I went to talk to David. Sunday morning. It was one of the between times,
sober, not romancing. He sat opposite and I watched him in his wonderful
strange face, his true barenaked little face below the tower of his forehead.
I said it gets real and then both of us fall into hope and then it goes
wrong. He said, Sometimes I feel you so small I want to put you in my pocket,
look after you.
I said, Tell it like a fairytale. He said, She's a fairy. When I get
her home I put her on the mantle. She flies up and writes on the ceiling.
I said, S'elf: one's own elf. He carried out a shelf he'd made. He had written
on one of the boards, shelfreda. An elf shelf.
Write down Bobby Wong's name because he was what happened this afternoon.
He likes notes in origin. "You were naked in that film, I could
see you completely." A small man, very small, like a kid, but could
have been thirty. Baseball cap backwards. Holding his heart. "One more
thing I want to ask you, what is the relation between your work and your
physical?" "What?" He said it again. I still didn't understand.
"Your foot - I have something too."
Bobby's dream. It was as if he was sucked out of his body suddenly. He
was in a vast darkness without sight, hearing, touch. No senses. But there
was knowledge. There were layers as if mountain behind mountain, and in
the folds of the layers there were sounds, people. He could hear them all
at once or he could hear only one. It was the best. Better than anything.
Suddenly he was sucked back into his body. He went back there several times
that night but never since.
I see that where I slept last night is called the Sweetwater Mountains.
It was pink fading fast, I had to make my bed and didn't see much, but there
were white boulders, a fast green and white stream, pink-brown slopes with
pine and what is that little hard-leaf tree. (Aiee, it's time for the grasshoppers
to start little rattles.)
I put my bed on powdery sand near the stream. It was only seven but too
dark to write. I sat looking. The stream filled its pass with complicated
clashing sound that I realized contained an almost constant boom of jets
whose flashing triangles I could see crossing the stars always northwest
to southeast. Much later the moon rose in a small notch on the other side
of the stream. The spot got itself ready, very bright, but then nothing
but the god itself, whose appearance was so commanding I sat up straight
to take its force. A fantastic arrival. Now I could see the sand under my
nearest tree worked back and forth with animal footprints. I could see the
red of my shoes.
San Diego 19
Look at this beautiful lamp. I have a perfect lamp. Today I bought a
hotplate, a little Silex, chrome, a smooth round thing the size of a saucepan
floor. And in the same store a teapot I don't know why I like - cream-colored,
a handle on the lid like a little pike, and a squared spout. These three
things, lamp, hotplate, and teapot, are beautiful adaptations to living
in this 8x10 room. Library books: Lopez Field notes, Lessing The
real thing. A phone. This fresh hot cup of tea. A couple of people in
the lobby who say hello.
The antique store in Ocean Beach was like an anthropology museum, aisles
with furniture arranged into bays that held small things like the teapot
and the lamp. Jewelry, books, baby shoes, dishes, sometimes clothes. Nothing
that hadn't belonged to a life - a museum of American abundance, spill and
overspill of shapes of personal love: you made it intact through some original
life, now come and be in mine. I was walking around addressing the pieces
the way I do plants. Liking this teapot is David in me - his feeling for
the love in things. I take the objects for their shapes, for the way they
satisfy me from many angles. See - there - my plaid jacket black and white
with just a line of turquoise blue. That jacket - and the shirt next to
it - was in a life before me too. What I'm saying is a commonplace, the
mystery of objects and so on, but I haven't said it yet. Something about
their coherence, each little thing, and the larger pieces like the kitchen
chair, the love, and the kind of love, that made them, in their different
times and styles, is also a love of seeing and touching, both in the maker
and in those who wanted to live with it.
Last night I lay falling asleep at eight hearing the building around
me. The quality of the sound is very beautiful. It has a grey furry quality,
which may be given by the standing panels of concrete walls. Not like the
sharp sound in my house at home. This sound is like grey velvet. Its sources
are distinct, radios, televisions, taped music, telephones, voices, nose-blowing
and coughing that come from the light well. Voices, rarely, through the
door; the sounds of other doors. Annie on the other side of the wall talking
about praying for this and that, or when she is alone shifting into a nasal
southern voice that is like a cartoon person who may be an alter to the
pious soul she otherwise affects. There is a young black woman with midriff
bulk and thin pointed legs who walks everywhere speaking aloud, being a
radio keeping herself safely in the company of her choice.
I lay sinking very sweetly into this velvet texture of the building's
presence and the street's, where there are car alarms and shouts. Ironed
white sheets with light blankets make me a child in the hospital, a girl
in the dorm at Ban Righ. There is a reason I could feel that sinking-in
as bliss. But then my phone rang and it was Tom inviting me to dinner, as
if he had been there at the desk feeling me open my edges to the building
with him in it.
