Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blurred As If With Veils

There was no rain but clouds and Jeremiah woke up sick. One hour later in the bathroom still retching we recalled our favorite scenes from the movies - like when Sam hits the cave troll on the head with a frying pan. How old was I when I had cows. I fell asleep reading Bhanu Kapil Water Damage. I didn't fall asleep again for a long time, though. I just lay there, a headache setting up shop, wondering what I could do about my sentences.

I used to think the way words sounded was more important than how they moved, the way they arranged themselves over the course of a sentence, and how it felt then following. Now I don't. It's true that I read a lot, but I mostly remember in fragments, if I do. By what virtue of weather I can't say the office windows are misted and the sunny landscape beyond them is blurred as if with veils. I imagine if I'm lucky this will resemble the arrival of my death, the one moment in time I can count on. Well, maybe the way they sound matters, too.

"I thought boys only sat on eggs - I didn't think they just sat in the nest." I have no idea what happened to the geese where I used to fish in Chesterfield. The river went up after two days rain and they were gone. I did forget "generative eagerness" but then recalled it reading Kapil but please, don't go scavenging for evidence. I once said that Bob Dylan could read from a phone book and I'd pay to go see it. I'm fast but it's a question of what notes, changing positions, and metronomes almost always screw me up but drummers don't.

Timing is everything if you want to be a hypnotist, a baker, a fiddler, drunk or not. In Galway Ireland I played Pastures of Plenty and a woman came up after to say you'd be better if you could hear yourself, or look for the middle of the song and not just getting through it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

As If We Were Blue Lobsters

It's true that twenty sentences is not such a big deal - hell, these took less than five minutes and there's even a bonus one. It's when you start thinking there ought to be some Holy Ghost-like meaning contained in them that things begin to get tricky. Especially if the meaning - at least the way you see it right now - has to slip in unawares. Like you're surprised by it, too. Well, I don't like saying this is what I'm doing. And anyway I'm not.

I identify as trilingual, though never in rooms where I know somebody speaks either French or Greek. In Greek, I can say "I'm so hungry I could eat a cow" or "Little monkey has a big butt." I know the words for milk, mouse, mother, father, snake, goat and love. I don't know the French word for sentence. These are sentences, not lines. That's a hint.

Yesterday I forget to empty the coffee grounds, which means today is off to a bad start. Plus Jeremiah couldn't sleep. Whoever delivers the paper spent half an hour counting loose change in the driveway, their headlights sprawling through the bedroom. It was like being underwater on display, as if we were blue lobsters that people pay to see. I can tell he's asleep by the way his body settles. Something heavy slips out of us when at last we fall asleep. I don't mind saying it. Dreams are a better place.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Internal Obfuscation, Inherent Misdirection

The goat meat was dark and glossy, and lay on the serving plate like a pile of bruises. Three bottles of beer appeared in a single hand, each was different, cold, not unwelcome. Orthodox Easter passed with no mention of Christ. When we left it was nearly dinner though who could eat. There was doubt whether the middle child would stay awake until we were home.

Just shy of where the Westfield River crosses 112, I wrote "we are comprised of memory," and, (intended as ) related, "each day a pressed wafer of bread." Yet as so often is the case with composing while driving the sentences sound precious when reread, simultaneously too ambitious and bland. I can write letters in my head, everything else requires a tool, a sense of time and judgment not mediated by roads (which somehow suggest to me either that anything is possible or nothing matters). The youngest child couldn't fall asleep though she did - you have to, eventually - right as we pulled away from the base of Montgomery Mountain. The fjords - "they look like horses elves would use" - were in a pasture farther off the road than usual. For some reason, I thought longingly of the pheasants I used to see so frequently as a boy.

The spinach was growing near the chimney, the leaves looked like green boot heels. Otherwise the garden proper was only dirt with - after we left anyway - frisbee gouges in it. "Generative eagerness" - I won't forget that phrase anytime soon. This morning, the rain sounds heavy, and corresponds to a desire to sleep for hours. Martindale's trucks grinds where the hill crests. You finish the coffee and recall that in the dream you are accused of obstruction of justice. For what reason is memory sometimes confused with dreams - what is accomplished thereby?

It took me half an hour to write this, recieve this, relay this, whatever. The whole time I wanted something else but now, thinking I should say just what that was, I can't, and it seems to be matter of internal obfuscation, inherent misdirection.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

What Do You See Through The Smear

He wakes up, starts writing. Pisses, makes coffee and starts writing. The blackbirds are chasing the crows away. Twenty sentences was supposed to be like stretching but instead are like windows. Writing them is like spitting on a dusty pane, pulling your sleeve up, rubbing with your fist. What do you see through the smear. The crows, those thieves, those swooping laughing stealers. Well, everybody needs to eat, everybody needs to die. Why do I care? What does it matter? But I do. I pull for the blackbirds.

Try what he is now characterizing as "the accusatory first person." Write the stories as if you're composing a brief for some heavenly tribunal. Imagine you are weighing in on the judgment of other souls. Yesterday, for example, I nearly bought a much-needed loft for the tumblers, then didn't because of the cost. Yet to make up for the inevitable primal filial disappointment we had ice cream on a park bench in the late Spring sunlight, a family.

And now a goldfinch settles on the lilac just a few feet away (seen of course through a window). Growing up, those lemonyellow fliers were everywhere, flitting like bananas through the dense tangled underbrush. You can be scholastically obsessed with birds or religiously so and I, perhaps not unsurprisingly at this point, opt for the latter.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

One Eye Up At The Danger

After a week of sun, slate gray skies. Better hurry if you want to spread fertilizer. They say don't go to bed angry but never what to do when the required apology is hollow. The red-winged blackbirds are disappearing into the swamp (I mean, "from the back yard" into the swamp). Yesterday a hawk floated slow and graceful over the house and the pigeons puffed and cocked their heads, one eye up at the danger.

