Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And as the foreground greenery bows to Wizard Island, so Crater Lake stays the bluest skies you've ever seen. The lake doesn't change depth more than an inch or two every year, no inlet or outlet, nearly 2000' deep at the deepest point. When Mount Mazama blew nearly 7000 years ago the Klamaths saw it go, saw this caldera seal its sides by lava floes, fill with clear water.

White people, who have never allowed not knowing to interfere with aggressive action, stocked the lake, which had previously been home to virtually no living thing outside of bacteria, with lots and lots of fish. Brown trout, rainbow trout and some kind of salmon survive. Obviously nobody migrates to spawn. Populations are small as there isn't much to eat. (notice sudden escape from documentary tone.)

When we came here, Jim and I, 32 years ago, we walked from the lodge down to lake. The trail is gone. Rangers said there's a walkable trail on the northeast side of the lake, but we didn't drive over there to find it. We didn't even ask if there was a boat anymore to take tourists around Wizard Island. I like that the lake is that much less accessible to human messing about.

At school, we talked about rap. I wrote a rap draft yesterday morning, in the persona of a mythical upper middle class white person, possibly commander in chief, who knows. Here goes:

(It's a draft remember. I said it in front of the juniors, no beats, and those who looked back at me looked stricken, except one girl who said it was AWESOME, who is awesome, you are awesome Vanessa!):

Rap of Our Supremacy

We pound the wrong, who are in our way and brown,
we’re righteous, we’re free, they all want to be we.
The weak make us angry, let us take things away,
they pray so they say in their temples and mosques
pray to animals, the Milky Way – we don’t trust them
so we blow them away, we cage them and burn them,
make them do what we say. We remember the Alamo,
foxhole. Don’t point out Viet Nam or Gitmo - we gotta go
and take what we need. It isn’t greed like they spew
in their ignorant screed, claim we’re imperial in their
funereal attempts to save their puny ways. We don’t rue
what we do. If we’re wrong, we’d know it, forego it.

We’re the good ones, we’re virtuous and right
We believe what we’re told, we don’t misuse our might.
But we know when to throw our weight around
we’ve got the book of his word and we know who to pound.

No time to help the poor, fix our streets, give kids
something warm to eat, we gotta beat feet anywhere
you others dare to keep what you have, believe
you have the right to save yourselves and your weird
way of life. We come bearing gifts to heal your rifts,
commerce in drifts. You want what we have, we know
that you do – Gap, Target, MacDonalds, Kentucky Fried –
inside you want it, to be just like us, drive fast cars,
blot out the stars with traffic lights and all night bars.
You’ve got your fists around our oil. What could you
want with it? We’ve toiled – best workers in the world –
your hearts yearn for our stars and stripes way of life.

We’re the good ones, we’re virtuous and right
We believe what we’re told, we don’t misuse our might.
But we know when to throw our weight around
we’ve got the book of his word and we know who to pound.

You hate us cuz we’re free. Watch our TV, don’t believe
what you see. That brotha, he lies, don’t go to his neighborhood.
They’re not good, don’t do what they should. Their minds are wood!
You can’t teach them to change – they won’t forgive the past.
They won’t last, lower cast, oh those are vast. Forget them,
don’t let them pull you down, this is the wrong side of town.
Turn up the jams and put the hammer down. Don’t listen
till you’re far enough away they sound like sheep, such a relief,
they’ll come to grief – and deserve it. They kill each other,
can’t keep a lover, their beef’s just a cover. We don’t owe
them anything – let them mow our acre lawns, sprinklers on
in the dark in the draught – we’re not doing without.

We’re the good ones, we’re virtuous and right
We believe what we’re told, we don’t misuse our might.
But we know when to throw our weight around
we’ve got the book of his word and we know who to pound.

The rest of the world cowers. What should we do – offer
flowers? Please. You die of disease in ugly places, don’t
wash your faces or change your clothes. You blow your
noses in the street, walk over it in dusty feet. You’re
missing teeth, have no education, no sanitation, we can’t
respect your nation. – we have an obligation to perpetuate
our way of life – be a light unto the world and take
what you don’t know you have, and if you do, we’ll charm
you, disarm you, we never mean to harm your mothers
and your kids, your flimsy houses full of mice and lice.
How could you be nice? We don’t think twice. What’s to
understand? You’ve been neglected, we’ll neglect you.

