Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February 28, 2017

I’m so brutally famished for what I want that I let huge blessings pass without notice. Maybe I’ll concentrate on that for Lent. Think of my students, the strivers and dreamers, who hang on words I don’t even remember saying. Think of the pink magnolia in the garden, finally repaying my effort. Think of Maud who waits for me to settle so she can sleep on my feet. Stop cursing God in battles at the edge of night. Think of having gotten my taxes ready to take to the accountants. I spent $1447.  on fees to send my work out to contests and publications. That was not known in days of old.  Received my first check from The Great Comet– surprising, gratifying. One thing worked out fine.

February 26, 2017

Coffee with A. We sat in the warmish blazing Sunday light and talked theater, theater, theater. He may be my most dedicated disciple, though he is so little like me “disciple” stretches the matter a bit. Our talk allowed me to throw In the Assassins’ Garden over the top. Another masterpiece to sit in the computer. People ask “would you rather be truly good and underrated by the public, or mediocre and overrated by the public?” I am not even ashamed anymore to answer, “the second.”

Sunday, February 26, 2017

February 25, 2017

Much time spent at the studio, and profitably. Went the second time in the afternoon to drink in the lovely unfamiliar light.

The big hotels want to close down Pritchard Park. City Council– which is longing to obey, which has its tongue out panting to obey– won’t even admit the actual reason. The radio news said it was to save a maple tree, in a town that massacres great stands of trees with impunity. It’s all become so Trumpian– whatever the rich want, that becomes public policy.

Cast in HART’s The Great Gatsby.  Whoever the old guy is, that’s me.

Friday, February 24, 2017

February 23, 2017

Woke to Handel’s Dixit Dominus in honor of his birthday. Woke from dreams of being a writer struggling for the perfect opening sentence. Did errands, wrote a scene of my play at the High Five, where the beautiful barista’s skin was radiant. Found myself at Bent Creek, with a most unusual day unfolding around me. It was where I walked in the 80's, when it was not the Arboretum at all, but a wild place crossed by a few dirt roads and riddled on the weekends with rednecks camping and carousing. You went there to have sex with other men. You went there sometimes to hike or look at nature, but it was mostly to have sex, sometimes actually to make love, and the distinction between having sex and making love is never more poignant than in such a place. I remembered whom I met and where I met them. I remembered the signs and signals that nobody saw except those who were looking. I summoned back the dread and the thrill. I padded down a side path that leads along the creek, almost invisible now, and remembered in special one hour of making love in the most sensual and memorable way, and the man I met there, the shape and feel and smell of his person, the halo on him with the sun behind him in the trees. He might have been the one, had he followed me out of the grove that afternoon. I think he is dead and his spirit met me there. Otherwise, the sensation could not have been so keen. I stood for a while in one place, and then in another, listening to the water. I thought the water wanted me to hear something, some particular message. I listened very hard. Perhaps it just wanted me to hear itself. It was a sad time, a terminus for a lovely and futile complexity. I really don’t know what any of it was for, it having come to nothing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

February 22, 2017

Still spent from my”most bleak and terrible night.” On walks through one’s tasks. One lies down and hopes that a cat, a least, will lie against you.

Titus died five years ago today. I wrote: Titus the Cat left me today. He was the best of cats, sweet and calm and affectionate, a big loving boy. When I balance his virtues and his deficits–most of those have to do with being a slob–he comes out better than most people. Certainly better than me. I am bereft of the buddy cat, and I can’t think of it very often or very long. The vet was inept, and Tutus was frightened in his last moments. My prayer for the day is to get that out of my mind-- though anger did replace grief a little in the office, and I didn’t feel quite such a fool. Little spirit, at the end of all things, please find me.

Was I more miserable on that day? Possibly, but at least it could be spoken of.

February 21, 2017

Most bleak and terrible night.

