybody gets along.  I balance in my mind the joy I find in painting with the expense and bother of a studio. I am either not very good, or people do not respond spontaneously to what I do. Would a wise man keep it up in the face of that? The same might be said of my writing. Our fate at the Phil Mechanic is uncertain. Maybe when they throw us out my decision will be made.

Turns out that two space heaters and the study gas logs heat the house as well as the furnace, and at much lower volume, though I miss the great dragon roaring in the basement, and maybe the space heaters would not keep up with a really cold night.

December 2, 2016

Heat’s off, or rather some electrical anomaly shuts the furnace off after it reaches the set temperature, which means I have to climb down into the basement to hit the reset switch (or whatever it is) whenever I want heat. The cats think this is great fun. Discovered how to work the gas fire logs upstairs, after 3 years. Found the following when I was selecting files to go on my new computer. It’s the studio log I kept when I had the tiny dark space on the Phil Mechanic mezzanine:

August 9, 2009

This is the first day I’ve actually used my office in the Phil Mechanic as an office. Wrote four poems at the café, transcribed them here. It is quiet, cool, darkish. Telemann is on the CD. The chair is the wrong height, uncomfortable. The desk is a door that used to cut off two spaces in my house, or DJ’s, and had been languishing in the garage for as long as I had the property. The brilliant heat of the summer day is masked and diffused here. For the last hour I have been quiet as a mouse, hidden, happy. 

August 29, 2009

Working on the poetry archives, again (or still) to the sound of Telemann. I am finding ways to use this space, glad that I didn’t let it go when prudence suggested I should. High school students are meeting above, in the planning stages of a student literary magazine. Dusty, cool, dark: all in this place shall be well. 

October 17, 2009

Much has changed since the last entry. I’m typing in the numbing cold on the third floor. The season has changed, as have all other things, all equally gray and cold. I’ve moved my office off the mezzanine into my studio, which is mine alone now that Jason is moving out. His boxes are packed and stacked on the floor, a sorrow and an affront.  One day he is promising to stay at least three years; the next, an abrupt email announces he is moving out, now. It was an odd process. He fucked D’s wife, and reacted to that by developing a grudge against D and everyone else on the third floor, as though they had committed a trespass rather than himself. I cannot ask him about this, as he chose to conceal the narrative from me, and insist that D and L and the others fell short of his moral standards in some vague way, and he was cutting them off for that. David  reconciliation—I saw it with my own eyes—but Jason ignored it furiously, rudely, turning his face away as though his former friend, and the man he had wronged, were not in the room. But I love Jason and not them, so I am at a loss as to what stance to take. He has not told me the truth, so counsel cannot be given or taken. To admit to knowing without his telling me is a kind of ambush, and he does not need that now. Of course, he gave no thought to what I need. I have full financial responsibility for this place now, which doesn’t bother me, but it might have bothered him. Partnerships should not be dissolved so airily by one side. Ellen did exactly the same thing to me; I must invite this treatment in some way. In any case, suddenly I am alone, after what was, possibly, the most happy and convivial of the last twenty years. It was thoughtless and coarse and unfaithful on his part, but I can’t think of that through sadness at the bare fact of it. He said he’d meet me here this morning for coffee and to talk, but it is past 3 PM and he has not come. I am being gotten rid of, as I’ve seen him get rid of unnecessary friends in the past. I always think I’m going to be immune to my friends’ darkness, the exception to their customary violence. I could not have been very important to him, for all his protestations in the sweet past. There are certain things you don’t do to people for whom you have basic human respect, much less love. And I will say nothing, and we will go our way in silence. It was lovely for a time.

The little space heater—or two if they are both mine and one not Jason’s—will not heat this place, and I will be writing or painting for six months with the vitality gradually sucked out of me by cold.  Closing the office will save me $3000 a year. I should think of that and gloat a little. The thought is not making me happy yet.

October 23, 2009

Jason’s possessions are untouched since the last visit. I carefully edge my stuff from downstairs in around it. Telemann on the CD, barely masking the AM Country blaring from the fat girl’s studio. Stuck here for an hour while Word Perfect downloads. The boys drift in to visit, which makes me happy. I thought this room would be a blank place on everybody’s map once Jason was gone. Artists are a thoughtless bunch. Ursula has absorbed the common space in the library for her open house—where are my paintings? Gone. I know not where—and the fat girl’s crappy tunes rattle the rafters. I wonder if I can continue the direction and growth in my art of the last year with my mentor—my only mentor in my life as a painter—gone. Kevin the Special stood at my door demanding that I do something.
“I am doing something. I’m writing.”
“That’s not doing anything.”
It is unbearable; it must be borne. This list is forever lengthening.

November 4, 2009

Beethoven on the CD. The floor is quiet. Jason is gone, and a brief phone call lets me know that what is left I am meant to dispense with. The next time I come here I may actually paint. Denise threw Jason out of their new house, and he has moved operations to Tennessee, “for a while,” he says. I believe I will not see much of him from now on. I keep thinking if we were actually friends I would have known all this before an almost random phone call. Clearly I do not really know what passes between friends. Bade farewell to my little cave on the mezzanine, with some sorrow. 

November 14, 2009

Studio Stroll day, and I arrived early to redress disasters that did not happen, so I have an hour to collect my thoughts before what we hope will be the onslaught. I am alone in the biggest, brightest studio in the building, Medieval music on the CD, and I am happy. I have fought for this time, deceitfully shunning other duties. Lord, let it bear fruit. 
Virginia Derryberry has a spectacular show of frowsy goddesses in the Flood. Her interpretations of the myths are wrong, but the paintings are striking. 

The voices in the air sing “Ave Maria, gratia plena. . .”

Miss Jason. Miss Jason. 

November 15, 2009

One would like to have a way to punish studio strollers who turn on their heels at your door as though it were the contagious ward, who stick their heads in and then back out as though saving themselves at the last moment from a terrible mistake, who wander in, ignore the work and tell you what lovely light you have in the room. One wishes the red haired Adonis glassblower came by for something more than to borrow an extension cord.

Friday, December 2, 2016

December 1, 2016

Cleaned the house before the cleaning lady came. Actually worked in my office by the river for the first time. I thought I could transform old poems into new ones, and I was right. Transfigured four poem from 1975.  The spirit was there, but the technique is here. I put out peanuts, and Maud watches the great crows come to glean them, each as big as she is.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

November 30, 2016

Yeats in one class, discussions of life and art in the other. Rain, and then a softness as of springtime. I assemble my new computer with a minimum of rage.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November 29, 2016

Blessed rain. Blessed rain. Blessed rain.

Gatlinburg is afire.