We’re the good ones, we’re virtuous and right
We believe what we’re told, we don’t misuse our might.
But we know when to throw our weight around --
we’ve got the book of his word and we know who to pound.

We’re watching the news when the call comes in,
in midst of financial plummet, war and the election,
Bad connection, “Hey kids, It’s Dad.” Oh God.

-Laura Gamache
FIRST DRAFT, 10/28/08

Gotta go. SIX MORE DAYS! Believe that Obama will win, and that he will work for positive change in this country. I do. I believe. And I'm not a fool.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

That's Mt. Theisen behind the Klamath Marsh in the photo.

Here I am in Chiloquin, Oregon, south of anywhere on the west coast I have previously called home, autumn in the high country, clear cold air, quaking aspen, three kinds of pine, lots of kinds of people, though their numbers are few. Chiloquin, population 720, according to my Oregon D.O.T. map.

While I've been gone, Seattle poets have gotten over themselves in a big way at Green Lake, standing in a line to tell passers by "I love you," a pile of poetry books on a chair nearby.

While I've been gone, Seattle's Conibear women's crew sent two fours to Boston, where they placed 4th and 7th in the highly competitive Head of the Charles regatta.

I've come here to get in touch with my inner poet, and make her come out and write.
And get organized already! Which is rather beyond her, so I've brought my inner Hun, who used to cox for Conibear, and she's still busy with getting her headgear on, so more on that.

I've come here to teach creative writing at Chiloquin High School two days a week. I'm working with 23 juniors, 32 sophomores and 13 middle school, oops junior high kids.

I've come here to curate an adult writer group, three sessions in Sprague River, four sessions in Chiloquin. The first Sprague River session was last night. Five writers, six counting me. We're launched. Sharing writing is a kind of liftoff. We all agreed the sessions provide deadlines. Our audience awaits our best work! Make time for it! I suggested everyone write down ten observations a day. These can go towards a piece of writing, or augment the other work you're doing. I quoted Henry James, not from the Golden Bowl, but what he said about the writer being a person upon whom nothing is lost.

I've come here to learn something about here. As Perry Chocktoot, Culture Director at the Klamath Tribes said to me two days ago, "You don't know where you are." I asked him to tell me, and he has started to do that.

I've come here to develop reading habits. I've read Buy the Chief a Cadillac, by a cowboy, I've read parts of Stories Along the Sprague, am nearly through The Echo Maker by Richard Price. I have read poetry out of published books and poetry by my students. I like a balance of seasoned work and work by sprouting writers - so that my ear doesn't turn tin. The aspens are turning - leaves swivelling, and going golden. I began accumulating books my first weekend at the local bookstore, half of the Chiloquin Art Center across the street from the grocery store that has a liquor store in a closet straight back from the entry door. Last weekend I went to Portland to be with my Bookarina friends and had the dt's for Powell's. My friend Susan and I wandered the purple, orange, pink and other colored sections of the store. I think poetry is blue, so I spent a lot of time there - I don't look for color, I follow my worn path to get there. Oh, I bought books. I bought a few $1 books, there are sections throughout the store, for the Chiloquin School Library. I gave them to the librarian, along with some I'd brought from home. The books she turned away, Haydn took. Not Haydn the dead composer, Haydn the very alive young teacher I'm working with at the high school.

I came here to write, and I'm writing. I'm writing about my teaching, which is halting as the teaching hasn't found its footing yet. We are not within our flow as yet, my writing about my teaching is a boat I haven't quite gotten my butt to the seat of yet.

I came here to be away from home, to be out of sorts, alien, to look homeward into myself. This is going on. The first couple of nights I was jittery with nothing to do and nobody to be with. It is odd that there's no little cafe to hang out in here. There's no real dependable day to day sit down and jaw with your neighbors place. No wonder the different groups - so far I understand ranchers, Native folks, new transplants with high ideals and money. There's the new community center, where I sit in the library typing. It houses a gallery, the CVIP (Chiloquin Visions in Progress) and the sheriff's department probation officer. There's a Friday night Teen thing happening I think, though I do not KNOW this as a solid given.

