Monday, October 16, 2017


October 16, 2017

In the wake of, I suppose, the latest Hollywood scandal, women started a Face Book campaign where everyone of them who has been molested or hurt or raped or diminished by a man writes in their space, “Me too.” At the end of the day I sit reeling from the sheer numbers. I never understood. Women live different lives from what we do, lives full of uncertainty and terror, sometimes buried terror, sometimes terror on the surface, that I am, or was till now, incapable fully of apprehending. They are in danger from us at every turn. It is the most shocking thing. The angrier of them hiss “You should have known,” and perhaps one should, but I didn’t. Part of my dumbfoundment is that two times I have been accused of “harassment” and it was by entitled brats who not only lied but were vague enough to keep their lies interesting until I was able to say, publicly, to their faces, “what exactly was it that I did?” and that ended it. Personal experience made me suspect a raft of mean-spirited innuendo that the light of day would not sustain. But, no, this is something completely different, cavalier brutality and collusion and inhumanity of a proportion I am still not able to comprehend. I love men. I am in the habit of defending us from what I think of as the irrational edge of self-serving Feminism. But not here, not this. I feel like Dante crying out “Who would have thought death had undone so many?” We are brutes and I can’t understand why. The hatred for men I have heard in the rhetoric of some women is not, as I had thought, insane. It is in some senses not even enough. It is the most confusing and distressing moment. It is also the fiftieth time this month I have cried out “What can I do to help?” and no answer has come back. I suppose, to begin with, find out where I too am brutish and stop it.  I think I’m innocent of this, but I probably am not. Maybe that slob Weinstein will end up as a kind of accidental angel.

Good classes, I think. My intro to creative writing class calls me “David,” as no class in 34 years has done. Have no idea what I think of it, but I hope it’s affection. Spent one class listening to presentations and staring at the beautiful neck of the man in front of me.

October 15, 2017

Purple blossoms cover the eggplant vines, which I did not have the heart to pull out just yet.

Seized by cramps mounting the stairs to the study. Could barely move up or down. Cursed all the way, clawing the wall, to the sink. If I were God I would not do those things which leave him open to such vituperation.

Sunday, October 15, 2017


October 14, 2017

Rose before the light, had coffee and began a new story at High Five. Sat on the terrace, where at first my only light was the red neon OPEN sign. A rat emerged and gleaned a little in the darkness, looking elegant, looking like a wild animal. It was still barely light when I picked up the shovel and finished planting almost all that had been left unplanted: the second sassafras, ferns, trillium, windflowers.  The day was a little poisoned by thoughts of The Boy, and the ways in which his actions are parallel to those of our President, being mitigated some by their smallness.

As for our President, the game is now to see how long he can last, how many stupidities, blunders, arrogations, cruelties (any one of which would have sunk any other politician in my lifetime) can be piled one atop the other until his rotten party is finally moved to act. Is this the most interesting time in American politics? Watergate was interesting, but somehow less riotously absurd than this.

Cantaria concert at the UU in Hendersonville. I think it went well. It felt like it went well. I was in whole voice nearly to the end. Exquisite white wine at Avenue M afterwards.

Friday, October 13, 2017


October 13, 2017

Days of school alternating with days in the garden, both leaving me exhausted. Restored much that I allowed be gobbled up by grass during the summer. Transplanted struggling acanthus. After trying for several years, and futilely planting bare sticks that mail-order nurseries claimed were sassafras, I finally found the real thing at Reems Creek, and bought me two. The sassafras makes me unaccountably happy. The sweaty burly nurseryman was inexplicably to my taste. 

My story of disappointment in Vienna has been accepted for publication.

Good classes, except when giving presentations, my students refuse to attempt pronunciation of foreign words. “You’re the specialist now,” I want to shriek, “say the damn words correctly!” Students are not taught boldness; they are taught resentment, which looks similar, sometimes, but is really very different.

Do the ones who do badly actually not know they’re doing badly?

Fury over the impossible form the New School sends in order for us to get our pittance of honorarium. Necessary forms are literally unavailable. A tentacle of the bureaucrafication of the whole world of education, where nothing, now, can be accomplished without a blizzard of steps and paperwork necessary only because someone is being paid to require it. Even as every advancement at UNCA is hedged about with sidesteps and blind alleys, jackals which must have their little bite. Almost fainted when I actually got my travel reimbursement this morning. I’d given it up in my heart because one document they said they required did not exist and never had existed. Assumed that would be the end of it. 

The postcards for Uranium 235 arrived, and they were well.

Good choir rehearsal, all Brahms. Cantaria rehearsal at which I never quite lost my temper, and that is notable.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


October 10, 2017

Downtown for an interview at BRPR with M, who turns out to be cute and compact, new to the area, and a singularly good interviewer. He had done astonishing research about me and was able to ask insightful questions. I had misjudged the occasion of the interview, thinking it was and being prepared for the usual PR about Uranium 235.  It was much deeper and more personal than that. I hope I wasn’t flummoxed.

Arrived downtown early, and sat on Pack Square watching a guy making gigantic soap bubbles with an apparatus he had. Some sailed over the roofs. The sky was gray so the bubbles seemed like pearls, subtle and subdued.

October 9, 2017

Transcribing the play I began in the Paramount and sliding toward drunkenness Sunday morning in Newark airport. Harder than usual to decode my own scribbles.

Another huge gardening day. Drove to Jesse Israel and rescued half priced ferns to plant behind the pond. Great digging, awaiting plants coming through the mail. Even after two days’ of deluge, the ground was not sodden–just pleasantly damp. Yellow jackets patrolled the ground, singly, or a few together. They looked forlorn and vulnerable. I didn’t know if they were looking for food or for a place to burrow in for the winter. My loosening up yards of soil may gave them choices, if the latter.

Sunday, October 8, 2017


October 8, 2017

For a couple of years now I have been afflicted with floods of mucous, which kept me from sleeping (or would have, if anything could) at night, and damaged my throat so that it was sometimes impossible to sing, or even to speak. Coughing, cataclysmic sneezing. Couldn’t find a medication or a cause, until I realized that it happens only in the winter, before I turn on the furnace (which I had blamed for drying out the house and my throat), but after I get out my winter sleep covering: an Afghan Dale knitted (or crotcheted, or whatever you do) years ago. Am I allergic to that? Slept without it last night; am mucous free this morning. Part of the sensation is deep relief, part irritation that so many months were lost to so inconsequential a thing. Did Dale know what he was doing? An ex-boyfriend’s revenge, like those blankets soaked in smallpox that the whites gave to the Indians?  

Afternoon: warm, hurricane-driven rain, so like the temperature of human skin that though to the eyes it appears to be raining hard, the body barely feels it.

October 7, 2017

Arose in the dark to sing for the Buncombe County Democratic Ladies at the Renaissance. I support their politics, but they were the worst conceivable audience.

Another day of heavy gardening, redigging the “blue” garden after a summer’s neglect, planting what present themselves as “tree lilies.” We’ll see. Dug around an acanthus and a rose , which are of the few survivors in that part of the garden.

A vireo– I think, sparrow sized, pale beneath and slate gray above– swept across the top of my pond, either gathering insects there or outright fishing.  

Party for L’s 65th– festive, but for me too many people in too small a space. I promised to approximate a painting he had seen in the Democratic Ladies’ auction and liked, only that painting was bad and mine won’t be. All society that doesn’t have something to do with the arts is beginning to wear on me.

Saturday, October 7, 2017


October 6, 2017

Dream that a man I admired handed me his sword to polish. Spent the rest of the  dream trying to find the right polish, trying to find a place to work where I wouldn’t be disturbed. Dedicated the day to heroic gardening, and though I started out tired, I got no tireder. A great raft of iris into the ground and mulched.

Thursday, October 5, 2017


October 5, 2017

Handel from the radio downstairs. The morning was supremely beautiful, silver against silvery blue. Last night spent singing Brahms and having cocktails afterward: a kind of paradise.

Coffee with SS, much new information about the situation at the Magnetic. I am amazed by my capacity to, with a whirlwind thundering about me, sense nothing, anticipate nothing, fail to see the herd of dinosaurs rocking over the hill. Part of it is innocence, I hope.

Planted two more expensive tree peonies, where I will see them this spring when I walk out the front door.

October 4, 2017

W opened his book tour at Lipinsky, and did a reading with support from balladeers and other storytellers. I rejoice in it all; he is the last person on earth whom success will make an asshole. About fifty alumni rushing up to say how they remember me and how I changed their lives. My first thought, “is someone paying them to do this?” But my second thought was otherwise.


October 3, 2017

Return to classes, triumphant, I think, except that my voice was ruined by the winter flux, which seems to be better this morning. Shelley in one class, Keats in another, the writing of poetry in the third. Discussion of comprehensive exam grades. No failures in our batch.  Night Music rescheduled for February. Uranium 235 proceeding apace, but lacking men. What with two plays and one book, almost too many details to keep up with: a situation long dreamed-of.

Of all the people I know in New York– who were warned by Face Book that I would be there–none bothered to look me up. Some made excuses– “Oh, that weekend is SO crazy. . . I’ll be out of town. . . “ One deals with the truth that nobody wanted to bother.