Sat in astonishment listening to my playwrights, hearing of lives one does not suspect from the front of a classroom. One is a professional cuddler. We suspected a joke until she showed us her webpage, which offers her services to cuddle men and give them physical comfort short of sex. “It’s hard to convince people I’m not a prostitute,” she says.
    “What if they stink?” someone asks.
    “I have no sense of smell.”
Another has a whole line of semi-juvenile fantasy books available from Amazon.
Another, who writes of nothing but sex, worries me, because she says she never writes fiction, but only directly out of her own experience. If this is the case, she faces the near occasion of rape every night of her life. She seems, furthermore, to court and tempt exactly this attention from men. I suppose in a perfect world you could court and tempt and still feel free to shrug it off before it becomes real. If this were a perfect world.
After the rain a young red shoulder hawked preened and groomed in my walnut. He was radiant, beautiful there in the flood of light. Squirrels fussed about in the grass below, so they were either oblivious or recognized a bird who had just fed.

November 28, 2016

Lara seems to be planning a production of Washington Place in Omaha.

The nerves of my feet were not registering wet when they felt cold. My foot actually was wet from lymphorrhea, which I couldn’t locate until I saw that my bare feet had made marks in water on the kitchen floor. Discouraging, but over in a day. Didn’t even seem to be an opening in the flesh.

Stabbings at Ohio State.

Friends on Facebook begging money to get them through life crises. I was desperate here for many years, and just resigned myself to living among the ruins.

Monday, November 28, 2016

November 27, 2016

From Jon David’s online news letter:

And about that commission… It’s for the Atlanta Young Singers, Paige Mathis, Music Director.
Hic Sunt Dracones [“Here Be Dragons” (Thanks to Steven Sametz for the title)] is based on a text, also newly commissioned, by award-winning poet, David Hopes, like me, a NC resident. It is set for 60-voice treble chorus, solo male trio, and solo contrabass. The piece blends elements of scat singing, horror movie tropes, and extended vocal techniques, all over a slightly perverse ground bass. The premiere will be in Atlanta in May, 2017.

The nerves in my left foot began last night to read cold as wet. There’s always something new.

David and Daniel had a contest whereby the weighed themselves before and after Thanksgiving dinner to see who consumed the most. Daniel won by taking in more than seven pounds.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

November 26, 2016

Napped on the couch while the cats were napping in the slash of sunlight pouring through the south windows. When I woke, I saw a pale figure couching over the cats. He had been playing with them, and they had been responding. He rose and walked toward the dining room, and when I turned to look at him, he was gone. I have a ghost who plays with the cats. How could it be better?
Put peanuts out, and in an hour had a yard full of crows. A certain number of crows becomes a little alarming.
Finished the revision, then went back into the manuscript, removing or changing more than100 uses of the word “was.”
Ran into Alex and Tom at the High Five. One moves forward inexorably. One has been stalled for thirty years.
Forgot to mention that the painter Chuck Close was one of the guests opening night at The Great Comet.
Tried to buy a coffee table. What wasn’t too expensive was hideous.
Not having to read the Intercessions at church tomorrow seems a mortal reprieve.

November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving in Atlanta. I’d driven an hour and a half before the sun came up. On the way back I saw this was a mistake, for the roadsides were aflame with autumn, the apotheosis of brown: golden brown to scarlet brown and all places in between upon the trees and forests. All well and most well in Alpharetta. The limits of my energy were reached even by the drive, so I spent most of my time trying not to collapse in a corner. Not good company, I think. Talked to David’s girlfriend on the phone. Talked to Aunt Barbara, who is the last connection to Things As They Were, and yet all we talked about was Thanksgiving. Drove home when the house was either asleep or already gone to work. The lakes you pass on the road have fallen by twenty feet, their banks wide and brown and alarming. Much smashed wildlife on the bridges. Mickey is getting a hurricane in Costa Rica. We can’t get a cloud.

Friday, November 25, 2016

November 23, 2016

The smoke last night possessed a palpable body, ghosting along the ground. Finished the rewrite of the Asheville book.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November 22, 2016

The terrible anniversary. I was sitting n Mr Tucker’s history class at Hyre Junior High. . . the PA gave the announcement. Mr Tucker sat down on his desk, pale as snow, his mouth open.

Still a scent of burning in the air, and still no rain. Volunteered my house for the department Christmas party, but we are so lacking in unanimity that a date can’t be found to suit all, or even many.
Treadmill at the Y this AM, reading The Warmth of Other Suns on Kindle. Went too far and staggered spent to Starbucks under the lopsided moon. Toilet reading is Melville’s letters to Hawthorne. I am a sort of Melville, now that I think of it.

Monday, November 21, 2016

November 21, 2016

Did well by rising long before dawn and heading for the Racquet Club to do my weights. Feel young and energized. Exercise and ibuprofin may just get me through.
Most time spent getting The Lexington Tract into shape. I feel some sort of tangle there, but will proceed faithfully, so if tangle there is, it won’t be my doing. At the least there’s joy in reading a well-turned sentence one has turned oneself.

Cantaria pot luck– fun, but catching me at my moment of maximum exhaustion.

Realized how much effort the department has wasted pretending that being a “rhetorician” is a real thing, separate from and superior to being a plain old writing teacher, the hours (and hours) of departmental time and energy gone finding a way to treat unequal callings as though they were equal. I asked one of the “rhetoricians” once if I were not one myself, being a writer, and she smiled indulgently and assured me that even a writer could not plumb the language deep as she did.
Cold and dry, a second Gobi.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

November 17, 2016

A day of making mistakes.

One thing that is not a mistake is Black Mountain Press wanting to publish The Lexington Tract. Too many ifs and buts for me totally to rejoice, yet I rejoice the little bit I may. I rebound like Greenland shedding its glaciers.

D reminds me every now and then that back in the day I disapproved of her as a colleague. I honestly remember neither saying not thinking that, so I confronted her and she said, “You told me to stop whining.” I do in fact remember that. I never thought of that as disapproval, but as help.

Dear God, let it rain.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

November 16, 2016

Home from New York. Close calls, me holding my chest from running from one corner of the airport to the other, but nothing actually awry. The air was hazy and fragrant from fires on the surrounding mountains. It was warm. I was happy to be home, though the term  “home” was problematic for me for a while. I had keys in my hand, and those keys opened a door, and inside the door were possessions I remember acquiring. Did that therefore mean I have a home? Wrestled with that for a while, and then I went to sleep. Back to class today, and was joyful.
The production of Pierre and Natasha and the Great Comet of 1812 exceeded expectations on all fronts. Opening night with everyone in gowns and tuxedos was great fun. Damian was happier than I was, and laughed beside me at all the places where I didn’t, so between us we admired everything. It was the perfect balance of content and production values, funny and poignant, ironic and soulful, the performers flawless. The gimmicks worked. The risks paid off. Usually I can pick at a production if I want to, but there was nothing to pick at here. I was happy–grateful–to be a part of it, however it does financially. I suspect it is going to do well enough. Damian and I hiked to the Plaza afterward for the reception/party. Whatever one might have imagined concerning the opulence of the Plaza pales in comparison to the real thing. Who thought such places existed outside the palaces of Europe? Or rather, movies about the palaces of Europe? I tried, and then succeeded, to push to one side the perception that every theater company (I mean ALL of them together) I ever worked with could run for a year on the money spent for that party. Sometimes you just need splendor. Staggered passed the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree walking home at midnight. My lightheadedness and hemoglobin deficiency made for a visionary trip from the Park through the night streets to Times Square.

