volume 11 of the golden west: 1997 may-september  work & days: a lifetime journal project  









This one is livelier again, Joyce, Luke, Rowen, visits with Tom in Bellingham. Part 3 Diana's funeral. Part 4 camping on the res.

Dillard The living, Keats' letters, Judith Merrill, Sturla Gunnarsson Gerrie and Louise. Tarthang Trungpa Time, space and knowledge.

8th May

An early Sunday in the beautiful - how can so awkward a word acquire the sheen it has - ... I am sitting in the beautiful day writing the outline of my thesis. My heart is an ache in the center of my chest.

Writing the thesis outline I feel achieved. I've built a good revision. It is a steady frame. Writing it will be different from finding it. It's an armature I can use to support other integration of styles of mind like the unsupported intelligence of my years of isolation. Those years when I only had my work to love. The picture of a white tower with a bit of - I can't find a name for it - a bit of the fingernail-like tough translucent star-shaped structure that protects the seeds in an apple core - the white tower with a crescent of that core-material stuck onto it for moon. I would walk in the corridor and see it glued on the wall next to a door. There was a bit of a photo torn off and stuck next to it too, the end of an egret feather against blue sky. I would walk in the corridor and see that little construction and feel there sometimes are those states where I've got across the dotted line.

What does this have to do with Tom - the way I feel no one is there who knows me, no one is there who sees me, no one is there who wants to look after me, no one is giving attention when I talk, no one's eyes are adoring me, no one is competent with me - and yet I am somehow enclosed with this person and somehow must speak and write as if as if as if I were with someone who is really there. You're starving me. I'm starved.

I'm seeing the star in it, the way I wrote it. The white tower and blue sky, and white feather and blue sky, and the fingernail moon made of real cuticle, that stuck to the paper by its own stickiness - that was a real poem made without language, which never had language in any way. It was my silent mind that felt itself when it saw that. The silent mind that made Trapline and couldn't defend it. Alright I've spoken for it today. The woman who lives in that tower. I've had to revise philosophy for her.

This is something that goes on being hard, the sense of speaking without support, with no one listening. In the journal she listens. She is happy I'm telling what she knows. When I speak to Tom something else happens. What is it? This is a good question. Something turns on this. It is the difference between talking to the mother and talking to the father, but I don't want to take the distance of that description. I want to find it another way. (But he does hate me, he is holding up a repelling field when I speak to him. The sensation of forcing myself against that shield of hatred. Daddy I need ten cents for a scribbler. Valiant, steeling. What is that sensation of using all the muscles of the body to force a sentence against resistance. I have that when I write Tom now. You don't want me to say this and I am going to say it. But I feel sad and lonely saying it.)

27th June

What else could I know about the visit. He counted me down, 52, 51, 50 but not all the way to zero. At eleven he said, now it's just love, but was fucking a couple of strokes a year. Do I trust this, I was thinking. Will I put myself into his hands through a hypnotic induction? I had my eye on what he was going to do at one or zero. In fact I broke in to say I wanted to make sure he knows there are negative numbers. I broke the spell. I don't ignore what I've seen in the left side of his face. There's pleasure in bending a will. Someone who's very sure he'll only ever be alone. An unmet power. What do I know about that man? That he's the strongest self-assertion I have ever been eye-to-eye with, vividly unchristian. So why aren't I afraid of that one in him? Because of what I find in me to see him with, pure curiosity. Look at that, it says. Very interested.

Here is the thing I don't understand: that visible raptor doesn't scare me, it pleases me, but something else scares me. I want to say it's that power's defeat, when it happens. Is that right? It says yes. What is it that defeats it? A misunderstanding of losses. Yes.