My best lie involves New York City. Lately, I don't think much of Hansel though on the other hand ("and there is always another hand") when did I ever. The witch always sounded like a lot of fun. The kitchen is my favorite room, too. And look, when you're lonely, you do what you have to do for company. Imagine if she'd had a good optometrist.

I have been compared to a paper clip, a scarecrow but most often to a bird (albeit vaguely - I imagine a sparrow). Efforts to listen to jazz are usually unsuccessful, though for a summer I did like John Coltrane's A Love Supreme. Maybe I wasn't being honest when I said I hated Spring. The smell of burning, the ability to read outside, all those shades of green. Or is a question of saying what I think others want to hear.

In an email, a reader says who exactly is this "you?" So I wrote back, "yes."

Poached eggs on a bed of steamed vegetables and yogurt, constant revisions to the work. I wake up before anyone else, come here, and the sentences - just barely - write themselves.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Independent Of Ghost

Insomnia is not pulchritude. One of the dogs chewed on my zafu. The landscape blurs green yet also disassembles as thicker foliage means less to see. The clock in Joyce and for some reason thinking of Nora behind it. How does one avoid memoir and then why.

Work includes: estate planning in thirty grafs or less, pigeon report, pigeon feature. Four or five short stories, three haibun, one long poem and two short ones. Extensive journaling continues though one wonders to what end.

Later it will rain, confounding my plans regarding lawn care. Jack shot an eight pointer on the ridge over in Huntington. Grocery prices rise noticeably and all the way home I'm sad.

Why don't you just send an email. The absence of topical data here does not reflect the balance of my interests. Friends call about yet another birthday. I forgot vinegar while looking for organic tomatoes. Consider "evolving standards" redundant. Can ghost trains exist independent of ghost engineers.

Thank Christ for the two note spring song of the chickadee! While I prayed last night a yellow moon slipped light between drawn curtains. I know you're not there (I whispered) but I can't help myself.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Flowers Fruit Trees Head Stones

As usual we're broke. The thunder last night made me think of roses. The flashes of lightening of what it must be like to have heard Jesus speak. No, I'm making that up. Mostly these days the conversations are about money, land. A deer running full-tilt last night, so much so I expected a pack of howling dogs to follow. Yes, like that.

I sit a certain way because I'm cold. I'm prone to lists, also to the first person. In last night's dream, I had to navigate a subterranean river but once I did I found a snack bar. It was all a game. Yet after talking to my sister the same heavy feeling that always accompanies family. Storm clouds are reassuring, as are pentatonic scales.

Sophie riding Solskin like Kevin Costner at the beginning of Dances With Wolves. Arms flung out, head back. M. sort of crawled through the brown grass before pushing upright. I worked on A Tea Thrice, amazed at how the sentences kept shrinking. Carrots burst in the mouth, so much juice one wonders how they hold together. What else wonderful begins in the dirt. Flowers, fruit trees, head stones.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My Mind, that Familiar Star

Bird song begins at a little before five. "My dreams are really bad." "This is my best day in my whole wide world life." The twenty sentences mean something different to everyone who uses them. Of course the reader is on my mind. That familiar star is overhead, too.

Both dogs out early. Waning gibbous seems wrongly placed on the horizon, like a broken dish set on the table. Pale cirrus clouds like perfectly situated mussels off to the north. Chrisoula tells me to get some sleep. At four a.m. one's life can seem compressed, mystically so, or as was the case at the window maybe an hour ago, painfully brief.

A rooster. The popping of night crawlers there in the dew. Basically form is a way of dragging my ass to the work when often (counter-intuitively) I don't want to be there. I used to wonder what the work was. Last night I dreamed I had become evangelical about the work. This mattered mostly to the wife of some guy who was clowning around in search of the work.

And now at last sunrise lightens the sky like slow-spilling melted butter. Yesterday we found an intact owl wing out in the forest. The heat made me dizzy and the landscape rippled, as if I were in a cheap horror flick where something awful was about to happen.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Strangely Marvelous Encounter

Well, I look forward to them, even though I also kind of fear them. I know you're out there, it's fine. I want you to stay, I always did. When I woke up, the eastern sides of all the maple trees outside the window were a deep brassy red from the sun rising. Shawn's motorcycle was idling, was warming up which meant it was almost six o' clock.

In one dream, at a family reunion in plastic lawn furniture, I said "thanks for sharing but we're not going to talk about that now" and the resultant silence was like tripping before a rain storm.

For about three minutes last night I thought Jake, the oldest dog, had died. He was stiff and wouldn't lift his head sprawled against the foundation. I went inside, stood in the foyer until I realized yes, I myself am breathing, then told Jeremiah (holding R is for Radish) to wait quietly for me in the bedroom. I got a flashlight. Inanely, I turned the light in the car off by re-closing the driver's side door. When I turned back, Jake was looking at me sadly, wearily. He's too young to die, I sort of mentally whispered, then tried to take it back, knowing as I do that nothing triggers an indifferent God's desire to play than that sort of sentimental (and entirely inaccurate) tripe.

But listen: in how many directions can one's mind be pulled before we say okay okay I'll turn off the computer and stop ordering movies from Netflix. Writing on a legal pad in the front lawn recently was almost ecstatic. But then - unrelated I think - the writing itself was void of the physical detail - that sense of landscape - that makes Handke so satisfying, deepening the sense of peril inherent in navigating any spiritual crisis.

In the end it's the counting of sentences that gets me down. Yesterday a young cardinal - or a small cardinal - flew from the red maple to the lilac and then out of sight in the direction of Bob's house and feeders. A backhoe is parked at the air strip and backhoes always signify change, the bigger the better. You send me these short emails - so kind, so formal yet full of feeling - and then later I see you out walking, a strangely marvelous encounter.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Even The One Who Writes It

A few things. My blanket has two holes in it, has grown thin as the felt the kids use. I don't eat soy sprouts so who are you trying to hurt here. The table I had as a child is still sturdy, holds up my computer, while the one we bought for our wedding is already falling apart. What do you want me to dream about?