It was Saturday night in La Jolla. A double-stretched limo is at the
curb waiting for a dozen little girls capering on the grass. "Let's
go, come on now let's go," shouts a bearded man in shirt sleeves. They
ignore him. They ignore him. He stands beside the open back seat door. I
don't know whether he is father or chauffeur. They come running. "Wipe
your feet, wipe your feet" they shout to each other.
In a roofed shelter beside the path a family is collecting paper plates
by light of a Coleman lantern they have hung from the ceiling. There are
many date couples walking, kids standing kissing. What I liked best was
a group of Hispanic kids of different ages standing on the sidewalk so we
had to walk around them, seriously and skillfully, quietly, singing, in
Spanish, something with intricate harmony lines.
And back through all the miles, roads that come to junctions and become
other roads, a very unrectangular net laid to pass between humpy hills and
I was in a field in the mist. It was falling dark. I stood looking at
cropped yellow grass, blond and grey tufts of sage, grey earth. There were
contours nearby, some trees, the slope, a mission wall with a yardlight
shining down it. I would hear a bird slice down through the thick air. A
small round animal tumbled into its burrow just ahead of my foot.
I was in the sheep pasture. The old lame ewe was outside it. Tom was
somewhere smoking a cigarette out of sight in the mist. I was looking at
the simple field with love and wonder. It was as if pushing on my heart.
A beautiful man, brown, dressed in faded black, has been lying on the
sidewalk trying to put a condom on his unhard penis. His eyes are showing
a lot of white. He is a small lovely body. A white policewoman, tall blond
with plucked eyebrows and a tight uniform, arrives. "Turn around with
your hands behind your back." She is walking along the street with
him, strolling toward jail with her left hand loosely draped over his two
hands cuffed behind his back. It's Thursday morning. There is sun on the
It was raining yesterday morning. I merged onto the freeway where every
car was surrounded by a spitting cloud of white spray that moved with it
and in which its two red tail lights were almost the whole weight of danger
shooting forward in ranks between dotted white lines. It was a muffled dreamy
scene so automated I had to push myself to remember to take care.
Oh poor people, poor wrongly made things, so many of you, each gone wrong
in so visible and individual a way.
There's a tree across the street that's like a tree in Giotto, bitty
small leaves light green and dark green, a small tree lit in bits and shaded
in bits, little and mythical.
I'm feeling a kind of immensity of creative freedom. Look, there, across
the street, the way a white curtain is hanging in purple folds inside the
geometry of a double window, a classical sight to go with the classical
tree. It is as if when I say hell I am saying heaven, not because these
millions of wrong people are alright as they are - they are not - but because
one touch of a bare sheep field - at that moment Charles McDaniel presents
himself. "You still here? You some kind of a writer? What you writin'
about? I love people. I'm a heart man - everything." A very clean light
green teeshirt and gold-rimmed glasses.
The way Paul Churchland yesterday sat down and rested when a girl with
a quiet voice and large breasts asked a question that supported him. She
grew bolder and told something she knew. He went on resting, encouraging
her. At that the other young woman in the room said something too. The young
men had looks on their faces - and I did too - that said, How did she do
Beatles Anthology on the lobby TV. Tom's on the desk and has charge
of the remote. There's this tall fifty year old notching up the volume,
blasting the lobby like it or not.
And here Charles McDaniel reappears. Admires himself in the window as
he reels me his line. "Could you love and respect an old black man
like me? 'Telligent, traveled a lot?" "Leave the girls alone,"
Joe mutters, strolling past. "Hey Joe, how you doin'. You know him?
A man in a wheelchair comes along, not a fat man but a man with a deep
sack of fat under his chin. "Can I give you a chuckle? Why was the
snake disheartened? He didn't have a pit to hiss in." He tells me a
story. This happened in backcountry Tennessee. He had a lot to do with church
work at the time, singing in choirs. There was a young man, a Vietnam vet,
who approached him one day. He had spiritual problems and thought he saw
something in Bob. Bob said, "I don't know much about the Bible but
let's just kneel down and say the Lord's Prayer together and I'll take it
from there." So they kneeled down, each beside his chair. They said
the Lord's Prayer together. Then Bob said, "O Lord if it is possible
could you give us some sign of your presence?" He was suddenly filled
with an amazing sensation. Men have sensation in sex and women can have
it all the time, but this was more than that. It was like water, water flowing.
It went on for a couple of minutes, very pleasurable. Afterwards he asked
the other man whether he'd felt anything. He said he was overwhelmed.
All of these people wouldn't budge, they'd got as far as they were willing
to go, I'd have been stuck with them in their limit. Keep moving and there'll
always be a burst of freedom before we stall, a burst of joy. And then this
sadness when judgment says to love, Oh honey you are dreaming, dreaming,
dreaming. Love says - I'm the animal that saves your life. Judgment says
- I'm the animal who makes your living. Tom says, intelligence that's beautiful.
Beauty that's intelligent, Tom - more of that, or I'll be ashamed. I am
today. I'm crying with shame.