Time is a different entity here - I don't trust my pace yet, am still holding back, holding out, unsure of what the hell I'm doing. I keep going. I don't stop. I would like to flow and soar, but that is never an all the time thing. I am a community resource here. I was shocked to discover the writers had not seen each other (the adult writers) since Ellie was here last year. I think I have a mission to help them learn to continue their group in between writing residencies without the group devolving - I have ideas how this could happen - certainly meeting no more frequently than once a month, having a rotating roster of group leaders presenting out of different writing resources. Keeping the same rules as when the writer is here, and in anticipation of the next annual writer visit.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

See Madison Alley Chat (another blog) for my last two Chiloquin posts - who knows how my blogs got transposed? Not me.

I miss the anonymity of city swirling around me
that lets me focus within that swarm,
see my work within a web,
humanity's sweaty perfumed proximity.
Out here I'm the ant who went too far
my feelers touch no other feelers,
I pick up a poem or a dirty sock,
put it down, that 100 mile stare,
wonder where I am when I am not
where I am known. I am only me
but I come trailing everyone I've read
each a bright ribbon on my particolored
fancy dancing dress, all these poetry lines,
poetry minds, best minds who haven't
crashed and burned, or have but caught
some gist of what they were in words
before they left, they soared.
Would you rather be bored?
Hoard your trove of been-done-wrongs?
What about all the yet-unwritten songs?
I want to board that train and ride,
window wide open, vista dome sky,
watch as the world scrolls by.
Do I dare? and do I dare?
oh TS, I do and care to come and go,
What is bliss? What do I not want to miss?
baby you die if you don't try
to see beyond the fence you hide behind
it isn't safe for any of us
to jump off between stops
but we - each of us - face a window
that will can open.
Stick your tongue out
I only want to teach you, reach you.
Come back with me to steam engine days
through the haze at the station
we'll run to clasp hands and board,
fly into the past and get past the pain
that makes us vain. Why me?
Who did this to me? and Why? That's
a hard candy you've gotta suck
till it dissolves. That sweet ache
in the roof of your mouth that leaves
you craving for this vast passing
damaged dangerous person-pulverizing
world with its jagged edges you jerk
back from. You've bled before
and will again, sure as moon draws tide.
Grasp the handrail, pull yourself up
and ride.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I missed posting yesterday, Michelmas Day, the day after which it is not okay to eat fresh blackberries until next year. I was looking for blackberries.

No, I was not looking for blackberries, I was in Klamath Falls, buying produce at the last farmers' market of the year - baby bok choy!!! the cutest Macintosh apples, the size of baby fists, etc. I found the local NPR station, 90.9 (this may be wrong, my brain is slightly hazy from the absense of oxygen in the wood stove heated innards of the Chiloquin Community Center.)

There is a used bookstore here, run by a man named Richard, who told me it only took him fifty some years to find out what he wanted to do with his life. He opened the bookstore fifteen years ago. The bookstore is labyrintine, and packed floor to ceiling with books and more books, including one area I did not dare enter yet full of old and rare volumes. By here, I mean maybe half a mile from my cabin. He has placed the business and finance bookshelves in the rest room. I think he said he has 100,000 books, but I was slightly delirous at the time so I may have misheard.

I am taking a pine needle basket making class this Thursday from a woman named Hope at the Curio Shop that shares the building with the bookstore, (together they're called the Chiloquin Art Center.)

I spent two hours reading my poems aloud to myself last night, and talking aloud to myself about them. I was practicing for the community reading/welcome Tuesday night, but I felt entirely comfortable opining about myself aloud. Do tell me if you notice me doing this in a public place. Speaking of public places, the Klamath Library is pretty swell, and I found some good books there while listening to a three-woman flute ensemble that was part of the dedication for the memorial garden outside the library yesterday. I'm still feeling a bit hazy and not quite here, not entirely due to my slightly aged woodstove and less than Annie Oakley cowgirl fire laying skills. Though I leap to tell you that I'm one mean beach fire builder.

The train goes through town several times a day with horn blaring, and it does not stop. How does that register with a person growing up here? Do you not hear that horn after awhile? Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance, everybody thinks it's true is what Paul Simon says, but he didn't grow up here. I wonder what these kids have to say about it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I'm at the Courtyard Marriott in Springfield, Oregon, typing at the Room 115 desk next to the giant flat screen tv on a swiveling base. I could point that thing right at me if I so chose. I'll be long gone before you could get here. Since I'm right next to the exit door, people are slamming out at and shaking the lampshade on a regular basis. I've traveled alone a bit, and find it interesting that I have more often than not been placed in a room right next to an exit. I'm a woman alone and the desk clerk, usually a young woman, chooses a room next to an exit. I don't get it, but then maybe she doesn't get that there's anything more vulnerable about a room that gets more traffic past it than any other in the whole fracking hotel. But I digress.