Tom Petty is dead– a year younger than me.

So, the big Scribner’s New School reading– the take away is that even in that august company I am the best, or at least among the best, and among the few who entirely “get it,” who get what a poet should be and do and for what reasons. And I am surely among the most obscure. What to do with that truth? If I thirty years ago I could have thought of anything but “soldier on,” I would have done it.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


October 1, 2017

Stroll Sunday morning from the hotel to Columbus Circle in the clear autumn light. The Trump-stench hovers over that part of town, but it could almost be forgotten. Horse carts moving up 8th Avenue for their day’s work by the Park. People lament this, but the horses looked happy and fulfilled to me. Huge controversy in Spanish in the shuttle going to the airport. The people behind me were angry that things were scheduled so that they would wait five hours in the airport. They wanted to be taken back to their hotel and be picked up later. Finally, no. I wanted to ask them if they hadn’t, as I had, scheduled themselves. Multiple bloody Marys in the Newark airport.  Wrote on my new play.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

New York 3


September 30, 2017

Dedicated the day to the Metropolitan, which is deucedly hard to get to from this side of the island. Bought Michelangelo’s Notebooks, Spent a good time in the Classical sculpture, which looked so cool, clean, tranquil, and, tranquil, mused upon tranquility. A Chinese woman was abusing her child—she snapped at him, looked around, and when she felt herself unobserved, slapped him viciously across the face. I moved toward her, staring my most teacherly stare. She recoiled, then bent down to the child and pretended to explain patiently the reason she had hit him. I hoped she would attack me, so to learn what happens when one attacks someone your own size. Happy, full day. China’s revenge was to give me a Chinese cabbie on the ride home, who spoke not one word of English. It was excruciating.
          
Evening to the Beckett at Theater Row to see, The Suitcase Under the Bed, short plays by the Irishwoman Teresa Deevy. She is one of the “neglected voices” that the Mint company specializes in reviving. Had I read the pleading producer’s forward before, I might not have gone. Why had I never heard of her, when I am in the top 1%, probably, of those who know the Irish theater? The suitcase under the bed was where her manuscripts lay un-looked at for fifty years. The theater was intimate, the acting good. The plays were, sentimental, modest, well-made, almost exactly what one would have expected.  As for her assertion that they represented the truth of Irish life in her time, who knows? The Irish must have been very innocent.
        
Wrote two poems. My bottom line was that they be better than when we heard Thursday night, and they were.


Rather lovely day wandering around in the Village, both West and East. Sat in the Think Café in the north of the Village, among actors discussing acting, among writers tapping furiously at their lap tops, and where I myself began a new play based on the reminiscences of an old woman I met in the Paramount Bar the last time I was here. Bought a jacket at a military surplus store. Cruised Washington Square, visiting the scene of the Diamond Shirtwaist Fire. A red haired man played a grand piano in the light rain of the Square. Lunch at a sports bar off Astor Place, where cheers went up for one soccer team or the other.  Saw As You Like it at CTC on East 13th. It was radically cut—by ¼, I would think—to accommodate doing it without intermission, I guess. It featured movie star Ellen Burstyn as Jacques, rather a mistake, for she was frail and tentative and it was hard to see exactly how she fit in. Duke Senior and his men were absent, to make way for the love story. It was, all in all, not the ideal rendition. What I remember most was how bad I had to piss when it was over, and the restrooms were packed, and I couldn’t find relief until Bryant Park.  

Friday, September 29, 2017

New York 2


September 29, 2017

Began yesterday with my visit to Bryant Park, mossy green under the brilliant sky. Walked to MOMA, where I was apparently early and people keep shouting at me that this gallery or that was not yet open, but some were, so it was confusing. Gorgeous Max Ernst, kind of sickening Louise Bourgeoise, the permanent galleries, as usual, profound, and the rest largely of the moment. Sat in the garden and contemplated the moving waters. Ate falafel at a deli near the Park. 

Late in the afternoon I began my trek to the New School (which is wonderful, and I wish I had known it when I could have used it). Deep tiredness was on me, and for the first time in my life I suspected I wouldn’t make it if I tried to walk, so took the subway and arrived early enough for a merlot at a sidewalk café on 6th Avenue. Twenty seven poets of some renown gathered in the tiny green room before the reading, passing our books around to be signed by the others. There were famous names: Robert Pinsky, Sharon Olds, Joyce Carol Oates. Our editor started the evening by reading a long poem by John Ashbery, who is in the anthology though recently deceased. It was awful, the poem was, like all Ashbery poems I know, learned, self-satisfied, flat, assuming much and discovering nothing, the conversation of elegant Upper East Side fags over prosecco and hors d’oeuvres. Long boring poems were the rule of the evening, in fact, which began at 7 and ended just before 10. Joyce Carol Oates’ was among the longest and easily the worst, a desiccated and barely imagined diatribe against, of all things, Marlon Brando. I need to teach a class in The Long Poem, which should not be like an unruly lawn, just spreading out in all directions willy-nilly, but like a great tree, growing from a point toward a point with green and solidity between. In all that mass there were four poems worth listening to: mine was one. Mine was also quite the shortest. The audience was huge (about 300) and young and very kind. I prayed our tediousness didn’t set any of them off poetry. What happened afterwards I don’t know, as I was launching toward 14th street and the subway.

         
Wandered Times Square, then back to the Paramount for drinks. Met A, VP of Sales at Casa Dragones, a liquor importer. I noticed him because, though I walk down the streets of New York noticing handsome men, he was the most handsome I had seen all night. Big, blond, a little thick with middle age, he looked like a model for a Join the Marines commercial. He was in fact a Vet, and very much the businessman, and about as right-wing as you’d expect. He buttoned a button that was undone on my shirt. He bought me a drink and showed me his son (in military uniform, at VMI, his own alma mater) and his three wives, all heart-stoppingly gorgeous. The current one is the least gorgeous but the most beautiful, which I said and which he seemed to understand. He said, “You are the one professor I have ever met who was not full of bullshit.” We actually were able to talk a little educational politics. He’s afraid his son is being “brainwashed” by liberal professors, and my response was that liberal professors often take that stand for fear their students are being brainwashed by right wing bigots; it’s all to balance the input, all in genuine concern for the young. This seemed to sound reasonable to him. The bar man cut him off, which angered him and puzzled me, as he wasn’t drunk or disorderly that I noticed. I need encounters like that in my life. I love hotel bars.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

New York 1


September 28, 2017

          Seventeenth floor of the Paramount Hotel. View into the ventilation shaft, as usual. My seat companion for the flight was Brendan, an investor on his way to present his company, Singing Machines, the world’s largest maker of karaoke machines, to a group of investors. The company’s stock fluctuates between 2 and 20 cents, so he thought it might be an excellent buy for me. His knowledge of the markets was detailed and fascinating, but he seemed at the moment slightly diminished from former glory. He sold his two houses and now rotates among the houses of friends. He did not vote for Trump but was glad he won, because Hillary is a murderess. I asked him how he knew this and he said there is a book outlining how all the Clintons’ associates end up dead in mysterious housefires or commit suicide with TWO shots to the dead. This seemed implausible to me, but I realized I had no facts to support my doubt. He was an attractive man and I saw how he might make his way.

          Slightly unpacked, then made for the Iron Bar, which I do because it is, sort of, my local. Waitress Jennifer (from Staten Island, right beside the central fire house) talked to me about the Midwest, which In didn’t understand until I realized the credit card I’d given her is from a bank in Omaha. The city is not packed or frenetic just now, so the tour through Times
was nostalgic.





























Wednesday, September 27, 2017


September 27, 2017

Christine here last night to discuss the production of Night Music over pale wine. Discussion of two different play productions, me correcting proofs on a book– two days of what I thought my whole life would be.

Kent State on the Vietnam War series last night. I was there. It is still a shock, and the shock is made deeper and more hateful by the discoveries of time. Also, Nixon, who I had thought was a smart man blundering into a series of unhappy mistakes, was actually evil and crooked from the first. People said so; I should have listened. He may have been even more evil than Trump. Trump is a stampeding elephant; Nixon was a viper in the grass.

Uncovered unrevised poems from Budapest, Venice, Ireland, with no time today to look at them very deeply.

The day of travel is always upheaval.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


September 26, 2017

Read-through of Uranium 235 in the basement of the Grove Arcade last night. I’d arrived early and had time for a leisurely glass of wine at one of the sidewalk bistros, a lovely ritual which I could pursue almost daily if I set my mind to it. Limpid, sweet, European. The read-through was satisfactory in most every way, and in some cases truly exciting. Several parts written for men are being taken by women–a personnel necessity, I suppose, but one of my pet peeves. Genders are NOT interchangeable, and the play will be marred by this. AG seems less agitated by it than I, so I’ll look the other way and let it drop. I am always grateful and amazed when people take their time to say my lines and actualize my vision.
\
Tumultuous creative writing class yesterday. Chaos or excitement? I’m not sure. Superb poetry class, in which I introduced Shelley to general approbation. Today I need to get 58 things done in order to fly off to New York tomorrow. I tick them off one by one.

September 25, 2017

Rose ghostly early, caught up on bills, changed out the litter box that we were using when we moved here. Of course the new is not so good as the old.

