Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January 31, 2017

This morning over the gym parking lot flamingo vapor trails crossed a dark turquoise sky. Past days have been jumbled. I look on the page and see I have not journaled, though away from the page I thought I had.  Excellent day in the studio. Bubbling happy boys visit me before class. Excellent class days. Monday it was Dryden, me thinking I was one of a handful of academics in America who give a whole day to Dryden. The obbligato under all, though, is the political catastrophe America suffers even as I write. It never crossed my mind that there would be a time when my deepest hurt was not personal, but rather public. It never crossed my mind that I would see  a time when the Free World would be leaderless, when the institutions of the greatest nation on earth would be threatened by a self-delighted and probably insane tyrant. When do the checks and balances kick in? When do the Republicans fade away out of pure shame, and never raise their heads again? Will the Judicial Branch fold up like a kicked kitten and slink away? When does Conservatism admit it is not Conservatism but envy and resentment and greedy malice, not here and there, but everywhere it raises its head?  It is not often that the political battle is between good and evil rather than something far grayer and less certain, but one of those times is now. I am waiting for someone to tell me what to do. I am waiting for the battle to come within reach.

This has been a good day. Even my patriotic rage has something fine in it.

Some shit bitch found the passages from my studio journal about J and copied them out and sent them to him, anonymously. It never crosses my mind that anyone who reads my blog will know me or anyone I’m talking about, and when they do it always turns to mischief. But, I wrote nothing that wasn’t felt, and the upshot is that J and I are back in communication. Some people love hurt and mischief, and stumble over themselves initiating it. I do pray for vengeance against my enemies sometimes, expecting God to know when to turn a deaf ear.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

January 28, 2017

Prednisone made for a remarkable class day. It must be very powerful, or I am unusually susceptible. Gout submerged, anyway. One of my students said, kindly, of the 8 AM class that I was “all over the place.” I knew as I stood there talking that I could not keep on the straight and narrow of discourse, but there was nothing to do but get to the end of class. Hope to repair the damage Monday. Crashed home and slept the oddest late morning sleep, one I didn’t think I could arise from, but did. Then to Edna’s for coffee with N, who, he reminds me, was my advisee and Telemachus nine years ago. What I remember mostly is he and I being the sole basses in the university chorus at the time. Recalled immediately how much I enjoyed his company. We caught each other up on our lives. He now runs a lawn care company, using his degree in creative writing to its fullest potential. I told him of my catastrophe with Y, and he admitted that he also knows nothing about botany, and sort of scorns the idea of learning anything. Odd, it strikes me. Offered to be his botanical consultant when I retire. Recent events having enlarged my never very large interest in Debbie Reynolds, I watched The Unsinkable Molly Brown on TV. A truly terrible movie. Not one moment of the genuine. Not her fault, I supposed. Sort of C+day at the studio. Fell asleep in Jason’s big white chair. Voice clear most of the day. Started writing music for Dinosaur Movie, after having asked M to do it. What are the ethics surrounding that, I wonder. Whoever gets there first---

January 27, 2017

Woke with an urgent need to turn the radio on, some dream having convinced me there was news of import. I think I thought Trump had been assassinated. But, no . . . Woke also with gout. Took the steroid the doctor prescribed, which made me so lightheaded I could barely make it up the stairs. Looks to be a lovely day.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

January 26, 2017

Painted most of the morning, well, I think, in my new mode, owning and honoring my weirdness. Lunch with SS. I had his energy for the organizational aspects of theater once, but it has dissipated, or redirected. I can admire it purely, as I no longer have any desire to possess it. Have not been on stage for half a year, and don’t care. Gobsmacked before each new atrocity of the new administration. Not one choice correct, not one statement not a lie, not one gesture other than coarse and vulgar. Potted a gift jade plant. Had visions during a massage with Zach.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

January 25, 2017

Flames dance in my study gas heater.

Hung my new painting in the living room, the demi-Kandinsky. It is lovely, I think.

Asked in a meeting to think of a day when I was happy with my vocation as a teacher, and it was but the day before, when I was giving my students Donne and they were accepting him with both hands.

