Tuesday, November 30, 2010

a man in the room intones "dark, darkness, dark, dark, dark."
"See what I'm saying there - it's not incorrect usage, none
of this is incorrect. Darkness of soul. Various degrees of
darkness. There is physical darkness. Capability is more
like," and he gets quiet. "You are capable,... but a capacity
shares an etymology but has a subtle difference, do
you see?" Moments ago he was discussing Plato, how
Socrates and Xenophon (is that right?) are the only reasons
we know what Plato said. He is talking with a student,
reading over his essay, and getting the kid to cop to what
he's miswritten that needs review. "I think we want to say,"
he continues, and I stop listening. The boy is not a we
and the teacher did not write the paper. And now there's
an exploration of the word "ire" which the boy has used
as an adjective. "In the adjectival sense," says the teacher.
The boy asks what ire means. He thought it had to do with --
did I hear this right? -- the pyramids. "There's something
bad about," the teacher says. "There's nothing wrong, but
you can do so much much better." The essay is about Poe,
for whom ire would be a suitable noun, along with oddness.
The boy has claimed "Poe used odd actions to ask questions."
"He's not using actions," the teacher says, "Right?"
The tutor/tutee byplay fascinates me. "Do you ever have
questions outside you?" asks the teacher. "That's a tautology."
And this may require an apology - it certainly would if
I were to parrot this way out loud, which may be one
reason to write. Nobody gets hurt. "Spell for me correctly,"
the tutor says. "In this lady's soul." What if you now
have a plurality of ladies, a pluralities of souls?" This is
a high school boy; the tutor is dressed as though he
may have been transplanted from 1910. This brick walled
basement coffee wine bar has been here that long. Maybe
he appears in low light and can never leave the room. He
never eats or sleeps and if the boy watched carefully
he'd never see a breath received or exhaled, relieved.
"Nevertheless is one word," says the tutor, "all one word
like nonetheless." A pause. "Do you understand?"

Monday, November 29, 2010

A ferryboat ride, a 59 mile drive, and poof!
I'm away from home for two weeks more.
All by myself in a three bedroom cabin
with a baby grand piano in the living room
and all my sheet music left at home.
I've met the teacher, we've planned, and
I've bought an adaptor plug so my three
prong printer cable can couple with the two
prong outlet in the living room with its
fresh funky fifties look - hi fi and wine bar,
a pair of love seats facing one another
and no other to take this in with, just me.
I sit upstairs in the wi fi zone at the grocery
store, having bolted a plastic tray of sushi.
Outside the wind wails and licks the walls.
I have a space heater and extra blanket
in my car. Road warrior, poet for hire.
I hope I'll inspire desire to to wander
paper in a new way. But hey! The day's
almost over and it's time to pack it all
back to the fort, hold court in any of my
three bedrooms, read INFINITE JEST
and rest up to rock them nuts for poems

Monday, November 22, 2010

Home again, home again, jiggety jiggety
jittery so many too many things to do
and confusing too
so many needs and piles and undone whatnots
so much to put away
so many things I took too many things I cannot throw away
I fear I'll become the woman in the housedress
stuck in the doorway, pushed out of her home
by her own accumulated indecision.
So, nuclear fission has not bearing here
no memorized atomic weights can
measure this sky that wafts benevolent snow
so I know the world has kindness even as I feel bound
by what I do not know or want or have a word for.
I sit and stare and that's what I'm the best at.
I long for my remote tree stump, owl pellet
beside me in tall grass, a shallow lake lapping
cow manure and sulfur aroma no concern of mine.
Though his and her and her and his concerns
concern me even as I fail to discern what to do.
What to do is to do and live with what comes
for the time I have to live with what comes.
"Come," Quinn says, as we wait outside.
We watch bright koi swim the shallow pool
by the nursery cafe. The camel and donkey
greet us happily though a worker says
watch out, the camel snatches hats.
The reindeer lie with backs to us
imagining home in Lappland. They don't
look like they could fly. They may
want to try, they don't seem happy here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What have I learned about myself here
on the mucky shores of Agency Lake?
What do I take home? What will I use?
A gratitude that I do not live apart
but inside a family. Seattle's fertile
lowland. Dark, damp and fecund.
I am grateful for diligence, patience,
and forgive myself for practicing each
with desultory lack of discipline.
I have some intentions and resolutions
to pack home.

