- 18 June 1991
"Used to sleep behind there, we got kicked out, behind that big
tree there, about eight of us, and then we started losing things, blankets,
food. I ended up in the hospital, another guy ended up in jail, another
guy in detox and disappeared. Used to be good."
"If you make it too strong and light up a cigarette ... You have
to watch, you can't smoke, if it's mixed too strong, eh, and you light up
"Let it cook for a while." (Laughing.) "An old Indian
trick, you know, you tell people ..., you tell people you learned an old
Indian trick, if they want to drink Lysol ... ah you know where's that can.
Airplane. Blackbird. Very loud truck.
Quite stringently in pain. I'm going to blow it - I'm not going to be
able to sustain having a - what - don't know what - what other people have
- someone they're with.
How not - the oppression of it - the guilt, uncertainty, fear, anguish.
Try it this way: I was buying a car and flooded with how beautiful she
is outside and in. Tuesday. Wednesday morning Jam phones her. I'm plunged
into terror. She says, There is not enough love in Jam, on any level. I
know it's true. But that night in bed tho' I put myself into her hands my
labia stick together in blank refusal. She wakes me at 3:30 sobbing because
my body doesn't want her and so she shouldn't let me touch her either. That's
the end of our possibility of going on together. I don't want to feel it
then, I want to sleep, but I'm feeling it now. There is nightmare associated
with sexually loving women.
Bitterly haranguing Gay about slashing the wild area corner where trees
were being "strangled". A moment when I let something out I didn't
expect and with it really a flame - a distinct chemical jet - of hate. "Why
don't you talk to Oliver and Rob who also know something about the wild
area, maybe you'll believe it if you hear it from a man. What do you think
a tree is? Trees have evolved to come up through undergrowth."
With L feeling a big nasty tiger whipping my tail on the floor. Look
out little mouse I might not be able to control my claw.
What is it? I'd like a big nasty fight, but why?
Should I make something of my squabbling with Gay? Sunday night there
she was with Sean hacking in the wild area. I'm in pain to start with and
that sets me going. She's doing it for reasons she doesn't know, she's doing
it to be doing it with Sean and his machete, and for territorial gain. The
trees are being choked she keeps saying. Trees don't choke I keep saying.
It's the trees in her own wild area that are choked.
Yesterday I told [wild area coordinator] John she'd done it, remembering
not to mention names and realizing the advantage of speaking to him first
and also knowing territoriality will dispose him to use those of my arguments
I want him to be more persuaded of. Half an hour later I see Gay leading
Betty to show her their work confident she'll be vindicated. John comes
back blowing his breath, "I'd like to kick their heads off!"
Then Gay following Betty who is looking impassive. I'm beside the potato
edge. She's red and wet. Aggrieved with me. "Why did you talk
to them when I said I was going to?" She's understood that I got the
advantage (what does she expect) but not that she's not in a position to
make much of an evil of it. "Fuck off, Gay." "No I won't"
she says like a child, "You want everything your own way and I'm not
the only person who thinks so." I get to enjoy the chance to shoot
fast. "In fact Gay the truth is you'd like a little more of that yourself."
"That's not true! Everything I do is for other people!"
Oh well with that last word ringing in our ears I don't need to say more.
When I'm putting away the wheelbarrow she arranges to intersect at the
shed. "You have no right to tell me what I think. You don't know what
I'm thinking!" Boiling with resentment. From inside the shed I can
be laconic after her. "I don't think you do either." Oh unjust.
"You're vicious!" Sloping away home, knock-kneed and retarded.
So that's the story as I like to tell it. What else? That I'm still yelling
at her and rejoicing at how easy it is to confound this louche thing, red,
moustached, pig-eyed, stomachy, ignorant, famished, self-choked, stupid
And? What's more to do than recognize shadow when it's apparent? Feel
myself her? Yukk.
Then it's passed. We tape Monty sitting with Lance on the south slope
of the kids' hill in the quietness of Monday holiday.
Yesterday morning I creep into her bed to wake her and we lie there two
hours glowing bright yellow. I'm touching her with every surface I can.
There are columns of light standing in my palms. It is so blissful I wonder
whether my revolt was about getting to this parity in bliss.
Dizzy with happiness to be able to be with her again if I want, more
Beautiful tapes of Monty. Frogs with the curves of motor sound rising
and falling in the dark.