Who is he? Hi, I'm Mr. Third Person. And, by the way, he has a fine pair of shoes - he only goes barefoot by choice. Yet if something happens in the writing that's effective - define effective - hold on, I will - then what's wrong with it. Effective = writing that surprises even the one who writes it, that doesn't feel like jamming too many clothes into one drawer.

Ticks falling like rain in certain forests. A telephone call with a warning. Smoke from yesterday's fire lingers but where. The last log literally evaporated on a bed of hot coals. That's how you cook outside, said the scoutmaster through and around his rank cigar. That was one party I didn't get asked back to. Yet I love pumpkins, though carving them scares me. Two days ago the scored body of a dead mouse dropped by the oldest cat made me dream of severed fingers.

Say, have you ever thought about writing horror? I write about family and local history all the time (he answered).

Sunday, April 20, 2008


On a Sunday morning, the Man Without Shoes wonders when he will hear bells from the nearby church. The buds on the maple trees are as red as a soldier's cloak, as large as nail heads, though up close their saffron tendrils wriggle in the breeze like toddlers heading to a party. Yesterday a hawk sailed high overhead, hunting, on unfelt thermals that nevertheless moved him. In the chicken hut, a tiny egg was found, no larger than a newborn's fist.

He remembered the first time he heard a certain type of cloud - long, narrow, gently curling - referred to as a "mare's tail." He paid close attention to the lilac bushes outside the window. Last summer he had trimmed them dramatically - thinned was hardly the word for such aggressive culling - and was worried they wouldn't blossom. Yet the tiny buds on the sparse gray limbs were there, opening at last, like little green parasols. He'd seen what was possibly a bear track the day before, though the absence of others nearby made him wonder. Nor could he muster hatred for the many hornets, floating lazily in warm sunlight near the porch, their legs trailing behind them like unused apostrophe's.

He felt, in all these observations (and others, too, that slipped by without recounting, like unremembered dreams), that the world was less a known place then it had it been previously (and where the line of demarcation - the previous world, now this new world - was he could not say nor, in truth, care much about finding). There was a sense of blessing somehow, the presence of a continual sacrament, or it had always been this way and only now was he able to see it. Had thick silver scales fallen from his eyes? Had some dense and coarse veil been lifted? This wasn't Eden - he was no longer the puer he had so long been, not at all (and when, exactly, had that happened?) - but a loveliness that comes after the fabled garden, after the deluge, and remains, and is maybe lovely precisely (or in part (but what part?)) because it was after the fall, and all the fall's legends, and so it could take its deceptions more playfully.

Yes, the world now rushed him like a desert saint whose prayers had led him out of his cave and back into the village he had left those many years ago, shouting "it is all an altar it is all an altar!"

This awareness - a perception that in his deepest, shoeless, scabbed, ruined but still mellifluous heart he believed did not include G-D but in fact was G-D (the naming of which (of whom?) seemed simultaneously ridiculous and of utmost importance)) - was not troubling, or not only troubling. He trembled at moments, felt his heart might take its own wing, his throat burn in a fierce green fire. It was as if someone had thrown open the doors to a large zoo, or an over-full asylum, and now the many inhabitants (wild, deranged, exotic, in love in other words) now roamed freely, and their joy - which was the joy of at last knowing the world unbounded - fed the air like the bouquet from a split ripe melon.

This was Sunday for the Man Without Shoes, about one hour before he set out walking.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Matter Of What Else

Driving through Chesterfield yesterday, or was it two days ago (actually it was three days now that I stop to think about it) we heard peepers right where the speed limit drops from 40 to 25 and the little farm is still for sale. Which I hear now as well, early before the sun rises, desperate - I think that is actually the right word - for words to come. So not just rising temperatures, and mud, but now this. Audible Spring.

Hejinian making the point repeatedly about loving writing - just the physicality of it, writing words ("writing writing"). And yesterday I drifted fast through the Stones essay until I had no idea where it was, or where I was in it, what it was becoming, what it had become, et cetera. The words tend to arrive on the page (fall backwards out of the cursor, whatever) with relative ease - it's arranging them that's hard. Or trusting them, I guess.

"The poet in the ancient matrix of texts . . . " A helpful elocution, yet opaque once severed from its native sentences, transplanted here.

It's via Henry Gould, who I can't read right now even though I want to, intensely, because I can't afford to buy books and his aren't in any of the local libraries. I am nobody's literary heir (or air, or hair), and there will be no bequests to save me but still.

In this chair there's a star I see every morning. But is it the same star and would I know. I like the clarity of its blue light, all blue light. With the storm windows up the traffic on Route 112 - the traffic leaving town - is louder, sadder-sounding.

Jeremiah calls daffodils "daffies." Moose prints going south on the trail. We were walking north, always north. You write but as always it's a matter of what else do you do.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Matter Of Will Only

You wake and think that twenty sentences is more than you can handle. More than you want to handle. Yet doggedly sit down to them, thinking, keep 'em short. Awakened by bird song, and one or two stars like pinpricks of light through the soft-budding maples.

Slept first on the floor (dreams of fish, old friends, a flooding basement). Then at midnight rolled on to the couch (no dreams at all), feet dangling over the edge. Meant to read - Hejinian or Bernstein - but didn't.

One of the dogs was sick - very sick - which leads to feelings of anger, vulnerability, a sense that one has behaved through the years unforgivably. Hence the odd sleeping routine.

A study of melodrama might be beneficial. Or a little burst of poem.

As the light prevails (prevails?) the stars change color and fade. Like forgetting where they are. Can presence be a matter of will only.

What potential do six sentences have. Can they change the world. Can they locate one better in (or on) it. Do they have a mind of their own or are they - as Leonard Cohen writes - really really really really you.

Outside, two nights running, a home repair manual circa 1959 gathers dew. What is the point - or what is the matter - with being polite.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Only Partially His Path

Walking with D. in the woods I saw the landscape the way you do after a stroke. He takes a more circuitous path, avoiding snow banks, deadfall, jutting branches. The path - an old logging road - is only partially his path. We saw a garter snake out there, first of the year. Its red tongue was a fine ribbon in the afternoon sun.

