When I showed up Saturday aft he had a look on his face I didn't like
and I went into the state where I'm saying inwardly, I have to leave him,
etc. He picked it up. You're on tilt aren't you. I said I'd had a rumble
with a student and told it, and unpacked my computer to show him the exchange.
Meantime he opened his and read me what he has of his North Park piece.
I wasn't done but I knew I could get him back later, and I did. When he'd
read through the three letters and said a little about them I was all better.
It has often happened that I don't know I'm freaked until I see him, and
then don't know it's that until I've shifted. I always believe I have to
His North Park piece is the way his writing is - very encrusted - encrusted
with jewels is the image that comes when I'm listening - fancy - references
to Hockney, other painters, music - words like intaglio - listening
I marvel at how different his brain is - fertile I said - he heaps associations
- I'm scandalized by that but at the same time I was wondering whether I'm
outclassed by his profusion. There are a lot of people who admire that style.
It's Catholic, saints and relics and vestments and altar paraphernalia.
When he'd read and I was commenting he flushed red and smiled his lovely
rare shy young smile and I felt shone upon as if a god had very briefly
appeared, his realness.
I haven't mentioned that these nights there's a scent in the air, the
California spring scent, pervasive. It's the bushes in front of the cathedral
The small acacia on Tom's landing bloomed yellow. The honeysuckle on
the fence grew foot-long fronds in a week after the rain.
It's the laurel tree across from the cathedral - I brought some home.
Happy this morning. I bought a tent. Bought an axe and a cooler.
Lake Henshaw. Early afternoon. I set up the tent, made my bed, figured
out the new Coleman, put on water for tea, got out the dish box for the
first time, emptied it, washed what's dirty, spread it on the picnic table
to dry, decided which are dishtowels and which is my hand towel. So far
just the pleasure of being here on a ridge over the lake with oaks rattling,
puttering with camping things. That I have camping things again, a year
Anza-Borrego, Glorietta Canyon. Shade behind a boulder. What's it
like here. Pale mountain humps with darker red-brown rocks embedded. Silvery
blue-green brittlebush clumps, gangly yellow-green creosote bushes. The
rocks are large-grained like coarse ground hamburger. That's the slope opposite
me. Sky with very soft thin cloud sweeping northeast.
Then I take the road out and see the desert floor yellow with desert
dandelion, and a few early flowers on barrel cactus, cholla and beavertail.
On the beavertail a clear glossy pink with a frilly gold centre, like a
superior rose. Yellow on the barrel cactus - same shape - and the best is the cholla, pale
It was a windy night. Mad gusts. In the quiet I'd drift asleep and then
sudden flapping of the tent would wake me. Looking vaguely at the stars
and thinking I still know hardly any of them. There's Orion, there's the
Big Dipper, that must be Sirius. Polaris. The Greeks knew them just like
An hour before the sun came up I dragged my bed out onto the gritty yard.
A row of creosote bushes danced hard before the pink sky.
Verbal privilege this morning links to and agrees with a British
journalist talking about older feminists' insulting descriptions of female
Obama supporters. I'm sore-hearted, reading it. The young women are betraying
us, is how it feels. They're doing it because they can. They take for granted
the freedoms and advantages we put ourselves on the line for, and they now
are identifying more with youth and privilege. I think there's something
else too. I think they're eager to depose their mothers and they are willing
to give up the chance of a woman president to do it. When I was young -
and now - I hated my mother's oldness and compromisedness - I hated the
fate I didn't want. I wanted and want to stamp on her grave. This is their
chance to do that. They're willing to identify with a young man to do it.
The fault lines in feminism haven't been well understood. 1. Sexual competition
among peers, 2. matricide, 3. dissociation of love woman and defenses against
Clinton has been in hard scrutiny for many years and he hasn't, he looks
clean because he's been out of sight. I don't like Obama. I can't stand
his male strutting and his ranting tone. He's demagogic, he makes empty
speeches that rouse the crowds. If Hillary did that she would be called
hysterical. When she tries she sounds worse
A woman president would make a difference to women's standing all over
the world. When will there be another chance - no woman could come up the
way Obama did.
At the Lake Henshaw site the Mexican worker with a good face who came
up the hill on his little tractor to check on me and stayed to help me light
my candle lantern with his lighter. You have matches from Mexico, he said.
He was one of those warm bright-eyed Mexican men who see. I'm proud of you,
he said. That was because I'd put the tent up by myself. I'm proud of me
too I said. It's a big tent.
Yesterday morning walking with the camera got me there. The photo of
buds is the one I like. Just began to see. Then the wind drove me out.
In epic characters are differentiated by their
diction, the length of their syntactical periods, their tones in relation
to their peers and their inferiors.
It is a wonderful moment of human laughter.
tiny gusts of exquisite scent; they come from
the wild, almost leafless cyclamen.