We go up to the herb garden. Sit on the small step looking across over
the pool. Two posts completed on the water hovering across the line. It
feels safer with Monty gone. L on my right. Her squarish head with earrings
Someone walking fast up the long path we see between the far posts. He
comes into the herb garden carrying a coffee pot. Hi, I say. He's the guy
who was looking after Monty the night before. Comes sits down with us crosslegged
on the gravel. The cops just released him. He was picking butts, Monty said
Here's eighty five cents. He was gone five minutes. He came back and saw
Monty lying on the ground with what looked like a piece of wood on his stomach.
A little blood around his mouth. When he touches the wood it's wet and warm,
his guts are out. He tears away to the firehall. My friend is sick! Grabs
a fireman's arm. Ambulance on the firehall parking lot. Saline, suction,
abdominal packs (we found the debris). He's gone, he's gone, says the paramedic.
Doug as he tells is unobtrusively releasing the pressure on a Lysol can.
A long even hiss, goes on for minutes. Shakes part of the can into the pot
of water. L and I taste it. It's very strong, tastes like shaving soap she
says. It's beautiful sitting with Doug. The beautiful night. City stars
not many. Quiet and mild. Doug's simple laughing and crying. Louie is perfect.
What it's like being hot and cold with L. When I'm 'with' her she looks
wonderful. The way she was holding her neat beautiful body standing on the
pedals next to me riding back along the wharf last night in her jeans and
yellow shirt. I follow the precision of her mouth when she speaks. Her hand
holding my hand is conscious in all its joints. Her senses in the same way
take fine strong note. There's some way she is, there's an aether I'm starting
to notice - like the night of Monty's death - I can't afterward remember
what we say - but the quality is like clean warm water.
When I'm away from her, her face is swollen. She grins. She strokes or
rubs me somewhere, stupidly and insistently as if trying to hypnotize an
animal. I feel her mired in feminine concern for people, far too many people,
a lifetime's geniality thickening her air. I hear it in her accent, a blunt
voice, not cursive, a voice I don't want to hear.
What happened last night. She said, I'm so happy you don't want to leave
me yet. I said happily, I was just thinking how much I like going hot and
cold with you, I get to find you again and again. She mentioned a plan that
has me able to switch in briefly while switched out, and I felt backed against
a wall, attacked, silenced, wanting her instantly gone as if she wanted
me to give up something I have to have to be alive. I thought it might be
my intelligence. But there was something else going on.
"Separatedness" I said. What men have that lets them work.
Saturna 8th August
Douglas firs, corrugating downwards, from deep deep blue sky. O my Greek
headland. There was a tenemos under a large juniper a bit further along
that coast. Goats sheltering in bad weather had tramped out a little theatre
floor, the inner half raised a few inches behind a long root. Juniper is
something in itself, and the way its shade was held in a shelf over the
rockfall was archaic. Dusty earth with blue juniper berries, dried goat
beads. At times a slight smell of goat.
The new owners picked this place to bulldoze a sea view. What they did
was level the crevasse that had drained the pasture in a small seep through
nettles, windfall giants, silted pockets. So now there are no goat paths
down into the soak and through the tangle and up again to the floor under
the juniper, which is still there but so dislocated it was hard to find.
I saw the man with money whom we allow to own it, stand there oblivious
with the cat driver saying Bring it down through here.
Gorbachov's end inscribed into seeing it with Luke. A sunburnt man with
black whiskers whose face has the kid light again. And I feel it at times
too, like the joy of having him asleep in the Valhalla house. Oh Luke it
is you still.
And then more. Louie sad about Rob is lying on my bed reading about computers.
I lie down next to her and read her last year's journal from this time.
Parts about Rob too. There is such love and recovery in the writing that
I think she'll see she's safe. She says The writing is so good. I
say, Isn't it really good.
Saying angrily, "She says I'm the one there's something wrong with,
there's nothing wrong with you." Joyce missed the obvious, L hasn't
a clue of it. Why I have to control people's perception. (When there's nothing
wrong with them.)
What happens if I don't control. Pain and fear. Pain and fear so bad
I must do anything to escape. What does the pain say. I am less than these.
There's something worth getting to know, tho' - how it happens I have
to be so afraid of feeling less than someone.
Crossing a street she saw a gash in the scene, a few inches wide, and
seething thru' to somewhere else, sky and street too. She felt she could
step into it but if she did she'd be in a world where pain never goes away.
An effective self made by aggression too, feels like it's a bad person
but it's the one that gets love, sex, money, influence, a car, a son, a
bright body, triumphs over enemies.
This bad but triumphant self also remembers a time steeped in beauty,
all day steeped in love, in pain, fear, revelation - only it was a re-entry
still without a helper - the others had to defend themselves, so bare it
was to see - no one was there.