Monday, February 20, 2017

February 20, 2017

Worked all Sunday on the Assassins piece– the structure is fully visualized, and now there remains but to walk through the corridors realizing and detailing. Somewhat against expectation I got into the car and drove to Waynesville to audition for the HART 2017 season. There are not many roles right for me (these diminish as I age) and the times are wrong, but I decided to do it as much for an evening’s adventure as anything else. Just to get myself off the chair and out. Glad to have done so. Saw many people I missed, some I missed so much I’d tried to conceal the depth of feeling from myself. I wondered as I looked about the crowded room whether others’ feelings are as my own. Does it feel the same for person X to miss somebody as it does for me? Are their emotions somehow keener than mine? Duller? Different in some way I don’t know how to express? When my Irishman hugged me, I’m sure we were feeling something very different– but what? Sometimes I think I would really like to know.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 19, 2017

Day begins with some Mantuan’s “Vespers of Saint Barbara,” noble and distant. Night ended with a dinner party at the Ms’, convivial, a brief, lively panel out of Bruegel. Coughing with extraordinary–and rather satisfying–intensity. “Productive,” as they say. Bought the last piece of furniture I anticipate needing for my house, a roundy Dutch dresser for my bedroom, to put precious things in. I insisted on hauling it myself, to see if I still could. I could. The Starbucks flat white at my elbow seems to be refilling itself as I drink. Gray through the study window.  Looked through the NYC playwrights blog, and there is nowhere to send any of my plays. Dead-stopped. Against the wall.  Perhaps that’s well, since staying awake is almost all I can handle.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

February 18, 2017

Met A in the High Five. He told me about his research for his play about the assassination of McKinley, and I couldn’t find a way to tell him (nor was I certain that I SHOULD tell him) that I’m writing on the same subject, inspired by him. I trust our approaches to be essentially and in every detail dissimilar. He is a charming young man, and I want to ask,”How’s your love life,” but he also seems so committed to his art at the moment that that is an irrelevancy. I envy him his fresh start and his uncluttered clarity of ambition. Fried a pork chop and through the fat out to the crows,who rejoiced.

February 17, 2017

The concert turned out well, and to be much praised whether it was well or not. Animated (but still rather elementary) lecture of the persecution of homosexuals by the Nazis. A female voice announced my presence to the crowd. I was gratified, and found out later that the voice belonged to the Chancellor.  Passive-aggressive advisees who have not bothered to contact me or make an appointment complain about “not being able to find him.” Sitting around all day hoping that somebody needs me is a pathology I left behind years ago. See the list of office hours? Utilize it. I killed the last of the African violets transplanting it. Worried about W, who seems hunted and panicky, but perhaps that is his daily affect. Daffodils within half a week of blooming. If there were yellow crocodiles, we could call then daffodiles. . . . .

Friday, February 17, 2017

February 16, 2017

Milk-blue day. Working hard on everything, my play, reading stories for the Ruminate contest, trying to stay awake when the anemia wants me to lie down. Rage last night at choir when my voice kept shutting down. I pictured Christ as a beautiful blue-eyed young man, me telling him, “No, not this. You will leave my voice alone. This is not part of it. You let go and get out.” It seems that if there IS free-will, you ought to be able at some point to say,”No, sorry, not this.”  When I look in the mirror I see hair like a gray mop, but find no time for a haircut. Sold a chunk of my stocks– those I could without incurring huge capital gains charges–imagining that the chaos of the Brute in Washington must hit the markets before too long. Few of the contest stories are worth reading through to the end. Some give themselves away in the first sentence, and everything after is just sad confirmation.  Concert tonight, only two songs, so I may get through.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

February 14, 2017

Vivid dream this morning, indestructible through several periods of waking: I drove to a small rural college in Ohio in response to a call for try-outs for a professional basketball team. I told them on the phone I was overage, but they said, “This is another kind of basketball team.” When I got here, the place was crowded with young men in baggy shorts and singlets. I decided not actually to try out for the team, but to wander around for a while, and as I did I kept running into people from my past. Some seemed to be functionaries of the basketball team, or the college, and sat at immense desks. Cathy Casey was there with her mother, who looked exactly like her except for wearing a red bandana. She had come from the dead to warn me of something.  A gigantic swimming pool seemed to surround the whole campus, and sent forth little coves and inlets toward the offices.

Decent workout in the chill before dawn. Good day at the studio. Some work on the McKinley play.

Another Valentine’s Day with no valentine. Too disappointed even to comment. Another of my great talents kept in secret. . . .

Monday, February 13, 2017

February 13, 2017

Return to winter, bright and cold. The moon last night was a teetery-tottery egg laid on its unsure edge.

Cantaria, then Doctor Strange at Asheville pizza with DJ and Russell, boys’ night out. Enjoyed the movie, but couldn’t figure out exactly why it was made. Maybe purely to occasion boys’ night out.