Today I see Chiloquin for the first time. I don't get to move into my cabin today, but I do get to meet with the teacher I'll be working with at school.

My car is full. I cannot find my swim bag with my suit, goggles, cap, and Ultraswim shampoo. Jim packed the car, so I have no idea where he put it, or if he put it in at all. He would have packed anything that arrived on the entry rug, but would he have noticed if I hung the bag by its strap on the stair rail? I don't know. I was in no condition to pay attention by the time we left for our late lunch date, after which he went for acupuncture and I headed south on I-5. I stopped at Zupan's on Burnside in Northwest Portland at about 7:30 pm. Comfort of the known. And the outre. A shrine to precious food. I bought devilled eggs, toothpaste and unbleached coffee filters for insulated melitta style coffee pot I brought from Chelan. Out of body, out of place, not yet in process, en route to the unknown I've sought, discomfort and opportunity for change I'm driving toward. I've found a biodiesel source online in Eugene. I've written out directions on the "Accomplished List" notepad here on my desk. I could play video games if I had any idea how to do that with the three fingered hockey glove looking dealie behind the giant tv.

Check out time is noon, but I see no reason to hang out as I cannot locate - it is cold outside and the ground damp - my swim stuff. I love to split sentences awkwardly. Maybe one of the reasons I can work with kids in schools. Though slogging through the 8th grade stories this week made me somewhat sad. Most of the girls wrote variations on what the teacher told me are "gossip girls" plots. Is this a tv show? The protagonist moved from LA to NYC or NYC to LA (or somewhere in the "perfect state of California".) The girl is tall, blonde or auburn haired and hothothot with a perfect body and boyfriend she has left behind/has dumped her for her best friend. Or he doesn't know she exists. Since these are pre-dating girls, the boyfriends are like the "immaculate beemers" they drive, the huge designer purses they sling over their "perfect shoulders" - accessories! The people they love are their friends who 1. they left behind in LA/NYC 2. they meet in NYC/LA 3. betray them 4. forgive them or 5. die after having been betrayed by protagonist. (or all 5.) The protagonist may not realize how hothothot she is until the climax (unfortunate choice of nomenclature.) The protagonist may realize this is not all there is to life, and these girls got better grades. Uh, yes, I did this. The stories were so trite, banal, insubstantial, and frighteningly similar that I wound up evaluating them based on the choices the protagonist made - was there any thought put into the story at all? If the protagonist spent time sorting through what was going on in her fendi/prada or whoever world and I could feel the writer thinking and feeling her unique way into the story, up went the points. People who got the most points were those who wrote about entirely different subjects. This is a Catholic school and it runs on points.

Monday, October 06, 2008

There's a level of self loathing and frantic whizzing I have managed to achieve over the fact that I forgot my inherited iPod in Chelan - came home with a snazzy speaker dock, the charger, the ear buds, a cylindrical duhicky that pulls in radio signals, but apparently the iPod sits alone or next to the current car insurance form for our vehicle, probably on a very visible countertop. I am leaving for a nine week sojourn in southern Oregon this Thursday, so this lack of consciousness is worse than nagging or bothersome. I know I cannot 1. drink 2. eat candy unless I do not care if I can 1. think 2. function.

I have a couple of deadlines looming before I leave, also two hair appointments. THere is a squirrel outside in the drizzle frantically whizzing from my yard to the chicken yard across the alley. He or she has a more coherent handle on his/her activities than I have at the moment. Also, I am wet. I'm hysterical and I'm wet.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Sheffer Crossword Puzzle Draft, 10/3/08

Here we go again with all the imps and emus
though to confuse the mind we add a tapir
and a mongoose so he will not be alone
though what I'd rather be is bicycling.
I'll ask again how many years I should allot
to idleness and how many thoughts to squalor
and you remind me of all I have to do.
When eek we hear out back beside the ewes
Have we gone mad? Just ask Elvira
she's busy with her navel by that easel
propped in Pollyanna's field. Yield!
we cry like knights not from Columbus
and who among us hasn't channeled Ezra
but back to ewes and their distress, at best
it's someone fussing with recycling
but we are in I fear for drama. Call your mama
or an ant. We wander Walmart (no agora)
and meet again for tea before the spelling
bee. Hee Hee. But as I said before, now, Holst
can keep us spinning when we fall like this to
err to whistle badly by the hour.