I'm dreamy after a farewell swim
at Ella Redkey Pool where I never
swam in snow. I did swim in 85 degree
water today under sunny skies, maybe
air temperature in the high forties.
Finishing my laps, I floated in gratitude
and then when indoors to shower
under the one replacement showerhead.

I spent a long time reading Mark Doty
this morning. His "Theory of" poems
from FIRE TO FIRE. "Theory of
Incompletion" made me involuuntarily
say, ah.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Self-Portrait in a Borrowed Town

A poem can have dense undergrowth
like west of the pass, or its trees can rise
out of a forest floor with little but
owl pellets for distraction - a stark relief.

Time's instruments are wind chime,
hammer, kiwi and small child.
Baby Quinn holds the ball with two hands,
nine and three, like she held the biggest
tomato growing in the oak barrel.

On the brown couch aslant from the window
an Agency Lake view between the poplars.
I can be murky and miserable as my mother
as ebullient as any grebe. I sit alone
in this borrowed cabin on this borrowed couch.
I don't see the big bald in the big poplar
but I saw three on power poles above
the railroad tracks beside Upper Klamath Lake
on the way to K Falls, and a lone egret
leaning forward in a field.

Clouds settle over the Klamaths, like
a soothing blanket drawn up to your chin,
warming and quieting this worrisome world.
Walking the beach this morning
to small plane drone, the water flat
as melted margarine. When the sun was
done with the hot pink fun of breaking
the horizon the hills dulled lighter than
themselves as though this new day
had already taxed their energy, fading

I watched through binoculars as
a Townsend's Solitaire foraged
for insects on the poplar trunk, picking
them off as the Birds of Oregon said
they do though the size may have been
wrong and my bird was definitely
darker than the drawing. Was it
a Flicker? Absolutely not. I despair
of ever gaining confidence I know
what I am seeing when I am
watching birds. A gang of the same
kind of bird - two, then
three, four, fall like leaves, land,
and move up the tree. They
have to be Flickers.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Give me this day, my daily silence
in which to flourish and dash
into a poem or the tall grass
towards the road where the jack rabbit
flexes her awkward back legs,
toward the lake over which
a lone heron wings south with perfect
pointed toes, as if to attone
for wrenching herself out of the willow
like an arthritic old man haltingly
up from the couch in the TV room.

What can I offer this morning?
A yellow mug of coffee gritty
from the loose seal on the ten dollar
French Press. This bruised pomegranate
plucked from the slowly dwindling pile
at Fred Meyer, the best grapes
of my life from Thunderbird.

Sixty-five percent of heart cells
are not muscular but neural,
hard wired to your brain.
The heart exudes a magnetic field
that pulses nine feet
on every side of you.
You are rooted nine feet
into the earth that generously
allows you to move. When
you astral-project, you're
grounded if you keep
your projection

When you die you are greeted
at the door of the former brothel,
given a scepter and a salt shaker
filled with moments from your life.
You use the scepter to hold
your book place when you rise
from your reading chair to answer
the door or, to be discreet,
run an errand. The salt shaker
you guard with your life
until you get your life is past.
This may take forever.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Bruce loved the woods in every season
and we loved how he narrated jags
of mushroom hunting spring and fall --
morels, puffballs, boletes, musical
exotics. Mycology classes at the U
were legendary for amenitas
and impossible to get in. Death-frisson --
never eat what you do not know
and though I'd eaten the Prince
from my own front yard every fungus
pulsed with poison the way lit sparklers
promised hyper-heated injury.
I didn't fear tainted oysters though
an oyster mushroom meant
an automatic no. He took us hunting
chantarelles in the hills east
of Sedro Wooley and the UFO sightings.
Once within Doug firs and hemlocks,
feet sucking diff, he disappeared.
We peered and peered in the constant
drizzle of a mountain stream,
the still mountain air, until first one
and then the other bent under
protective evergreen boughs,
saw chantarelles - orangish, slightly
concave, wavy-edged like carousels,
each bloom a certainty. We bent
their stems and popped them free,
collected fruiting bodies into a Safeway
bag gritty as extra-fine sandpaper.
When Bruce returned we too
bragged and went silent when
he asked where. We hauled
our labors back to the car, gloved
hands clumped with the musky
scent of earth. Years later I stand
in the produce department,
a whole cooled section heaped
with chantarelles for a princely sum,
but I hold close where ours came from.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

I return to the house after two days away
the entry smells sweet and earthy
the pears I had gathered and not yet
eaten - their hard bodies gone brown
and too soft. I hold them gently
so as not to burst their fragile skins,
toss each underhand into the yard
for ground squirrels, the jackrabbit.
I close the door against knowing.