Monday, November 14, 2016

New York 5

November 14, 2016

Tremendous moon over the city last night, for once as bright as the city lights, and far more mysterious, a god sailing above Times Square.

Walking down Broadway from 75th I saw four Irish boys in sharp suits hit the street, carrying an Irish flag with them, laughing and dancing down the pavement. On Times Square a young Indian in sparkling white, looking like a rajah, was having his wedding pictures taken. His wife and her retinue were in scarlet and gold, all gorgeous and happy. These are the things I fear Trump will imperil, things not right down the American middle, things you might, if you’ve cultivated ignorance all your life,  have to think twice fully to understand.

Went to the World Trade Center and did the tour, and gaped up at the soaring and quite amazing building, the first time I’ve seen it close up. My reaction was a little surprising: grief, tears. There are two fountains where the old buildings stood, and they lead down rather than up, down into the profundities. The names carved on the sides are the names of those who went down into the depths. The photos inside, of those who died, are unbearable.  Young men in their wedding tuxes. Girls with flowers in their hands. Firefighters grinning out from under their helmets. Smiling and hopeful. . . it could not be endured. Came back up in time to meet Adam for lunch and then a matinee of The Encounter. The Encounter was, like The Birth of Color, an example of a pure good thing all but ruined by the availability of remarkable apparatus. The story was simple and beautiful. The story was difficult to get at because of all the microphones and multiple tracks and phonic tricks. Besides, we were up against the balcony wall and the pain in my knee, toward the end, blotted everything else out. Broadway is afraid of good storytelling. Unless it is shouted, over-dubbed, shouted again in an echo chamber, it has not been said at all. I would say that, all in all, the experience of The Encounter was a laborious failure, when it might have been an easy triumph. We chatted for a while in the Paramount lobby, then, having miscalculated the time, went at a dead run to Theater Row to see a one woman show by a woman Adam had met at an audition. The state of my hemoglobin did not exactly allow for that distance and that pace, and I arrived at the theater quite sick, and trying to find ways not conceal it. The show was fine, three sections, two of which were excellent, all written by the actress herself. Made me wish I had saved time to attend more episodes of the Solo Theater Festival, which she was part of. About half of the plays had something to do with the vagina, and said so.

How odd the profession of theater is! How wound up with things unrelated to art or truth or even, when it comes down to it, theater. Reminds me of why I backed away into the hinterlands. Things are so complicated Adam doesn’t even know HOW to get an agent. It seems to happen by accident or not at all. Adam and his friend John and another friend they met there launched into reminiscences of auditions in far-flung cities, and as it seemed they really wanted to talk about that, and as I was still annihilated from the run, I eased out of after-show drinks. I was well and truly spent. It was hard to get back to the hotel. Had cosmopolitans prices at $28 each and tottered into bed. The moon came and looked into my pathetic air shaft for a while.

Thinking back on the foundation meeting. First, I have more money than AB; I could have a foundation. Second, matters of gender are so hysterically at the forefront that even when we say we are not talking about it, we are. One gave a lengthy speech about how she REFUSED to discuss what “woman” meant, having apparently been worn out by such discussions in the past. Back to the old lamentation about how 65% of the applicants are men, 30% women, the meager tally of the rest undefinable or trans, and how this indicates we are not doing our jobs. Our outreach is, by and large, specifically to women and women’s organizations, and only the conversation’s drifting elsewhere kept me from asking, “What makes us suppose these numbers don’t reflect an actual truth, that 65% percent of aspiring playwrights are men, and on down the line, and we’re receiving completely proportionate applications?” Though this seems self-evident to me, it would have earned me enemies. I think, but do not say, the women in the group set their relative failures down to their being women, rather than the quality of their work. When I suggested that all biographical information be shorn from the manuscripts (as is most usually done) the suggestion was greeted with horror. It is clear that favoritism is intended, and frustration comes when the favorites are not quite favored enough. Long faces were pulled when our winner was a man. I pointed out he is a black man, and maybe that counts for something. We juggled the honorable mention list until there were enough women –whatever “woman” might mean– to satisfy.

I do realize that this represents a clash of philosophies. I believe that the perception of excellent is Platonic and (barring political or prejudicial adjustment) universal. They believe that what we perceive is purely a cultural phenomenon, that we prefer the work of men because the long history of male art has accustomed us to do so, and therefore the only possibly parity is numerical parity. There are places where one can’t say “bullshit,” even if one could prove one’s point.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

New York 4

November 13, 2016

Noon to seven Saturday spent in a meeting room in the Beacon Hotel. We discussed the business of the Foundation, then wangled over the twelve finalists for the playwriting prize. My 1st choice won this year– a rich and daring fantasy on love among slaves in the 1860's South– but it is amazing the breadth of taste and judgment available concerning one piece of writing. I think if a work is good it’s good, and everyone will know it, but actual application of that principle is not, in my experience, to be found. Even the most excellent work requires advocacy. Even the most idiotic mess will have a champion. One rule of meetings like that: the person with the least to say will take the most time to say it. You can see her winding up when it comes her turn, gathering the richness of attention around her, planning the wreath of apologies and asides that will keep the focus on her just a little longer. Walked to my hotel from 75th Street in a night that, higher up on Broadway, was serene, companionable, even suburban. When I got to Columbus Circle I felt lonely. When I got to the hotel I had forgotten that for a time. There had apparently been anti-trump demonstrations on Columbus Circle and Times Square during the day, and battalions of cops lined the street. The moon was almost full. There’s a towering skyscraper where Broadway hits Columbus Circle, unfinished, so it is a dark and lonely majesty. The dark tower made the most amazing and memorable conjunction with the sailing moon, like the ruin of some great city lost.

At one point I had fallen into revery, and waded out into the middle of 49th against the lights. Taxis honking their horns, people on the curb looking aghast. When I made it to the other side, one young blond woman said, “Come home, Speed Racer.”

The walk outside the hotel entrance was so thronged with smokers pedestrian traffic all but stopped. The doorman turned to me and said, “The French are here.”