The department is not as wild as they might be about initiating an MFA. Anecdote had led me to expect better.  Everybody feels overburdened. Add  twice as much to do and we will feel exactly the same degree of overburden, so, why not? Poor A is now in charge of assessment, which, like the lines at the airport, is 100% bullshit. What makes it worse is that it’s bullshit no one will look at after it’s laboriously cobbled together. The perfect tool of bureaucracy: make work for others from which you yourself are exempt.

Gym at opening the dark of this morning. The one person there before me was Brent, ripping the machines apart, flaunting his supernatural level of fitness. Were I filming The Iliad, he would play Diomedes.

Dream one night in which I was a kid living in a sort of camp where young gods were trained. I was not treated very well, and I thought I was meant to be a servant, but one morning I woke up and realized I’d turned into a god in the night, and my identity had been kept from me by a woman who claimed to be my mother, but who was actually an evil witch. That woman was Jane Fonda. I was so beautiful that I left my clothes in a pile, to give people the opportunity to see me naked. But, I needed to escape from the camp, and from the wicked Fonda false-mom. I ran into the parking lot (it was still night) having discovered that nascent gods get a blue sports car (mine was a Lotus) on their emergence day. I looked for my car, to see evil Jane mom trying to run down the battery so I couldn’t get away.

January 24, 2017

Some days are so long you forget what actually happened when they started out. Worked out and wrote a poem in the gym café, which becomes one of my favorite things to do. Quite good classes, at the end of which I was staggering with exhaustion. The students claimed to be as well, or said so to make me feel better. A few boring sword-and-sandals on TV, then monstrously early to bed.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

January 22, 2017

My people made up 1/3 of the Night Music house Saturday night. Tom and Laura motored down from Blacksburg; Linda and Jim were there, as well as James the political hotel employee whom I invited without ever anticipating he would come. Linda felt he was flirting with me. If so, it’s saddening that I don’t notice such things any more. I suppose they all liked it. I liked it better each night I watched. I appreciated Cleve’s skill and Phil’s naturalness, and Jesse’s beautiful eyes, the more. I even began to think it was a sort of masterpiece, a jewel of a play served up to, maybe, in all, sixty or seventy witnesses. What does that mean? I think it is not absurd to say no one in the theater is writing better than I, and few are more obscure. Am I paying for some forgotten karma? Am I neglecting the one thing I should do, the one door I must knock on, to turn this around? It is a beautiful play, as if it were not actually mine. I saw this once I got over my terror of boring the audience. But, so what? It’s a ring of infinite price on the hand of a dowager in a decaying mansion, where only a few retainers ever see it. Guessed my way out of Greensboro before dawn, drove home through constant rain.

T emails:
We had a tough drive home, in the dark and rain, but made it. A good bit of talking about the play, so that's good. It keeps on living that way. Would you mind sending me a copy? If it's easy to find. 
The last image was fascinating. As if it were possible to keep the whole flood of emotions set in play but not yet fully enacted there, in this space we all shared, unnamed. It seemed very intimate, a shared secret--the whole play. So Laura and I tried to talk about it some--the sadness under the always good at things feeling I've always had; the close unnamed relationships, outside of our marriage, even before it. I tried to talk about those years we wrote letters so intensely (at least it seemed that way to me) and how it changed my life, gave me a part of my life really. A part that's still there and alive, though obviously I didn't honor it properly by just drawing into my own little world of family and books and church. 

The one review that means something.

January 21, 2017

Last night’s performance was better than opening night, partially because my anxieties were calmed by success. Everyone thinks it’s a masterpiece and I am a genius. That tempers and colors all perception. Talk-back afterward, enlightening and gratifying. Lost my voice. They gave me framed posters of both Night Music and Saint Patrick’s Well. Dragged back to the hotel for a final drink and a discussion with James, a personable hotel employee who had checked my sister and brother-in-law in an hour before, who was homeless for a while, and who is very involved with state politics, and with Jesus, in proportions that led him into a certain degree of contradiction, but what the hell. The bar staff fed us bits of leftover chocolate.

Linda and Jim were here in the morning. We breakfasted and headed out into the streets, where we encountered the Women’s March, the Greensboro version of what was happening in every metropolis in America.  It was peaceful, civic-minded, good-humored, powerful and inspiring. We thanked our luck to have been in the right place at the right time. Later we had lunch at Blue Denim surrounded by women just down from the demonstration, still exultant, still with their placards at hand. I was fired up by the assembly in the public square by the theater. I kept thinking “this is America at its best.”  We are all afraid of the same thing, and it is the right thing to fear.