3rd August

Dillard's book about Bellingham - yes there is something about the way she describes people. "Who seemed to shift from place to place by pouring himself." She exercises us with seeing them and then she kills them in macabre ways she seems to laugh telling. "Her shoes poked out of her skirts at a wide interval." "Their dark backs were bumpy with what looked like mosquito bites." She's got the dry fantasy sometimes of country wit, same as where I come from, but there's another streak. Virginia Woolf. "As if his tongue were not a muscle but a petal." "She had not been burned at all, but only smoked like a fish." She calls the book The living and it's as if a catalog of deaths. She has McMurtry's dryness about slaughter but then she tells us the cinnamon buns are tight packed and the pan is hot.

What it is about Dillard is that she keeps telling herself death, death to amp up the strength of the light. She wants dazzle. She's a dazzle junkie, who in this book earns her fixes with hard labour of historical research.

30th August

Here is what just happened. It's four on Saturday aft. I was on my bed with my heart hurting, trying to figure it out. He's doing something, I said. Deep sigh. Should I cut the cord? Yes, it said. So I imagined him on one end - somewhere in the mission - of an immaterial blue umbilicus. I hold it on the end close to me and say kindly that I am in pain and want to be able to do other things and am going to cut the cord for now. I'm tucking my end into the belly. The phone rings. He says he had an overwhelming urge to phone.


Nine in the evening, it's reported that Diana has died in Paris with an Egyptian millionaire in a fast car crashed against a wall in a tunnel. It's five or six in the morning there. The accident happened midnight their time. She was pronounced dead at 4. Her kids presumably have been woken with the news. Union Jack flowing slow mo - God save the Queen.

Before the news came on I went downstairs and brought up two old journals. One was for 1981. It has been 16 years in which there has been amazing attention to the fact of a young woman's beauty. What it means to be a goddess.

One after another dull men in suits making official comment. No one is asking, Did she know she was dying? What is the meaning of beauty? What makes beauty? Was she beautiful because she was and somehow remained vulnerable? She was the image of love woman, but was she that because publicity made her that? I mean in some energetic way. Is saint- or goddess-hood a participation with too many people, who feed her what they are and don't live out? Did she feel she was going to die when she sold her dresses? Was she murdered for interfering with land mines or El Fayed family politics? Charles will now be able to marry the woman his size. The two sons will feel themselves half-gods whose divine connection has been cut - "the rather plain dull women who surrounded her," says the historian.


Beautiful young men carrying the coffin on arms stretched across to another man's arm have the sides of their faces sad against its side.

Send her victorious / Happy and glorious they sing as the procession up the aisle begins. Five men in suits walk behind her - brother, sons, ex-husband, ex-father-in-law. Again she's surrounded by nothing but men.

It's such national-cultural accumulation: the hymns, the dragons on the standard, the cathedral itself, the city.

We are gathered to give thanks for the life of .... Yes but they are giving thanks to him not her.

Verdi's harrowing burst.

They keep zooming up from the catafalque to show the implacable checkering of the floor.

It seems to me / That you lived your life / Like a candle in the wind. When Elton is singing they cut to crowds outside - the people's music - but he's singing it as if he's in church.

"Compassion, duty, style and beauty" an amazing list. "Your greatest gift was your intuition ... your instinctive feel for what was really important ... genuine goodness is threatening ... a girl given the name of a goddess of hunting was the most hunted ..." Her brother did well. He told the truth and cried doing so. He publicly vowed to her family to rescue her sons.

What does the descant mean, the fact that it's the kids' voices that take flight, always in the last verse. There's a sentimental meaning, but is there a real one?

Choir boys - archbishop - in the streets it's men and women in equal numbers, but in the enclave it's ranks of males. They had the two sisters read short poems. It was only in the Requiem that a woman's voice screamed out in authority. In a thousand years will the services in this place still be praising only the father, even when it is a woman's death that is being marked. Father, son and holy spirit, he's saying. We'll imagine they're too chicken-shit to say mother and daughter and so they say 'holy spirit' in euphemism, veiling the fact they can't handle, which is that this ritual visibly evokes the womb and the birth passage, down which the death is now being bourn in a standing sound of heightened sensation. That shot down into the nave where the floor takes the shape of a woman in a white gown: they held it throughout the moment of silence.

