Thursday, June 22, 2017

June 22, 2017

Maud the cat rubbing her face against my toes as if she wanted to start a fire. Trying to remember what I did today. Wrote a poem to welcome Maria and Russell’s baby, to be born tomorrow. The 23rd of every month seems lucky to me. Rain, I guess from the tropical storm that came ashore in Louisiana. Drove to the studio but didn’t go in. Haven’t seen my bunny in days. Forlorn. It’s hard to know how to go forward. In private life, quality simply does not matter. In public life, lies do not bother to disguise themselves; if we want to hear it, then it must be true. I possess no powers to overcome either of these things, and unless they are overcome, all stops. Given this, life is very much too long. C posted pictures of the Hiram reunion, and I recognized two souls, she being one of the, They were so old. . . .

June 21, 2017

Much sleeping on the first day of summer. Painting. A poem in the café. Little fires on the edge of the green margin which are my flowers. Moving paintings around in the studio– too many big spiders behind them. Windhover takes a poem.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

June 20, 2017

Night coming on, a sort of pale Prussian blue silvered in some inexplicable way.  Weeded for an hour, came in to itch for an hour from the mosquito bites. Some plants planted last year and which I thought were no-shows bloom this year, Patience, patience. A red bloom appears above my waterlilies. Alex alerted me to the existence of Richmond Hill Park. I sought it our this morning on my way to the studio. I got out of the car and had walked three or four minutes, and reached the border between sun and shadow-- the open, almost wild meadow, where the thistle and the ragweed still gleamed with dew– when I felt my chest unclenching as though I had been administered some honeyed opiate. The blood ran cool in my limbs. . . I felt relaxed maybe for the first time since returning from Venice. I realized what was happening. I continued into the woods– a beautiful young woods, even if overgrown with poison ivy– and said to the spirits there, “Come into me. Come in. Come. Possess me. Leave no space for anything else. Fill me.” And they did.  I could not make the demon depart by wishing it, by willing it, by praying for it, by concentrating on fierce opposition, but I thought if I invited light to crowd out the uninvited shadow, that it may work. Small light drives away vast shadow. It did work. It has worked. The evil visions the demon imposed are replaced by a tulip tree standing in pure light, by a field of flowers, by the tangle of deep trees, by blue sky paled with morning cloud. Possession confounded by possession. Even the way my skin feels is different, not prickled constantly from the inside by the half-formed but ever-present sensations of horrible shapes and deformities. I feel as a man; I feel the way I look for the first time in months. If I can keep this up, if I can attend to the blessed spirits and starve the demon of all attention, I may crawl forever back among the living. For this day I have been blessed. Watched a man practicing Extreme Frisbee, then a young father bring his son to watch him practice. He was the most excellent father, caressing his child with his voice, never letting a teaching opportunity go by. I thought blessed. Sat at a picnic table and wrote a poem. Continued to the studio and painted well. Going to try to get to bed tonight sober and before 3 AM.

Monday, June 19, 2017

June 18, 2017

Turbulent Day. Good day. Both at the same time. Coffee with A, at which time we noticed the perfection of the day and of the atmosphere. A day, weather-wise, anyhow, of Paradise. Deep hatred of the shape of crabgrass led to and orgy and pulling and digging. Paradoxically enraged at not knowing about a rehearsal I wouldn’t have attended had I known about it. Made stupid and repeated mistakes in rehearsal, hobbled, I think, by anger. After a long phone call on the All Souls lawn with the publisher, it looks like Peniel is a go. Not what I had hoped for. Cause for a smile and then a sigh. But good enough. Ten times better than not.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

June 17, 2017

Came out of dreams into a space haunted by the demon, so the first of day was sadness and defeat. I will say it has not gotten worse.

Exceptional writing at the High Five. I may have brought the Poets play near to its end.

I think I made progress at the studio, but left things in places with which I am not pleased, and the roughness stays with me. Cute high school kids from Hendersonville chatted with me a long while, eager and open, and I was grateful. Later a family from Xenia, where they still talk about the tornado.

No call, but an email from SJ Press. We are to talk tomorrow-- just as I am in rehearsal, of course. He is serious about “working with me,” so the worst of the worst is avoided. I look online for evidence that the Press is a vanity press or odd in some way, and nothing comes up. Rather the opposite. Even evidence does not fully allay my misgivings after the experiences I’ve had. I look for rejoicing in my heart, but it is still cowering many rooms and corridors back in the Mansion of Dread.

Theater last night, C triumphant in speeches that challenged him and seemed made for him at the same time. I think a playwright’s paradise is knowing whom he is writing for, and knowing they can go wherever he leads. The question came up of audience, and how to get more without doing crap all the time, which is what “saved” ACT.  I want to say “I’ve seen no more than this in the audience for supreme productions in London and New York,” but though that may soothe the hurt artist nerve, it doesn’t help the bank balance. I need a couple of billion a year so I can finance people to do the work that needs to be done without all the time worrying about the rent.

The burnt orange of my inherited daylilies lines the drive and the back of the yard.

Friday, June 16, 2017

June 16, 2017

Bloom’s Day.

Belatedly read my faculty evaluation. Carbon copy of the last twenty years. But then, maybe I’m a carbon copy of the last 20 years. And I have dated myself using “carbon copy.” I long ago left off reading student evaluations, but some leak through into the faculty eval, reminding me of why I stopped looking at them in the first place. The “negative” comments are most often factually in error– such as “We didn’t have a syllabus. . . we never knew when exams were going to be. . .he made up the readings as we went. . “ when I can produce syllabi for every course, with every exam and assignment noted. What can be done about that, but to slap the forehead and move on?
Good work in the studio. Sold my blue-throated hummingbird to a couple from Tennessee who received, as they were standing beside my easel, word that his brother had a heart attack and was dying, in Willoughby, Ohio.

Kept phone in hand all day to receive a call from R which he had pledged for today and which, of course, never came. This leads me to assume the news is bad.

Phone call from C, who is reading Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. It took her two minutes to remind me fully of herself, though we have not met since 1983.

Dreamed that I was at a banquet receiving a prize for starring in the play Casey at the Bat., which even in the dream I didn’t remember doing.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

June 15, 2017

Dark outside of approaching storm. Blessed. The storm outside balances the storm inside, and one is for an hour at peace.

DJ and I saw Wonder Woman last night. It’s not the movie I would have made given the same material, but I liked it. Talked with a young couple in the lobby afterward. She was outraged because WW required a man’s love to complete and fully motivate her, while was hoping for a totally self-begotten, self propelled Woman Hero. He didn’t like the dialogue because– well, he was less articulate than his girlfriend, but it seemed that the men didn’t exclaim enough at the wonders Diana was performing. I found no sympathy in myself for either perspective, but nevertheless admit the two were visibly and honestly shaken by what they had seen. I think this is what an artist wants, even if the tone is antipathy.

Dinner afterward. Our waitress was one of those people who manages to enrage without ever doing anything wrong. Just the manner of the doing. Must be a pheromone.

Excellent progress at the studio, the complete resurrection of an old and important painting. Visitors from Dallas and Alpharetta, the later who knew my sister’s street. Progress on the play about poets.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

June 14, 2017

Morning at the Y, smitten by what must have been a deliberate convention of handsome men. Fairly good painting afterwards, a statue in a formal garden. My neighbor Ray is apparently in jail. Miss him. His studio will be taken by a jeweler, Steven says.

Wrote this to go in Facebook, but realized I wasn’t up for all that would follow:

I’m detaching this comment from all the places on FB where it’s being talked about, so no one feels personally attacked or challenged. Please attach “In my opinion” to everything I’m about to say. I think it’s odd– by “odd” I mean “foolish”– when people equate atheism with advanced intelligence or powers of reason. Many of the favorite people in my life are atheists, or declare themselves to be, and though this does not make me love them less, I know that there is one important destination we can never travel to together. Those of you who know me know I never proselytize– in fact some people are surprised to discover I’m a believer– but that is not because I doubt my own faith, but because the objects of faith are so palpable to me that another’s not perceiving them seems wilful and outside the realm of useful discussion. The sphere of Spirit is real and palpable, and those who do not perceive it are not advanced but rather deficient. A person who is tone deaf–or actually deaf-- is not considered to be offering a real or useful critique of music when he remains unmoved by it, or if he should asset its non-existence. My massage guy has a very slight sense of smell, and to him most tastes are fables. I myself am not very good at Math and have more than once declared, or felt like declaring, “math doesn’t matter,” but that is an expression of my limitations and has nothing to do with MATH. Some people understand abstract painting; others do not. We may think that those who claim to understand it are “making it up,” but they would not think so. You may think a believer is imagining or willing the spiritual presence guides his life, but to do so is a kind of smirking arrogance that most of us would deny ourselves in other contexts.  Not one person on this planet has the experience of the absence of God. Those who fail to experience the presence of God may be content with that (no reason NOT to be content with that) but maybe should stop short of asserting that out of their blindness arises a genuine description of the world.  I too am fed with organized religion and want it out of government, etc, etc, but that is hugely not the same thing as atheism. I want the Faultless Body of Christ to be free of all that crap; I do not misidentify the Body with the crap. So, OK, be an atheist, but stop being so proud of it. You are not advanced. You are, from other perspectives equal in wisdom and perception to your own,  wilful or deficient. And right now God is rolling His eyes and saying, “Do you really think I need you to fight for me?” sigh—

My thoughts fly westward to D, who may in fact be the man of my dreams, the one I was looking for down every alley and in every street, perfect in every way, physical, moral, spiritual. And Irish. The fact that nothing can come of it is one of God’s little jokes. The timing is off by 40 years. Even the sexuality does not matter so much, for the kind of heroic friendship I imagined might have been free of sexuality– maybe would have been better, purer free of it. But– no. Not even a spark. That I can be reasonable about it, that I can look at it and dismiss it with a “well. . . well. . . “ says something about my exhaustion after all these years.