January 20, 2017

Big peachy-beige-y room in the downtown Marriott, Greensboro. I can’t say I arrived without incident, for I was so tired I fought off sleep second by second driving, until finally I stopped at a rest area and slept deep, hard, violently (I don’t know for how long), and was able to continue after that. I’m smack downtown, but the stroll from the hotel to the theater was one in which I was imperially alone. This is not Asheville. The streets are not thronged. My blood is so thin the least incline winded me. But, I got there. The Arts Center, however, is better than anything we have, big, full, vibrant. The play. . .  The first minute of it I thought, with resigned heaviness of heart, that it was miscast. The production can recover from almost anything but that. But as the evening went on my perception changed. I heard lines intended for other people coming out of these mouths, and at last it seemed dear and complicated and valiant. I felt like God, who had one thing in mind, and watched the multitudes of the world turn that to multiplicities of other things he had not thought of. These brave kids were saying difficult lines, doing their best, living up to lives they never anticipated, playing parts written for others, and it seemed to me so gallant, and I was, at last, so grateful. The entire human condition was laid bare. Here are our lines; here is the set; there are the other players– how can we make this work? I have never appreciated actors more, even at those times when they have been perfect. None of the handful there for the opening spoke to me about the play– the dreaded “talk-back” is tonight–so who knows how it struck an audience?  

Dreams of remarkable rhetorical richness, I think from my having heard my rhetorically rich (whatever else is going on) play. In one I was a detective pursuing a criminal who was practicing to be able to turn invisible. I was inclined to let him do so, though it would mean I couldn’t catch him, just to see if someone could learn to turn invisible. In another my housekeeper was trying to turn everything white. I caught on to it just as everything–books, shelves, walls, floors-- were a lovely pale manganese blue. I decided to let her go all the way.

Inauguration Day. Too horrible to think about. I will avert my eyes from every incidental TV screen.

Spent the day walking around Greensboro, seeing, at a tortoise pace, just about everything there is to see. The streets are empty at night and sparse by day. It isn’t Asheville. Visited the Civil Rights Museum, which houses the original Woolworth lunch counter that exploded into protest in 1960. It was a holy place. I felt the same emotion I felt at the 9/11 monument in New York. Our guide was charming but perhaps a little over-committed, working himself up into a foam of correct indignation. What amazed me was laborious inventiveness of Jim Crow, the effort people went to in order to make other people feel bad, the sheer commitment of time that goes into full-blown racism. You’d think that alone would snap people out of it.

The local review of Night Music is in. I heave a sigh of relief. I heave two sighs of relief:


It takes a certain aplomb for a playwright to open a play to the sound of crickets, but that’s what the masterful author does in “Night Music”, winner of the 2017 North Carolina New Play Project, sponsored by The Greensboro Playwright’s Forum.

The play is The Drama Center’s offering to the Greensboro Fringe Festival, and is directed by Todd Fisher, also Fringe Festival director.

The play is billed as a coming-of-age story about three better-than-average young people and opens in a forest with two boys on a camping trip with their trusty flashlights. James Downs is the precocious Cleve, obsessed with words and science and headed to a high school for gifted students. He strikes up a conversation with another camper, Jesse, played by UNCG theater student Joshua Johnson. The athletic Jesse is everything Cleve isn’t, minus the brains, and they forge an unlikely friendship that the playwright examines in vignettes that take us up to their freshman year in college.

Somewhat uneventful, perhaps, if it weren’t for the entrance of — yep — a girl. Phil (short for Philomela of Greek myth), played by Greensboro theater teacher Tori Sterns, is every bit Cleve’s equal in intelligence and ability, and he is taken with her. As they attend the academically-gifted high school together, they become sweethearts. Cleve resists efforts on both his friends’ parts to introduce them, driven by fears that he will lose one or both of them.

But the inevitable happens as Cleve and Jesse form a band, “Night Music,” and after one of their performances, Phil and Jesse meet. The play gets a second wind, and the air snaps with overt and ambiguous sexual tension as the friendship among these teens becomes more complicated, convoluted and, one might say, convivial.

There is no doubt a touch of autobiography in this powerful piece about young relationships. It is oh so believable that a boy who feels so isolated because of his arguably privileged circumstances would cling to the only two people he can connect with, despite the potential for real heartbreak. Kudos to James Downs for capturing teenage angst in a subtle yet thoroughly convincing way.