Jeremiah loves the horses at Back Acres Farm, though he is bored during Sophia's lesson. We sat in the dry grass and he untied my shoes while she cantered over poles. Melanie had some good ideas about teaching. She was laid out flat in the sunlight when we arrived, like a sacrifice. Alix's cell phone rings the way mine used too.

The kids waited in Chesterfield while I bought Doritos for our "Princess Bride Party," which was a bust. K. asked about my father, as always. The new warmth is hard to believe. I told Chrisoula we made it through winter. She was unusually happy when we got home, that infectious joy she can have, where you feel like you're in her home and it's perfect.

Reading Henry Gould right now, or getting glimpses of him. Guest/Ghost/Geist et cetera. Things turn out a certain way and after you say that's how it was meant to be. Why not? More and more I feel contentment despite all the reasons not to.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

As Useful As It Seems

As usual, the voices in my head. The rattling sound the green keyboard makes. The tools you use to write matter. The moon rises early and disappears a little after midnight. Think of it over Ohio, where once the deer stood like statues beside the highway. The sound of trucks is nearly always lonely. Not when will we get there but how.

What is the significance of 5560. In the dream, all of the plants needed to be watered and hadn't been. The sound the water made leaking onto them. Later one's father saying in the voice unheard for over a year now "I wish I could have talked to you about it." Meaning a victory of some kind, but the dream was inflected with loss. A contest which had been lost.

When Hayden Carruth ate all those pills there was a darkness with streaks of gray (like worms? mica? tiny comets?) swirling through it. When the swirling stopped, he stopped (he wrote). All the religions in the world can't be right, so which is it. One recalls as a child pretending that kites were pet birds. Otherwise, not finding kites particularly attractive.

A list of chores is not as useful as it seems. A sense of duty is futile here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Not So Much A Limbering-up But The Dance Itself

In the moonlight ("our wedding house shone") his hands look alien to him - closer to fins, objects that don't belong to him and over which he exercises no control. Or they appear to be filled with blood, dried blood or cemetery soil (cemetery soul he first wrote) packed into the jagged creases that a fortune-teller once said forecast a long life but jagged and painful.

He remembered wishing (with the intensity of prayer) that his Grandfather would die so he wouldn't have to visit him the next day (and in the dream his Grandfather appeared as a large round moon floating sadly in the darkness), and that was exactly what happened, and how as a child he had a dream (of a trainyard, the cars standing in a solemn line, and near the tracks a single colorful flower which when picked would mean his father's death) and wondered could he choose to dream it. Could he kill both his Father and Grandfather and then what would that mean for his son. Would his son dream his death one day, or want to.

Yet he recalled - his hands draped like white spoons across his moonlit lap, his mouth hanging open in what might be described as horror - that his heart opened, it flowered, when his son came running to him. Did his father feel that way? Did the flowering ever stop? He felt suddenly as if he were the most fragile link in an otherwise sturdy chain, and the thought tired him so that he went to bed, but not before visiting each of his sleeping children, and muttering in the forgiving dark small prayers that he would be embarrassed to recount in daylight.

His dreams then did not include any trainyards ("the car dealers were like ghost towns"), nor anything memorable, though each time he rose out of them (to pee, to touch his wife's shoulder, to see where the dogs were) he had a feeling that this last one was surely one to write about.

Oddly, the whole night was filled with the simple awareness that he was at last content. That after years of confused longing, of angry searching, of futile maneuvering, he was happy. Or happy was maybe the wrong word - it implied too much about balloons and cake and bright sunny days. He felt that a door had closed, or an envelope been sealed and mailed, and that he had no need any longer of what lay in those now inaccessible containers. He saw a maple tree out front - the one that he often thought he should have taken down - and realized it was the oldest tree on the road, certainly within sight, and his heart stirred then, for the tree it stirred, like a fist unclenching in a bath of warm oil.

Ah . . . he disliked that last image - be done with fists, he thought. And took note of something Charles Bernstein said (paraphrased) about "models of representation" - the form that a work takes ((maybe assumes is a better word) - for example "my iron father/never canoed with me/over fields of masculine epiphany"), i.e., that's not actually getting any closer to issues of the father because it uses a traditional model (or mode) - and works that challenge those models, that discard them, explode them, bypass them entirely, "risk being more inaudible than ever."

The reason he thought that - one reason anyway - was that he had been writing twenty lines a day, and the form appealed to him. It called out of him certain kinds of writing - disciplined, exploratory, somehow blessed - and his brain moved in pleasing ways trying to fill the designated container. And he wondered, in light of the new contentment, if the so-called twenty lines (actually sentences) were not so much a limbering-up but the dance itself.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Engaged In Various Congresses

He woke up with a headache, probably from sleeping on his stomach. Though his dreams were so pleasant he remained there for another ten - fifteen minutes. Curled like a button in a nest of old blankets.

Yet when he finally climbed out of them, and stood making coffee (how hard to count spoonfuls of grounds when your eyes are bleary and your mind still trying to find its way back into a dream), he could recall none of them. Only the sensation that something wonderful had passed, that for a few hours he had traveled to a specific place, engaged in various congresses there, had been reluctantly drawn out, and now his memory was slowly but surely being wiped clear of the experience.

It lent his work - the early minutes of it - a grim focus. Not grim so much as sure. He realized that he had reviewed a poet years ago unkindly and wondered about how - or even whether - to contact him now. He answered a few questions from an editor whose prunings often frustrated him yet always seemed to garner him the most praise from readers. He sent another editor a story idea, in the form of trying to find the correct writer for the story (it couldn't be him - it was a women's health story), but somewhat passively hoping she would suggest he write it.