Had to hack out new bamboo shoots brought on by the rain. Writing at a new play.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June 13, 2017

Hard brief rain exempted me from watering the garden– which flourishes. Yellow calla in bloom; all new plantings seem to be prospering. Need at least one good day of epic weeding, one day when it’s not so hot. Rogue violets want to take over every inch of land. One loves them, but one must choose.

Accidentally poured hot oil from the frying pan onto my hand. It stung for five minutes and stopped. No redness. No swelling. I managed to pour the rest into a plastic cup, which melted instantly. I am praising Jesus.

Memorial service last night at O.Henry’s for the 49 people murdered in the Pulse club in Orlando exactly a year ago. Cantaria sang, and though I bitched about having to do it, I was glad I did, glad what was happening was happening. It was a sweet, sane event, and all around the city was blotted out and the only things visible were the green encircling hills.

I admit that I can’t quite get my head around “drag.” There were several drag queens present, in costumes which seemed to me attention-grabbing and therefore disrespectful. One adjective for the dress might be “extreme,” another “hideous.” And yet the word they want to have applied to themselves is “brave.” I know this because they say so. Aren’t we brave? Aren’t we courageous being “out there” and being ourselves? I don’t get it.  I might come closer to getting it if I believed that witch-harpy-satanic-diner waitress-Joan Crawford-flora dora girl was anybody’s authentic self. On those moments when I feel myself suppressing myself, it is to give others room to breathe, to allow space in the room for all egos. This concept is foreign to the drag queen. If someone says “too big” the impulse–never suppressed–is to go bigger. But sometimes too big is too big, merely the truth, a caution and not a tyranny. Nor can drag endure anything in its proximity that is not drag. After hearing about the fabulous deal one got on these fabulous heels for a solid twenty minutes, one mentions poetry or politics or some anecdote from real life and is met with eye-rolling and groans of “boring.” One friend valorizes his fashion sense by pointing out that he does drag, as though one thing were linked with the other. I want to say, “Drag is to fashion as video games are to adventure,” but I never think fast enough to work my wit in at the right moment. Maybe I’d think different if I didn’t look wretched in a dress.

Drinks and glad talk at the Indigo Bar. Flirting with the car valet.

June 12, 2017

Rewrote and completed The Assassins’ Garden to enter it into a contest, received a notice that the contest had received sufficient entries and is now closed– a week before the deadline. Some smirking power in the universe wants me to content with improvements to the play. No.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

June 11, 2017

Exceptionally awful night. Two rounds of muscle cramps, the first heinous. At one point I recognized that the pain was unbearable, and yet I was still required to bear it, for no other options were available. I would have taken ANY option to make the pain stop. If there had been a rooftop or a pistol there would at least have been an option. The demon rose and occupied my mind at the same second, so there was double-fronted war. I screamed so loud I thought someone on the dark street might come to my aid, but no one did. And, lacking a pistol themselves, what could they have done? The second round was much less acute, though I wondered why an entire bottle of Gatoraid had not availed. Then, of course, all that liquid upset my stomach. But now I am awake, and not too groggy to drive to Waynesville one last time.

Gatsby has been fun for me– the fun just overbalancing the tedium– because of the jollity of the dressing room. The play is not exceptional of itself, and our performance of it illustrates what happens when people do not look at acting as an art form, but as a ritual of self-actualization. I kept running in my mind the ways a scene or a speech could be better if someone had simply experimented, had done it subtly differently, had continued working rather than hitting a level of acceptability and setting up camp. I was and could be again a good director. It is one of those things I left behind because it took too much time.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

June 10, 2017

Sultry, the study fan blowing heartily against me. Painted with less pleasure and success than I have become used to. My studio neighbor, having been told several times to put nothing in the sink but water, leaves stinking pools of leafy dye debris and bit of salad from her lunch. I scour them out with a paper towel, retching repeatedly. The stomach weakens with age. Decided to fill up some holes in the garden– white hibiscus, spiderwort, buddleia, something else I have forgotten the name of. Digging the hole for the buddleia, I unearthed three feet of old maple root and a major infestation of termites. All the bits of wood were riddled with them, and the ground heaved black bodies. I wanted to leave it open for a flicker or something, but the chance of that arrival was too slim, so I washed as much as I could out with the hose.  Rabbits and chipmunks came out of the greenery as I watered. The meadow rue is seven feet tall.

Friday, June 9, 2017

June 9, 2017

Painted steadily in the morning on an old work I was trying to finish. I once prized it for its austerity, but I don’t prize anything for its austerity very long. Now it’s crowded and rather ugly–or at least odd-- though every individual passage is rather beautiful. Visitors from Florida and Venezuela.

Mockingbird singing his heart out against my studio window--

Three more performances. The boys in the dressing room are, despite the jibes and witty insults, loving and gentle with each other, allowing the most extravagant vanities and suffering purple idiosyncracies without comment. Each boy’s weaknesses are noted and ignored. Each boy’s virtues and triumphs are referenced by the others whenever possible. If each boy were as sexually triumphant as he lets on, the world would be peopled again; if he were as fine an actor, he would already be in the movies. And yet they encourage one another further and higher. I have not heard one criticism of another’s character or past or performance or anything else. Not one boy has failed to declare sexual desire for the other, and though of course it’s joking, it’s a way of getting out into the open and gone emotions which did damage in my “day” because they had to remain strictly subterranean. I used the image before of being in a room full of my grandsons. It is a mixed and unexpected blessing.  They are shallow and ignorant in some ways, deeply informed and masterful in others. In a world whose secrets are encoded in pop music and sci-fi films, they would be sages, and I would be an idiot. I’m content to be able to sit and listen, though perhaps, to some degree, they are performing for me, Whatever is going on, I am happy and grateful, and will miss them, if not the long drive and the long wait.

It would be interesting to creep next door and hear what is going on with the girls. I bet the two rooms would seem like different planets, one smelling rather better than the other.

June 8, 2017

Knee agonized, walking like an old man, the study stairs almost impossible without the rail by which to haul myself up. I think arthritis? A blood clot? Slept on it funny night after night? Then I thought, “it’s the shoes!” It’s always the shoes.  Felt some relief the instant I put new shoes on, though perfect restoration is a ways off. Terrible feeling taking a curtain call Monday morning and hardly able to make it across the stage.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

June 7, 2017

Session with K- whose secular name is revealed to be C. He talked of being a TV commercial star and a performer in Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. He said of the Cirque du Soleil, “it’s not anything like you think,” which I contradicted in my heart, because I hadn’t any particular preconceptions. Much gentleness, much stimulation, much talk at cross purposes. He is stupid and kind. Stupid trying to be cunning is, sometimes, off-putting. As sensuality without sexuality is, after a certain point, perverse. One short play finished yesterday, the ending of another discovered at the café this morning. Relief in my heart over that like a physical truth.
June 5, 2017

Matinee for Haywood County school children. They were a good and attentive audience, and gave honest reactions to what was going on onstage– which is to say, they laughed when Myrtle was slapped and when Gatsby lay down in his swimming trunks and when everybody was shot. Spiritual upheaval leveled off by the dailiness of things . . .

Sunday, June 4, 2017

June 4, 2017

Somebody broke into the shed last night. They took whatever was on the top two rows of shelving, but, to be honest, I don’t remember what that was. All the stuff I actually use is still there.  A drill. A giant tarp.  A machete. Maybe the machete’s being in the wrong hands is a little alarming.

The music from the original Godzilla drives through my head. It is actually quite motivating.

Went downtown for the Asheville Contemporary Dance recital at BeBe. Had a rum and coke at the Vault on my way. The recital was quite good. I thought that if it were in a studio in New York, it would fit in, would be treated as a peer among the best. Asheville is lucky that way: we have some art that is the equal of any, some of it innocent of its own achievement, and some that is so undervalued by its audience that it is almost laughable. I ran through my mind how exactly it is that one enjoys modern dance. Pleasant movements of pleasant bodies? Delight in abstract patterns, or in personal bravura?  If I choreographed I would never be able to pull completely away from the narrative, as both these choreographers did. Are the movements symbolic? Not always, nor does the same person or the same gesture always represent the same thing. Is a particular gesture or expression meant to evoke or suggest a particular emotion? Does it, or is it merely the hope of the artist that it might? I think it’s probably naive to ask for meaning, but I am always looking for it. I suspect the human mind in general looks for meaning and pattern, and will never be completely satisfied without. Stopped at a place called Athena’s, which I discover two weeks before it closes to make way for an expansion of Tupelo Honey. Downtown was thronged, and there was one customer beside myself in Athena’s. Stopped at Sovereign Remedies on the way back to the car, and then, for I forget what reason, at Ingle’s. Let me advise against drunk grocery shopping, especially when you’re hungry. To summarize, a grand night like grand nights of old.  Must get out more. Must get downtown more. Meet new people. I feel better in every way than if I had not.