This is a cerebral play written by a cerebral playwright, Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-nominee (for his memoir "A Childhood in the Milky Way") and winner of numerous national awards as a poet as well as playwright. A stunning dossier.

But it is also a play that hits home.

There is an exhilaration of sorts knowing that you are watching a new creation, never seen before, written specifically for this venue — the Stephen D. Hyers Studio Theater in the Greensboro Cultural Center — and a Greensboro audience.

Do not miss out on that feeling.

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Lynn Jessup is a Greensboro-based reviewer.

This News & Record arts coverage is supported by contributions to ArtsGreensboro’s Arts & Theatre Media Fund.

Well, it wasn’t written for that venue, but if it wants to be, then so be it.  I am relieved by this. I have spent the whole day thinking I was ill, and perhaps I am, but most of the down and sad and cold feeling went away when I read the review. If the casting didn’t bother my audience, then I’ll shut up about it.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

January 19, 2017

S came to visit the first morning before my first class. I am to measure this against the vacancy, and I do.

The prayer plant is so called, I discover, because it folds its hands by night.

Sagging back into a darkness. I have to remember how I came out of it before. Still skating on the surface, but I hear the depths foaming out of my thoughts. Maybe Greensboro will help. Read Jarrell to my class yesterday; maybe I’ll make a Jarrell pilgrimage while I’m in his former neck of the woods.  Worried about staying awake through the drive, which will begin at about my nap time. The Night Music magazine article appeared. I am quoted accurately, though of course the most off-hand item transfigured into the headline.

I have been trying to write “Crossing Jesus Green” for fifty years. It needed to be epic, metaphysical, summarizing, glorious. Accomplished it two days ago. It is small, in some ways perfect, but in no way epic. Milton started at one end of the Green, Herrick walked out the other side.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

January 18, 2017

Woke very much earlier than I needed to, but I like that, the feeling of luxury lolling around in all that extra time, trying new positions in the bed, inviting the fantasies.

Trying for the third time to read through the Koran. Each time I’ve bogged down for the same reason. It’s just not stylistically engaging. No moments of dark majesty like the bible’s. It could be I have a flat-footed translation, or, as the Faithful would aver, it must be read in Arabic. In any case I fail to see how it inspired the sort of fanaticism it did and does. Maybe I’ve always stopped just short of the good parts.

Considering the gravel in my throat, and what if it’s not an anomaly but a permanent change, and how I’ll sound from now on. There goes singing and probably acting. Singing has been part of my self-image since the 7th grade, theater even longer. On the other hand, it will save me incalculable time, hours upon hours each week no longer at rehearsal.

Good first day of class. Eager mob in Enlightenment to Modern; eager mob of poets, a full class with some on the waiting list. My senior seminar is all women and all fiction writers.

Joyful morning turns into a watchful and restless night. I don’t know exactly why, except that the Signs from the Universe are all wrong just now.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

January 17, 2017

Hauled early to work to make syllabi and the like, was finished by the time the sun had fairly risen. Exhausted beforehand by the student questions that no forethought will prevent, questions too stupid to have been anticipated (yes, there are stupid questions), questions already addressed on the syllabus, questions that one should have left behind in high school. Maybe there will be one query tomorrow about something real. One waits for that. Rescued dying houseplants from various nurseries. One woman told me my prayer plant had too much water or too little, she couldn’t tell which. Heart-to-heart with the Almighty last night. You think that moments of such solemn intensity will change things overnight. If it did, I haven’t noticed. The Lord must be moved or He is not God, and yet He is not moved. One throws up one’s hands and goes about the business of the day.

Monday, January 16, 2017

January 16, 2017

In rough voice for Sunday service and Cantaria, but for the most part made it through. Perplexed that the bad throat seems to have neither end nor cause.

Woke during a surprising dream about zombies. They attacked while I was
leading a painting class in a huge open field, so we fought them
with the sharp ends of brushes. My hands still feel the sensation of blunt wood entering flesh.
Spring-like days. Went to the studio today and was almost deliriously happy. The painting went well, and the second floor was filled with convivial people. New fluidity now that I’ve decided my inner Bosch to shine through. My legs get devastated by standing on the concrete floor. It’s always something. Wanted to seduce R, almost thought I might, that he would respond. But in the end pulled back.