I fear the cops on the street are a portent of things to come. The people in the Foundation assume that the Republicans in Congress will impeach Trump almost immediately, so they can have Pence, who is controllable, and, in some ways, worse than Trump, because all the humor and glamor is drained out, because he actually seems to believe the horrible things Trump says without conviction and without thought.

New York 3

November 12, 2016

Went to the Circle in the Square for the first preview of a new a capella musical, In Transit. The theater was full of kids, so I suppose the production was connected with the acting school there. In the first five minutes one was convinced that one was seeing something new and wonderful. It was stylistically vibrant and electrifying, though the plot dived almost immediately for the middle, giving us recognizable characters in recognizable Broadway situations– we’re just kids trying to make it in the Big Apple, trying to ace that audition, trying to get to the all-important interview, trying to find a way to tell mom we’re gay. Heard it all before, but not exactly in that way, so the evening was a delight. One mistake that you’d have thought they would have seen easy enough was the beat-boxer, who stopped the show dead in its tracts every time he came on to show off his stuff. He had an additional function as a kind of soothsayer, which was fine, but he could have done one without the other, or done what a beat boxer is supposed to do, accompany.

Friday, November 11, 2016

New York 2

November 11, 2016

Hiked to the Mitzi Newhouse at Lincoln Center to see The Babylon Line. If it had been submitted to my playwriting class it would have been given an A and the playwright told he was very promising, but only that. Good-looking well-known TV star in the lead, well made in every way. I left at intermission. However, the atmosphere around Lincoln Center is vibrant, and if I lived here I would be spending as much time possible there. Had a drink in a café into which roamed Julliard students in dance tights, studying scripts, chatting the chat of Serious Art. I loved them madly. One dancer said to one actor, “Well, we have art to make until February.” I ask, “What’s February?” and the answer is “the inauguration,” when the world ends. Big tent full of people and lights and Harry Potter signs, where I assumed the stars of the new movie were having a Press event, but I kept tripping over the pegs of the tent until I gave up gawking.

In the hotel bar I met Pamela, from Phoenix, here to celebrate her 70th birthday, who had just seen Hamilton across the street. She’s writing a novella about children evacuated from London during the Blitz. We are going to collaborate on a story about an old lady who goes to Paris and pays young men to dance with her. I’m going to turn it into a play.   

Rose in the bright morning and went to the Museum of Natural History, where I looked at dinosaur bones. The place was crawling with kids being led around by their parents, a cataclysm of educational virtue and teachable moments. It was lovely. Bought pteranadon cufflinks. I consider that I have been happy so far every moment here. The pace of New York is somewhat more natural to me than home. I realize, once I’m out of it, that I’m always pulling myself back a little for Asheville. If I could just have my garden on some roof in Manhattan–-.

At some subway stop a group of kids got on, black kids and Hispanic kids, all laughter and smiles Two of the boys started chinning themselves on the hand rails, and whirling around the posts like monkeys, laughing and smiling the whole time. It was so BEAUTIFUL. Everyone else on the train was cracking their faces smiling. I thought maybe the transit authority paid them to ride just to make everyone’s day better.

Invited to lunch in the Hearst Building by D. The Hearst is in the top five niftiest buildings on Manhattan, the reception area, anyway, full of light and falling water. It was great to be with D again. His wife is pregnant. “I’m going to be a grandpa,” says I. “Yes,” says he. Staggered back to 45th Street to a warren of offices in some horrible little building to pick up our tickets for Monday night. The backstage of the backstage really is quite squalid.

Part of my disappointment with The Babylon Line is that none of my plays, even those I’ve stopped sending out, is not better than it. Why is it playing Lincoln Center and they not?

Exquisite lemonade from a vendor in Times Square.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

New York 1

November 10, 2016

Paramount Hotel, Manhattan. A blast of cold air comes in through the wall under the radiator. Encountered B , my Chinese student, at the Asheville airport. Our seats were together, and I spent the flight to Charlotte satisfying his apparently limitless curiosity about how to become a writer and professor in America. His eagerness is fetching, but his single minded careerism a little disturbing, as he has no conversation but how to get into schools, how to get grants, how to play the American literary market. He was on his way to Boston to confer with a famous Chinese-American writer–missing both my class and Wiley’s, which is NOT the way to get into an American grad school. He favors animal stories, and revealed the surprising fact that Ernest Thompson Seton is highly regarded in popular and academic circles in China. “He is the big example of all animal story.” I read him eagerly as a boy, but I doubt his name has ever been whispered in an American university.

At Newark Liberty I stood, with others, for one hour and twenty minutes in pouring winter rain waiting for the airport shuttle which is meant to arrive every 15 minutes. I finally went back upstairs to demand my money refunded so I could take a taxi, and was polite until the ticket lady let her face go blank and said, “no refunds of any kind.” I asserted that there was by God going to be a refund, and it accelerated from there. Finally she talked to someone in a red jacket, and though there was no refund, a bus appeared almost the instant I got back out onto the street, and another one behind it to deal with the overflow that had built up in that time. Said I to the woman standing beside me with her little pug sheltering in her sweater, “Trump has been President for ONE DAY and already things are falling apart–“

First billboard we saw on Manhattan was for The Great Comet.

Despite the shuttle bus, got here, drank at the Iron Bar, which I like, toddled around Times Square until the pain in m joints drove me to the white cubicle that shall be home for 5 days.

Evening: Went, as I love to do, to Bryant Park and fed the birds. Saw a yellow crowned kinglet, and had a catbird sitting on my table eating croissant practically out of my hand. Bought figurines from a woman who was born in Ecuador, who hates and fears Trump with better reason even than the rest of us. Went to Grand Central for coffee. Many of the seats at the various restaurants were filled with the homeless slumped over sleeping the sleep of exhaustion, one arm stretched across their meager possessions. Drank at a bar on 8th Avenue which I recognized was, under another name, the restaurant where Bruce and Jack and I signed the agreement to do Edward the King.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November 8, 2016

Midnight. Never for one minute did I think the Trump candidacy was anything but a joke. I am trying to laugh. . . .

November 7, 2016

Went to bed earlier than usual, so had luxurious hours in the dark of the morning for revery. One forgets how directed revery fills the soul. I’m ready for the day. Rose to prepare Wiley’s book for class.
The street and my driveway are finally paved over and smooth to drive upon as silk.
Photos of the perfect roses in my garden holding on to the edge of winter.
Dodging my Turkish contacts, who want to stop by and sell me more carpets. How many carpets do they think I need?