Then Rob who could contain without frightening, lets me adore and play,
I'm effective all the way into feeling - easy to frighten tho', he doesn't
betray but he could. Uneasy. It has the mother very contained. I'm with
her in his arms but nowhere else. A preverbal mother. Then Louie with her
round arms round breasts and kind attention offers to be the mother, not
contained, but all around in any conversation. The preverbal mother. Ah
but the price - that the preverbal mother is gone. I'm hers and locked away.
It's another stage.
Computer sound editing with Louie in the cold at Western Front. Doing
it with her is maddening. "Put it on the top line there." "Louie
these things have names!" She was beleidicht. I sat on the floor in
the corridor and came to see what was happening. Don't take it personally,
we're doing something that's quite hard, we're trying to talk, it's too
hard and we're crashing. But she's really crashed, explanation won't get
her out. "It is personal!" In her baby tone. "Louie
it isn't personal! We're two computers who've crashed." She has to
persist. "I'm not going to do this, we don't have to do this. Go away
and have a break, or I will" I say. She follows me up the corridor.
She's in baby mode. I want to hit her, a flare of exasperation. "This
is one of the moments where I know what I'm doing, I think you have to just
believe me." She goes, I work, I get into the centre of it, I begin
to understand how to move.
Drive home downhill through the lights thinking what I've discovered.
My father's pressure with machinery he didn't understand well enough. Chasing
cows with Mary, her even-less-capable interference. I took it personally
in just Louie's way. There was no one in the overview that says look, both
computers have crashed, it isn't personal, it's just a fact.
And also the lovey state I was in during the Indian movie, the Aphrodite
estrogen one, is not personal either.
And then - is that what Joyce says - 'love' is not a feeling, it's an
overview steadiness in chosen responsibility? And so would be war.
But whether the states themselves, the full chemistry, are useful to
the body, a drench of some sort of life.
This morning with Ro, Saturday morning in the garden. He fixed his pies,
concentrated for an hour on prying sunflower seeds out of their tight slots.
I was setting out spare plants for Van Dusen, clearing the greenhouse, all
in the autumn reach, the dear sun, powder, different things in the edges
particularizing themselves in colors where all summer they've been unknown.
As we're in our side by side beds, Row and I having a conversation. Rowen
do you think you'll want to have children? Yes and I want to have a wife.
What kind of a wife? A beautiful one. What kind of beautiful? Long hair.
Hair up to here. What color? Pale. What else would she be like? (He talks
about Myrie. Myrie is bossy.) Do you want your wife to be bossy? No, nice.
How else? You know. Like you.
Everywhere on the streets, wet shreds. Reds.
Crisis of dwindling light. Make sure to keep a fire in the house.
We go to Stanley Park to look for breakfast. It is more beautiful than
we'd thought to expect. It's Saturday morning. There are trees with leaves
lost in just the amount to leave a floating lace. Yellow. And in another
place, on a bank, a small cherry with a head like a yellow circle and at
its foot another yellow circle, sloped. The shrubs sort out into kinds of
different colors. Be very quiet says Rowen because of the black squirrels
whose tail fuzz shows plainly the presence of the long rat tail inside.
Rowen has pancakes, eats shapes in the toast while Louie tells the first
day of her trip.
Wake with fear in my chest, it's got past the barrier in the solar
plex. Feeling that dope is a gate directly into truth, that the relations
I control are also that truth of reversal and menace. That my respect and
fear of the dark Them is that I think they live in the dark truth. That
I'm negligible in art and teaching because I stay out of the dark truth.
She tells a story about Rowen: she is at Carnegie eating with Michael
and Rowen, a bearded man she doesn't know and Mary McGuggin the lunchroom
shouter. Michael goes to get a glass of milk. Mary is saying excitedly to
the stranger, "Love really brings peace, I believe that, true love,
not the sex kind there is now." "Like Ellie and Louie," says
Rowen. L thinks no one hears. He's watching her take it in. "Ellie
really loves you, you know," soberly.
San Francisco 24th
Listening to the last ten minutes of tape not hearing anyone hear the
accomplishment in it, the precision of interiority. As always thinking this
should be the last time, I won't show my beginner's mind again. The gasping
woman said "In the end you're born."
Yesterday shopping and not liking. The gimmickry of the Victorian fronts,
a similar gimmickry in people. Boy with petal lips and spiked dogcollar.