He finished his coffee, wondering not for the first time about the wisdom of lightening it with soy milk, which in turn made him briefly consider an essay on those days when for several years he only drank his coffee black, and then - even more oddly - his early twenties when he actually drank decaf by the apparent gallon. The possibilities seemed as real, as potentially fruitful, as the bean and pea plants sprouting on the counter, plants that confused him when he looked at them, their greenery odd in a house where the presence of cats - and their appetite for destruction - had long ago made plants of any kind an impossible accoutrement.

He noticed that the pigeon who last night had appeared sick was still alive and perhaps even doing better than expected. Though how much can one tell at a distance of thirty yards or so, and through a window that hasn't yet had its spring wash.

For some reason, the house remained quiet long after 8 a.m. - that is, nobody else was awake, or if they were, they weren't announcing it. The heater was on (there was a thin veneer of ice over the duck's pool outside), and you could hear the outside chimes as the wind tossed them. In fact, if you closed your eyes and concentrated, you could hear the wind itself, like a distant river high up in the sky. Why, he wondered, does closing the eyes help one hear? Obviously (he answered himself) the less data that enters brain, the better.

Yet that last thought saddened him - scared him, even - and drove him (paradoxically) to his computer where he began writing almost frantically, as if he could somehow counter the incoming data by flinging his own data back out at it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sort Or Become Confluences

It has lately occurred to me that the places where I sit to write are confluences of a sort. Or become confluences when I look at them a certain way. So here, in the back room, which doubles as an office and is supposed to be a bedroom, there is: the line of the driveway to my left, perpendicular to Harvey Road running east/west, Route 112 in the distance (running north/south) with the air strip running parallel though with more ragged edges.

There are also: the house lines visible through either window. The fence that separates our property from the Tanner's, the more or less straight up and down lines of the many maples and one dogwood and two pines. The window panes, the distinct boards comprising the walls, the lines of the desk, even the blinking cursor.

Straight lines, right angles, everywhere.

I have some new age predisposition towards circles - without any good idea of why they're better, I believe they are - yet these lines (which seem endless, run on forever) do seem to locate me - or can locate me. They bound me, act - artificially? clearly artificially (really? clearly?) - as constraints.

Lately, more and more of the spam I get is for replica watches. And how can I not be grateful? Now the point is not that "all the ladies are laughing at me" (or do I really want to please her) but that my wrist is naked to an unacceptable degree - a failure of class I cheerfully embrace. One expresses disbelief at the mere idea of spam - does anybody really actually respond to this? - and yet they must. Numbers don't lie. But they can be used in furtherance of lies.

How are numbers different from words in this way?

The sentence two sentences back (furtherance of lies et cetera) contained (had as its holy ghost) the idea of war (this war). Before moving the pigeons, we feed them in their familiar spaces. Any crisis is better handled on a full stomach.

It's not raining yet but I predict it will be.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mine Are Mostly Reminiscences

After dark, after bedtime, and resting while Jeremiah's breathing deepens and slows, I recall that my twenty lines, my twenty sentences, are untouched, unimagined even, undone.

Procured signatures, final ones, for nomination papers, which allowed for half a dozen conversations, one of which included reference to Lyn Hejinian. Siamese cats lolling in the sun on the car while I talked. Do you want some tea or coffee. No thanks I've got to get going collecting signatures.

Cleaning the chicken hut with Jeremiah I thought how dried chicken shit actually has a sweet smell, the dust of it rising while I scraped off the roosts. Tomorrow we take the new pigeons out of quarantine and move them in with the home flock. In the woods, there were patches of dry enough ground that we weren't soaked coming home, though Song did need a bath.

Jeremiah and I ate lunch at the table outside while - no joke - three sets of neighbors, unrelated, separate houses, were all doing yardwork. Sweeping the road and so forth. While we munched pretzels and talked about how can peanuts climb trees if they don't have arms and legs.

Yet I do cringe at the sight of our front lawn.

Reading p. 116 of Harrison's Dalva, and thinking, why do I get shit for those long dense paragraphs? Then read it again and thought, well, something actually happens in his. Mine are mostly reminiscences. Also read Hanke, rereading him, The Jukebox, and liked how someone (Sam Shepherd I think) says that he reads like a guy whose right on the edge, whose words are literally all he has to hang on to. I liked that.

It was supposed to rain but it didn't. Joe said at the dump, "if this is rain let it rain all the time." Shari said she was okay, well mostly, okay, you know. I said I did, but I wasn't sure.

Friday, April 11, 2008

There Are Useful Codes

April rain reminiscent of snow. You don't have to judge anything, yet on Spring evening as the sickle moon seems to cling to the budding maples, you might as well. The next morning, two of those judged see you at the store, later opening your mail. There are useful codes, and nobody needs to be a snob about that.

Outside, Steve's truck parked halfway up the embankment. Cellular antennae pointed down. Jeremiah standing in the hall earlier, legs crossed, leaning his head on the wall, crying quietly. "I don't want you to go." Thank Christ for journals.

There are sixty-eight flowers out front - daffodils and crocuses. A worm of apparently legendary proportions was unearthed yesterday, so large nobody could bring themselves to toss it to the ducks. Also bees. Question: do bees migrate. Answer: either that or they hibernate. How many answers are simply questions all over again.

Four down, one to go. Off the hill the rain doesn't fall as hard, but there's more traffic, the wheels hissing on the slick road. I wanted to ask Vati about ghosts but didn't. You reach an age where who cares about epiphanies. Yet in the wash of light coming from the Tanner's barn last night, maybe two a.m., I did have one. And I liked it, too.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Maybe A Crow?

He who writes fast shall write fastest in the morning. Nothing is more exciting than having to generate text by such and such a time. My head feels like somebody struck its lower left - right there at the base - quadrant (quadrant!) with a ballpeen hammer. I don't even know what a ballpeen hammer is.

Last night I dreamed of artifical gems - piles of them - and of the games I could play if I brought them home. Then how those games would grow old and there would be fake gems everywhere and what would anyone want with them then. What is a better game? What is better stuff?

Over the weekend I saw a bear galloping - that's how they look - as if their bodies are sliding beneath thick black coats. Then yesterday beneath a pine tree shredded honey comb. Yet no tracks. Well, maybe a crow?