In the refrigerator tarragon crisped
in its shallow plastic sleeve - I crumble
it and its licorice heart lofts as I heave
it too into the tall grass. I imagine it
rooting next spring - a botanical
impossibility. Imagination is not bound
by physical law. I love it though
I shove it into every closet I meet.

The pears never were Whole Foods
beauty queens. This altitude permits
but rocky stone fruit small as a toddler
fist when she's found a penny prize
we will pry away.

The growing season is short
and we're short on water. My
Klamath friend writes drought poems,
I wander the shrunken wetland
too shallow for water birds but rife
with dragonflies, raptors squatting
high in the aspens.

No egrets lean forward impossibly
in the rye fields beside 97 as I drive
south to Klamath Falls. Red tailed
hawks finial the fence posts scraggly
and bereft. Or maybe that's me.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

No whiners in our group this year - everyone, even
the girl who has recently dislocated her knee manned
up as we walked the many stairs of the COCC campus.

Jimmy Santiago Baca spoke at 4pm on Thursday
and I was distracted by his hat and his birth year.
He is younger than me - born in 52 to my 51.
I was distracted by the section filled with kids
in military fatigues with their teacher in a green
shirt who, like me, bought the English/Spanish
side by side book of Santiago Baca's poems.
I was distracted by the guy from the Native
American and Latin American club who was
mad last year that we only had two Native
American kids with us, and no Chicanos. In
the Q&A he asked Jimmy about keeping his
traditional ways. "I have no traditional ways,"
Jimmy said. "My grandmother told us nothing."
Did the questioner seethe? I was distracted
by Santiago Baca's assumption that COCC
teachers would demean Chicano writers while
prestigious institutions make their students
read brown writers. Did he say Chicano?
I was distracted by wondering what my
non-demonstrative students were thinking.
I was distracted by Jimmy beginning with
asking audience members what they thought
he meant by his talk title "Breaking Bread
with the Darkness". Because I wanted him to give
to these kids who had come from the margins.
He talked about being shoved to the margin,
refusing to stay there, submissive and invisible,
and here were these eight kids from the margin
who heard a woman comment - someone
always asserts, to be seen by the speaker, at
readings by good writers - that people who
most should be at his talk aren't at his talk
because it cost $35, which would be a valid
point except that these eight kids were there
because a NOW board member had donated
money for their tickets. They wouldn't have
been there at $35/each. I stared at the back
of her head in a mean way for a little while.

As we left Bend last night, at intermission
of the reading - three kids take SATs today,
another's family is going out of town - three
stiltwalkers loomed along the sidewalk
past the van. "I don't want to leave Bend!"
one of the kids cried. The street teemed
with people - 8:30 pm - art walk night -
two of the girls had run from their seats
before the reading - 15 minutes to spare -
to listen to a singer at a little restaurant.
"She was amazing!" they sighed, taking
their seats in time for Michael Dickman,
who three of the girls want to marry.
Barry Lopez intoned sagely from the aircraft
of his gorgeous writing over geographies
he has visited on this planet. I was
entranced, the kids and teacher were
bored. "He has good writing ability,"
one of the boys said, "but there were
too many cookies." Oh how I love these guys.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Off to Bend for The Nature of Words with eight high school students. We'll see Jimmy Santiago Baca, Michael Dickman, Anne Lamott, Barry Lopez. We'll eat pizza and spaghetti! We'll sleep on the floor! (but in a great house!) TWO days! Two big readings! One lecture! (Baca)

What if I just lie on the floor till then? Whoops! I'll be lying on the floor tomorrow night! But, I'll have miles below my wheels and poetry in my head. I hope the kids love it, I hope the kids love it!

Gotta teach 2.5 periods before we leave - it'll be thematically related! Jimmy Santiago Baca poems! Michael Dickman poems!