A woman in plastic leather and Farrah Fawcett hair (layered frosted cantilevered
hair) turns a painted face with exactly the right features for the look
but maybe twenty years past its moment, toward a man with florid slightly
porky skin and an earstud, fine thin hair a too-even auburn, back seam of
his blue suit jacket opening a one-inch gape under the collar. Old woman
with complicated mask of symmetrical collapse. I don't like the way the
house fronts rise directly from the pavement without gardens. I don't like
the bumpy hills that obstruct and confuse, or the too many irrational streets.
Or the way the tramline isn't serious transportation. Or the stunned tourists
obediently gathering in tourist spots. Or the way relationship ads brag
of and demand success. Or the bunker I'm housed in, artist apartment with
unintelligent paintings and a TV that plays only one channel, America's
funniest people and its like.
The woman at the Nyingma Institute said she couldn't allow me to sit
with the wheel, but she'd let me see the garden. Very beautiful, she said.
Well - but the wheel tireless like the heart turning and humming. I sit
down on the flagstone facing it, thinking of the university, my fear of
it. I say, I don't want to be where it is so loveless, and find myself crying,
sobbing. Cry and stop crying and see the hanging strings of the weeping
birch in orange house light, and the beautiful folded colors of the prayer
flags. And get up and leave. Buy Le Guin's Pacific Northwest novel at the
bookstore by the subway entrance, just as the salesman begins turning off
lights in the back. Sit softened facing forward as the train advances timelessly
from light to light through the Bay tunnel.
Saturday December 7th
Morning. A story. He says "Come here." Her choice. She's not
too proud, so deep an ache. "Ti voglio." "Did you say William?"
Later the story of the dream about my father. "I wasn't saying ti
voglio, I was saying it's you." "That's what I was
saying when I came back from England." "I don't think I've ever
said it apart from that."
That's as much as I'm going to tell except for this afternoon when we'd
come back here and she'd got her car bill and we were in the red chair in
each other's arms in one outline together, our bodies one texture of twilight
The story there'd be in the story of our twenty four hours, a story with
stories, the wealth.
L turned on Co-op Radio at midday, heard a song in Punjabi, a crow's
cry. She thought, I must let Rani have my new phone number so she doesn't
lose touch. Phones Co-op to leave a message. "Rani can't speak now,
she's doing a show." Rani phones back. The Punjabi song calls to old
friends to return, the crow's cry is that.
I'm standing looking around and it's Luke's birthday - and what will
I do with the rest of my years - I like this philosophical work - and I
have writing now - and would like to try out living as if my opinion was
interesting - and know there are still those paths into the back country.
Last night in bed remembering the science of state, what I meant by it.
A judgment of the air.
I'm bamboozled by guilt and obligation. There was a face that came forward
into hers, it's an ugly stubborn demon, not a kid, more of a dwarf, an old
malice with a grin set. Saying that, I'm on track, keen, again. A
greed like Mary's. Being willing to see it I would see other people too.
The seeing I was missing in yesterday's dullness.
What I insist against her: that the half hour satisfied with Rob is true.
It's true, it's true.
Something else. Tuesday night when I'd been shopping, doing and aching
all day and we'd got into bed and I was sore all down my back she put three
fingers on a pressure point on the right side of the spine a bit above the
waist. When she said she was amazed at the suddenness and amount of current
I had felt it too. The right bum and up even around to the forehead and
then the right heel. And then a sound sweet complete night.
Last night sore and tired going to bed and reading journals. Seen overall
a chaos, seen in the detail of writing a precise venturesome passionate
mind - that has made itself so finely capable of a work it doesn't find.
I can't bear to think the journal will die when I do. That's something I
never do think. Always, sometime I'll make something of this.
2nd January 1992
My back breathed. The pleasure of feeling how the ribs where they hinge
to the spine can lift and settle like the covers of a book. Usually the
back is a wall for me to stand against.
Over New Years in New Westminster, east of here on the skytrain. A flat-topped
brown house with a portal. In this house - approached in wet twilight on
a mill town street with workers' houses which are small independencies -
Louie answers the door. She's been suffering. She'll be formal for now.
Next afternoon we sat backwards on the couch looking through clear tho'
wet air at a white house in the embrace of a plain privet hedge. Behind
this simplicity a reach of eighty miles: river flats, brush, log booms,
roofs, mills, the river, a bridge-curve pouring lights onto the north bank,
far west the shine of the sea and mountains stepping north. Across the south,
the white Cascades. And vaguely, because sky-colored and too fantastic to
take as given, the great pile of Baker with an overview of all.