Edging toward the unthinkable inauguration. Trump’s rhetoric is more troubling and incautious than Hitler’s was at the stage of his career. Not one person in America supports him for reasons having to do with rationality or intelligence. Not a fraction of a percent of his support is based on thought or wisdom or compassion. And to say this to his supporters will not get so much as a denial, but only a shrug. What have we to do with intelligence? What have we to do with compassion? We do not see beyond our own imagined hurt. I have no idea what to do.

Somehow related to this is the recognition of one mistake I have not made: I have never sought authority or institutional power. I would be at least inept with it, at worst monstrous. It is a truth that has affected my career at the University, made it look a little disengaged, but in good conscience I should not have done otherwise.

Buying water at the Biltmore Gulf I ran into RD behind the register. Talk about a blast from the past.
One who would not be saved, but who seems content

Labors begin tomorrow, but they do not begin tonight, so I am at peace.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

January 14, 2017

Received questions for an article on the Greensboro Fringe for a paper called Yes! Weekly. These are my answers:

 Dear Lenise--- I hope I get all your questions answered. Night Music was originally a play about students killed at the massacre several years ago at Virginia Tech, but it soon became clear that incident didn't want to be written about, at least by me. What was working was the relationship among the three protagonists, so I went back and uncovered the play about that. My experiences on camping trips as a Boy Scout helped with the particulars of what one is hearing in a forest at night. Essentially, the play begins with two boys talking in their sleeping bags, and grows--organically, I hope--from there.

 How would I describe it? Too many things that might mean. Let's say, on a genre level, it is a lyrical play, in some sense a memory play (like The Glass Menagerie) In which someone or some people explain their lives to themselves by looking at certain incidents from the past. It is a comedy with lyrical undertones. Is that right?

 It is of course wonderful to win the New Play Project Prize (this is the second time I've done so; the first was several years ago with Saint Patrick's Well , which, now that I think of it, is also a lyrical memory play) My career as a playwright has, by and large, happened far from home, and it is lovely to get some regional recognition. I have worked less with Todd than would have been ideal (living as I do in Asheville) but his comments on and corrections of the text were right on the money, so I have been inclined to trust utterly his view on the play. We'll see on Thursday. . . .

 Fringe Festivals are vitally important, not the least because they are fun. And-- I don't think you expected me to say this--they're far more important for the community than for the actual participants. They show what comes next, uncover the seeds of new societies before anything is rooted or full grown. When people go the Fringe in Greensboro they will be seeing The Accepted Wisdom of their Children. They will be seeing the future. The actors and musicians and playwrights will, I know, delight in showing the way.

On the health front– woke in the night with terrible leg cramps. Allowed it to become a moment of existential rage. But, I had gotten into the pleasant habit of having a bagel at the café each morning as I wrote. I had taken the news that there was no trace in me of celiac as a cue to go back to eating bread whenever I wanted. And– I did not put these things together– I had begun to take fistfuls of anti-inflamatories because it would take me about 30 hours between dosages to become–literally--crippled with the pain of inflamation. Went to the Internet and looked up “foods that cause inflamation,” noting that I indulge in most of them. I started by cutting out the morning bagel, and have eaten–except for bacon to flavor cabbage–vegetarian this week. It has been five days since I put an aspirin in my mouth, and I don’t need one now. Can it really be that easy?

The torches I set out are wonderful, especially the one beside the pool, shimmering and mysterious, moved by the moving waters.

Saw on the Internet a photo from Life Magazine, 1945, of a child walking down a road that was piled with the bodies of Jews murdered at Bergen-Belsen. There was a note saying the photo was altered to disguise the fact that the corpses were naked. This is the single most obscene detail I have encountered in my life.