No day goes by that our President does not embarrass himself and his country. Anyone else would have been impeached before Inauguration Day.

People getting into a sweat about what other people do during the National Anthem. Always a disaster to worry about other people’s symbolism.

My handsome leopard frog leaps into the pond with a squeak when I so much as walk out onto the terrace. This is disheartening. Who does he think dug the pond for him?

Sunday, September 24, 2017


September 24, 2017

Theater last night, Lucia’s new play, one of the local pieces which I can, at last, unreservedly praise. The perspectives in the two person play are not equal– one is clearly right, the other clearly wrong– but the writing does not judge between them. Good performances, too. I have a peer. The people in the seat behind me said they saw Washington Place several times, and thought it was the best thing the Magnetic has yet done. AG paid for my drinks. Nevertheless, I was uncomfortable all evening, fearing that to enjoy myself would somehow be a betrayal of SS, not even sure anything I would do or say or feel were applicable to the situation. Wanted to offer my help as the theater moves forward, but ought I? WILL it move forward? No one was talking about “it,” and neither did I, unsure whether I was meant to know or not. But AG has not cancelled tomorrow’s rehearsal, so onward.

Thought of Aunt Barbara. When my cousin Diane, her daughter, was not much more than a baby, Barbara and Diane and I were blackberry picking. Diane (being a baby) was smashing berries and upturning her bucket and not doing it “right.” I wanted to point this out, so our outing would not be futile. I realized that Diane was Barbara’s daughter, and so she would be predisposed to be on her side, but also that I was right, and trusted an adult to be on the side of the right disinterestedly.  So I made my complaint. My aunt’s response was, “You are hateful.” That was more than sixty years ago–perhaps I was six-- but it is as vivid as this moment. I stopped at the time and considered, Am I hateful? Have I been hateful all day, or was it just that one comment? I realized I had been foolish to think that she would take my side against her baby, but I had thought she might, given the reasonableness of my stand. I wonder today if “You are hateful” was her final and permanent evaluation of me. I can’t think of much I did to encourage her to change her mind. She is alive. She can be asked, but I do not have the courage. Perhaps she does not remember at all. Who ever means to be hateful?

A little more planting. Watching the orange fish in the pond circle slowly, glowing torpedoes, growing without aid from me.

Saturday, September 23, 2017


September 23, 2017

Office hours yesterday were taken up by visitation from three students, S, C, Quinn, who pretty much “just wanted to chat” and who each was a unique blessing, cheery and smart and candid. I counted them against great swaths of the Darkness, and they came out ahead. S was Exploration; C was Music; Q was Performance.

Hugely active day. I was digging in the garden before full light. Cultivated. Cleaned out about an acre of crabgrass (grown over mulch, so came out fairly easily with a rake), planted Dutch iris, German iris, double snowdrops. Lately I have been afflicted with tiredness coming on fairly quickly–one flight of stairs, a couple of heavy lifts– which does not involve pain or shortness of breath but simply a leaden, pervasive exhaustion. I thought this would get in the way of gardening.  The tiredness did come on, but did not grown any worse after the first iteration, so on I went. Less tired now than I would be at the end of an ordinary, not-much-physical-exertion day. After gardening I went to the studio and painted well, but no one was climbing the stairs, and I left a little discouraged. Second bout of gardening ended by rain.

Tried to buy a ticket to the Magnetic for tonight. The web page was out, and when I warned SS about it, he emailed back that he had been relieved by the Board of his duties. Impossible to know what to say on the basis of limited information, except that I had the impression he did 85% of the work done there, and what will they do now? Who is the Board and what were the issues? Asheville Arts organizations have a history of Boards turning on founding or dynamic directors, and it has seldom turned out well. Though, it must be said, sometimes. What does this mean for me, who have two plays scheduled there in the next four months, and hope for more in the future? What of him? Is there another theater to run? Should there perhaps be one? Can I get submerged in all that again? I did finally get a ticket for tonight– the piece looks boring online, so perhaps it is wonderful on stage–and maybe I’ll discover more. You never know whether to reach out to someone in this situation or to leave him alone. Even if it were me, I wouldn’t know which to prefer.

TG sends a touching blurb for Peniel. Realized I expect that, too, to fall through in some presently unforeseen way.

September 22, 2017

Woke the last two mornings with a recently rare sense of physical fullness and well–being.

Autumn. Cleaned the pond filter. Raked fallen branches out of the murky water, watching the dim silvery flash of fish beneath.

Friday, September 22, 2017


September 21, 2017

Summer turns its back. Autumn knocks at the door looking exactly like summer. The volunteer goldenrod are in misty gold bloom (the goldenrod I planted elsewhere having vanished long ago). I keep wanting to dig in the garden, but arrive home at the wrong time, or too tired.

Odd class day. There is one student (such students are always female in my experience) who has taken it upon herself a tone of imperious disrespect, like a judgmental older sister tired of my missing the mark all the time. If only you would do THIS we might learn something. . . if only you would explain the assignment in THIS way we might understand. A few days ago it was her literally shrieking at me, red-faced, at the end of class, “Grammar is subjective! Grammar is subjective!” I had told them that the grammar of a poem would reveal its meaning. Yesterday it was. . . I’m not sure what. . . the fact that we had a paper due on Monday, and that I had thought assigning the paper and giving the topic and putting it on the syllabus was enough. My program of underexplaining is quite deliberate, giving the student greatest leeway to exercise personal inspiration and individual slant, though I do therein admittedly neglect the student 1) too lazy to think for herself, 2) too frightened of doing it “wrong” to dare any personal commitment, 3) who has somewhere obtain a sense of entitlement whereby she comes away with a sense of grievance of things are not directed specifically to her expectations.  I also resent time spent in class talking about the conduct of the class. Just listen, and all will be well; I know from the testimony of generations that this is right. This student is unusually snotty about it all. After class Wednesday a crowd of my students followed me down the hall, and they did so to praise the class and my handling of it, to say it was their favorite, to say that they loved my lectures and were put off when missy redirected discussion to her anxieties, and what could be done about that? Two young women in the lobby said, “We can’t believe the disrespect she’s showing you.” I had interpreted the student’s attitude to grade-panic and perhaps mishandled humor; the class saw disrespect, and now I do too. We’ll see what onslaught comes today. I suggested that they could say things to her that I could not.


September 20, 2017

Long session with RS last night getting Peniel formatted. It’s exactly the sort of thing that used to drive me into passions of impatience, though this time I found it interesting, and had to get up and pace around the room only once. I think it’s going to be sort of glorious. I think it was that activity which gave me extraordinary dreams. I went to a Rock concert where the performer was godlike, and above him hovered a gigantic silver airship that changed shapes. The show was spectacular, and when it was over the performer collapsed on stage and the airship fell out of the sky, and you knew there would never be such a performance ever again. But as I was going home– I must have been slow for the parking lot was empty– a man stopped me. He held a package in his hand. When I said, “That was wonderful. Godlike. We’ll never see the like of it again,” he said, “Not true. I’m  -----‘s former manager, and I have chosen you.” The package in his hand was the collapsed airship, which began to grow and ascend into the sky as we talked.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


September 19, 2017

Tried not to resent going to school only for a meeting, and going early to get some work done, and discovering that half that work could not be done because others were behind in theirs. Mostly sleep other than that. I’d look more deeply into why I’m always exhausted if it were uncomfortable in any way, but the exhaustion is kind of sweet and the sleep is sweet and the waking is sweet, so motivation lags. B is pregnant, so my sister is to be a grandmother, and I a great uncle. I foresee it is a girl.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


September 18, 2017

Amazing day in class. Faust at 8 AM, then Tintern Abbey, then in the afternoon my creative writers in an odd passion over the novel Invisible Monster, which I thought was monstrous but they felt pretty much identified their lives. Had a discussion in which it was clear they felt– to a one, if I could judge by the nodding of heads–defeated by the crass consumerism and emptiness of modern times. Helpless, hopeless. Overwhelmed by the sheer power of hideous things. I felt like a child among cynics. But some wise spirit entered me and I read them Yeats’ “Lapis Lazuli” and Rilke’s “An Archaic Torso of Apollo.” The room went silent. Somebody said, “Well, that’s the real stuff,” as indeed it is. I wonder if I turned the day or if they just perceived a gap between us that could not be bridged. Three were weeping when I was done with “Lapis Lazuli.” Bless the greats. Bless the ancients. Bless wisdom which does not change. Gave them a prompt to respond to Jarrell’s “The Woman at the Washington Zoo.”

Whoring for blurbs for Peniel.

Monday, September 18, 2017


September 17, 2017

Schutz in church, then iced coffee with D and his son M who, over the last few years, has turned into D. Really quite lovely. You don’t usually see such playful harmony between a man and his teenaged son. I am to be the mentor of his senior project (writing a novella) at Irwin High. Why is fantasy the go-to of  beginning writers these days? Lack of rules? No real necessity of observation? The example of cinema, where there is almost nothing else? One reads and critiques, trying to find the proper admonition. Read Faust for the morning class. Each time it seems more brilliant. Watched French porn and could actually follow the conversation.