Matinee in a few hours.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

June 3, 2017

Sultry end to the day. Sent out manuscripts, mostly, and repaired some in order to be sent out. Had temper tantrums. Went to the studio and met a patron who bought the small Blue gray gnatcatcher on cardboard, and Bronze copper, a butterfly I had painted just that morning. I sent him off with copious warnings that it was wet and to be careful. Big, sweet kid, from Swannanoa, now living in Raleigh. He wanted the butterfly because his mother, when she was dying, told him to remember her whenever he saw a butterfly.  I’d painted it just that morning, having not in several years painted a butterfly. God is mostly a brat, but sometimes the timing is just right. Dance tonight, downtown in time for a drink . . . .

Friday, June 2, 2017

June 2, 2017

Movie night with the boys, the new King Kong, which, like the latest Godzilla, assumes the monster to be a sacred guardian misunderstood. This is a leap forward, and I am glad to see it in my lifetime.

Good painting (mostly the revision of a big old work) and heroic weeding in the garden. Got back into the market, after having sold all but four or five of my positions, expecting the market to crash. That it can shrug off the Trump indicates either madness or confidence; anyway, I’m back in at nearly the old levels, though I have, for the first time, whopping savings accounts– just in case.

Back to HART tonight, our first meeting after the Review. We’ll see what the mood is. Promised to go to C’s dance recital; bought the ticket, so now I must.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

June 1, 2017

Parent’s anniversary.

Working on a new play. Twenty pages and I don’t yet know what it’s about. Painted in the AM. Returned to find G hard at work on my lawn, after I’d almost given up on him. The grass was long and the thatch now is heavy. He weed-whacked a bee-balm and a clump of sorrel, but in most things he’s exemplary, so the lips were sealed. Another client had him dig up a sizeable rhododendron because one of its branches was dead. He gave it to me from the back of his truck, and I have planted it, hoping lying in the sun for a couple of hours with its root ball drying won’t be fatal. I want this one to grow. I want orphans and rescues to prosper. Watered it copiously. Watered the new coreopsis at the edge of shriveling.

Z’s conversation topic during our session was, oddly, playwriting. He allowed me to enrich my conviction that to set out to “make a statement” in a piece is always fatal, even (or especially) if that statement is itself praiseworthy.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 31, 2017.

Unearthed a legless lizard as I was planting coreopsis in the back. It squirmed so frantically I covered it back up before I could examine it as I wished. In addition to the coreopsis, some radical weeding. My Mexican has not come, and the yard is a jungle. This irks me long after it would irk most people, but eventually the irk arrives.

Marathon, Trojan rewrite of The Falls of the Wyona to meet a deadline that had been changed even as I struggled.

Terrible prayers at the dim stars last night. If I were God I would obliterate me–which is, sometimes, the desperate end of the design.

Early to the gym, where I saw Brent. Excellent painting in the pale blue morning.

May 30, 2017

DJ’s birthday and Memorial Day picnic at Jack’s last night. Had more fun than I usually do, perhaps because I started drinking right away. DJ has to sit down and lever himself up the stairs. One stands helpless.

Working on fiction. One crabby, unprofitable hour at the studio.

Email from F, wanting my help in getting H’s next projects underway. It is like someone asking van Gogh to help get them into a gallery. I decide on silence, rather than a blast of fury that so much resource is expended on the daydreams of a person with little understanding of her world, and no real talent, other than the talent to persuade other people to create for her. And then, in my case anyway, to leave them not only violated but uncompensated. A fraud in any light, her one virtue is the affection of a patient and rich man, and though I don’t begrudge her that, I think she should be content with it, and not try to present herself as an artist in a world where real artists must claw their way

Monday, May 29, 2017

May 29, 2017

Review of Gatsby in Mountain Xpress:

The Roaring ’20s embodied in F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s The Great Gatsby is an era of romanticism that still resonates in pop culture nearly a century later. Perhaps it was the Prohibition era, or jazz, or the rise of strong women in society. Haywood Arts Regional Theatre’s production of the relatively new stage version of this legendary novel runs through Sunday, June 11.

Playwright Simon Levy’s script is lean and fast-paced.  There have been great film adaptations that linger in the minds of viewers — Levy’s script is cinematic itself, giving us rapid scene changes and sometimes shifting location for only a handful of lines of dialogue. Such is the case when Gatsby and his newfound companion, Nick, take flight in a small airplane. Director Steve Lloyd eschews a sense of realism and, instead, dazzles the audience with rear projections and shifting lights to accommodate the flourishes of the script.

Charlie Cannon plays the enigmatic Jay Gatsby with a boyish charm. It is easy to imagine Cannon being right at home in the 1920s with pastel suits, flappers and bootleg booze. Gatsby is a war-hero-turned-wealthy-playboy. Or is he? An air of mystery surrounds him. The lengths to which he will go to win back his lost love, Daisy, drive the story.

Kelsey Sewell’s Daisy is a fiery and independent woman trapped in a marriage to Luke Haynes’s menacing Tom Buchanan. Daisy is far from frail, but also not as independent as she would like to be. Sewell walks that delicate edge with grace and ease, making her Daisy neither victim nor heroine in this tale. Meanwhile, Haynes gives Tom equal measures of arrogance and entitlement, which allows him to indulge notions of white nationalism and haughtiness due to his wealth.

Sarah Lipham plays Myrtle — the working-class wife of George Wilson (played by David Anthony Yeates) — who has found herself lured into the lifestyle of the rich and want-to-be famous. She’s having an affair with Tom. Wilson is vaguely aware of it and is desperate to make enough money to divert Myrtle from the temptations of Tom and his wealth. Lipham is great as the petulant and indulgent Myrtle. As Wilson, Yeates gives us a deeply troubled man driven toward desperate acts to regain control of his spiraling life.

David Hopes plays Meyer Wolfsham, Gatsby’s confidant, and gives the character the perfect level of sleaze and suspicion. His machinations are never clear, but he is helping Gatsby pull strings via money and influence.

Laura Gregory shines as golf champion Jordan Baker. She enjoys the opulent lifestyle her fame brings, though there is a cheating controversy that follows her, threatening to ruin her reputation. She finds herself paired with Daisy’s cousin Nick, whom Gatsby seeks out to help him in his plan to win Daisy back. In many ways, Nick is the conduit for the audience into this world, serving as the moral compass amid the easily bent morality of most of the characters. But Silas Waugh‘s choice to play Nick in a manner that would be better suited for film builds an awkward distance between the audience and character.

In the end, it is a show of style over substance — and ultimately that works in the favor of this cautionary tale of excess and ego.

WHAT: The Great Gatsby
WHERE: HART, 250 Pigeon St., Waynesville,
WHEN: Through Sunday, June 11. Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. $25


So, it’s 8 AM and already I’ve caught up with email and made the picnic potato salad.

It’s hard listening to the radio on Memorial Day, so much of the programing is solemn and sad, memorializing those thousand thousand beautiful faces ground into the dust.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

May 27, 2017

Whenever I see “new” theater, I come away with the conviction that I am trying too hard.

C worked out hard during the day, and was excited for the pool scene, where he could show off his massive arms and be the “most jacked and juicy” Gatsby that there ever was. The hilarity in the dressing room was based on replacing each use of “old sport” or any other form of address with “dickless fat-ass.”  It was funny every time. The boys are essentially pre-literate. None of their information out of school comes from reading or what one would call “high culture,” but from popular music and movies. How often do they listen to or see these things? They can sing any song anyone of them can mention, tunefully and word for word, and quote long passages of movies, some of which I saw too, without the impulse to remember them at all. It is a verbal culture, intensely historical, in that they have taken Star Wars and Marvel Comics as their own story, and can recite the persons and chronicles by rote. In this it differs not from what one supposes the relationship of some everyday Greek to the gods of Olympus to be. I love them. I love being with them, though my quite different knowledge base puts me on the periphery of most conversations. Right now they are the only compensation for a round trip to Waynesville to blather out fifteen lines.

Friday, May 26, 2017

May 26, 2017

Yesterday I closed the windows and let the furnace come back on. Today it was back in season. Went before light to the Racquet Club, where I encountered Brent and realized that the agitation in me the last few days is at least in part sexual tension, which I hardly recognize as itself anymore. But, it is energizing, so it is welcome.  Painted well at the studio (sexual energy again?). Steve stopped me on my way out and observed that I had a huge gash in my tire. “Did you hit something?” he said. Yes indeed I had, in the darkness on the highway, but such is my nature that I didn’t check to see what damage was done, assuming that being allowed to keep moving was enough. So, unscheduled trip to Reece’s Tires. Here is the odd thing: the day was so beautiful, so perfect in peace and appearance that waiting for them to replace my tires was rather an opportunity for revery than an imposition. Watched a harvestman cross the concrete and find shelter in a crevasse. A man from Madison County struck up a conversation. I liked him immediately, as one likes someone who is, as near as is conceivable, one’s opposite. He rather looked like me–both of us blond and ruddy and small-- but his life was almost inconceivably unlike mine. If I hadn’t had context I might have misunderstood much of what he was saying– “tar” was “tire” and so on, but most of the things we discussed we could see, so it was well.  As ever, one reveled in the dramatic mountain-masculinity of the workers there. They stand very close to you, but look away so that the closeness is not off-putting. Their voices are low and calm, hardly above a growl. They move like powerful boys. They do not smile. They squat beside your car and contemplate its woes. What they do to men who like men is probably wholly unintended.