In the forest the snow is still heavy, a fact that amazed the woman from Amherst who teaches psychotherapy using horses. Later the idea of congruence - when how we act and how we feel are in harmony. Horses don't fake it, she said. What to make then of the fact that Lily the spotted draft skitted when I leaned in to kiss her. Though she loved Jeremiah, almost kneeling in the muddy snow to nuzzle his small open hand.

The brook more like a river though "full spate" is still the wrong words. Talking pleasantly on the same day to neighbors with whom I've argued over how they don't properly constrain their dogs. You think the snow will never leave and then it does. The first cup of coffee of the day is always the only one that's worth drinking, but the cup in the afternoon is medicinal.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Muddling Through Gets More And More Satisfying

Part of the problem is that I write fast, and get bored easily. So here I am on the second novella, twelve pages in, and it's hard to imagine some long extensive, years-in-the-doing, kind of revision. I write by accretion, going back over the paragraph I just wrote and tweaking, clarifying, almost always finding new material. The existing sentences tend to imply more, want more. How to manage this - writing fast - is a challenge, maybe the challenge.

The other issue is: history vs. the story. As Douglas says, you have two spaces in your writing - the past and the now. How do the two inform one another, act on each other. The same ideas at play in the current piece of writing. The question is avoiding boredom, exhausting the reader with the heaviness of what happened long ago. The answer, I think, is plot - the meatiness of it (Josh Corey wrote that, though I paraphrase) - making things happen. Letting things happen. It occurred to me last night that I tend to stay in spaces where I'm bored (writing and otherwise) and this may not be a viable strategy.

Toying, as always, with major changes going forward - say taking the summer off from education in order to really apply myself to writing, and to pushing the writing. Yet inherent in that is some idea that the education itself isn't integral to whatever optimism, or confidence, that makes me think: just write. So who knows. The lack of clarity on these subjects - even as the muddling through gets more and more satisfying - continues to depress.

The point lately - or what works - seems to be about getting outside of what has seemed to work in the past (I wanted to write "comfort zone" but cringed). So the farther afield I go the closer I seem to get to home. Is that a fair way to say it - to say what?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

All You Want To Write Are Vague Warnings

In an email exchange with D. yesterday I said X, and then when he responded thoughtfully to X, I said, No, no. I didn't say X, I said Y. Shifting the ground on which the conversation stood, or would have. Reviewing our emails after, the trail of them in my inbox, I felt sad about this, yet saw it as being a fairly predictable, historically consistent method of relating for me. At a moment of emotional honesty, vulnerability, you slam the door. Oh no no no no no, I say. You were supposed to go through this door. And then slyly open another.

Repeat until you can't keep your stories straight, or think of one person - except I can think of one person, maybe even two - who isn't scratching their head, thinking, man, that guy is either a) supremely confused or b) severely hypocritical.

I vote for A. Of which B is merely a psychological consequence.

D. - another D. now - writes of the story I sent her, "there are a lot of crazy characters," and my heart leaps thinking, Yes, yes! There are, aren't there! Then I read the next sentence in which she asks can I resend the story in another format as she thinks the "crazy characters" are supposed to be quotation marks.

The mind moves fast over what it scares it. Moving fast means missing terrain, no time to glean necessary information, or mine in anyway for data. The absence of which means any subsequent cartography is going to lack a lot of detail, a lot of needed detail. A few lines here, a few lines there. Probably lots of white space in which all you can write is "here there be dragons." Which was - is - useless advice, because it kept explorers from trekking the same territory, and mapping it out for real.

Ask yourself where are there gaps in your text, white space in which all you want to write are vague warnings (psychological bullshit like at a moment of emotional honesty, vulnerability, you slam the door). Then go back to those places, go over them slowly, under them even, one word at a time.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Some Restraint Is At Work Now

As usual, I leave myself with only a few hours to meet a deadline, despite having had weeks to work on a piece. Even insomnia, constant companion allowing me to write in the dark hours of the morning, disappears when I've got an actual deadline. When I actually have to finish something.

Yet this morning it occurs to me that this may be a matter of form - not of the piece, per se (seventy or so paragraphs on the subject of mud) - but of the writing itself, the space in which the writing takes place (needs in order to take place). The looming deadline drapes itself over the morning, fences it in, and directs nearly all my actions to the end of a particular and necessary writing.

Who said - as always, paraphrased - "there is nothing like a sentence of death to concentrate the mind?"

Well, anyway. The pigeons were lovely against the morning sky a few hours ago, the white undersides of their wings like heavenly scythes. The new ones are bright-eyed, their murmuring audible even from the office (the home office) as I checked emails, put the needed data on a USB key. The sound of pigeons talking to one another is a sweetness, a marked contentment, evidence of some peace.

Sophia enjoyed being outside with me - a lightness in her step, the way our eyes met, and then disclosing her thinking about these new birds. "I think they're making friends." Her pleasure was pleasing to me, also a puzzle, though I don't know why exactly. When I went in "to get ready for work," she followed and we talked about what to name the new pigeons. She hasn't named them yet, which I find fascinating. The last time we added animals - maybe six months ago? nine? a lifetime to a nine year old - she had them named in minutes. Some restraint is at work now, a sensibility that testifies to "growing up."

"Growing up." More like "growing outward," or whatever word or phrase contains the sense of blooming, and alighting on the blooms, and then floating beyond known borders, all at once. A redefining, a life inside the new definition, or life becoming known, being accepted, as a continual defining.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Holy Spirit And Your Mind

It's not twenty lines a day, it's twenty (or twenty-one) sentences a day.

Can a pigeon, a homing pigeon, look forlorn when several hours, say one hundred miles away from home, it's released and flies immediately to the top of a nearby food store to look around, head tilted where the sun lolls behind fish scale clouds. Or is that (yet again) a matter of projection, especially since this reading of forlorn is most intense (most felt) the second time you pass the store - lost yourself, looking for the highway on ramp, where am I.