Saturday, September 16, 2017


September 16, 2017

Morning at the studio, where I painted well and sold a hummingbird on silver mesh background to two girls from Knoxville, one of whom wanted the painting for her grandmother. Some writing, mostly sleep and the longing for sleep. Meant to garden, but it didn’t happen. Part of the longing for sleep us fantastic, epic dreams. Giant spider haunted my living room window last night, right in the exact center, big as a fist.

September 15, 2017

Cable guy arrives, the Cable company finally agreeing that my problem lay outside the automatic menu of inquiries. He was a charming red-neck from Leicester, who took time to play with the cats. They send sweet boys on purpose so there’s nobody to blow up at. Modem fried, cablebox antique, some doo-dad loose on the utility pole. Oddly my clock radio was stricken too. The radio plays but the time is 6 hours off and cannot be reset.

Long talk with Mike, who wants a recommendation for a Fulbright to Germany. That is exactly right for him. We talked of Donne and MacDonald and Goethe, but mostly of religion. He had to fight for liberal perspectives I got pretty automatically by growing up in the UC of C.  Christ’s death necessary for atonement of our sins? Itself a grotesque and sinful thought. Sin? Not a philosophical concept but a whip in the hand. Hell? A fable told by scoundrels in order to control children. I landed soft; he came slamming in like a comet.

Constant prayer: Lord, allow me to love you.

September 14, 2017

Bought a keyboard for the Magnetic, unable to see how they could have rehearsed music in the past without one.

Smiling Mike in my 8 o’clock–who wants me to read Phantasties-- confides that he wants to drop put of school because he is not being challenged, and is forced to do busy work in most of his classes. He has a baccalaureate degree already, and returned to get a teaching license and another degree in English, so my usual advice’‘ No! Stick it out!”–was not sufficient this time. He is a bright and charming boy, and I’ll miss him. He wants to study Donne with me one on one, and I said “yes,” though we’ll see what actually happens. Donne may in fact be the gift I’ve given him.

Brahms at rehearsal last night. Paradise.

September 13, 2017

Cable continues to be out, which means I cannot work from home, and that I have strands of rage to fight through on my way out into the world. The phone reps are given exactly the most provoking thing to say to callers, that we don’t know what’s wrong, can’t tell you when it’s going to be fixed, so just be patient and hang up. My own species of rage would be placated by, “There’s a big old Oak down on Pine Street, and we’re hoping to have the problem solved by Thursday morning.” Just a little hint that they’re actually working on it and not just fielding calls. The damage here was not bad enough to require much intricacy of repair. Or if it was, they should say so. Cable companies, airlines, Congress can’t do anything, or fail to do anything, without everyone’s assuming the worst imaginable dereliction.

Mary Grant, our Chancellor, is resigning to take a better job. I’m truly sorry, and think the campus is as well. She was good for us. I can’t remember the last time I was sorry at the resignation of an administrator.

Like Data the TV robot, I have to remind myself to use contractions.

September 12, 2017

Then tropical storm Irma drove through, switching the power off and on through the night, littering the yard with trees and branches, but leaving me materially unharmed. Trees fell across streets in the night, meaning one had to detour and pick one’s way to one’s destination. Surprised how at sea I am without my cable. Even after a night of storm I assume that the outage afflicts only me, and that if I thought hard enough I could figure how to fix it on my own.

Contemplating deeply and sadly in the trances of the storm. I know the shape of my life, and that it has not changed from the earliest time I was moved to take stock. No effort of will or work or study or faith or patience of fury budged it. It adds credibility to those who argue for fate and pre-determination. Tried to dismay God by saying, truthfully, “I would rather not have bothered.” I’m sure He’s heard that before.


September 11, 2017

Anniversary of the dark time. Trump on the TV cannot even look solemn. He looks like a naughty boy struggling not to cuss or burst into raucous laughter. My students are barely old enough to have this event firm in memory.

Sunday, September 10, 2017


September 10, 2017

Good session at the studio, then preparing the “front matter” for Peniel.

Reading the miseries of my friends on Facebook I call to mind the fact that I never have a sleepless night, almost never have a headache, defecate regularly twice a day, have enough money for ordinary uses. One gathers the blessings, however mundane, however oblique from the fury of the heart.

September 9, 2017

Considered the path of the great storms out of the Atlantic, the videos replaying in my head. A feeling of helplessness, nothing to do to fend them off, too little to do once they have passed through destroying all. I hope I will be shown where I can be of service.

Auditions for Uranium 235 in the morning, disappointing in numbers but not in talent. A thinks we can find a cast, so the mouth of lamentation is shut. SS wants to do Night Music at the Magnetic in January. I am surprised and delighted.

Had an appointment in the evening which I missed because I was engaged in formatting Peniel. The bulk of that is accomplished. More revision and replacing of faulty material than I had anticipated.

The night is alive with insects. I listen hard, wanting to keep them through the edge of the coming cold.

Friday, September 8, 2017


September 8, 2017

All of my friends are younger than I. This is a blessing.

God says, “Have faith.” I answer, “My faith is not strong enough to overcome my experience.”

Blazing brilliant day. Furnace off. Windows back open. We look southwards and expect the hurricane. There is a hurricane behind the hurricane we expect.

Getting Peniel ready, Unnecessarily tedious, but also kind of interesting, and an occasion for revision. Five rejections in a day. This would be just or tolerable only if there were five acceptances on another day.

Thursday, September 7, 2017


September 7, 2017

Addressing myself to formatting Peniel. One bout of confusion and fit of temper followed by another– exactly why I got out of the publishing business. Must frustrate R floating over the ruins of Houston and having real problems. Still, my day wasted for the lack of a three minute tutorial and how to do the task at hand.

Man in the line at the bank looks at me and says, “You have small feet.”

Three out of four projections for Hurricane Irma aim it at Asheville.

Closed the windows yesterday. Turned on the furnace, briefly, today.

Run of good classes, the students present, charming, and engaged.

“The Soul’s Capacity to Bear Sadness” appears in One. Brief editorial quarrel. Writers get mocked for believing their words are sacred. Editors too often get a pass for thinking their judgments are so.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


September 5, 2017

Though I probably intended something else, repotted the houseplants, acquired two more. Luxuriating in the exceptionally long weekend. Watching video of another killer storm raging in from the sea, Irma allegedly the most powerful in recorded history. An area the size of Georgia whirling with tornado-force winds. With the Lord is terrible majesty.

Monday, September 4, 2017


September 4, 2017

I recall when I was at the studio Saturday, I was filled with such deep and perfect pleasure being there and working. The painting was going well, too. Will try to get back today and look. Received my new lease which I may have immediately lost.

Turned a dispiriting heap of red and yellow tomatoes into a soup delicious beyond my imagining. Nothing in it but bacon, tomatoes, onion, garlic, a tiny film of olive oil. Note to self: Open a guy restaurant, where you throw in whatever you have without measuring.

Read the Moses and the Burning Bush passage in church. Love that. God is such a tease. Shocked by a letter from RS in Houston–still submerged Houston-- saying my book is on track, and that it is I, actually, who am holding it back a little, having not received an earlier email with instructions in it. Need to do that. Need to clean the pond filter. Need to deliver imagined paragraphs of my Portage County story onto paper. Need to dig the fall gardens. Need to give thanks for days each of them better than its corresponding day last week. That’s how we measure in an imperfect world. Maud watches Trump on TV for a minute, lays her head against my arm in a gesture of sadness and exhaustion. Even the cats--

September 3, 2017

Note on my Facebook page this AM:

Esteemed Professor,
We don't actually know one and other personally, so I find it if not prudent, than cautiously familiar to tell you that you have remained a huge influence and inspiration for me, ever since I took your intro to English poetry class. 
Which was 2000ish.
I was close to A for many years, and if knowing her through the auspice of loving one of her daughters complicated my relationship to her, it never complicated my understanding of her gigantic talents.
She had only a few close peers, and you were one.
So, by the time I was in your class, I'd already had the chance to come to respect you socially. Which allowed me to put more of myself into the class than an average Liberal Arts major.
My relationship with academia is complicated and school was a place I had trouble fitting in, neither with my peers nor my role as a pupil.
You are a person who helped me stay dedicated to my own growth, and growing my talents.
I think fondly of how deeply that class impacts my life.
It feels simple and privileged to have fallen in love with poetry and the muse in such a bucolic setting.
I only hope to be a better and better acolyte of inspiration.
Happy Birthday, many laudations and toasts in your honor!
-OJB.

I remember the young man as being heartsick, sincere, and, at that point, almost ludicrously beautiful.

Ate at a barbecue place yesterday. Talked with me neighbor, a red giant speech pathologist who hates barbecue but comes there for a peerless chicken sandwich. My waitress is studying languages, and worried about her Japanese because she quarreled with her Japanese friend. As she passed me my bill she said, “I gave you a friends discount, to thank you for Readings in the Drama class all those years ago.” It is sometimes necessary to hear these things--

Sunday, September 3, 2017

September 2, 2017

Talking on the phone when I realized a mantis seven inches long was attached to my study window screen, where she had probably come to avoid the heavy rain. Accepted this as a blessing.