Invited to read for Best American Poetry 2017 in New York in September. I said “Yes.”

Theater last night, JC’s new play Malverse. The room was practically empty, but put it down to it being a Thursday night. The level of acting at the Magnetic approaches impeccable. JC wants to have coffee and discuss the play, so I paid morbid attention.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

May 25, 2017

Drowsy, rainy day. Did some much-needed manuscript submitting. Months had passed since I sent out a play. Painted some in an old crowded, symbolic mode, but made better by my improvements as a draughtsman. Theater tonight. I’ve grown used to falling asleep in front of a late-night TV movie. Hope I fight that off tonight. A nap of heroic dreams, in one of which I was driving a dogsled through ice storms to rescue somebody. It was a magic sled, and there were no dogs.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May 24, 2017

The catalpas are in bloom. Catalpas mean “Ohio summer” to me. They are also unfulfilled longing, for every nursery I turn to says they’re “invasive” or “out of fashion.” Maybe I’ll travel with a spade and dig one up. Went to the studio, did more work than would seem to fit into the hour I spent there.  S was sad and so hugged me. I am his dear friend when he is sad. The days divide so that I forget I write in the morning. I open the notebook to find pages needing transcription onto the computer. Some of them are good, some to a degree I hardly recognize. Outside, the amazing rain keeps coming down in its amazing volume. A giant white rose rides the front garden like a ruffled moon.

May 23, 2017

Have almost not risen from the couch this rainy day. The rain is good for sleeping, but I usually do not take such advantage. Must have brought exhaustion with me from the week that was. Wrote in the morning, but am too tired to open the covers and see what. Moved outside to kill a few more bamboo shoots. Perhaps I pulled a weed.

May 22, 2017

Matinee well attended and talkative. When the old folks come, there’s going to be some people explaining the plot, repeating the last line, to other people, do what you will. Auto-pilot alone will get me through this.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

May 21, 2017

Nothing better than to wake to the sound of rain. Nothing harder than to stay awake through a whole day with the soporific murmur of it all around.

Spent most of Saturday at the Studio Stroll. For every ten people who came into the Phil Mechanic, one climbed the stairs. For every ten who climbed the stairs, one came into my studio. But I did sell The Last of the Giants, which the buyers referred to as “the one with the hikers.” Good enough, I thought, hikers let it be. I painted like mad in the solitude.

Thin house last night, though more tickets sold for today’s matinee. It is simply a misfire, which we must carry out now like a sigh to the guttering end. Not all of us have to drive  90 minutes to do so. Even the boy culture was off last night, subdued and wistful. I think everyone was hungover.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

May 20, 2017

Bird-cally morning.

Gave Y Spanish Arch, for his birthday, and because he was part of the blessing that freed me from the demon.

Opened Gatsby to a small house and a delicious buffet. We face four weeks of a presenting a–let’s face it– mediocre play to diminishing audiences. Glad that the backstage atmosphere is happy and brotherly. Yet I trust that nothing hits the stage without someone finding delight in it, somewhere.

Hit something in the road driving home. I didn’t see it, but I sure did hear it. Some damage to the right front of the car.  The commute between here and Waynesville becomes more and more costly.

Studio stroll today. I will buy Gatorade and figure out some prices.

Friday, May 19, 2017

May 19, 2017

Workout, writing, then more time in the studio than anticipated. Studio stroll tomorrow, and one wants to be at SOME level of preparedness. Bought a broom and GoJo.

Watched the monitors last night, listened to the show. It was boring. Maybe just final dress doldrums, maybe I was sick of hearing it, but nothing sparked, nothing surprised, though everyone’s professionalism is unimpeachable. Tonight, perhaps, we catch fire. The conversation in the dressing room was about how handsome we all are, and how we could profitably be each other’s wing men. It was actually very sweet.

Woke this morning with some joyful revelation, brought it out of the dream into the waking world for a while. I had managed to create a space where, entering it, a person could make his meaning absolutely clear, be understood utterly, love someone in a way that could not be blunted or soured or misinterpreted. I pulled the beloved to me and said “You are the one I dreamed of” and all was understood as it was meant. If only I could make it last. I made it last for an hour, at least, and that is a triumph worth writing about.

Reading The New Yorker again after several years’ hiatus, when I was supposed to be reading it on Kindle, but wasn’t. Remember the juiciness of the articles. Remember the vacuity of the fiction, as if it were a magazine for invalids and anything above the extremist quiet might cause harm. Remember the outright and downright awfulness of the poetry, the championing not merely of the worst poetry available, but the worst poetry imaginable, feelers evidently sent out into the world to find the worst beyond all worst. The message: we are so exquisite we make our meals on dust and twigs.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

May 18, 2017

Sensational Wednesday at the studio, breakthroughs and new visions.

Sensational Thursday at the studio, breakthroughs and new visions, plus the discovery of somebody’s abandoned stamp collection, affording amazing possibilities for collaging. I do not think I employ collage, until I realize that I do.  I have not had this much fun painting since I began, all those years ago, now.

The water iris came to bloom overnight. They are now my favorite flower.  Sat by the pond and drank a cocktail and watched the minnows bump against the surface.

My face aches from smiling at the boys in the dressing room. Their culture is very specific and, to me, unexpected. They love the same comic movies, the same music, the same superhero movies, and weave quotations from them and speculations about them into a tissue of alternate reality every night. I realize this is the exact equivalent of listening to the chatter of your grandsons, and I feel accidentally blessed. Male banter must be baffling to women. Tonight is “friends and family.” I’ll be mightily sick of the show and the drive to it by the time we get a break on Sunday.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

May 17, 2017

Immense wall of pink cloud at dawn in the north, visible through my tiny study window. My hollies are a din of calling birdlife. The unhacked bamboo shoots– those on the apartment house side of the fence–are fifteen feet tall, still formidable leafless spears. Planted over the last few days, columbine and lady’s mantel and spurge and hydrangea and a Carolina spice bush the clerk said would draw wood thrush.  The towhee has grown companionable, and will feed a few feet away from me as I work.

Finished “Seaside Town.” Began work on a new play–all while sitting for an hour at the High Five.

Tech week for The Great Gatsby. There’s nothing like the proximity of a small dressing room and five or six guys to give one perspective on human diversity. One of us has Marine-like efficiency (he has to, having the most costume and scene changes). One of our number has trouble dressing himself, figuring out how to button cuffs or fasten fasteners. Even putting on a shirt seems to daunt him. Everyone instinctively steps in to help him over the gaps. He has, in compensation for this, the most beautiful back I have ever seen, from the hairline to the top of the pants, Apollonian. I consider that he himself has probably never seen this asset. I am by thirty five years the oldest person in the cast, and the conversation in the dressing room can be informative. Last night the boys were challenging each other to trivia. I’m pretty good at trivia, so I thought I might shine, but they meant (and understood without having to say) the specific subset of Star Wars trivia, and left me instantly in the dust. They know the name of the captain of the star ship that glided across the screen one time. They know the home planet of. . . everybody. If attention ever turns to history or science, I hope to mop the floor with them. I’m having a good time. The drive is grueling, but if it’s the most grueling thing this summer, I am blessed.

Reserved our digs in Galway. I know it from my time on the Sea Road, thinking I might dwell there. Excited about the return to Ireland. Excited in general, though it’s hard to know by what.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

 May 14, 2017

In the actual performance, our piece turned out to be clever and engaging, its quirks becoming delights. The program was unbalanced– way too many lengthy Mexican pieces the texts to which were beautiful (the settings trivialized them) but which, musically, all sounded about the same.  The program, in fact, was overwhelmed (in the virtuous way) by Jon’s piece and Brahms’ “Wie lieblich. . .”  My sister rode down and witnessed the premiere, and said she liked it. In the car ride home (shortened by a hour by the opening of the I-85 bridge) I thought about the Atlanta Young Singers, and decided that in this time it, and things like it, are worth double their weight in gold. The kids were striving and achieving. They were becoming citizens and scholars and team players as they sang. Watching their faces would, in Whitman’s phrase, stagger sextillions of infidels, who believe that training in the arts is a luxury, or even an imposition. I think especially of Stephen, the bass in the male quartet, a high school senior, who acted out the words as he sang them in a transport of delight and empathy. People ask what we should fight for. I say this.