Friday, January 13, 2017

January 13, 2017

Days ruled to some degree by anemia. Always a bit lightheaded, a bit uncertain. Violently ill last night after eating a meal of rice and artichoke hearts. Too much? Too fast? Just one of those things? But I spent the day satisfying a fresh urge to get my house in order. Bought wine and another Victorian table. Changed the location of the table ten times before I was satisfied. Still not completely satisfied. Re-situated the houseplants. Began a new play, inspired equally by The Pilgrim’s Progress and Goethe’s Faust. Continued progress today in the High Five. Watched Finding Neverland last night, a great movie, and the last time Johnny Depp took the craft of acting seriously. Not ready for class, and not especially worried. Listening to the songs of Alfonso El Sabio. Set out my solar garden lanterns. Weighed whether to clean the leaves out of the frigid but crystal pond, decided against. Would move on to some other task, but Maud is sleeping on my foot.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

January 11, 2017

Early morning tasks included the most melancholy of all– hauling the Christmas tree out to the curb. It is a holy thing and deserves better, but I am at a loss how to provide. Various exertions exhausted me, and I’ve not been able to recover. I feel most moments on the verge of passing out, though I never do. Back to the iron pills. Can sleep soundly simply by lying down. Bought a Victorian marble table for my plants. Bought some antique books: a two volume poetry collection edited by James Russell Lowell, the collected poems of Alice and Phoebe Cary, and a two volume Universal History from the Creation of the World to the Eighteenth Century written in by Alexander Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee near the end of that expanse. My edition is from 1858. I’m still in extreme antiquity, where I found what I was hoping to find: deep atrocities of misapprehension from before the birth of archaeology. His lordship is wrong not only about particulars– one can forgive him that– but in the grand generalization which are meant to give context where particularities are lacking.  Sumer and Minoa are unknown. The bible is considered not only as history, but as the oldest text available about happenings in the Middle East. He reads Genesis as reliable chronicle, He takes it as a matter of faith that the great civilizations arose from crude and humble beginnings, but I think there is no evidence of that, only the supposition that it must logically be so. There may have been crude stone-chuckers on Crete or in the Nile Valley, but there is no evidence that they’re connected in any way with the brilliant cultures that succeeded them, except in accident of location. Some historian five thousand years hence may try to derive Manhattan as a natural outgrowth of the culture of the Delawares, but we who are closer to the moment know that to be absurd. Anyway, days of scrumptious reading.

One hundred eighty seven email messages since I last checked, Maybe two were actually about me or my interests.

January 10, 2017

Slipped comically on the black ice of my drive way without ever really hitting the ground. Christmas tree still cannot be pulled from the stand because of its block of ice. Raised my weights. Excellent and unexpected writing at High Five. Pleasure in seeing E at school, where I communicated with my students by email, giving them an opportunity for a headstart, which they will not take. All sails forward on even keel.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

January 9, 2017

The prayed-for voice comes back just enough to get through a 11:15 service and a Cantaria rehearsal. Whatever damage it is seems not to be permanent, for I can go an hour or so without the hoarseness creeping back. The humidifier steams away beside my bed.

The South still sitting indoors shivering, fearing to test itself against the third day of ice and snow. I would be defiantly out and about had I an urgent reason.

Revising poems, I came across one I’ve been trying to write since 1970. It has always been called “Crossing Jesus Green,” and concerns my walking home at night from downtown Cambridge to Maggie Norton’s house on Milton Road. I look up through the branches of the lime trees, and see the stars. My soul was born on those nights, the part of it which recognized something more in itself than had been hitherto allowed, which longed to flutter out of itself into some unnameable immensity. The attempt in 2010 was right off the mark. I wonder how I would find older versions now. Maybe they were purer. Maybe it’s the poem I was not meant to finish. But when I think of it I remember the moments, and maybe that is enough.

Dream before waking. There was a part I wanted in a play. Desperate for it. Auditioned, waiting for the results, wondering of every person I saw whether he had auditioned too, comforting myself with the ways in which I was a better actor. The waking part of me was already calling back into Dream State, “do you really want all that bother?”

Sunday, January 8, 2017

January 7, 2017

Whiteness outside, a faint gleam on everything, as there is when there’s snow under the lights of the city. Beautiful. I love sleeping as the snow falls. Looked out my window at disturbance in my west yard. Two cars were pulled over there, a good Samaritan helping a woman to change a flat tire in the cascading snow. They struggled with the lug nuts, and the operation took along time. I shouted to them,”Do you have everything you need?” and the man who struggled shouted back, “yes.”

DJ and K and I at lunch. Our waiter was a woman with black hair on her chest, and her shirt open to show it. It is most of a day later and I’m still disturbed by this. The waiter said she moved here from New Jersey because nobody criticizes you here.  I don’t think she was talking about the hair.