Merry birthday do at the new AC Hotel downtown, at their roof bar which, evidently, had only opened on that night. Beautiful. Reminded me of Topkapi lifted into the air. The usual crew, plus Tom and Sam and Richmond and Heather. I went away happy, and that much happier suspecting that everyone had had a good time, and that I had supplied that time. One notes that reciting poetry in a silly faux-Chinese accent is always a hit. When we walked up the to desk the greeter said “I had you in Humanities.” I had to pause a minute to sense whether that was an accusation, praise, or the iteration simple fact.

Every time someone mentions Humanities, I put a needle in a mental image of the Boy. I pray I am alert to the moment and the circumstance of his humiliation. I sort of regret resigning my opportunity to be the cause of it, but sort of not.

But, anyway, happy birthday to me.


September 1, 2017

Dawn on my birthday. Great wind, a blast of light and a pop as a transformer explodes nearby. Circe looks at me at though it were my doing.

Drinks after Cantaria last night. New people in the chorus, and for that we rejoice, except the music for Pride is exactly that of which I was mortally tired at the end of last year. I will not be singing, so I can sail through for this while. A sub-group has formed to do the jazzy pop numbers, with choreography, it is alleged, but if I think that will save me from the music I’d rather not do, I’m probably wrong.

It is early. I don’t know what to do with my day, except to teach my classes: Candide in one, Milton in another.

Thursday, August 31, 2017


August 31, 2017

Browsing the Internet, came across a video of a Kiss-cam ranging across the crowd in a baseball stadium. It zeroed in on a handsome man and the beautiful woman beside him. But it had made a mistake. When the man noticed the camera, he turned to the bearded man beside him, and the two male lovers kissed in front of the crowd, which sent up a shaking roof of cheers. I burst into tears–of gratitude, finally– almost unable to believe that this has happened in my time. Blessed, blessed, blessed.

Began the Brahms Requiem at choir. Holy. The Depot afterwards last night. We met the three burly men at the next table –Amy knew one of them–and I must say it has been a while since I’ve had such a good time. We were drunk and silly and affectionate, and I wondered why every hour could not be that merry, or some portion of that merry. The bartenders gave me a sensational birthday present, of rare things bought at yard sales through the years. A plaster Siva I will especially prize.

Realized I have a vitamin D deficiency. That sound is my slapping my head at the stupidity and simplicity of it all.
August 30, 2017

My frogs leap into the pond when I come out onto the side porch, fifty feet away. I think this is arbitrary and ungenerous– as if I were a threat to them! As if I weren’t the one who created their world!

Good classes this far. Several are in two of the classes and there is overlap of subject matter and I’m at pains not to repeat myself too completely. Though I find if I ask a question of them from matter presented one hour earlier, they don’t know or have forgotten the answer.

Student Michael wants me to read MacDonald’s Phantasties with him. Doing so, remembering nothing from the time I read it with Lynda S back in high school. One sees there the root of all things Lewis.

Exhausted afternoons, a giant nap between the actions of morning and evening.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


August 28, 2017

Watched the following thought creep through my mind: St. Julian Press is in Houston. The effect of all this hurricane, therefore, is to delay my book. . . .

A student from my last Humanities class, and a student who just signed in to creative writing visited me today, candid and joyful, both of them. I think they are meant by the gods to sweeten my day, and they do, when I allow them to break through the apprehensiveness and integuments of resentment and defense. The first boy studies “pure math” and revels (correctly) in the infinity of options before him. The second boy says that theater should be the center of his ambition, but that the real center of it is to be a great dad, as his own father is. If I have any power to bless, I aim them at their backs.

Made delicious chili. Even then not all the tomatoes were used.

Sunday, August 27, 2017


August 26, 2017

Hurricane in Texas. Great cloudy calm in my garden, except for the tomatoes, which put forth red and yellow fruits in a frenzy. I recall Marquez’s “Cease cows!  Life is short!” Cannot look another tomato sandwich in the face.

Beautiful dream at morning: I was hired to oversee the planting of a vast terraced garden, attached to some kind of institute. The person who hired me turned into a goose in the middle of the dream, and I had to think of ways to communicate effectively with a goose. I wanted especially to plant a very tall flower with a vivid umbrel at the top– sort of like a mix between and ironweed and a touch-me-not. The name of the plant began with “G.” Maybe I will find it. The people in the dream knew what I was talking about. That is going to be my motto: “The people in the dream knew what I was talking about.”

Brief, rather joyful visit to the studio. Did a rose and a Kentucky warbler. Sometimes S loves me, like today. Wish I could control that a little better.

Cleaned the pond filter. A handsome young bullfrog rocketed free and curved his way back to the water like a race car.

Saturday, August 26, 2017


August 25, 2017

Auditioned for a play at UNCA, opposite an accomplished young man, whom I think I frightened a little. My lines were those of a spent and despairing old man trying to explain to a sanguine young man his reasons for wanting to die. I had said every one of the lines in real life, to myself, in prayer, or to others when the subject came up, they probably thinking I was speaking in the abstract.

First Cantaria rehearsal of the new season. We are chaotic ninnies who somehow sound pretty good. Who knows how that happens? My nerves came away jangled. Too much explaining, maybe.

Friday, August 25, 2017


August 24, 2017

A few minutes at the studio– came home when the cleaning lady texted that the doorknob had fallen apart. So far, the fix achieved by tightening screws seems to be working. Rent at the studio being raised for the first time since I moved to the Phil Mechanic. Woke with agonizing leg cramps, which reached briefly the point of “unbearable.” Again, the problem of having to bear what cannot be borne.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


August 23, 2017

I have been a poet for 51 years. Here is the thing to be grateful for: I still am, and better than ever.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

August 22, 2017

Peaceful darkness, the bugs making their little chirps in the foliage.. Someone is learning both the harmonica and the recorder. Sound like they’re playing right outside my window. Perhaps they are. I haven’t looked.

Amazing day, in that I spent most of it in an extended fantasy, so sweet I didn’t want to leave, even when my daylight self began to be creeped out a little. Am I trying to change the narrative at this late date?

I realized what to do to destroy the Boy, how it would have the advantage of being both unanswerable and just. Oddly, even as the revelation came, the inclination departed. Once the weapon was in my hand I heard myself saying “Eh, why bother?” Most amazing. Because of my world view, I think of this as an admonition from the world of Spirit. Then I wonder why he received no admonition from the world of Spirit when he was about to wrong me. Perhaps he did, and simply ignored it. In any case, having the power at long last allowed me to shrug it off. It is a mistake, I know, for there is scarcely anything his fall wouldn’t benefit. But not me. Not this time. The fury is gone, and with it the energy. I still look for justice elsewhere.

Neither my students nor I will be prepared for class tomorrow.

Monday, August 21, 2017


August 21, 2017

Along with ten million others, took in the eclipse. Picked glasses up at the university, then came back and watched it with DJ at 62. Quite amazing, though we didn’t have totality here. The strangeness of the twilight, I realized at last, was because it came from everywhere at once, and didn’t merely flow from the darkening east. Memorable.

Heroic weeding Sunday, maybe too much, for I’m sore and back in muscle cramp mode, which I had left behind for long enough to be taken, this time, unaware.

First day of class. So far, good enough. Thought Sam might appear. My students gladdened my heart.

Sunday, August 20, 2017


August 20, 2017

So for a week I have been immersed in imaginary worlds, doing important revisions or completions of Night Sleep, The One with the Beautiful Necklaces, and Sam-sam. The energy of writing and revision is the energy that goes into journaling, apparently. I’d rather be writing the novels. Steady, if slow rise in my spirits since the bottom, which came soon after the return from Ireland. Reason for ascent? Nothing–nothing actually changed except maybe that the writing has been going well. My damnable resilience, which, like hope, is the last affliction. Unexpected pleasure from making a vast pot of chili/stew from my own eggplant and my own whopping harvest of red and yellow tomatoes. Cleaned the pond filter and found a minnow that was flat out pink. Dredging up old manuscripts, which are by and large good, but the problem now was the problem then–what to do with them? How to bring them to conclusion? Pink hibiscus. White swamp hibiscus. Cosmos and cornflower.

Monday, August 14, 2017

           
August 14, 2017

Distant thunder.

Departmental retreat. Things change, and I let them flow through my hands, assuming I will not be there to be affected when the changes kick in.

The juggernaut of events rolls past the point where I feel I can have any useful thing to say, any complete understanding. Here’s a dilemma. I believe in Free Speech. I believe there is either Free Speech or there is not, and that cherry-picking– THIS free speech but not THAT free speech-- makes the light go out all at once. I do not believe Hate Speech is essentially different from Free Speech, however lamentable, however jaw-droppingly ignorant. I do not believe that hurt feelings, or even righteous outrage, is the red line that ends Free Speech. This is a conviction I barely have the courage to express, for there is dogma on the left as well as dogma on the right, and one treads carefully. When I reprehend an opinion I hear expressed publically, I assume the remedy is education– somehow to grab someone at the right time in their life and make them justify the things they believe in accordance with reason and Faith and whatever authority rules their hearts. Or, if they are lost, to save those around them by the twin powers of reason and example. I don’t think we can defeat racism– or any other ism– by telling it to shut up. Historical Nazism in Germany would not have been ended by the war, I think, if German citizens had not been dragged to the concentration camps and made to look at the end point of their leaders’ rhetoric, if they had not looked on their ruined cities and seen the outcome of racial delusion. I think our new brand of it has been dealt a blow by the baboons in Charlottesville showing off in front of the cameras and embarrassing everybody who is not lost in the morass of white supremacist rhetoric.  It could be that my leftist FaceBook feed deceives me, but it seems to me that there must be five hundred people outraged and heart-sore for every white supremacist carrying a torch in Virginia. Is this not, in its way, well? Is this not a kind of victory? I want racism to be talked and reasoned to death, to be outlived by generations untainted by it. I think for it to go underground, unheard and embittered, however satisfying to us personally in the moment, will engender something still filthier down the road.