I fear and hate–almost above all other woes associated with traveling–not knowing how I’m going to get home. Someone saying “we’ll figure it out when we get there” makes me berserk. This is what nearly ruined the experience of Budapest for me. So I’d fixed my phone so I could call either Uber or Lyft to whisk me back to the hotel, but when the concert ended, both failed me, and in my repeated frenzied tries the phone got locked up somehow. This is exactly like saying “Well, I’m OK, barring a tsunami,” and watching a tsunami suddenly crowd the horizon. I had made the walk before, but I couldn’t again the next night, and so I stood on the sidewalk on Ponce de Leon in Atlanta and, literally, repeatedly, howled. I kept the card of the Ethiopian driver who picked me up at the Aquarium. I walked to a Mexican restaurant and they– with the customers piling up in line–phoned him for me. As I waited, the phone came back on, and the Uber screen said “looking for your ride.” I hit “Cancel.” My driver was home for the evening, but he came for me, having remembered saying that he would. I gave him a gigantic tip. As we rode the actually quite short way I thought maybe God intended this, that the Ethiopian guy really needs money right now, and I was the way to get it to him. Or I was meant to learn to swallow my pride and ask waitresses to make call for me. .  or. . . something. Or maybe God is a sovereign brat who changes the rules in order to hurt a person. Being human is not being able to find a way to bring those possibilities into balance. Sat on the hotel terrace and watched lovely people in formalwear come maybe from a Prom, maybe from the Fox. Saw the Watermans, a couple I’d met in a Peachtree bar, who were in Atlanta for a childless weekend, pass by in white, looking beautiful, looking ethereal, looking very happy. They have everything I do not. I have everything they likely never thought to desire. I wished for everyone I know that they might be the Watermans.

Saw a white winged hawk high above me as I walked.

Went to the Atlanta Young Singers on You Tube, and there were Stephen and Michelle singing their hearts out two years ago in “Hey Jude.: Felt like a little part of their lives. What a father I might have been. . . .

May 13, 2017

The Georgia Aquarium had early opening today, so I took advantage of it. I walked from the hotel. It was farther than the web page suggested, but last night’s trek got me in the footing it mood. Under the bridges of 85 is the bedroom of the homeless. They were stirring as I passed, rising up out of clusters of old cloth, either gathering or scattering the meager accouterments of the night before. One was putting on a blue dress shirt and a necktie. Maybe he had a job, or an interview. He looked around, as I would have done, for something to serve as a mirror.

Under the fish-tunnel of the Aquarium, I watched a man propose to a woman, kneeling and handing her a ring as the sharks passed over. They stopped here and there while a friend took artful shots of them against a backdrop of sea creatures. A man asked his daughter–maybe 3 years old– what color the beluga was. She said “aquamarine,” which was absolutely right, though everyone over the age of 3 would have said “white,” which is what the answer is supposed to be. The cabdriver on the way home remarked on how far I had walked to get to the Aquarium.  “You have your exercise for the whole weekend,” he said. I agreed, His amazement may explain something else I’ve noted: Atlanta is run by seriously obese black women.

What did I like most at the Aquarium? They jellies, I guess, blundering into each other like chandeliers set loose in the wind.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

May 12, 2017

Hotel Indigo, Atlanta.  The burned bridge on 85 stacked up traffic (much of it unnecessarily, it seemed to me) so that the last five miles of my journey took fully a quarter of the time.  But, here I got at last, and I discovered that chance (if chance there be) had delivered me into an old and joyful memory. Next door to the Indigo is the Georgian Terrace, where I stayed in 1981 during my erotic journey through the South. I pursued Davy Jax to New Orleans, and when that light went out, Greyhounded through Biloxi, Mobile, Pensacola, and finally Atlanta, vowing that in each place I would make erotic conquests. Atlanta was the last stop before I returned to Syracuse. It was high spring, as it is now, and I walked through slums and flowering trees from the bus station, and the Georgian Terrace was derelict then, so I could afford it. A giant basswood in front of it, now gone, was in glorious flower. They gave me a room high up, with a big window opening on a parking lot and Ponce de Leon in the distance. All the bars were in walking distance down Ponce, and night after night I went hunting and never came home alone, and often came home more than once. There is an apartment complex just a little down Ponce where you could stand on the lawn and men would beckon to you from porches and balconies, and you could choose which beckoning you would answer.  Big palmetto bugs came through the screenless windows. I remember at least one name, Robin of the radiant white shirt, but I remember them all. It is possible that all this was EXACTLY thirty six years ago, the same few days. I sat on the terrace of the Terrace today drinking sparkling water and wondering if any of them remember me. How many are even yet living? But the memory was joyful, and beamed a light on me for a long time.

Took a taxi to the Druid Hills Baptist for dress rehearsal, which was a little more turbulent than I was ready for. The young singers are very good, and reminded me of the Kodaly youths in Budapest. Jon was brilliant in rehearsal. What an ear! What gentle directness! And yet I thought of Hic Sunt Dracones, as I thought with The Birth of Color, “why is this so difficult?” The principle is layer of sound over layer of sound, but that is a principle of will rather than aesthetics, for when he rehearsed one or two layers together, they generally sounded better then when all were stacked atop each other. Can an ear hear all that is provided for it, or does the mass of sound require a lecture, or at least a program note, to unpack it, the way conceptual art does? Jon would say “what I wanted was this effect or that effect” and I would be thinking “Ought you have wanted that?” Should intention in a creative artist be modified at some point by taste? By the willingness to meet an audience half way? Has “serious” music scorned the opportunity, at any time, even by accident, to entertain? The final effect of the piece is pleasing and smile-making, but the pleasure is like rest after arduous labor. Was the labor really necessary? Jon is the sort of person with whom differences of aesthetic can be discussed, and perhaps I should take the time. It could be that our differences are differences in genre, for words cannot be stacked  like that and have any relevance or attraction. Words, which mean something however much we want to think of them as arbitrary sounds, cannot be bent to the will as, apparently, musical sounds can. As the librettist I might have reservations, for the inventiveness of the score does everything it can to conceal the words. I figure the principle is for the audience to dig around for the text in the rich layers of sound, but a poet doesn’t like that. O, give me Monteverdi, at the service of the word! But the music is brilliant even if not especially pleasant, and it is a joy to watch the children’s chorus (under the direction of magnificent, precise conductors) make their shining-eyed way.

Got into my my-god-how’m- I- going-to-get-home panic, and faced it the most absurd way of all, by leaving the rehearsal and walking from the church back to the hotel, cursing from my heart the whole way.

Friday, May 12, 2017

May 11, 2017

S and his sister drop by to see the garden on their way home. The garden is beautiful for them. He is beautiful and she is not. It must be hard for a girl to have a brother more beautiful than she. I tried to pay her extra attention.

Working on two pieces of fiction, both of them lengthy.

Handsome L chatters to me about his plans for the future. I nod and try to be encouraging. He says, “I’m talking your ear off. I’m sorry, but I’m fascinated by you–“ all he gets out before he’s due back on stage.  And I by him.

We’re using face mics, which are unnecessary, and which I hate.

Roses like clouds of fire above the long grass. Roses and poetry are nothing alike. Roses are, in comparison, effortless.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

May 10, 2017

The iris at the corner of the yard has the most purple purple I have ever seen. A folded sheet of purple fire. The roses are a many-colored firmament. The fleet inhabitant of my pond is a sizeable leopard frog, who can land in the center with one leap. Watched last night’s full moon rise over the green hills of Haywood County. There was a perfume over everything. I mentioned it, and Luke said, “It smells like Dr. Pepper,” which indeed it did. Somewhat spoiled the effect.

The demon was dreaming its dreams through me last night. Woke, and there was terrible battle. Slept sweetly for the rest of the night.

Rehearsals are going well. The play is not demanding and the actors are adept, especially the women. The drive to Waynesville, though, is hell. 90 minutes there, 35 back.

R etches images of the Crucifixion into his paintings. The paintings deserve to be–by virtue of his virtue-- much better than they are.

Prepared for the trip to Atlanta to hear the premiere of Haec Sunt Draconi. It appears I’ve spent so much with Expedia that my room at the Indigo is free.

Entered grades and put the academic year behind me. Noted the ones who, through inflated self-esteem, are likely to give me trouble.

Facing the summer with expectations of delight.
May 5, 2017

Bach on Spotify.

The rain has been long and doesn’t seem to be finished yet. Was trapped in the downpour last night, and coming home in it rammed into something in front of the theater. Whatever it was (maybe just the curb) seemed to have done no damage. Saw Stupid Fucking Bird at the Magnetic: an example of what can happen when a cast is comfortable with each other, with the script, with the director, and rolls like thunder from lights up to lights down. Impeccable direction; inspired acting. I think I was meant to like the script (a comment on The Seagull) better than I did. If it were done in alternation with the actual Chekhov, maybe? It is, in fact, just about as good as a pastiche/satire/commentary can be, yet therefore falling short of the power of a work that attempts the creation of a whole world. Most modern art is commentary on art that already exists, remakes, reboots, endless cinema series, plays made from movies, plays commenting on other plays. . . Original voices are thereby disadvantaged. The original is always more terrifying than another layer added to the known. Still, the fact is that I LIKE commentaries. . . myself adding to the sadness, I suppose.
The House passes the punitive repeal of Obamacare. It’s hard to imagine the Senate coming to its senses in time to sink this rat-infested ship, but miracles do happen. The one and only reason for the hatred of the Affordable Care Act is hatred for President Obama, a hatred so clearly racist and classist even the attempt to deny it should mortify. It is the hatred of the little for the great, of the mean and greedy for the generous, of the trifling for the far-sighted, of those born in privilege for those who seized status by their own efforts. It is the hatred of the plantation owner for the slave who did not pull his forelock at the front door. Never did I expect to see such gleeful war of the rich against the poor, of power against the powerless. Paul Ryan smirking and grinning over having done incalculable harm to incalculably many may be the most sickening image in American politics, ever. What is most terrifying is that these half-men aren’t even ashamed. They’re playing to their cronies. They’re little boys doing mischief to earn the approbation of little boys as wicked and ignorant as they. I am praying to all the gods that the attention of all the gods is upon them, now.