Monday, November 7, 2016

November 6, 2016

The Rutter Requiem went well. I was in good voice, and was learning about the workings of the music as I sang it (which I like best of all), and I think the congregation was moved. I am after this rehearsal process the more convinced that all things done in panic or anxiety are done amiss. To make one aesthetic choice in fear of another is not the way to go. I’d had my fill of church by the end of it, too, and note that New York will give me a breather. Drinks afterward at Avenue M, where I had hibiscus vodka for the first time. I must have days soon where I have more to say than this.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

November 5, 2016

Rehearsal for the Requiem, which I am liking better than the other three times I sang it. Read twelve plays for ABBF. Two of them are glorious. Two are OK. The others, not so much. Do I blame playwrights for bad writing or the initial readers for bad selecting? People write plays without a clear idea of what they are; I feel there should be some interaction among characters, not just one figure after another coming on and spouting audience-ward what’s on her mind. 
Beka’s wedding venue has burned down, so my trip to Denmark is postponed.
Trying without success to think of some significant moment yesterday, except that I binge-watched the first three Aliens movies and slept sound afterwards without a nightmare. Dreamed instead that TD and I bought memberships to a very posh private club, where we were looking forward to luxuries which never quite materialized.
Photos from a California production of Waiting for the Witch.

Friday, November 4, 2016

November 4, 2016

Whatever I intended to do yesterday, what I did was let loose at the gym, shop while the cleaning ladies were at my house, then garden hard. A huge carton of roots and bulbs that I had forgotten I’d ordered arrived, and I made another inspired-by-idleness appearance at Eden Brothers, so there was much to plant, much to dig in order to plant, and by the time I was finished I was nearly immobile. Finished it all off by getting the worst haircut of my adult life. Feel fine this morning, though, and hit the Y as it opened.
Not one person between the Atlantic and the Pacific is not sick to death of this election. I am most sickened by the fest, the glut, the atrocity of irrationality. I smack my brow especially when people look at Hillary, a woman and a mother, and say that she represents “the same old thing” while Trump, an entitled self-delighted corporate billionaire represents change. It’s dumfounding. People don’t care the least about the meaning of words. Accusations of Hillary’s dishonesty and lack of trustworthiness seem,, as far as I could discover, completely made-up, and clung to despite the resigned denial of even those who first made the accusations. We prize what we think over what is. That’s OK when what we think is higher, but we think like rats fighting in a sewer and all who are not down there slashing with us are somehow out of touch. The Republicans had tried to subvert the Republic by denying voting rights and refusing to do their duty regarding the approval of justices, have gutted education and health services to make the rich richer, and yet somehow they can expect votes, and millions of them, rather than torches and pitchforks at their door. I simply don’t get it. I look for Tuesday when at least the forum will be closed, whatever else betide.

November 3, 2016

Back to the gym at last. There, a soak in the whirlpool, and it is still dark outside. I like it that way. Accomplish as much as you can before dawn.
Guest lecture in M’s Arts 310 class. Before my talk there were oral multi-media presentations, and I was flabbergasted at how half-assed they were. There was mastery of the media, all right, but the scripts, the messages, were abyssmal. I remember one series of presentations in my class when six students in a row skipped over words (“the s-word that I can’t pronounce”) relative to matters on which they should have at that point been experts. Our students barely let college mark an interruption in their lives. They barely let class mark an interruption in their checking of text messages. In this they are wholly innocent: dedication has never been offered to them as a life possibility. 
The Great Comet is evidently raking in the bucks. Sigh of relief. Some controversy about who originated the show off-Broadway. Email too long and remote for me to finish reading.
“On the Adoration of the Shepherds” accepted by what appears to be an evangelical anthology.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

November 2, 2016

Odd dreams. I had taken a job in a sleazy movie theater, and realized that the clean up I was supposed to so was never going to finished, and I had to choose between leaving it only partially done or staying at a hopeless task forever. Was certain it was Sunday morning when I awoke. It was not.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

recent scholarship

The Humaniad

---- a fragment
In those green lamented days of wisdom’s reign
When one was anxious to use one’s brain
And plans were laid in clear and common air
And one gave counsel in quad and on the stair
What was broken and amiss communally to repair,
Our fathers left behind their weekend ease
And gave birth to the Humanities.
From the first as good as it was strong
(All right, some of the lectures were too long)
It went from strength to strength for forty years.
New professor learned, and quelled their fears.
Graduating seniors dried their tears.
For whatever erred was communally made right,
And points were scored against encroaching Night,
And those that bitched the most as freshman
Would, at the finish, cry “Amen!”
Then arose one B_________ from the ruins of dead Rome,
And though he might have left the excellent alone,
Decided under protection of the Dark.
How he might most woundingly affix his mark.
So with a sly covert Satanic thrill
He gathered about him the weak in will
Who imagined his approval was their chance
Through the maze of Academia to advance.
“Let us,” said he, “Scorn all erudition
“And bring all that’s mediocre to fruition.
“Let us put everything we need on line–
“Research? Prepare a class? Who has the time?--
“For anything you really do not know
“there must be a snappy video.
“Scholarship, Discipleship, Mentorship? Oh please.
“The time’s too short for any one of these.
“And instead of pedagogy I’d like
“That much more time to ride my bike.”
Then spake he to his dark-of-night cabal,
“Behold how the gods of sloth we appease
“By making our curriculum such a breeze
“It can be taught by anyone at all.
“No need to know what came after and what before,
“Or who did what that led to what. It’s such a bore.
“And anyone who still possesses determination
“that students leave this course with actual information,“Shall be, summarily and harsh–O hark!--
“cast into the outer dark.
“Let us exile the excellent, that we
“Might flourish in our Mediocrity.
“It’s universal truth: each Creon is
“Anxious to be rid of his Tiresias.
Then uprose the mighty chairman from this throne
Heeding his creatures and them alone,
Until, on the blackest of black nights–

Here the manuscript is lost----

November 1, 2016

Faculty reading in the Laurel Forum. How was it? Varied. Tremendous effort in the morning, many things done, errands, correspondence, writing, collapse in the afternoon: the pattern of recent days.