I don't want to share my nightmares, any of my fears, lest someone - but who am I thinking of, does it make sense if I can't name them, even imagine them in any detail - think, Ah, so that's how I get him.

Updike: paranoia is the natural state of a skidding organism. That may be a paraphrase, and don't ask me to source it.

I'd like to write an essay called The Poet Ron Atkinson. Thinking of the line that goes: "her mind said red/when the twilight." Or something like that. Related to how snow is blue but the brain insists on white. Ginsberg said - why not believe him - he heard the ancient voice of Blake, saw angels and so forth. What if you see that - the holy spirit - and your mind says, No, that's just the play of the light on the water, or the wind moving in the trees, or whatever.

"One of the few pleasures left," is a phrase I use often, in jest, but then of course there is a barb, or is it a sadness, inside the joke. I said it once about the Final Four - happening now but don't ask me diddely - and most recently while sitting in the rocking chair watching Chrisoula dress for bed.

Is it enough to risk readers or do you actually have to go out and find them and say, Hey, look at this.

People - lots of them - lending me their signature. Sure I'll sign that. Oh, I'm so happy you're doing this.

What if everything you think you know is wrong. Is it helpful, at least, to know that much?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

My Grimy Largesse

Unsettled, though saying so feels redundant. Woke up a few minutes after midnight from a dream of being in - Boston I think? the hazy outskirts of some familiar city anyway - and with old friends, from high school maybe (clearly triggered by J.'s phone call earlier this week), and everyone looked - though I couldn't see myself - as we did some twenty or so years ago. I was happy there, milling about - beneath a tent of some kind, an outdoor party preface to some other event, though what I can't recall - the bonhomie, et cetera, but it was quickly obvious that either nobody knew I was there (a ghost) or did know and didn't give a shit (unwanted guest). At the dream's end I was scouring the dirt for quarters, any coinage at all, and wondering where the car was so I could hoard my grimy largesse.

Couldn't fall back to sleep so came to the green couch and read - or skimmed, though parts of it were excellent - the Hejinian-edited 2004 Best of (or was it 2003) - it's still on the couch where Song is, feeling the easy familiarity with language I always feel while reading poems, that sense of yes I do this too, yet also the inevitable biography envy that accompanies the Best of's, which is maybe part of why I stopped reading them (also because the whole idea of "best" seemed closer to nonsense than not) and also because, at least to my reading sensibilities, they're usually kind of boring, their moments of not-boring way too brief. During this particular read my legs ached tucked underneath me, then propped barely on a crowded little desk, and my stomach was awash with bile following an evening of terrible food (or rather good food, good enough food, but in wrong combinations/amounts): crab cakes with some kind of pink cajun sauce, nachos, day old bread with cheddar cheese, thai noodles with salty mushroom broth, chunks of unripe watermelon, et cetera.

And now installing Turbo Tax (was supposed to have done this last night, "before midnight," said C, but I fell asleep putting Jeremiah to bed (with Allen's New American Poetry propped on my chest)), and while updates slowly download am reading - not skimming, I never skim her - Hejinian again, this time from The Language of Inquiry, which I think Bhanu recommended. Lovely enticing prose but it does deepen my confusion about that project - that story - how to write it, what form it should take (though raising those questions, casting light on them, seems beneficial), though I do say - said several times to C yesterday during the usual crazy bedtime procedures, diapers, tantrums, book selections, et cetera - that I felt some breakthrough, some movement, tiny but perceptible, finally, in how to approach this work. The sense, pervasive since my last visit to Plainfield, that once I figure out the form/the how, then it's just going to flow. Well, I do work fast.

I wrote several poems as well, as always more comfortable there (than fiction), but why. Who cares why. Still haven't heard back from D.L., and continue to postpone looking for signatures as I imagine everyone I ask will fix me with a cheerfully mean look and then refuse, basso profundo so everyone within five square miles will hear, as if everyone in this town is just dying for the opportunity to personally and painfully reject me, a grandiosity that is discouraging to actually see written down.

The point is - or was when this started, the reason it was started when it was - that whatever discontent mills about, while it milled, a rain started outside, a low thrumming that gained in intensity, and puddles formed and I could hear runoff from the broken gutters splashing into them. And against all that cold water falling I felt a distinct mammalian pleasure of being warm and dry, in this cave, and also gratitude for that pleasure. A moment of security, of being wrapped in, and also aware, intensely so.

Yet - say it - maybe it wasn't so much pleasure and gratitude as it was an imaging of myself having those feelings. I wasn't here but projected into some there - a hut, a scabby loft, with some books, writing utensils, and the rain conveyed that sense of being safe and cozy but also hinted at some kind of holiness, holier-than-thou.

While here - the real here, meaning this house, these books, this writing, these responsibilities - I reject (or only half-heartedly accept), drift away from, refuse contentedness (refuse content?), stubbornly avoid it, whatever.

And this, this is the twentieth sentence.

Friday, April 4, 2008

They Also Investigate What Scares Them

The light throws me. When it snows, the light as the sun rises, hidden, has a blue cast. The coverlet of snow is blue. But the mind says white. I feel like there's a wall between my eyes and my brain, contrary information only getting through refugee fashion. This is the way things are. In my dream, I wrote to Sophia: "spies don't only investigate what they're curious about, they also investigate what scares them or bores them."

The grind, the bulk of plow trucks going up and down 112. Robins dark, undeterred by the snow. What choice do they have. Where the hill crests in Chesterfield four deer - does - their skin sliding over their ribs, eyes jittery, crazy with hunger, yet bounding away when I slowed, over the stone wall into someone's back yard to graze near a swing set. It's not shooting one I don't get, but rather the gutting after, "the real work," Todd says laughing, and then carrying the carcass out to where. Me and my guns is like me and New York City. I don't feel like explaining.