Read proposals for the April Undergraduate Research festival. Only one or two out of twenty were what I would call “research,” but, still.

Fed up with what I’m going to call Resentful Activism– supposedly charitable concerns that envy and denigrate all OTHER charitable concerns. Came to mind after the shootings in Orlando, when one of the speakers embarrassed herself and her cause by coming up to the microphone, where everyone else had been expressing their concern and regret, and saying, “Why weren’t there this many people at the Black Lives Matter rally?” The only possible response is to turn away in mortification. The big ones now are: WHY SHOULD WE GIVE IMMIGRANTS JOBS WHEN SO MANY VETERANS ARE OUT OF WORK??   And, WHY SHOULD WE WORRY ABOUT IMMIGRANTS WHEN SO MANY AMERICANS ARE HOMELESS AND INDIGENT? So many things are wrong with these comments it’s difficult to know where to start. Justly or not, one assumes utter hypocrisy, that the speakers or writers don’t give a damn about veterans or the native homeless, that they don’t love anybody but merely want to find a way to settle the hash of those they hate. No one ever said that one thing should be done INSTEAD of the other; one has but taken this moment to advocate the one thing rather than the other. How many of you were really concerned about the veteran until he gave you the chance to vilify the immigrant? I don’t think a person should be criticized for his charities. If you want to help veterans, help veterans. This priority is not furthered by denigrating those who are helping immigrants or lost puppies or opera companies. Conservatism reveals itself at every turn. It cannot even advocate charity without revealing an essential selfish hypocrisy.

February 12, 2017

The Valentine’s Gala at the Renaissance was about 20% as draining as I expected to be, which makes it a kind of a triumph. My voice got through. Drinks afterward at the hotel bar, which I like. Between the show and a brief visit to the studio, my Saturday sank in a morass of naps.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

February 11, 2017

Last night the moon so bright the light-sensitive lanterns scattered about turned themselves off. Venus was a bright cruel prick difficult to look at. Good afternoon with my poets, who strive and improve. Who in the deeps of their education gave them the idea poetry was abstract? Asked my scholars what they wanted to write about on their exams, and they looked at me gobstruck, saying not a word. Sam off to Raleigh to protest some of the infinite number of things presently protestable. I with part of a day off, wondering desperately how best to use it. Cantaria fundraiser tonight. I close my eyes and think of England.

February 10, 2017

Odd days behind me, uncharacteristic, but rich in chores being done at long last, in new activities attempted. I seem to have emerged from a physical valley of the shadow as well, feeling better the last two mornings than for a long time passed. The second big famine of iron in the blood seems to have been lived through. Bought my secretary a scarf at Nordstrum’s, to spite Trump. After spending days working on a play that was not working, lit on the idea–I think Alex suggested it inadvertently– to write about the assassination of McKinley. He should have loomed bigger than he did in my youth, being from nearby Canton.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

February 7, 2017

As I left the gym, the sky above me was dark turquoise, slashed with the fuzzy silver of one vapor trail.

In moment of resolve I bought tickets for Venice for spring break. Had anxiety about it until the moment it was done.

Message from a former student in Armenia, thanking me for some experience I can’t now put my finger on. Gratification.

Painted pretty well, but with a short temper. That is the refrain for the week, the pissed-off blues.

SS says that he (and most of the playwrights he knows) will not write a play until sure that a production is forthcoming. I do not fathom that about writing, but I guess I do about painting, waiting for some kind of palpable audience before I tackle the big projects I have in my heart. L’homme arme while I paint.

Yellowish gray daylight, too warm for February. I drunken E-bayed a Pluto dog to sit beside the one I had since before my first birthday, desperate for some kind of succor, likely or unlikely.

February 6, 2017

Allowed my voice through a heavy singing day, though I was also in a terrible mood and stomped around Cantaria rehearsal like a fly-tormented bull. Excellent sermon, taking the Powers of This World to task.

I bought a pot of hyacinths at the grocery store. They are coming into bloom, night-purple, spreading their perfume throughout the house.

Raging at the keyboard for typing things other than what I type.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

February 5, 2017

Bitter cold night. My furnace struggled to blow its breath into the far corners of the house.