The attention from St Julian Press for Peniel seems genuine. I’m waiting for a shoe to drop–either one-- but at the moment, I am sanguine and, from the tip of one abyss to the another, joyful.

May 6, 2017

Bitter cold for May. The upstairs window was open, and I can scarcely sit here and type. As long as it keeps raining I shall not fear a freeze.

Cutting up my old choir robe and turning it into art. Richmond and I inhabited the studio at the same time yesterday. He is, surprisingly, a bit of a chatterbox. We laughed. It was convivial. I left smiling.

Vetting St. Julian. It seems to be as presented. One shoe, at least, will not drop.

Friday, May 5, 2017

May 4, 2017

The terrible anniversary.

The Great Comet gets twelve TONY nominations. I can walk into a room and say “I am part of that.”

Lovely slow rain on the garden. I went to the studio, and after an hour painted over or rubbed out what I had done. That, too, happens, and it is well. K phones to offer me a show at the Weizenblatt Gallery at Warren Wilson, for a year from now. Happy with that; even decided what I will make.

The toad tadpoles arrive from Ohio. So tiny. I feel tender toward them pouring them into the immense and frog-haunted pond.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

May 3, 2017

Days go by in a gray sheen, and I’m hard put to write anything here. Other days are a calliope, the tail of a peacock, an intersection of rainbows, and I despair of getting everything down even half as it was lived.

Rehearsal better last night. I think I have achieved my brief but not insignificant character. The green hills between here and Waynesville are a kind of paradise. I stand and stare into the creek that flows by the theater, in full contentment.

My session with K changed in the middle. He said he was hot and asked to take his shirt off and I said “sure.” He is beautiful. It was like being in the presence of a god. I could feel the hairs of his body on my body, feel when he pressed part of himself against my hand. It was amazingly sensual, without being–and I considered this even at the time– especially erotic. I left glowing and feeling precious.

Leaps forward in the garden. Assembled my compost bin, but considering the rate at which I produce compost, it may never be usable. Inspired to buy tomatoes and eggplants, and planted them. Bought a companion for my surviving paw-paw. The red-neck at the nursery had never heard of paw-paw and kept asking me to spell and repronounce it to make sure he got it right.

Today I assembled–with only a few mistakes–the mail-order arbor, and bought two kinds of purple clematis to twine over it, and jessamine to twine over a portion of the garden wall.  Talked with a warbler in the dead dogwood.

When I came home last evening a rabbit sat in the middle of the yard. He sat yet when I was inside turning on the lights, still, silent, as though he were waiting to worship at the rising of the moon. It was a sacred moment. I take this rabbit for the guardian spirit of my garden at least for this season. I asked that he might not eat the eggplants, but what will be shall be.

Prayed before sleep the one prayer that God seems willing to answer. For whatever reason–perhaps that– was joyful all this day.

May 2, 2017

Bought my sickeningly expensive ticket to Ireland. Did–alone of all of us–poorly at rehearsal last night, calling twice “line” in a scene where I have five lines. Steve bought beautiful flapper dresses for the girls.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

May 1, 2017

Lost the actor playing George to an equity gig in Maine. Lovely Daithi takes his place, me feeling secret joy in it. Last day of classes, ramming through Modernism, reading the last of what turned out to be a disappointing season of poetry– much self-revelation, only three bothering with much skill. But those three have a future. All is well with one more semester. What, again, with the students who sat and did nothing, who appeared without so much as casting a shadow? One student wrote one poem (a fair one) and said nothing in class. What to do with her? Deep rain. The satisfying plop of a fat frog in the water when I pass the pond.  Orange and scarlet roses in bloom. Rejections one or two a day. . . . never does the rage slacken (you’d think it would after constant bombardment), never do the nerves stop shuddering.

April 30, 2017

Benefit for Loving Food at the Greek Orthodox church last night, nestled in a woody corner of Montford. We arrived very early, so I sat on a bench and stared into a sizeable bit of woods that begins at the edge of the playground. Did we do well? There was such din and distraction that doing well was mostly irrelevant. Two basses, three tenors, six baritones, and the panic belonged to the baritones. Sigh. Maud lies on my foot, squirming and rumbling.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

April 29, 2017

Up early, coffee and a little writing, a visit to the farmers’ market, then a good, brief session at the studio. Stopped homeward to buy a blue nikko hydrangea. While planting it I noted that of the five hydrangeas I’ve planted on this property, one prospers and another sports three or four leaves on the tip of its twigs. Last summer, hot and dry, caused considerable mortality among the new plantings. Doubt this year I’ll plant anything beyond May. Good news about Peniel, which I refuse to believe. Put it in my hands or keep it to yourself. The universe who cried “Wolf!” Looking out the tiny window as the sky grays. If the day should end in rain, it would be perfect.

Practicing tunes–at least one of which I hate-- for a brief concert at the Orthodox center tonight.

April 28, 2017

Driving onto campus as a hawk, flying just above the level of my car, made his way into the near woods with a squirrel in his talons. Made this into a blessing.

Baby shower for A and M at one of those beer gardens along the river. Wonderful fun. I pass them every day and barely notice they’re there. Large, happy crowds. It really doesn’t take that much to make people content, at least for a time.  A sign by the river pleads, “No hank-panky on the banky.”

Everyone at the university crashing forward, the end in sight.

April 27, 2017

Most beautiful rococo pastel sky at dawn. I went to the Y and ran on the treadmill, watching before me a man with the most beautiful back and the most beautiful sky-blue T-shirt upon it. Shapely men at Starbuck’s. Drinking coffee, reading Woolf, noting them.

My tulip seedling’s leaves are covered with a golden down that shines quite metallic in a certain slant of light. Still waiting for it to lift into the sky.

S thinks I’m going the right direction with. Meyer Wolfshein; that effort is, therefore, practically in “automatic.”

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

April 26, 2017

Three attacks of cramps last night, the second, prolonged and agonizing, maybe the worst one yet. I could feel my heels being dragged toward my ass, and I could not stop it. So angry the cats didn’t know if my screams were pain or fury. Woke exhausted because of them, but did good work at the studio, bought two new roses and planted them in big rich compost-y holes. Napped until late afternoon, alas, but there is time to do a little writing. The drive to Waynesville was hell for traffic yesterday, but, stopped dead in the road, one had time to contemplate the unbelievable beauty of the after-many-rainstorms spring mountains. A little rabbit has his form under the low roof of my hostas.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

April 25, 2017

Sweet spring day. No class. Hit the gym for the first time since before Venice. Sit in the empty café writing grievous poems, weeping without restraint, glad that nobody but me goes there at that time of the darkness. The rain slackens and the sun comes out. Accidentally encounter TD at the High Five, feel hatred for him, a little, because of so many things before me in his life, even things that will bring him no benefit. Spade into mush another round of bamboo shoots. Finish planting all the annual seeds, though toward the end “planting” meant tossing handfuls of seed in underdeveloped dirt to give them a fighting chance. An ounce or so of forget-me-not seed could inseminate the world. Good news about Peniel; the press I sent it to adores it, but wants to offer it to St Julien first to give it a better chance. I say yes. I say yes repeatedly and inevitably. No one says yes more than I. I should be further along every single road.

April 24, 2017

Sweet cast for Gatsby. I’ve enjoyed the company in the last two shows I was in.  Left early for rehearsal, but because of the rain there was no highway construction, so arrived forty minutes early, listened to the radio in my car. Horrible night, though, some image or thought tilting me over into darkness. During the ride home I heard myself whispering The Lord has delivered me to the demon over and over as a kind of mantra. Strangely, it brought comfort.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

April 23, 2017

Remarkable, Noah-evoking volume of rain. It started late last night and continues to this hour, at the edge of light, though the night roar has become a whisper. Good for my gardens, unless it was enough to be bad for them. I hope my fornicating opossums have shelter.

The sink on our level of the studio is constantly getting clogged, and what is clogging it and making it stink is food–remnants of salad, rice, wet tea leaves. Only one of us ever eats there, and when she wanders about tragically declaring the sink is clogged again, I want to ask “Why do you think that is?” It’s hard to believe she hasn’t made the connection between her salad floating on a pool of stagnant water in the sink and a clogged drain. Long ago, when Celia was doing the same thing and I outlined what happened I was accused of “mansplaining.”
Mansplaining is when I man gives a woman instructions or information which she needs, but resents needing.

Novel shapes drew me out into the garden in the still-driving rain. I knew what they were. Rain had brought spears of new bamboo out of the ground, six, ten feet away from the original stand, as had happened last year. Some of them were two feet long and had not been there at all on Friday. There I was, hacking away at them with a hoe while they were still tender enough to hack. The yard would be a bamboo thicket in five years if I allowed it.

April 22, 2017

Earth Day.

Went outside to the frantic calling of crows. When I went to look at what was disturbing them, I saw four opossums in the east lawn. I thought two were dead and the others contemplating eating them, but the two on the ground were actually mating, and the other two watching, or maybe waiting their turn for the use of preferred space. It was strangely Edenic,  two ardent lovers rolling around in the wet spring grass, studded with purple wild phlox. I went to the High Five and had coffee with Alex, and when I returned the opossums were still at it (maybe the pairs had traded off) and the crows still cawing. I wondered what the crows’ stake in this was. Were they mocking? Cheering? Just minding their neighbors’ business? I didn’t realize there were so many hulking marsupials in the vicinity of my back yard.