Monday, October 31, 2016

October 31, 2016

Torrid, or at least sultry, students in class in t-shirts and shorts. I was given by them the option of wearing a Halloween costume or bring treats, so baked uncounted dozens of pumpkin-based cookies. 
A’s birthday part at Biltmore Village Friday night. Ate too much and too late and was up until 4 AM watching movies on the cable. Seemed, however, not otherwise to throw my day off. Woke at the same time fully rested.
Saturday I painted and painted, and felt well in soul, except my body was stiff from standing in basically one position on cold concrete for several hours. Visitors from six or seven states. After painting, though, a strange sadness, which clung to me through church and rehearsal on Sunday. Sadness made mostly of loneliness. Will I spend whatever years are left to me alone? Am I alone now, or any more so than anyone else my age whose friends are passing and whose nest is empty? I do not know the things I do not know. Then I had to prepare for class, and the sadness went on the back burner –another argument for not retiring in haste.
Planted one last trailing tree peony that arrived from Ohio. I think they must be all done now. The soil was hot as I dropped my hand into it, except at the very bottom, where there was a saucer of cool. Winter rising up from below.
J said rather auspiciously that she had called me unsuccessfully on behalf of the vestry, and that she would try again yesterday afternoon. She left me to speculate what the call was about–maybe some special thing they wanted me to do; maybe they wanted me to consider running for vestry. Turns out, I was being scolded for not turning in my pledge card. I was in Hungary on Pledge Sunday, and it got lost under a pile of paperwork. But I note that fact that in all my 28 years at All Souls, through trouble and triumph and illness and bereavement, I have received exactly two calls, and both of them were about my pledge.
The most amazing thing: I stood in the sun after planting the peony, staring into my violated pond. My nerves gave a start before I knew why. There swimming merrily were Lao Tsu and Kung Fu Tzu and Sumer, three of the host I had thought gobbled by a heron. I knew them. They were not replacements. I have stood gazing in to those waters LITERALLY for hours, hoping for some sign of my lost friends. The water is clear. You can see to the bottom. There are some places to hide but not many. I swear to God they were not there, but they must not have been, for here they are again. Are they all there, and as the days go by I will see them? I expect elation in the moments to come, but right now what I feel is weirdness. Will that be the general rule of things, that what I thought was lost was not, and I should just keep my mouth shut and wait? That would make it all right– the whole “life” thing, I mean.
Edging toward evening and my playwrights.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

October 27, 2016

Someone sent me a photo of the surface of Mars. I thought that my yard will look the same if I doesn’t rain sometime. Merry flowering maples in red and gold. Lay on the couch with Maud on my stomach, and though she seemed at peace, I had troubled daylight dreams. The dreams were of tasks I had to do and meetings I was missing, but when I troubled myself awake, I realized there were, at the moment, no such things.
Take away from last weekend’s conference: at a writers’ conference I am generally the best and the most obscure. This is an unaccountable match.
Lindsey the Retirement Lady was here, laying out the plan for the twilight of my life. She has it figured that I’ll have plenty of resources until I’m 95, which is the year her plan stops. I suppose I have no business living past 95 anyway.
Applied for a state arts grant, the 22nd time I had done so. To be turned down 21 times in a field I know to be thin, a quadrant in which I know myself to be a supernova in comparison, led me to assume that there was some conspiracy against me in Raleigh. I don’t know that to be untrue, but this time I listened to the recorded webinar on “how to apply” and realized that every one of those 21 times I had done exactly what they told us not to do. I’d assumed they’d choose the best manuscript, give money to someone who meant to continue doing the best work in the state, whereas the actual writing is almost irrelevant. They want the best tale of need. Understood, attempted. We’ll see.
The State votes us a one-time pay augmentation. Mine amounts to $430. Yahoo.
The Citizen-Times continues its protracted suicide, releasing Tony Kiss and Dale Neal, both fixtures in the Asheville community. Both men are past 50 and have served long and well. Wonder what they will do–
Sound of earthmovers and machines at the end of the drive. This bit of street has received more activity without apparent result than any spot on earth. Cities have risen in less time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

October 25, 2016

Twelve bags of mulch on the garden Sunday, twelve more today. I think I have almost mulched to my heart’s content. Excellent work out of my playwrights. Emily– Charlotte Corday-- confirmed my suspicion that the play was not directed in the usual sense at all. “Just go out there and have fun.” Jesus. De Sade’s meek affect was because the director had said do him once, “You don’t have to shout the whole thing.” So, tones right for a chat around the lunch table after that. No middle ground. Another brilliant day, blue as God’s own eggshell. Dahlia, rose, flowering maple in bloom.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October 23, 2016

Each time the furnace kicks on I praise the gods.
Yesterday spent at the conference. Meditation in the morning, at which I read Hopkins. My own reading went well, I suppose, but how can you tell? I was very much different from anybody else there. My work least resembled a homily. Lovely lunch at the Chancellor’s. Despite determination, I had to skip the community dinner and come home for a nap. I fell flat asleep in someone’s discussion, me so out of it I don’t even remember who it was. In the evening we read again, briefly, then T did a two hour  interview of the author of The Warmth of Other Suns. This could not be said during the conference, she being our guest of honor, but I’ve never sat down and listened to T, allowing her program to waft passively through the air as I’m about other tasks on a Sunday morning. When I have attended, I’ve found her breathless, attenuated, boring. . . or should I just say, not exactly to my taste. SO, picture me in the front row for the evening overhearing a DETAILED conversation about a book I hadn’t read. Anyway, all things come to an end, and my colleagues cover themselves with glory by pulling this conference off so nobly. Me, I have two fat novels to read before morning, and bags of mulch to buy while they’re at a reduced price.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

October 22, 2016

Tolstoy dragged over the coals yesterday for being long-winded. Everyone in the room thought they could get poor Ivan Ilych into his grave much faster.
Day one of Faith & Literature. I felt my energy drain away, so I was able to attend only one session, and it was oddly disheartening. The honored presenters seemed to have learned their lines but had no real connection to the play. Writers at writing conferences, the important ones at the front of the room, have a certain decorum, jolly and eloquent and off-hand and self-deprecating, broadcasting at once that what they do is of no consequence and of paramount consequence, a sort of backward vanity, longing for a moderator or audience member to say ask the right question to assert their brilliance while yet appearing all unwilling. I probably look like an ass for fighting it. I’m on pretty much all day today, so there will be no sneaking home for a nap. 
Marat/Sade at the university last night. I thought it would conserve my energy just to sit and watch, but I was wrong. Matthew had done new music for it, and the music was excellent (better than the original), if weakly performed. The show was a miss, though anywhere you looked the young actor was working hard and concentrating on his task. I noticed after a while-- trying to explain why a show so well designed was not working-- that every single line was delivered wrong, slightly wrong or cataclysmically wrong. Emphasis up when emphasis should be down, lines that should be flipped off lingered over, significant lines whispered into the floorboards. Actor training has always, always been the department’s weakness. They know how to move but they don’t know how to speak, and the concept “interpreting the line” is not thought of. I remembered playing Kokol forty five years ago. I remembered every line, which was worse for the present night, in a way. I remembered almost every actor, some of whom I had not thought of since.
Hazel Robinson is dead. I am one of those many in her debt.
Sudden winter. The office is cold.