Watched several hours of night rat shooting on You Tube. Satisfying in ways I dare not explain even to myself.

Went on line to discover what courses I am teaching this semester. Mildly disappointed.

I said in conversation about the teaching of writing that what I stand for in all my disciplines–teaching, writing, acting, painting– is CLARITY. One of my colleagues adds “but there are different kinds of clarity,” intending to excuse the opacity of academic-speak from the rigors of clarity.  Its not being the time nor the place stops me from saying, “No, there are not. Clarity is clarity, and what is obscure or muddled is in error, regardless of the excuses it want to make for itself”  I am such a Platonist. . . .

August 13, 2017

Should I really be sleeping this much?
           


August 12, 2017

Bestirred myself to go with DJ to a recital put on by the Hart brothers at All Souls. It was lovely, the presentation suave, the selections perfect for their voices and the space. Ives' “The Housatanic at Stockbridge” a shocking masterpiece. Constantly reminding myself that there is always something interesting to do. One doesn’t have to be in Dublin. Noticed how many artists think their art is a dying art– Lieder is a dying art, theater is dying, painting is dead. Yet we trundle on.  Refugees from Charlottesville at the studio.

Friday, August 11, 2017


August 11, 2017

The birthday of Johnny Secaur, the kid who lived across the street from me for a while on Goodview. I remember his birthday. I remember he tried to grow radishes in a box. It worked.  He made sculptures out of soap and glued them to rocks. He moved to 1117 Lower Drive in Kent. I thought we’d be friends forever.

Napped on the couch. Dreamed that I had driven a copy of Nimmo’s Quay to the Druid in Galway. I was the very first to arrive in an immense parking lot, that was sort of under water and sort of wasn’t. I delivered the script, but when I tried to find the truck I had driven, I couldn’t find it. Daunting, because I thought I’d parked it precisely where it could be found easily again. Plus, I had to find it before the sea rose and washed it away.

After Washington Place in Omaha, three directors asked to see it. Not one of them read it after it was sent. Some theater guy in Illinois begged to read the Lincoln trilogy, underlining I Promise to Read it.  He never did. JB in New York agreed– or asked, I forget which-- to read new plays, which I sent, and he has not read one of them. I do know this is the proximate cause of the Great and Everlasting Stall, but short of assassination or arson, I do not know how to hammer past it. Send periodic notes, “You promised to read. You will never regret reading”? Hold loved ones for ransom? Ignited by receiving today a rejection from a small press that took 13 months to respond to NSDL, and clearly had, in all that time, not opened the file.

Some time at the studio, mostly wasted. Flocks of people fleeing from the heat in Florida. Lost important keys.

Binchois on the CD

Half thought to audition for Montford’s Othello, till discovering it was a vanity project to show that a woman can play Othello. A woman can say the lines, of course, but beyond that, no. All the work that goes into an honest production pretty much wasted on a stunt. Do I think all gender-blind casting is a stunt? I pretty much do, but it’s because I tend to be evidence based in my thought, and I never saw such an experiment that came near working. I never saw such an experiment except that the ONLY thing you thought about was how well or ill the person was filling the part designed for someone else. Saw V Redgrave in The Tempest at the Globe, and she was a great actor but a mediocre Prospero– even ignoring the fact that she had to go to the back every now and then to have her lines whispered to her. OK, men can be a scream as Lady Bracknell, and I can imagine a killer Julia Caesar. But otherwise– Why don’t they let me play in the NBA? I can dribble; I can shoot a basket.

AG is to direct Uranium 235. Allowed to think of it as a choice, but the choice was actually that or cancel. It will be fine. I always liked AG and miss working with him.

A series of face-slaps recently. I should be used to it- and I AM, actually, but amazed, like Guildenstern at the opening of R&G Are Dead that the same damn thing can keep happening, the same wry tone be struck, with such unnatural and deadening consistency.

I look up, and it’s evening—

Binchois, like the calling of a seabird. . . .

August 10, 2017

Skin of my hand whitening and peeling off, like little bits of frost. It’s always something.

Finished Nimmo’s Quay, realizing it’s the third version of the play I pretty much always write in or coming home from Ireland– where the American meets and loses the love of his life in Ireland. Wonder where THAT comes from?

Thursday, August 10, 2017


August 9, 2017

Cool morning. Turned down (by my count for the 26th time) for a state arts grant. Two girls from downstate got them . I can hear the conversation now: “Isn’t it time for some women’s voices?” That are bad, that we will never hear from again, but at least it’s better than giving one to him.

Letter from Daniel Rakov saying that The Great Comet, which gave every indication of running forever, will close before Labor Day, torpedoed by the controversy surrounding the naming of Mandy Patinkin to play Pierre. Patinkin did something to irritate someone, I forget what, and now the producers think that the controversy will not allow them to fill key cast openings. The letter reads a little like strategy to terrify troublemakers into line, but if it tells the truth, and unless things work in ways I don’t anticipate, what I thought would be a financial triumph for me will leave me with a loss of 3/4 of my investment. On a hit show, for a while the biggest on Broadway. It could be that I don’t understand the financial process and that everything will be well. Generally the universe makes me pay for each hopeful anticipation.

Will probably finish Nimmo’s Quay today, based on notes I took for two concluding scenes while in the Racquet Club café. Each time a little bell of joy goes off at a really good line or a really profound shade of meaning, I remind myself that quality has been, by and large, irrelevant to my career as a writer, and perhaps to the art of literature as now practiced in America. Having done the best work means practically nothing. The odd thing is that when I gather the courage to say this publicly, people nod as if to say everybody but me knew this all along.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


August 7, 2017

The natural fall of these summer days is: bed late, sometimes after midnight; up early, often before 5, off to the gym, writing, errands, studio; heavy nap around noon. Up again at 3 PM, write until I can’t anymore, then some TV, then bed around midnight. Today it was the Racquet Club and then getting both cars inspected, then the making of eggplant chili. Stalled in the second act of Nimmo’s Quay.  General frustration, like a kind of heavy lace collar, chaffing and ridiculous.

August 6, 2017

Day of the atom bomb.

Spent some time in the studio, getting rid of the bad feeling that haunted me there yesterday.

If one door had been left open, if one gate–even one–had been left unlocked, one bar of the cage loosened, I would ne'er have striven as thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

August 5, 2017

Calm morning outside (after tempestuous rains) though something was going on within, for I woke breathless, agitated, and disoriented. Whatever struggle I had in dreams did not follow me out. I think the illness still affects me in ways I am failing to interpret coherently.

Harvested quantities of eggplant, began to think of ways to cook them all. Is there eggplant fudge?

Theater at the Magnetic last night. It made an odd juxtaposition with the theater I saw in Galway and Dublin, and the effort to define the differences is filling up the dark of the morning. All the theater in Ireland was excellent even when the plays were not themselves very good. The works that were not very good were still Of A Piece, everywhere the same quality, everywhere informed by the same recognizable imaginative energy-- their second-rateness an overall second-rateness, a statement achieved, a gesture fluid and complete if not transcendent. In the excellent pieces, the gesture was transcendent. “Wholeness” seemed to be the basic quality from the worst to the best. The play I saw last night– called Six Knots– was not bad, but neither was it whole. Sometimes it sailed ahead, sometimes it jerked and wobbled like a kid on training wheels. Once I lit upon this truth, I realized that was what ails most original work that does not quite succeed in Asheville, at the Magnetic and elsewhere. The limbs are not pulled together into a single body. The play was likeable–the end twist was especially satisfying– but it rambled across the stage like a hedgehog, all bristles and protuberances, sometimes flashing with wit, sometimes going a page or so without a single line that needed to be kept. Some of this may be the fact that it was still in previews. Some of it may be that the Magnetic’s generous custom is to allow works on stage when the playwright thinks they’re ready, not when they actually are. Most of it was uncertainty in the writing. Why? Is playwriting taught in some significantly different way in Ireland than it is here? I realized that if the playwright came to me for help, I would go through the piece with him, marking the lines that sag or fail to contribute, the implication being that a lovely design is just marred here and there by accidents his ear did not catch. But would that be the truth? Are lines almost automatically impeccable when the inspiration is impeccable? I will probably teach playwriting at the university one more time. I have one more time to get it right. In addition, I seem to hit shows, invariably, on the night of the Cackling Showboat, the one in the first row who shrieks piercingly, indiscriminately, often prematurely at EVERYTHING, thus commandeering the experience of the entire audience, and making it little more than a referendum on–for or against–her own. I heard her conversation afterwards, and apparently it’s quite conscious. She noted with indignation that she was getting corrective glances from her neighbors. ANYWAY, the local theater experience is especially challenging, partially because one feels responsible, in a way; partially because it is not always possible to tell what people meant, and, if they fail, whether their available resources failed or they simply meant the wrong thing. Perhaps I should have stopped the playwright last night and said, “At three or four moments, this is masterful.,” hoping he might get the full point.