Respond to the snow and the state of semi-shut-in-ness (meaning I could get out of I exerted myself a little) with an orgy of baking. Amazing how much can come out of just what happens to be on the shelf.

The Christmas tree is frozen in its basin and cannot yet be move to streetside.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

January 6, 2017

Epiphany. I’ll expect some great revelation all through the day. The tree came down, the ornaments packed away in–this is curious–significantly fewer boxes than they came out of. The tree itself stands still erect on the back porch. I wanted to give it at least a day in the air. It looks quite natural and newly, austerely beautiful under yesterday’s coating of snow. Bought nasty ham and threw it to the crows. Maud presses against the window and watches, probably glad her valor is not tested on animals bigger than she.  My Froggy the Gremlin squeeze toy arrived in the mail. I was hoping for more. Watching out the window for the Magi. If I saw them I would follow them, as I have, in my life, anyone who seemed even vaguely wise.

January 5, 2017

Received an invitation to the inauguration of Governor Cooper. Might go if it were a little further off than this Saturday. Weathermen predict that snow will cancel it anyway. Good rhythm of exercise and writing. Went through my annual terrible Christmas withdrawal, which will make the actual taking down of the tree easier tomorrow. I am going to write a story, “The Boy Who Loved Christmas,” if I can find a way not to make it maudlin.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

January 4, 2017

Went to the movies by myself, which I have not done in time out of mind, not being as interested in cinema as an art form, or a medium of entertainment, as I once was. This was a case of having learned too much about how it works to love it wholly. Anyway, saw La La Land, which has been getting great reviews and which I liked well enough, but rather less than I think I was meant to. Drifted out of the present and thought of other things, for a while convinced that my little dog Bimbo, dead these forty years, was lying on my lap and all was somehow mysteriously well. I was glad for the dark then. Thought of my parents, and how I would have been a better son had I but known, had I any way or means of knowing, that I was being a bad one. Maybe everybody goes to the movies to think of something else.

My longtime friend Yvette Grimes is dead. She said when we met in DC that I reminded her of Thor. When I think of her I think of violets. Maybe it’s the name.

Tremendous wind. Having lived thirty years with a giant sweet gum or a giant white pine in the backyard, I’m always praying mercy from the Lord of Wind.

Just as I typed that, I remembered a prayer I prayed in the movie theater, one I don’t remember ever praying before. It was, Lord, let me go home.
January 3, 2017

Unbroken days at the gym, unbroken scribbling in the café. Opened the notebook with the Hungarian Parliament guard on the cover. Ran into T and W at their task of screenwriting at one particular table (it has to be that one) in the corner of High Five. Pity should be dealt liked cards evenly around.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

January 2, 2017

Restoring order after the party is taking more time than setting up for it. The rolls I bought were so formidable even the crows wait for them to be softened by the weather before trying them. The leftover cakes go out, lest I should find it my duty to consume them.  Hatred of waste and fear of overeating clash in the war-torn soul.

Monday, January 2, 2017

January 1, 2017

Realized I didn’t leave the house on New Year’s Day.

Awakened New Year’s morning by agonizing symmetrical muscle spasms in the lower thighs. Screamed with rage and pain as I tried to make it to the fridge to get something to drink. Great opening. . . .

But, lovely party with the usual suspects, plus M and D and L, minus the ailing DJ. I prepared more than twice the amount of food that was consumed–indeed, consumable-- by those present. There’s nothing in my background that suggests the Road of Excess; I suppose I found that on my own. Beef stew, pumpkin cheese cake, pistachio cake were hits; the crock-pot paella was such a disaster I washed it down the disposal before guests arrived. We watched Mariah Carey disassemble on live TV. Any actor I know could have saved the moment.

But, first email opened in the New Year is good news:


David Lehman, Series Editor

Dear Poet,

     I am happy to report that Natasha Trethewey, guest editor of The Best American Poetry 2017, has chosen your poem “Certain Things” from The Ohio Review.  Congratulations.

     The Best American Poetry 2017 will be published by Scribner in cloth and paperback in September 2017. Each contributor will receive a modest honorarium of $100 plus a complimentary copy of both the hardcover and paperback editions of the book.

Feel myself on a cusp: I could lean back and let it go. I could keep churning the wild sea, keep climbing by toe and fingernail up the glacier wall.