Two visits to the studio, the second partially to amend a mis-vision of the first.  Did some good work, some that will need to be looked at a second time.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

April 21, 2017

Deep fog at the end of night. The birds must not be affected, for they are singing in the distance. Yeats in the morning. The thing I have hated most about teaching? That when I ask, “Are there any questions?”, the questions are not about the matter at hand, but about grades and assignments. They think that getting good grades is their job. It is not. S keeps me afloat. Sometimes people are just interested. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

April 20, 2017

The beginning of the Time of the Bursting Forth. Red peonies gather like a little constellation in the back–their first year. My first pink, rather ragged, rose appears. Buds swell. Good day in the studio. Cleaned out space for Richmond. Stopped dead three times on the road between here and Waynesville. I of course suppose that mendacity and incompetence is the cause of traffic hell, but whatever the cause is, it’s a mile or so beyond by turn-off, so perhaps I’ll never know. The Great Gatsby is a thin play, and I wonder if anyone who hadn’t read the novel can follow it. I like my fellow cast members.

April 19, 2017

It’s hard to convince students that their deeply held convictions are faith positions rather than rational ones. They believe they have reached a final truth–a humanistic secularism that reverses rather than redresses older power structures–and that deviation or criticism is a kind of depravity. How this is different from radical religious bigotry I can’t tell, except God is out of it. I am not too agitated, as in general I hold the same beliefs as my students–held them before they did– but I want to be able to keep perspective, and find some way to shade a little perspective into their sometimes beautiful, sometimes horrific, certainty.

Returned to HART for the first rehearsal of The Great Gatsby. It’s good being back on the stage, though I heard myself sighing with relief that my part is small and the play is short. So much for ambition. The traffic between here and there almost makes me repent and regret.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April 18, 2017

Lord, you gave a demon rule over me. It cannot be forgiven.

Arrived on campus to see, under a conifer tree, a robin and a thrush squabbling violently. If the object was possession of that tree, the robin won. The thrush flew by me and lamented musically in the branch of the tree beside my head.

My first meeting of the Cathedral endowment committee. Though I didn’t express my opinion straight off, ultimately I don’t know whether I will be a good influence or an irritating one. The Cathedral’s investment pattern is very conservative. I could make them a far higher return, though of course, as they would point out, at proportionately greater risk. Is this a world not to risk in?

Monday, April 17, 2017

April 17, 2017

Easter Monday, giving my classes the Easter 1916 reminiscence.

Odd phone call from H, who says she thinks of me all the time. Really? Guilty conscience? Is she writing a check?

My poets are not writing. Neither am I, so I don’t have suggestions to make.

My white dove was back, having her quiet bathe in the pond cascade.

Terrible spiritual upheaval, followed by terrible exhaustion.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

April 16, 2017

Journey through Holy Week more meaningful than it had been in years. The men sang the Good Friday service. Standing on one place is, because of my back and my legs, the hardest and worst thing I can do, and of course most of what the choir does on holy weeks is to stand in one place. Entire Passion chanted Friday while we stand. I am in something approaching agony, and I remember all the verses where people long to share the agony of Christ, and I smile as much of an inward smile as I can imagine, doing so (weakly) without any such desire. Solemn and beautiful, nevertheless. One of my students followed me to the Good Friday service and claimed to be moved. Went to Tenebrae sung by Pastyme Friday night. One remembers those times when the singing was so perfect that music was heard perfectly, through a veil hardly a veil but a shimmer of light, and this was one of those times. The Des Pres Miserere was an entire world, one of the greatest pieces of music I have ever heard. At one point we were meant to kneel, and as I did my chest and sides were seized with brutal cramps. Again, I wondered if I were sharing in some medicinal portion of the Lord’s agony. I listened to myself breathing in little gasps against the chest-crushing pain. Good Saturday at the studio, interrupted by the wasteful extra rehearsal that is a tradition as immovable Easter. All hours of all days pulsating with vernal light. Holy Saturday was profound and beautiful to me. I was filled with joy when I was meant to be filled with joy. Sam came. It was not the place to ask him how and if he had been moved by it all, but I hope he was. Two services on Easter are too much for those who perform them, but just right, I suppose, for those who attend. Zach’s son was baptized at 9. Brunch with the usuals at Ambrosia, then a long, hard, restorative sleep. When I woke, I saw a white dove at pondside, pure white, not a mark on her. I watched while she took a drink and had a little bath. I turned my back for a moment, and when I turned back she was gone. I take her for an omen.

When I asked myself what the difference could be this year, I believed it must be the round of muscular prayers, quite recently, after my return from Venice, in which I faced my long rebellion and asked for the grace somehow to bring it to an end. I have been Satanic, in a way, though when applied to me the word is several sizes too big. I have wanted my will over the Lord’s. I fought the Lord because His will (for me) is antic and mine is just. I have considered–and I consider now–that what I want for my life is better than what the Lord wants for it, or to say it another way, the Lord has never seemed to want anything in particular, but only to thwart my vision and desire. Not that, he says, but never This. I did think and do think now that my insistence was right. But I am an old man and He has never yielded. People say “Give your will over to that Lord,” and maybe they are right. I couldn’t pray “Thy will be done,” but rather, “Let me find a way to pray ‘Thy will be done.’ Let me want you more than I want my life.” I don’t know where I am in this process, but I do find some peace, and could face Easter without bitter recrimination and regret. Could face it as though I myself were an unfolding flower, a white bird at the water’s edge.

Friday, April 14, 2017

April 14, 2017

I’m going to write a book called “Watering Meditation,” where you gather and dissipate wild thoughts while watering your garden. It’s the most calming thing I do in a day’s time.

The Solomon’s seal is blooming in the shady corner of the fence. The Jack-in-the-pulpits arise and unfold, including one which skipped last year altogether. I thought it was dead, but here comes the emerald spear.  

R brings his absurdly beautiful eyes to the studio, to see if he wants to rent a little space from me. I felt he had decided against it, probably because he is very neat and I, at the studio, am a slob. But a slob who is painting well and inventively at the moment.

Loving Gogol. The High Five is, for some reason, the perfect place for Dead Souls.

Maunday Thursday service lovely, though the protracted and leisurely removal of all vanities from the church tested my patience. The point of a symbol is that it is symbolic. I try to think of foot washing in the same vein as the scriptures suggest; I do not manage, quite.  What is the modern equivalent? Donating an organ? Paying the rent? Nothing seems intimate enough. Passionate sermon. Grumpy drive home through the night. Rage at Maud for vomiting on the couch. She knows very well what I mean, and when I begin shouting, looks at the vomit and runs out of the room.

April 12, 2017

Bidding essential farewell to the Senior Seminar. They asked “did we pass?” and I teased them till I realized they were dead serious. Tennyson at the 8 o’clock. Great and vernal light whichever way one looks.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April 11, 2017

Slept with the windows open. Turned off the study gas heater.

Good work at the studio.  Ray has returned from a sojourn that was, he says, disappointing. I missed him. Much planting and watering in the garden, the weather so perfect for it that not to is a violation. Began reading Dead Souls for class. Gogol is new to me.

W bounced his mortgage check. The whole enterprise has been fantastically elaborate, various accounts changing from month to month, midnight trips to the door, children in tow, check in hand, invariably the day AFTER one was told to expect it, everything an enterprise and a project. Some people have a talent for needless elaboration; I have no tolerance for it. The gods afflict me.

April 10, 2017

Woke ill. The illness involved a mighty flux, waves of mighty flux, which got me to wondering where all of that could have been stored. Improved through the day, so that by the afternoon I had achieved the single greatest gardening day of the last year, new beds dug, old ones enlarged and brought close to the ideal in my mind, into the ground an array of annuals. Comments from the school children about our reading at the Glasshouse were posted, and one said “David was cool.” Found myself wondering of what my coolness consisted, so that I might reproduce it at need.

April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday felt festive this time, with the undercurrent of dread, which it is meant to have. The music was good. Rushed from church to school to set up for my students’ senior readings. Everything went well there, too, except that in the midst of each reading I fell asleep and was awakened at the end by the applause. No one mentioned it, so maybe I got away with it. Have been enjoying Cantaria rehearsals, perhaps because of Simone’s greater precision, perhaps because we are, after a long drought, doing decent music. Supper with DJ at Avenue M.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

April 8, 2017

Theater last night with Sam, Peter and the Starcatcher, a lively and satisfying production, many of my friends on stage. The show depends unusually on charismatic cast, and luckily had it. Staggering in the parking lot with exhaustion.

Saturdays are the best days. Rose early, had my cappuccino at High Five, went to the Tailgate Market (where I bought $25 worth of worms for the raised beds. $25 gets you a thousand worms, the man said) and then to the studio. Painted briefly, well. Came home and dug and planted for the balance of the day. Many square feet of new planting beds, and into the ground with a selection of exotic arisaema (tried this before, failed; more careful this time), cornflower, touch-me-not (which I remember from my father’s garden), black sunflower, cosmos. Less tired than I was yesterday after doing nothing.