Friday, October 21, 2016

October 21, 2016

Amazing and joint-restoring trip to the gym. All is better with a little exercise. This sun keeps coming up over the hill.
Voted on the first day of early voting, standing in a long line at the library, the line itself a referendum on the question of early voting. The women of my acquaintance were wearing pantsuits in honor of Hillary. I thought voting against the second Bush was the highest duty I have had as a citizen, but this year the peril is ten times more dire, and as that ended in a shocking mistake, this may yet. I don’t think so. Some idiocies are too great even for the American electorate. Stood in line with G, who comforted me with the confidence that the Boy’s actions are as mysterious and corrupt to her as they are to me, though she has nowhere to escape. She called me “the shining star, the diamond,” and said that when she was giving a lecture at UT, a poster announced that someone else was giving a lecture on me. Could I have known about that? Could I have put that out of my head? Came home and wrote a mock-heroic in couplets about the Boy and his misdeeds. Maybe that got it finally out of my system.
Cyclamen in bloom, which is good. Flowering maple in bloom, which is out of season.
Met Michael H's wife Mari and her daughter Alex at the Catawba Brewery downtown. Tried to think of the last time I saw Michael– on the snowfields of the Clark Reservation near Syracuse, where I tried to ski? She met Michael and his first wife when they came to her restaurant, and when the wife died, she comforted him. Liked them and liked the little street that seems to have sprung up while we looked the other way. On up to the Fine Arts to see a film about Robert Shaw that the church sponsored. I have gone out of my way to keep my artistic intensities and obsessions from being public. Adds to my obscurity, but saves everybody else’s feelings. Today begins the Faith and Literature Conference, all of which reminds me how much energy I have expended to give myself a quiet life, where every minute might be a productive minute. Not so for parcels of the foreseeable future.
I will wear pink. That will set some kind of tone.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October 19, 2016

Stood in the blazing autumn light of the garden. Something hung in the air maybe twenty inches away. I looked, and it was a dragonfly, hovering as though still in the air. But what a dragonfly! It was night black inlaid with blazing emerald, its eyes green and golden. It was the most beautiful creature in that present world. It curved around and buzzed the empty pond, saying “Your fish are gone, but now I can lay my eggs in safety. Is that not compensation? Am I not as beautiful as they?”  She owns the air above the pond now, circling, blazing and darkening in the varying light.
Sick and weak again. Sleep prodigiously. Meeting with the Provost to discuss the future of an MFA in writing at UNCA. Provost says, “We are famous with the GA for never trying anything new.” The weekend of Faith and Literature Conference approaches, and I learn the full, and daunting, extent of my participation. Gird the loins. Seize the weapon.

October 17, 2016

Steve and DJ and I ate at Avenue M after Cantaria, and after that I went to bed immediately, shedding clothing as I walked toward the bed, so profound was my exhaustion.

Last night, glimpsed as I staggered from the car, stupendous moon.

One accepts a little TSA pilfering. This time, oddly, they took the charger for my little canon camera.

Monday, October 17, 2016

October 16, 2016

Steel sky before evening. With a mighty effort I managed to get all the remaining bulbs and slips and plants into the ground, all that I’ve received so far, the great last mass of daffodils and peony and trillium and fern and butterfly weed. Except for a sassafras tree, nothing more is expected. Therefore I hope that the steel gray means imminent rain. I sat under the maple beside the wind chime in contemplation, and one of the things I contemplated was the tiny flying things round about me. Something– it may have been the smallest imaginable wasp– kept getting tangled in the hair on my arms. I watched it thrash about, climb to the top of a hair, fall back, climb again, finally spreading its wings in victory, all the while I scarcely would have known it was there had I not been looking at the right instant. Worlds within worlds.
Sat at our table for the Admissions open house, talking to eager young ones heading our way. The view of the mountains behind us should have snagged those our charm and erudition did not.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

October 15, 2016

Sad autumnal empty pond.
Discussion in class yesterday about why they don’t get the assignments read. They have to work in order to go to school, so there’s no time to do the work they need to do for school. The apparent contradiction is, to them, not apparent. If we did fewer works but delved into them more deeply, it would be better, they say. I say, “You don’t read the works, fewer or more, so ‘delving deeper’ means me standing up here explicating for an hour each morning.” They nod. They do not even disagree. I remind them that they had the reading list this summer, weeks before the start of school. They shrug. It’s clear that “preparation” or “foresight” are concepts never thought of.  
Hundred-dollar-each peonies arrive yesterday, get themselves into the ground by lingering warmish autumn twilight.
Immense stomach muscle spasms on getting off the couch last night, still sore this morning. The anemia is back, but the last iron pill was so painful I don’t know what to do about it.
Wanted to audition for the second go-round of All Is Calm, stopped myself by main force from doing so. All energy would go into that for the holidays, and how many holidays have I left?
Final taste left in my mouth by The BofC is a little off. Simultaneously I helped build a beautiful work of art and enabled a whopping load of expensive and self-delighted bullshit. Don’t know how to bring it all into balance. We talked about that, too, in class yesterday, and my students tried to comfort me by pointing out the imperfection of all human effort, however grand and necessary.
Sam visits first thing in the dark of the morning.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

October 13, 2016

Tragedies loomed but dissipated, so I guess I’ll call yesterday’s flight home uneventful but very long and very boring. Customs in Atlanta was almost empty, as were the TSA checkpoints. Almost not a challenge. As for flying fist class- I don’t know that I can ever return to coach. Watched a thousand documentaries, one on Peggy Guggenheim.

Cartons of bulbs when I got here, so I’ve driven myself into exhaustion getting about 1/3 of them planted and set to bed for the Darkness. The rest, maybe this weekend.

All my fish are gone out of the pond, all the big golden ones with names, Egypt, Sumer, Akkad, Cyrus the Golden, Lao Tsue, Kung Fu Tsu. All of them gone. Some of the minnows are left. I think Minos is gone too. I don’t think this was natural. I don’t think it was an animal. I had a brief vision of it happening. It was twilight and my eyes were high off the ground, high as a man, higher than myself. It is discouraging. Sad.

I notice from my trip that never once was I afflicted by the plantar fasciitis that often makes my days hell. Better shoes? More walking? The influence of the holy Danube?

Bob Dylan is the Nobel laureate in Literature. I have through the long day made my peace with that.

Budapest 7

October 12, 2016

Rain for the flight. Dreamed lengthily, obsessively about Montford Park. There was a mystery actor who came in disguise and did lead roles but never revealed who he was, and they were trying to get me to admit it was me. It was.
My flight is relatively late, and I am ready, and I refuse to imagine things to worry about.
Concert at the basilica last night. At least a four second reverberation in the vast, vaguely gold stone room. Big old warhorses, just what the tourists wanted.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Budapest 6

October 11, 2016

The most remarkable thing: at the Anna Café on Vaci Utca, two men sitting, each with a hawk on his wrist. The men were chatting and the hawks preening and looking hawk-like at the crowd. Maybe they were gods, for when I came back few minutes later to catch another glimpse, they were gone, man and hawk together.

Rain against the window. How will this affect the day?