no animals were hurt in the production of this poem.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

The essential human act at the heart of writing is the act of giving.
-Peter Elbow

I'm sending almost daily postcards to Chiloquin, to the teacher and kids I'll be working with at the high school starting October 13. Who are they? What are they thinking, if anything, about this weirdo mailing missives from Seattle. The postcards have collages on their fronts - today's has the Peter Elbow quote, as part of a collage I made almost eight years ago. Here's the text:

I am looking forward to meeting you all, and to doing good writing work together. I believe learning to hear yourself/myself think is a great gift - like creating a map as we wander through the wild country of our lives. Looking forward, Laura Gamache

The challenge for me is to continue creating that map, continue looking at my course. My tendency is to close my eyes, back away, sit beside the trail and reach into my grubby bag of huckleberries and eat them, all. I'm discouraged by rejections, by my own disinclination to push myself, by the current political climate, by anything I can come up with as an excuse! I used to tell people that the Fulkerson Family Motto was: LAY DOWN AND DIE! I'm still a Fulkerson, and I have to fight that tendency to GIVE UP! When I was nineteen, mother said, "I don't understand why you're so unhappy. Just wait and good things will happen to you." WAIT! I HATE to wait! But I am a master at that pose, that stance, that opportunity to ditch the work and do nothing and feel HORRIBLE about it. I loved school as a kid, and felt guilty that I liked my teachers better than my family - my teachers didn't make me clean the toilet, take care of the other kids, listen to their adult yadayadayada about "your father is a good man, but..." When I was eighteen, my mother started to offer wine to me as she whined to me in her bathrobe, hair mangy, wine at her elbow or down the hatch. I sat across from her at the kitchen table, pinned there, with no voice of my own. I didn't drink. My rebellion was in my refusal. Silence. Inaction. Not lifting that glass. Not making facial expressions. I built my ability to completely out, to blur my vision and blunt my consciousness and slam down the door of my emotional reaction to anything she said until it was safe to flee. I've fled. Years and years and years ago, but the habit of distance, of going blank, comes back to me daily. It is so familiar and easy to embrace. My impulse gets me into trouble - I need an adult to take my child in hand, like my therapist offered and I turned away. She's right though. I let my little child self rule - a package of hershey's kisses - you bet. Facing the manuscript, the poems with all their fricking difficulties, primarily their checked-out, freaked-out qualities, not happening. I don't wanna. I don't haveta. Nobody's grading me, nobody cares if my work never gets done, my workroom is a riot of misplaced papers, my car key's left on the freezer shelf and I'm in a sweat to find it but have no memory of where I set it because I'm in that backed-away pose, that waiting to flee stance. There is an enormous amount of exterior crap to flee and it is easy to pin my dis-ease, my refusal to face the roar of the world (thank you Michael Meade) on the $700 billion bailout, on Sarah Palin, on the entire Sudan. It's a lie. I can try. I don't have to lay down and die. I got that DNA din in my ears saying why not? and why? and oh you are so tired, you work so hard, just rest, rest, rest. But that is death talking.

Learning to hear myself think is a lifelong activity. The map has lots of vacant places, vast expanses, dark continents. It isn't just learning, it is doing the practice. Practice practice practice, because that is all I have. Get up in the morning and practice again. See if I can hit a sweet note and love that note, love those minor chords, that dissonance, and when the harmonics accidental though they usually are, kick in, breathe through them and go on, look forward.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Sheffer Crossword Puzzle Poem Draft for 10/1

when we lie down we must obey
drooping eyelids, dropping pulse,
cat stretch to the farthest toes
and down we go and far away
where everything will be okay.
Our leaders lead and we obey
daylight, we are far from home
our fears beset our sleep, we're
apt to toss our cookies for an ace
this petty place rapacious sheaf
another boy cries wolf our roles
woo nightmares, noone in the nick
can rescue gracious dames while
slither tongues and liquid clocks
wind spacious orbits at a slant
we can't quite see but spacious
to sleep perchance to stir another
fate that doesn't smell like skunk
another punk voracious and in
vain so vain windvane spin
the bottle punch the throttle we
barely toddle. Close our eyes.