At the café I pondered the realization that I may never have “followed my dream” because I hadn’t precisely settled on one. Since the first I wandered toward the light, thinking that going in the right direction with all deliberate speed would reveal the proper course. I wrote poetry without considering what it would be like actually to be a poet. I went to grad school without considering how it would feel to be a scholar. I walked onto a hundred stages without any firm idea of being an actor. I began writing for the stage without much though of BEING a playwright. Was this a mistake? I thought the universe would appreciate my keeping an open mind about these things, my doing without specific attachment to the outcome of the deeds. I want to say “it doesn’t seem to have worked out very well,” but maybe if I had determined on a set identity, my sorrow at failure would be keener and sharper than this vague, gray sense of disappointment. What was it I wanted anyhow? To find the way, I suppose.

Friday, April 7, 2017

April 7, 2017

Readings yesterday in the Glass House. Local school poets were funny and inventive. My colleagues were. . . I don’t know. . . my mind was somewhere else, and I was fighting massive chest muscle cramps that made it hard to breathe. Got through “YMCA”; people seemed to like it. Fought reading The Awakening for years. My class made me read it, and it is quite good, despite being, thematically, pretty much what I expected. Outside is terrible wind. It’s supposed to get worse as the day goes. My wind chimes are frantic out in the dark garden. Our VP has pulled out of Cantaria because he likes his Sundays and “would rather enjoy them uninterrupted.” Someone must have looked at him sideways; we’re trying to decide whom. People can be such asses. Outstanding, besides poetry and fiction, at the Glass House was the level of hatred aimed at the Boy, who is on sabbatical now and cannot feel it as he ought. All my new planting is seeds, which are not going to be hurt by this inclemency, unless they’re blown right out of the ground.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April 4, 2017

One of those great days when everything gets done and everything gets done well. Coffee at High Five, accidental contact with TD, still (like me perhaps) beating the waves of hopeless ambition. Then off to the studio where I painted well and happily. Tiny animal portraits for framing. Then most of the day spent gardening, digging new fragments of beds, filling containers, gradually getting into the ground the mass of annuals, bought last fall: nasturtium, alyssum, yellow lupine, black violas, red achillea, spearmint, a big orange annual daisy plopped down in a vast blue urn. Never sleepy, never particularly spent. Not even a nap. The only thing that didn’t get done was writing.

Monday, April 3, 2017

April 3, 2017

Baroque recorder music from the kitchen below. Heavy rain, straight into the ground, chilly, wishing it were a winter rain.

My voice is back, and, allowing some hoarseness, gets through whatever I need it to get through. Great Praise. In Cantaria rehearsal we belabored our customary jazz-pop standards, and then pulled out Bibel and Cassals. The difference was immediate. At the end of the hour I felt that I’d had fun, that I’d accomplished and learned. Jack said, “That hour just flew by.” I searched my understanding for the difference. I don’t think it’s just that I reflexively favor “Classical” music; I think the serious music we do is probing, exploratory, necessary expressive of an artist’s spiritual and aesthetic quest. Most of the pop music we do is a second level arrangement of what is already a second level composition, made to make an impression and therefore a buck in the crowded pop market. Do people like it? Probably. Ought they to? Another question entirely.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

April 1, 2017

Someone banged on the door while I was watching TV, and by the time I answered was a running blur in a yellow jacket at the end of the driveway. Worried a little until I remembered it was April Fools night. Second time that’s happened, though the first time was a pair of girls.

Sam and I intended to see the play at UNCA last night, but it was, remarkably, sold out.

My Mexican yard guy appeared and apologized for vanishing at the end of last year (I hadn’t noticed). He had photos of the wreck of his truck, which had prevented him from mowing the lawns he had contracted to mow. I said yes, welcome back, but wondered if I should have paid him immediately (He’s very bad at billing) or helped him buy a new truck, the replacement looking like it itself had been in a wreck. He is apparently bad at everything except mowing the lawn.

Planted johnny jump-ups in the open space gouged by the men putting in the new sewer, Might not get enough sun.

Huge progress on the Hiram book, The Book of the Roses, which I had actually not intended to write. I take out huge once-precious passages, but the text seems always to be just as long as it was.

March 31, 2017

Extreme clamminess, and odd feeling all about me. The Internet says the feeling of cold clamminess is probably related to anxiety, but I cannot locate any particular anxiety.

Hauled myself through “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” unsuccessful in my determination not to weep. My poor students.

Staggering with iron deficiency. Buy a new bottle of iron pills. Oddly, planting he final new tree peonies (total cost with shipping over $200) does not seem to exacerbate it. Anemia is a diseases which doesn’t hurt, and I should be grateful for that. Well, the cramps brought on by dehydration hurt mightily. Anyway--

Thursday, March 30, 2017

March 30, 2017

Wednesday nights end with rehearsal drinks at the Wayside, and usually I have Thursday free ahead of me, a generous and happy stretch of time. A little too staggery from iron deficiency to make best use of it, but it has gone well enough. Brief time at the studio. It was raining; most of my colleagues were in their cubicles working or having tea, and it was dark and soft and lovely. Picked my tax return up from CK. The return is not whopping, but good enough. The cost of preparing the return was, however, whopping. Maud is lying on my feet, fluttering around like a furry bird.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

March 29, 2017

R and DJ and I see the last and darkest of the Wolverine films. One might respect the performances without actually having had a good time.

Good painting for a while, then bad painting, when one sets down the brush and takes a break. Chat with my studiomates, one of whom is actually living in her studio, which she needs to do in order to pay back her graduate school loans. She should be doing better than she’s doing. She makes her own dyes out of crushed berries and the like, then makes exquisite, detailed drawings out of that.

Tried to work the garden, and got a little transplanting accomplished, but my body literally failed me. It stopped. I couldn’t move, but only enough to climb the stairs and lie down. My iron content is at a crisis, and I don’t know how to take any more pills.

The good news is that Minos the Mystery Turtle is back in residence in my pond. My order of tadpoles and snails arrived from Indiana. My waterlogged family grows. I hope somebody’s in there eager to begin eating the ropes of green algae.

Purple and gold in the grass.

Finished The Book of the Roses. It’s either a novella or a 33 page short story.

Plans afoot to go to Ireland with L and J. Unexpectedly excited at the prospect.

March 28, 2017

Students in panic mode; many professors in panic mode in response. Playful morning dreams continue. They are a gift to make up for some horror I have, at the moment, blissfully forgotten.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

March 26, 2017

Saturday was a day of accomplishment. Before light I wrote on my Hiram story. I assembled the second raised bed (easy for two, frustrating for one) filled it, bought soil and plants at Reems Creek, planted dicentria, bluebells, wake-robin, wood poppy, mayapple, jack-in-the-pulpit, six lilies that had ben languishing in the bulb in the cab of my truck. On their own violets ennoble the yard. Rested a little, had prosecco at Sovereign Remedies, took S to see Souvenir, a play about Florence Foster Jenkins at NC Stage, exemplary for complete harmony of performance, production, direction and acting, an evening of genuine pleasure. Wandered the streets afterwards, finally having Italian sodas at Old Europe, beside a heap of homeless bedding down in an alcove, one of whom offered me an exotic drug S had to explain to me. I remarked that S has seen, in Amsterdam, 2/3 of the drug use of my entire life. Must have used up my energies, for today has been the saga of creeping from one nap opportunity to the next, having slept in the first place to the unheard-of hour of 9. Voice held through both mass and rehearsal. Cantaria is an array of pop tunes through the foreseeable future, and I am sad as I can be. Life is too short to sing fluff. My life, anyway. Our interim is precise in ways Stephen was not. All in all, that’s likely good for us, however irritating in the moment.

Anniversary of mother’s death, forty three years ago. A whole solid life ago. I remember on the first anniversary I was in Syracuse. I skipped my evening poetry workshop, came home– home being the horrible cubicle on Adams Street– through a blizzard, lay on my mattress in the horrible room senseless with grief while slush and hail tapped on my window. The weather is better now. My bed is better.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

March 24, 2017

Student admits she hasn’t been coming to class, asks if that is so very important. “You were vague about attendance requirements,” she says. I email her the paragraph from the syllabus which says that class is ALL important, that four absences lowers your grade one notch, etc. Wonder what she could possibly mean by “vague.”

Anyway, she shows up, and shows the best poem of her career.

Went to a meeting about establishing new minors and new programs. Two things amazed me. One is how politically ignorant I am (the politics of the institution of which I’ve been a part for 34 years). The other is how the people with the least to say INEVITABLY talk the longest.

Watched horror movies on TV.

Heart-dark yesterday, but again had joyful, even hilarious dreams. Some spiritual balancing act is being staged within.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

March 23, 2017

Abundant time in the studio. SB bought two paintings, the nuthatch on textured paper on plywood, and the cedar waxwing on t-shirt glued to a slat of disarticulated dresser. Happy about that.

Hiked to the Ultra Café from the studio, sat at a table with a woman of about my age who was from Cleveland. We spent most of the time lamenting Trump.

Several of my students are entering panic mode. I must admit that some of my colleagues have pushed them there, and an ordeal of finesse appears before me: aiding my students without insulting my colleagues.

Worked in the garden. Fought off bouts of sharp-edged sadness. There is dull-edged sadness and sharp-edged sadness, and this is the sharp-edged.

But my voice held through rehearsal last night. I was happy. I gave praise.