Eliz and her kids. Taking her to the bus last night. She's in gumboots,
plaid jacket and braids, and stands staunch in front of the coffee shop
cashier joking until he cracks. Does she work that hard because it makes
them welcome - yes - Kane hauling a floppy doll his size, Adam in dirty
pale aqua, herself dressed however, only her fast innocent wit to provide
them princes' passage.
This journal the dullest for years.
At Ray's party a stroke of lust. My type. David, says Ray. Twenty-two.
Bright black eyes, so black bright eyes. Black eyebrows straight across.
A black pigtail in an elastic, a loose bunch escaped behind the other ear.
Black jeans, old hiking boots he sat on the floor to tie, jean jacket inside
an old leather jacket, black tee. Skinny chest. When he talked about Oakville
a kid inflection from someplace in particular.
Where is it now. This day. Silver on the edge. Starlings drop from one
branch to another, stand on chimneys. Water hissing in a pipe. Weak yellow
light laid over blue daylight on the kitchen wall. Sharp weak whistles.
Dark scuffle of letters hitting the floor.
Do people get finer-grained when they have sex in them? Is what I've
The way I imagine myself coarse or dread it, the way I'm secretively
dejected at a coarseness in her face and then other times enthralled by
a satin shine.
What do I need. I said when I wake at night sometimes I'm in a panic
thinking maybe it'll be like this until I die, the part of my life where
I feel is over. Sometimes another person can bring me open. I'm telling
her what it's like on my side and it seems she's taking it in, not hiding,
but still it's as if I'm alone being the grown-up. "I was weak, I needed
a certain kind of support." And how unforgiving if that was what shut
me down. She's supportive and I'm not. And yet it's as if my support is
the real support. The way I'm longing to talk to Cheryl because there'll
be moments when she spreads her experienced courage under me. We imagine
support, Louie imagines support, as willingness to adore, defer. Support
is precisely not that. Support is Tony's clear sharp word. Le Guin saying
she'd thought it was weakness she needed to let her be strong, but all along
it was strength. Strength for what, beloved? Ah - to be on my edge as I'm
not. Moving. As if what I want is to be sad. I am sad, this morning. At
the forehead I think, not elsewhere.
The streets are dull and dirty, gutters heaped with slush. Horrible hotel
restaurant. Poor executives, poor executive bodies, necks sloped forward
anxiously. And what a poor breakfast for twelve dollars, flimsy ham, and
how meekly he's eating it with his back to the room and feet planted under
Opening the hotel room door: I don't like this, the life it's designed
for, minibar and a selection panel for eight pay-TV movies. Click through
42 channels. There's a snowed over vision of a woman's ass and a man's hand
decisively tugging the panty up between the cheeks. Like working class sex,
matter of fact. They keep their eyes open, breasts flop, fuck fuck fuck
fuck. A hand affectionately placed on her flank. Abruptly change position.
Faithfully suck. But they won't show us a cock or a slit.
What I want to tell is visiting Richard Holden upstairs in Explorations,
shyly coloring in the office pen while he finishes a call. Can I do this.
But he's so warm I get all my confidence in a second. "I'm downstairs
on a jury, I've only got a minute but I ..." His big gap-toothed black-eyed
head beamed at me with what seems the most direct possible pleasure. "Okay
now I'm going." He puts his hand across the desk. "Alright."
But what he does is not a shake but a taking. Bold. He presses my hand onto
the desk under a decisive warm palm.
I was so valiant. Crying at the end of the week.
Still crying this morning. It's a crash. And why. The way Sandy Wilson
in white angora and greasy lipstick was stirring such liveliness in my francophone
guys. That's not the way to say it. I saw them come to her to say goodbye
with such open delight it was like school again, watching a popular girl
from the bitter darkness of - whatever I am that's different. Seeing how
smart is not as good as cute and willing, although all through the week
Jean-Claude was holding a line across to me, depending on my intelligence
to hear him.
I'm still a skin away from tears. It was very exposed on the jury. What
was exposed was my difference - as always - intransigence - a desperation
about holding onto difference. I'm tired still, trembling and slow, won't
be able to fetch up the long breath I need for this.
Thinking I need to make a charm against those complacent ones who think
I and not they are deformed.
Last night it was a deep dim Indian restaurant, the Tagore. I know not
from what distant place you are coming ever nearer, the sound of your footsteps
and all the rest I don't recall, but the great funnel outward of the longing
it built. There was I with Cheryl alongside, beautiful food in front of
us, saying I want to ask your advice - no I want to ask what you think -
no I want to ask what I think.
"I think we all have something we make the sign of our difference"
(she says). "Is this very sensible description the difference they're
always talking about?" Laughing.