Here I’ve worked myself into a lather and the cafés aren’t even open.

On this date in 1998, Ellen and I and David Wingate and a Honey whose name I have forgotten opened Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the green door. Oh, our ambitions then! The energy I seemed to have!

The day has become supremely bright and cool and clear. One wants simply to sit in a chair and stare.

August 4, 2017

Awoke from a dream in which I had gone downtown to apply for a grant for $2500 to start an arts magazine. “Downtown” in this case was a diaphanous, crystalline web high in the air, where people had offices like starts scattered in a silvery sky. I was aware I didn’t really need the grant, but I had not been downtown in a long while. . .

Thursday, August 3, 2017


August 3, 2017

Towhee interrogating in the morning dark.

Starting through the mass of accumulated mail, ½ of which can be tossed at the outset. Duke Energy says I used half the energy this summer as I did last. Who knows?
I sit brooding in the dark—

People ask “Did you have a wonderful time in Ireland?” and I say “YES!” But did I? I was sick, clearly or underneath, mildly or fiercely, the whole time. I did have two moments in Dublin when I wept with the old joy, danced with the old exultation. But the rest– I feel like an old bear at riverside, dipping his paw into the stream of experience, hoping as often as possible to haul in a fat memorable salmon. Maybe I’m too close to it still. Let it unbundle and spread out.

I'm treating my present almost ludicrous exhaustion as a reaction to yesterday’s immunization.

This day, weather-wise and in appearance, has been perfect for my nature. Bright but dappled, coolish-warmish. I visited Zach, did a little shopping, went to the butcher’s and bought meat which disgusted me when I got it home, lay down on the couch for a moment to absorb the perfection of the day. Hours later, after many fitful but charming dreams, I began a vast dream which stands to my waking eye now in vibrant clarity. I was dressed as I remember from my youth, white t-shirt, cut-off jeans shorts. A companion and I were high on a mountain road, the mountains very high indeed, but still covered in forest. We had stopped for a moment, after having, apparently, been riding our skateboards along the mountain road. Here and there in the distant forests were glimmers of paleness, gigantic works of art set up in almost inaccessible places.  I began telling my companion of my friend Nick, how I had followed him as had done the paintings from inspiration and almost inconceivable labor high up on the edges of the world. My companion began to grin. I said, “What?”
“We all know the story. We all know YOUR story, how you made that incredible art, crawling from crag to crag with a paintbrush in your teeth–“ as he went on, “Nick” began to vanish from memory, as if I had in fact made him up, and I began to wonder if it all had been me from the first, and I had invented Nick to shield me from the immensity of the thing I had done.

August 2, 2017

Woke feeling myself, and even better than myself, as though a great cleansing had happened in the night.

Spent yesterday morning arguing with the Obstacle Nurse at MAYHEC, who snippily informed me that I could have none of the things (such as a prescription refill) that I had by the end of the day. I want to call her back and say, “I was right all down the line, wasn’t I? You just wasted our time.” I do turn into kind of a prick pretty quick in situations like that. I start to investigate, but then I think, “Your patience in other matters earns you this.”

I knew I was sick when, on the plane watching Beauty and the Beast with no sound, I wept uncontrollably at the Prince’s restoration scene. I thought of my mother. Why couldn’t magic winds have come out and lifted her up?

First thing in the morning, the washing machine blew a gasket, or whatever caused a flood on the kitchen floor. I put my recovery and my back-homeness to the test by driving to Lowe’s to get a new one before the floor was even dry. The walk from the front door to Major Appliances was almost not doable. Bought it from a man named Nureyev. A UNCA colleague was standing by to counsel in favor of the stainless steel hoses.

Visit with the doctor, got pneumonia vaccine and a blood test. Considered the possibility that what I’ve been calling cellulities is something else, since the leg is never red or hot–though it usually was back when this round of attacks began. Dr guessed bronchitis. I didn’t think so– but who am I?

Supper with DJ. I ate about 1/4 of it.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


August 1, 2017

I don’t sleep well on the first night home, and I didn’t sleep well last night; A kind of Irish advertising film keep playing in my head, I think related to the cellulitis which I still fight, and which often, if it gets bad enough, has a hallucination phase. In some ways it’s the worse part: looped vivid hell without escape.

Of course, when my plane arrived the limo had not shown up. Even when I PAY people to take care of me it’s a fail. If I could just have slipped into a car. . . if I could just have gotten home without incident, feeling crap-like as I did. . . .Derek the redneck taxi driver rescued me for a neat $60. Texted the limo driver this AM; he had forgotten to write it down.

When the light came up I saw that the pond filter was clogged. Went out and cleaned it, and that much normal activity made me feel better.  My cosmos are seven feet tall. Something yellow is blooming behind the cosmos. That’s what I could see by the first light of morning. Pulled out some walnut saplings, by the end of which action I was exhausted and slept all afternoon. Still quite sick. Circe’s welcoming-home love is almost unendurable.

The painting I bought from Trinity Gallery is by Paul Proud and called Distant Light.

Monday, July 31, 2017


July 31, 2017

Park Hotel, at the rim of the airport. Just recovering from a severe bout of cellulitis, fever, chills, annihilation for a few hours, rocking on the train from Dublin at interesting levels of misery. Have slept memorably, though, and feel ready for the homeward effort. Cabbie who took us from Limerick took 30 euro to bring us to the wrong hotel. Forty euro to get that righted. Second cabbie told of missing a flight because he was locked in a service station toilet.  L & J kept getting messages from Delta that they didn’t have tickets. That’s not exactly what was meant, but of course Delta put it in the most terrifying way possible, I suppose to show off their power. They walked to the airport, as you can do from here, and were told three different things by three different people, but I think they are assured of actual, if wretched, seats. A snow of dead skin begins from my sunburnt scalp and face. Sigh.

Saturday, July 29, 2017


July 30, 2017

Finished Friday off in a drunken, happy stupor, in the midst of the Dublin broth I love so well. I had wandered about for a while, feeling sorry for myself, but actually walking into a bar and buying a drink solved that. Ended the day as happily as I had begun it

Went to bed last night sick and feverish with a flare-up of the phlebitis I had apparently not conquered fully in Galway. Things would have been much worse if I had not fooled myself and actually brought the spare bottle of antibiotics, which I thought I’d left at home. Things might have been better had I remembered I’d brought it and completed the cycle the first time. Miserable last night, just dim and spent this gray morning. Goodbye; goodbye Dublin with me in a bad mood and hardly able to lift my luggage. I suppose exiting this way, worrying about my next step, will keep me from being overwhelmed by the emotion of leaving Ireland again.

J&L arrived from their adventures in the North. We toured the city, notably the National Museum, the sort of place for which Jim has boundless appetite. I was getting ill, so that was the excuse for my grumpiness throughout. .

Friday, July 28, 2017


July 28, 2017

Suite 303 of the Clarence is nothing short of majestic.


Across the Street at the New Theater:
She: Did you see Confirmation Suit?
Me: Yes I did. (She sold me the ticket, but. . .)
She: What did you think?
Me: Thin material salvaged by bravura delivery.
She: Behan? Thin material? That’s . . . controversial.
Me walking away thinking, “It’s only controversial because you assume Behan, being Dublin’s darling, will be good all the time. Besides, it’s not even Behan’s in that form, but adapted from prose by somebody else.” Society selects some favorites–on the basis of personality or history-- completely without regard to their actual merit. In Ireland Behan is one.

When I was in the bar of the Project Arts I was surrounded by active and enthusiastic theater people, actors and directors, all chattering about their last roles and the gossip of present productions. It was exciting, joyful. About half of me longed to be among them. About half of that half wondered why I had not sought that energy out at the beginning.

The table where I wrote most of The Beautiful Johanna on Cow Lane is gone. I’m writing most of Nimmos’ Quay in the Clarence, which should last a little longer.

Hiked to the Hugh Lane, saw the pieces that I’ve always loved, and a few, such as “The Tipperary Hurler,” which I love now and didn’t remember.

A day of brilliant light. For the first part of it, wandering through the lively blocks north of the river, I was deeply happy.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dublin 2

July 27, 2017

Up early to a vat of cappuccino and then to the National Gallery. It’s been long enough since my last museum jaunt that I gobbled this one up, especially old favorites that I have seen time after time, and missed in the interval. Thirty seven years ago I saw a fantastic painting of Mary Magdalene ascending to heaven gowned in her own hair. No one knew what I was talking about. Even the museum, when I asked, didn’t know what I meant, but there it was, The Assumption of Mary Magdalene by Silvestro dei Gheraducci. So many circles are closing, Liam in Sligo, the Clarence, the Assumption of Mary in the NGI.