The crowds have known to do this right - clap when the hearse passes.

Where do they get all those policemen?

The monarchy took direction from people in the street as selected by television journalists!

People are throwing flowers onto the slow hearse as it's passing through North London, as if the car had been held up behind a hay wagon.

After Charles Spencer had spoken it was the crowd outside the cathedral that began the clapping. Official guests inside the grand stone walls heard it and took it up, so that the royals in their core of protection found themselves challenged by an approaching wave of democratic sound, which easily passed through intimidating arrangements of ancestral stone.

Wednesday 10th September

The sun goes down while we're eating. T has his second plate of spaghetti on the west side of the dyke with me. Pink clouds and yellow sky reflected on the water. We watch the incandescence change. He used to see such things, he says, but he wouldn't sit and watch them like this. Not since he was very young. That's such good news, I say.

We hear the geese. There are a few street lights in the Lummi village across the water. The moon is at the waxing half and is standing at the zenith, above the dyke road that divides right from left. Behind us, in the east, it is settled night and nontidal water. In front of us in the west, it's wet deep color, water peaceable but changing, squawking flocks, mother owl roaming. I'm looking back and forth from one time of day to another, an illusion I love.

We go back to the night world and crawl into bed. Our dew cover is already wet. Tom is wearing jeans, socks and his big jacket. I have folded my pants and put them under the mattress. Also my shoes with the keys in them. The Milky Way is directly overhead. Tom needs to play with the radio. I'm in a secret frenzy of anxiety when he does but I keep my mouth shut and use his absence to look around and try to listen. I apologize to the spirit of the place for him: I say, He's learning but he still needs this, he doesn't mean harm. I am somehow really frightened by the noise. He gives up after half an hour of what he says are bad songs. I try to explain the galactic horizon to him. The Swan is above us.

At night I'm awake a long time. I see the Milky Way has rotated through ninety degrees. Now it's Casseopia overhead, Orion at the foot of the band. I try dimly to imagine the earth's rotation making the change in angle. I put my arm around Tom's heavily jacketed midriff and my hand falls on his little plastic speaker. I start to laugh. He doesn't wake. I'm fretting.

Waking to daylight on the car, its dark dewy red in the bleached meadow. There are wings of orange cloud rayed out around Mt Baker, white mist banked over the water. Tom - you have to wake up and see this for a moment.

Then a little later it's he who wakes me. The forested shore across the way is doubled in perfect reflection. The mists are mauve. Something like that. I saw it very dimly.


He's stowing things in the car as we talk. I drive out slowly skirting the potholes in second gear. He has the radio on. We ride back holding hands listening to the music. It's for me the best completest time. His profile next to me is showing his best self. We're in completest peace. He is a beautiful young man, a marvel. By the time we get back to the Mission his face has shifted back into a face that will be safe among the men, but I saw what I saw and it tells me I wasn't wrong about him, my joy wasn't wrong. Though, to be safe among the men, I will again become a state that doubts it.

15 September

Keats is ethereal. He intuits the electrical, say; he intuits himself as electrical. But he wants to make something illicit of that intuition. Shakespeare wouldn't be caught dead dreaming of the afterlife. The fact of imagining IS the afterlife, the whole of it. We have a mode of afterlife in life. Keats is next to saying so but won't. Happiness repeated in a not necessarily finer but more selected mode. That's writing's life which is generally an afterlife. The pleasure of digestion.

The Christian bachelors of Romanticism died or were wrecked in sexual denial. Shakespeare we can be sure fucked. Keats' letters go vapid as soon as they are to a woman. His mother dumped him when his father died. He tried to feed himself imagined air - real air breathed deep would have driven him to rage and lust. A soul that kills itself at twenty-six I do not think well-built. Is there an and yet? I don't mean Keats didn't build as well as he could - only his time taxed him of more animal life than he could spare, given his preference for using his energy in fantasy, which doesn't feed - which is in the end only a memory of digestion.