Last night the computer didn't work for Jeremiah. What does Susun Weed say about anger, if anything. No, what do you say. Yet I slept fine, no problems, and dreamed of those who don't ever return my waves, or do but only sometimes. Running for office is like asking people to say they like you or they don't like you and who wants to learn this, see the hard data. My teeth won't bear dried apples, yet more evidence that the end is nigh, or nigh-er than it was yesterday. But when wasn't that true.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Grace Missing From The Old Sparks

Fell asleep thinking of how music wears tracks through our brains, or creates trigger points, so that a song or even a style of song will elicit a certain emotional response characteristic of the times, the conditions when those tracks were first worn. Thus John Denver's Country Roads is forever evocative of our house on Williamsburg Road, in summer or early fall, storm clouds gathering, a deep sadness already taking root.

Putting music on the computer yesterday I ended up temporarily with only six songs: three AC/DC songs, all from For Those About To Rock We Salute You and three Ozzy songs, all from Blizzard of Ozz. And then for half an hour, while I futzed around with Amarok play lists, I kept hearing those old standby's. And was aware - or was thoughtfully aware, maybe that's a better way to say it - of how I cannot listen to AC/DC anymore except in brief spurts of nostalgia or because I am technically trying to learn something. It grates, like blocks piled up high then crashing down, is sonically redundant, et cetera. It's unrefined. Yet it's the music that, from the moment I first heard Back in Black while roller skating alone in Hadley (Bon was dead when I found them), was the soundtrack of growing up, a touchstone, a blanket in which to wrap myself, tighter and tighter.

Contrast with Ozzy - read Randy Rhoads - who I can still listen to, still do listen to. Because the music is complex, varied, sometimes to an astounding degree. The instruments integrate better, and I even like Ozzy's voice, would love it if I were a non-English speaking listener. Point being, I didn't really see this so much when it was happening on my turntable some twenty-odd years ago. I liked Ozzy fine, loved Randy, but the music didn't resonate the way it does now.

If I think of metal as the music of anger, defiance, the upraised middle finger, whatever - and I do - then those tracks (the anger tracks) in my brain still light up, still want to light up, but can't abide clunkiness, mere shouting or banging. They want elegance, multi-textuality, complexity. They want a grace missing from the old sparks.

Think about this viz. novel writing. Think about the search for, the creation of, the refinement of containers, of form, as being distinctly related to grace, an ongoing grace. And think about anger, its voice, how it responds to or functions in those containers, that grace. Think too of what Susun Weed says, somewhere, paraphrased, how depression, the inclination to depress, is a protective impulse, a loving impulse, tamping down our anger where its expression would endanger or threaten us.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Triangle With One Angle Lopped Off

Killala on, the tea smells faintly of Fruity Pebbles. Last night there was thunder, lightening, and rain so heavy it woke Jeremiah. He fell back to sleep counting in a whisper. He loves numbers, words also, writing them all morning sometimes. Other than his name and the names of those he loves, he can't actually spell anything but has an intuitive understanding of the relationship between vowels and consonants, so the "words" he writes are less garble and more like missives from some place where the alphabet is the same but the language different.

Fatigued by the idea of writing. Writing what. If I had cows to milk I'd be out there milking them (okay then - doing what instead of writing). And the need to procure signatures to run for Town Moderator. What does that have to do with writing. Well, being in a certain place in a definitive way. Michael says, viz. the differences between hack (pulp) and literature, be an outlier. Which made me envious of his obvious integration of the two poles, what it seems I cannot myself manage.

Killala starts so lovely, the bass notes droning on forever, a slow deep river, dark too, but ends in a fairly lively bit of fiddling. Now Ray Lynch (Ray Lunch) and I hope the realtor next door, who plays drums in "a country outfit" won't come over and say "what the hell is that . . . ?"

Leaves blow across the parking lot visible outside the window, a triangle with one angle lopped off.

First I liked Joy Williams, then I didn't - too much Ray Carver, too much black humor a la Vonnegut (which worked for him because the whole thing was wacky, space ships, et cetera), too much "people don't talk that way." But then I liked her a lot, or liked short stories, and now have to try and figure out why. And read next Bynum, who I tried last night but couldn't do it, so tired from recovering from the "bug."

The wind coming through a crack in the window is cool and sweet and makes me think the question what the fuck am I doing here is maybe not as relevant as I like. Jim Harrison: the overexamined life is also not worth living."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Day Of Sadness, Warm Pockets

I was sick all night, some stomach bug that kept me awake until about 4 a.m., and has left me with the worst of hangovers, my body brittle and dehydrated and still not ready to even look at food. I've had a cup of peppermint tea (always darker than I imagine it will be) and now some decaf tea with soy milk and honey. I read parts of Cryptonomicon all night, marveling at Stephenson's intelligence, pacing. Also thought (oddly) of the herbalist Susun Weed, a comfort.

Another brown day, rain, more of the yard visible, the snow mostly hanging on where it was piled all winter during shoveling. Some toys - a green sand bucket, a white frisbee - lay on the dead leaves. I didn't rake last Fall, feeling crazy though I can't for the life of me recall what was so intense that it stopped me from doing yard work. So I'll be doing it this Spring. Sophia needs to fly her pigeons soon, they've been cooped up all winter.

Yesterday was a day of sadness, warm pockets of it billowing around me. Phone call from an old friend, news on the internet of another old friend's childhood trauma, and how she thinks about it now. I thought mostly of how much time has passed, and how easy it is to think about how bone-headed I have been through the years. Not mean so much as self-obsessed, to the point where other people's problems or concerns become little more than foils for my own psychological drama. Well, maybe that's too harsh. I was gentle with J., talking on the phone while the wet snow fell all around me in Plainfield, feeling the lovingkindness I picture as altogether missing from my early twenties.

It's mostly a matter of paying attention, I think. Why kvetch about days gone by when my life is full of family and friends and - although these entries might suggest otherwise - the aforementioned psychological drama is considerably lessened. When I woke up with my first bout of illness last night, the bedroom seemed to be filled with a pale mist, like gauze, and I was cold. I'm still cold. Though it's satisfying to be here writing.