Vivid dreams of Grandpa Summers, Jack Parson and Peg Downes and I being at his house cleaning up a mess someone had made with spilled chocolates.

Wandered about in the cold rain. Returned to Parliament but did not go in, because of the crowds. Walked to the Buda funicular, but did not ride because of the crowds. Toured part of Buda that was familiar to me from before. Bought a ticket to an organ concert tonight at St Stephan’s. Bought a VIP seat because of a superfluity of forints still in my wallet. Sat down twice because of pain in my legs, once to drink mocha and watch a Japanese family, once to eat zucchini soup and watch four Hungarian men at lunch together, boisterous and affectionate. This is one of those “empty” days one has overseas, without moving forward, gathering a little biological strength.

This has been a multifaceted experience. It was an honor being part of it, though I was the only one to participate for honor alone. It introduced me to Budapest, a city which was not high on my list and to which I may never have gotten otherwise. The verses I wrote for it are not my best, and were written “to order,” to some degree, for a person whose vision was not my own. The finished product is. . . well, I don’t know what to say. I think Lucio’s music is sublime and lifts my verses with it, but that is not what the producers want to foster. Yet they got the ball rolling, and without them there would have been no opus. It has added minimally to my minimal portion of fame. It has been an experience the end of which I probably have not yet seen, and so I sit tight, listen to the six o’clock bells from the basilica, prepare to go out one last time in the Hungarian rain.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Budapest 5

October 10, 2016

Went to the Evangelical Church for services, because they were doing a Bach duet cantata, #49, I think. Boring in the most accomplished and elevated way.

Blog Review of The Birth of Color, which doesn’t mention me or Lucio:

Final performance of the show was likely the best. I’d had a light attack of phlebitis, and fever and antibiotics put me in a sleepy, receptive frame that was good for the viewing show. All is well here, a triumph. We are International Stars, on a tiny level. Reception afterwards, talk with some of the charming choristers. Big dinner at Callas with A and J at the end, too late for the kind of sleep I wanted, but, again, all is well. A small orchestra played classical hits while we drank our dessert Bailey’s..

Looked around the theater and thought, against my own will, “I am the only one who has not been paid a dime. The boys fiddling with microphones. . . the second altos. .  everyone but the poet.”  I must resent it because I think of it, but on the other hand doing it for free, when I thought everyone was volunteering, was fine. Trying not to resent what I really don’t care about. That much. D lamented that the show cost upward of $140,000. You’d think they could have found cabfare for me. Anyway. . . .

One of the longest days in my life of tourism, walking to Parliament, crossing the bridge into Buda, climbing all about there, staggering home. I note that I’m in comparatively good shape, better than for Amsterdam, or Rome, or the last time here. Bright, cool day. Messages and items of protest (little of which I understood) in front of the Soviet-era monuments; Ronald Reagan guarding the space between them and Parliament. Parliament itself is as grand as the photos suggest, with a red carpet rolled out for someone today (crookedly) and visitation therefore curtailed. Climbed up into Buda, where my camera battery died, and that was the end of the visual chronicle. But I wandered to Saint Matthias, which, like St Stephen’s in Vienna, is more beautiful outside than in, its decorations falling short of gaudy only by reason of mellowing age. People barked at us if we tried to peer over the railings at the sensational view of Pest, because they were filming a movie and didn’t want random heads in it. When it was time to leave, I started down a walk and a guard said “No down. Movie.” I said, “I have to get down. Where can I go–?”
“No down. Movie.”
“Tell me where I can get down and I’ll–“
”No down. Movie.”
This went on. After a while we were nose to nose, and I might actually have said, trusting his ignorance of English, “I’m about to get down through your colon,” but his colleague saved the situation by pointing to the alternate route, which is all I wanted.
The guy who had been photographing The Birth of Color and his Danish wife were also at the Castle. It was great to be in a strange city and run into people you know. He said, “I photographed you taking a bow, but what exactly was it you did with the show?”
“I wrote it.”

Ate goulash at a café, where I stopped because of two beautiful boys (American boys, it turned out, when they spoke) staring at each other under the awning. They were oblivious to me, to the street, everything, drinking in each other’s beauty. When the food came, they ate it without taking their eyes from one another. I blessed them with a blessing that wished that moment might dwell in them forever. I have never been on the receiving end of such love, so it seems holy to me.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Budapest 4

October 9, 2016

The second performance was better, tighter than the first, and to me more moving, as I came to understand the concept better. A half moon rode over the Duna, and I pointed to it and asked the taxi driver “What is that?” He said, as though I were the stupidest person in the world, “Moon.” Maybe he thought I was testing his English. Discovered later that “moon” is “hold.” I bet the driver has told the story of the stupid American more than once. Stately Istvan, the man who might have been king, was there, and noted that I look much better than I did before, when, though he couldn’t diagnose with what, I was clearly ill. Perhaps I was, but I don’t remember being ill, though surely ill-at-ease. I have away five copies inscribed of Blood Rose to people who had been important to the cause. I’m far enough away that I won’t expect to find them in a second hand store in a few weeks. The taxi apparatus was smooth as glass this time. Allen and Jellena and I ate at the hotel lounge afterward, everywhere else being booked up for Saturday night. Jellena is a pre-school teacher in Slovenia’s second largest city, that I forget the name of, with two children, whom she left with grandparents to come and meet Allen, whom she likes.

Went outside to test the temperature when I heard the Hallelujah Chorus being sung in front of the opera house. A band and chorus were there, it turns out, to make still more festive the Budapest Marathon being run today. I listened to Handel and Verdi while thin muscular men with determined expressions–thousands of them– chugged by. At places in the avenues there are bands and drummers to provide traveling music for the runners.

The Fs have people coming from Germany and the US and the UK and Italy and God knows where to see The Birth of Color. I can’t get people to take the train from Brooklyn to see my work in Manhattan. A is in Prague and decided not to bother with this. One shrugs.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Budapest 3

October 9, 2016

Walked to the Dohanyi  Synagogue, to which young fathers in skullcaps were leading their children. It was Yom Kipper. It was a day of blazing light. I tried not to think of Hungarian Jewry, the tragic tears one must shed now beyond any help. Returned to my obscure garden, and the street café where I had coffee when I had to spend hours a day at the state radio, and the museum with the tank in the yard. Ate at Callas, where providence was pleased for me to encounter Allen and Jelena again. Allen told me the long history of himself and H and Mr Smith and TG, a story I knew in fragments and innuendos but never any part of the full fabric. I am grateful that I never put so much of my trust in anyone as to have been betrayed by them in a way that tore my life asunder. Betrayal is the theme of that story, and Allen seemed to need to tell it. Jelena listened with patient attentiveness. The 6 PM bells ring out over Budapest.