Downtown last night with Sam. Virginal drinks at the XYZ (he’s still but twenty), which was brimming with beautiful reddish dogs, as well as people. Then to the Wortham, where I was greeted by two dozen people from my more public past. I felt myself hoping he was impressed. Aquila’s Much Ado was a disappointment–even an offense–the cause of which was evident in the first five minutes. They had decided to do the play with three players. Turns out this cannot be done. It was a mere stunt. Claudio was played by two different actors in the same scene. Hero was a ship figurehead plopped down in the middle of a bar whose back wall was the Union Jack, or a blond wig on Beatrice, whichever. The bating scenes were ludicrous, one actor trying to do the lines of three. “I am the only love god.” Even I who can practically recite the play by heart had a hard time knowing who was saying what to whom. Any semblance of character or meaning or nuance was sacrificed to the stunt. School children are meant to see the work on Monday. What they will make of it I can’t imagine. It’s been years since I went to see the Aquila, and the reason was a horrendous Rosencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which also suffered from criminal casting. People did laugh. All was sacrificed for those laughs.

Heroic Judge Robart in Washington has stopped, for the moment, Trump’s executive order banning travel from the Middle East, some of it. The irony is this: Nobody in his right mind would deny a president (some president other than this one) the power to stop entry into this country by some people or peoples in a time of emergency. But in his arrogance and wilfulness, Trump chooses the wrong people, too many people, and in the wrong way, which means that somewhere down the line, when this power is really needed by a president, it will be hobbled and muddled up by messy precedent and the legalities trailing along from this sad moment. This is the way in which Trump is going to weaken the presidency for the foreseeable future. He will require Congress and the Judiciary to install checks and barriers that would not have been necessary, would not have been thought of, had he taken a one day course in how to govern in a constitutional democracy.

February 4, 2017

Sam and I have tickets for Much Ado about Nothing at the Wortham tonight. Had to be pushed into going because I’ve become such an old limpet clinging to the bottom of my rock.

The Greensboro play was supposed to come with a cash prize. Of course that never materialized. They gave me a cardboard check three feet long for $5000. It was a joke.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

February 3, 2017

Congress rolls back citizen protection in the environment and finance. They’re like a gang of bad children left suddenly without adult supervision.  Better poems today. They actually listened to me. Young poets are afraid of actually telling the story of the poem. They’ll present a mist of uncertain generalities and someone will ask, “What does this mean?” and the poet will say, “Well, this is about the time I lost my buddy in Iraq,” and you’ll fountain forth Why the hell didn’t you say so? Someone introduced the concept of universality without telling them how it is to be achieved.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

February 2, 2017

A rouse for Brigid the Blessed.

Venus, Mars and the moon lined up last night in the clear sky. People said Uranus was in line behind them, but he could not be seen, at least by me.

Reading fiction submissions for ___ Magazine’s fiction contest. Out of 25 entries read so far, I put one in the “Yes” column for future consideration. Made some “Maybe’s” just so the orange card of “No” wouldn’t predominate so. Lots of mediocre work.  Is this a true indication of what people are doing? Limp. I blame Trump.

Some bad poems in class yesterday, me realizing that my pedagogical technique stops being so fluid when it comes up against the need to say, “No, that’s not it at all.”  After I corrected one poem’s mass of abstract diction, a class member said, “I LIKE the abstract words. I like the fact that it is so–abstract. I like the idea that you can’t really put a meaning on it.”  What needed to be said was, “In the world of the academic, that is one of the very few opinions which is absolutely wrong. always, in every context, and which cannot be countenanced in a serious classroom.” I don’t remember what I did, in fact, say. It wasn’t that.

My body spends its days digesting its own blood and wringing the fluids out of me so I stagger around in a daze and can’t sing more than fifteen minutes without my throat becoming a desert within a desert.  Only anger keeps me moving.

Lilac crocus have been blooming for weeks, recently joined by yellow. DJ says my daffodils at the old house are in bud.

Phone call to J last night. Relief and joy, the sound of his voice just like old times. He was suffering all that time, and hid it from me.

February 1, 2017

For me, the Boy was a prefiguration of Trump, an ill-qualified narcissist dismantling a working institution without consultation with and in eventual defiance of his betters. Those who try to save them from their mistakes are treated as traitors.  It does no good to point out the destruction they cause, because it is THEIR destruction and therefore sacred. The mills of the gods grind slow, but in these cases I pray they grind exceeding fine.