Intermittent, quite ferocious, rain, me seeking out Loretto Maegher, who has moved and renamed her gallery again. Now it is the Trinity. I stopped by and bought a painting, which I will not describe so it’s a surprise again when it arrives in the mail in a week or so. Both she and her sister look great.

J went to Derry and apparently found a raft of relatives sitting ‘round the ancestral graves.

Dublin was to me so much the City of Sex that now that it isn’t, I don’t know what to do with my evenings. Theater, yes, but what then? The idea of dragging myself across Dame Street to the George is almost unendurable. The Dock, the Sauna of the Mysteries, is gone. There are others, and I was a hit there late into my 50's, but– it’s best for imagining now. There are dangers such as Gary the Bad Actor last night, almost certainly a pickpocket, and perhaps not as harmless as the other two to whom I fell victim through the years. Do I even want it? Only in the metaphysical sense– by which I may mean, only from an angel.

In the Norseman in Temple Bar

I will sit in the pub window until twelve beautiful men pass by.
I will measure the consumption of my pint to make this happen–
neither too fast, so the beer gives out before the beauty,
nor too slow, as to leave the intoxicants unbalanced,
the lesser enduring.
Conquer, soul says to heart, the inclination to lament.
all those who passed when nobody was watching.
This task is not suggested in the tourist books.
There is a reason. You were warned. I whisper “beware.”
Yet, one for the curl of his dark brown hair.
One for the flash of his grass-green eye.
Another for his song as he passes by.
One for the strut of a tall red stag.
One for his cock raised like a flag
(Is it the seams of his trousers at play?
a merry memory from yesterday?)
One for his sorrow, one for his mirth.
One who is, for what it’s worth,
so like me once upon a time.
I make it all go neatly in a rhyme,
except for the fragment of my heart
that gull-like haunts the Liffey water, all apart,
with his lone cry to the living and the dead,
and this summer night will not be comforted.

Mandy Patinkin is announced for The Great Comet. That show will play forever.

Saw The Water Orchard at Project Arts, as if Joe Orton and Samuel Beckett, each at the age of fifteen, had crossed swords with Chekov. Witty, enjoyable, the one farce I’ve seen from which I could come away satisfied. It’s still pointless– an absurd problem invented and then solved absurdly-- but an effervescent night of theater. Would it work with actors less dazzlingly accomplished? One last drink at the Garage Bar, which I kind of love.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dublin


July 26, 2017

Rain on a Wednesday morning. On the two days we didn’t have rain, with me running around bareheaded, I got a sunburn unlike any other–not visibly red, but a rather handsome ruddy tan, scalp, nose, forehead and cheeks nevertheless burned and seared and would not stop. “Sun poisoning,” suggested my nurse sister. At Parke’s Castle I literally had to run from shade to shade, having neglected to bring a hat. At least it was a new sensation. Not entirely past, I discovered as I shaved this morning.

County Sligo was our study yesterday, driven about by Mr. Rooney the eager taxi man, to Drumcliffe and Mullaghmore and Glencar, of lake and falling water, and finally to Parke’s Castle, which I hate because of its history, and because it is boring to go there. But I was reminded there of one of my early attachments to Sligo, the fact that on Church Island stood the stronghold of the O’Cuinans, the hereditary bards of the O’Rourkes– and they are the Keenans and they we are what is left of them. I am what is left of them. The last poet. I wanted to blab out all the history and legend I know of the places, building like flood behind a dam, but was reluctant to usurp our kindly guide We have been eating excellently, and finished off with fine Italian in a place now called “Italian Lane.” Will try to reverse the effects of that with a vodka fast in Dublin.

Blue Raincoat is doing its Yeats play series, and of all the things on this planet which I want to see, that stands near–or at– the top, and all I can do is counsel myself to prepare for the next season, as all the ways I could think of to take advantage would be impossible to manage now. The serious-looking Yeats School students throng–or rather pepper– the cafés.  Poor sad Sligo is each time diminished from his liveliness of the time before. David Roche is gone.

L& J had a money crisis. I’ve learned to install many redundant systems to head off such crises, but I suppose I learned to do so by having them. Even a moment’s doubt about finances or lodging can destroy a day abroad. We split up today, they heading for Derry, me for Dublin. I’m not traveling well this time. I wanted to plop down somewhere and soak that one place in. I have not been able to get my energy levels up, and I must see to that, as well as renew about half a dozen prescriptions, when I get home.  I instinctively blame some disorder, but maybe it’s just age. I don’t notice when I travel alone, for then I pick my own pace. Traveling at the rate of a normal person exposes it.

The irony of Dublin is that there’s nothing playing at the Abbey.

Yesterday was mother’s birthday. I wish we could have brought her to Ireland. I came here at first because of her.

What is Sligo to me? I fantasy based on the conviction that the life of my soul–as far back as I can reach it–began along the shores of Lough Gill.

2:30: Checked in to the Clarence, where I will stay four lovely nights. The lobby looks the same as it did when I checked in 37 years ago, where they took a look at my backpack and said, “I’m afraid we’re a little above you, lad,” but took pity on my obvious tourist panic and found me a squalid room in the basement, near the food storage areas. Why my Am Ex didn’t spell equality to them I don’t know. I’ve been “upgraded” to a suite, perhaps in memory of that long ago affront– a suite with windows opening on the Liffey. It has a bidet.  It is the best accommodation I have ever had. I am happy.

Walked around Temple Bar, three minutes in full light, and my Sun Poisoning is ablaze again. Can hardly stand it, though I’ve been indoors for an hour. Who ever heard of this? Bought theater tickets for the next two nights.

9:30. Crossed the street to see Communion Suit at the New Theater, adapted from the work of Brendan Behan. It was very thin material put across by presentation bordering on frenzy. Which is not to say it wasn’t amusing in its way, and that I didn’t think about it leaving the theater, heading to the Song 66 (or something) a Gin Bar on Parliament which used to be something else, where handsome blond Gary tried to seduce me, with such extravagance I guessed he must be a whore, or a mugger, and it takes real blatancy for me to “get it.” I regret not being able to take a pass from a handsome young man at face value any more. I regret, more deeply, that the Irish theater I have seen this season has been experimental in unnecessary and I-thought-we-were-all-through-with-that ways. Gulls float on the Liffey. It is very late and there is still light in the sky.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


July 24, 2017


An Cruscin Lan, Sligo, where I have stayed more than anywhere else in Ireland. Different room, though, in the front overlooking the street. Geraldine had my painting out in the lobby to greet me. It was good to see it again. Two days in Sligo will be hard. It is one of my sacred places, and there will be no leisure to deal with it in that way. We were half way to the most sacred spot of all, the place along the river where I realized my long association with Ireland in lives past, but turned aside to investigate some stone work under the old mill. It’s probably for the best, to leave the holy places untouched. Drive from Galway is more forested than I remember. Lovely time in McGarrigles, which is, as I think of it, my favorite bat in Ireland, and the one with the longest association.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


July 23, 2017

J & L and I hit the town, dining at the King’s Head, eventually hearing Cois Cladaigh at St. Nicholas. Exquisite and bold singing. It’s a relief to have someone to see the sights and encounter the challenges with, if I could get over the conviction that it’s my responsibility that everyone have the right measure of fun.

Regretted turning on the news, for it was all about Trump, and his newest claim that he is able to pardon anyone, presumably even himself. His constant use of the phrase “Fake News” reminds one of Goebbels’: “repeat, repeat, repeat.” He’s a world class tyrant by pure instinct, having, surely, put no thought into it at all.

Nimmo’s Quay moves forward at a rate and in a way I recognize from those plays that turned out good.

“Andy’s Prehistoric Adventures” on morning TV, in which Andy goes back in time to get barnacles from a basilosaurus.” Blue tits thronging the trees in the close.

Wandered down to the sea, then through the town to the city walls as before. Went to NUIG to see Australia’s Casus Circus defy death and honor the gods of acrobatics. Delicious–indeed, mystically wonderful–meal at Rouge. We leave Galway tomorrow. Being in company keeps me from getting all mystical and weepy about departure, which is probably a good thing.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


July 22, 2017

Rain vanishes and the summer is back, at least for a while. L&J arrive looking like teenagers on their first trip to Europe.

What is amazing is the overflow of my imagination, rich and exploratory, as I remember from times past. I think the demon made my subconscious fearful to look into certain places, terrified of what it might see. Now those passageways are vacant. Several dream-fantasies of a giant house or castle, which had either been underwater or soaked for some reason, being restored as a residence for me, or as an art venue over which I would preside. This morning I was running a marathon, but somehow we ejected colors as we ran, and the runners were making a gigantic 3-dimensional painting.

Lost a tooth or a crown while eating a brownie this morning. It doesn’t hurt, so I think I’ll leave it until I get home. The only problem is my tongue constantly worrying the new rough edges.

Walked the route I walked daily that one summer, up the Canal Road to NUIG. If I can’t live on the Long Walk, I would settle for Canal Road. Wanted to visit the Greatest of All Toilets at NUIG, but it was closed, for summer and for Saturday. Many cats along the way.  Veered over to the cathedral, where I arrived in time to hear a homily on the Feast Day of Saint Mary Magdalene. The priest was an ass.