Sacred groves, deep shadows and cool springs. Temples
and a famous sanctuary, decorated with statues representing the muses and
their servants the epic and lyric poets.
Hesiod. "He is keen to make understanding
out of what he knows. At heart he is a philosopher, the first of the Greek
philosophers in fact, looking for stable forms, but without - because he
comes so early in the history of his culture - the prose instruments of
In Schmidt a sense of people in their time imagining their place, its
geography, through their epics which describe real loci in doubtful or fabulous
incidents. It hypes the places with heroic and marvelous feeling. - That
isn't what I began to say but I like to know it. Creating place-love, creating
in place love.
The place imagined is also a memory palace, gods and stories attached
Yesterday morning walking back to the jeep from breakfast on the pier
- walking on the road, the Ocean Beach parrots spitting palm seeds from
their holes high under the fronds - I was telling Tom the Easter Rudy was
being born and we stayed at Friesens' house with the creek next to it in
spring rush - looking at Madeleine's boobs and realizing for the first time
that I would get boobs too - wandering into Corny's room and staring at
a pin-up on his wall, the first time I'd seen the bursting divinity. And
then telling our yard in spring melt, the crease between field and pasture
that turned into a creek in the first week in April, the stream down the
centre of the lane, we in our rubber boots chasing the bits of wood we had
floated for boats - and the melt water under the house filling the cellar
so we could hear glass sealers clinking together (sealers that native
word I don't think I've seen written) - anyway the point is that I was walking
on the street with Tom (he said Why don't we move over to the sidewalk,
I said No I like walking in the street, he said In that case I should let
you walk on the outside) telling him a childhood story feeling free and
comfortable with him and noticing that we had got there thought it has taken
so many years.
Then after some indirections we were in the OB library watching Obama's
race speech on You-tube on his G3 with our heads close together because
we had the sound low. Toward the end of the speech a big drop of water splashed
down next to the keyboard. Tom was crying. I was dry-eyed noticing that
Obama had found psychologically the right note and was supporting it visually,
the note being that he is between black and white, sympathetic to both,
a bridge. He supported it visually by symmetry, a flag on each side, the
flagpoles posed symmetrically, two microphones pointed toward him, one from
the right and one from the left. Gestures sometimes with the left hand,
sometimes with the right, his head turning to one side and the other, evenly.
He was positioning himself as the corpus callosum, which is correct.
This speech he didn't rant, he spoke very evenly, reasonably. He wasn't
rabble-rousing, he was declaring an intelligent position.
Watching him I was thinking whether Hillary could do something like that,
come out with a personally centred statement. Is she too compromised to
come through into it. What would she have to say, she can't say she's halfway
between men and women, though she is, culturally. He isn't saying he's neither
black nor white, he is saying or implying that he's fully black and fully
white. Is she fully female and fully male? Could she be understood if she
positioned herself that way? It's held against her that she was a wife -
that's hard to talk about. She can't say so because wives don't want to
be conscious of oppression and blacks have had to be, the oppression of
wives as such is so personal, so one-to-one, and so much depends on not
bringing it forward.
Women who have had to notice it are her supporters but young women are
thinking it won't happen to them. Will it? Yes. It happens to mothers because
mothers are slaves, not historically but generically. Mothers have to be
slaves unless they can get someone to be the necessary slave for them.
Being a mother is humanly shameful at the same time as it is naturally
divine. Hillary hasn't thought through her position, hasn't thought through
the politics of her position, in the way Obama has. She has accepted the
terms of politics as they are, and that has to do with being a wife. She
has lived in Bill's world. There is no way she could be running for pres
if she hadn't, and yet it undercuts her. Is anyone writing about her bind
in a sympathetic way, forming the centred position for her?
She would only be a good president if she could draw from her centre,
stand centred in her widest political position, which isn't Bill's.
Authenticity is noticed. Both her competence and her wobble are noticed
on both sides.
I think she likes Obama. I think she's sad that she couldn't be that.
She got to be first lady, she got the adventure of that, which she would
not have had if she'd hewed to her core. Is there another woman somewhere
who could hew to her core and become president?
If it is naturally divine and humanly shameful to be a mother, a centred
woman would have to stand visibly balanced between divinity, by which I
mean nature, and social power. Love woman and work woman. How would that
look. Her pantsuits are not a good idea. She comes across as denying body.
She should be signaling goddess glamour with her body and outright astute
clarity with her speech. Pelosi is closer to that. So is Dolly Parton, come
to think of it.
Talking about the formation of cumulus I became - they saw me as - my
form blended with - the air structure I was calling up in them. They saw
something I wasn't seeing myself though I was being it. It was the rising
of love into intelligence: the rising column of the spine, the definite
terminal florets of the cortical surface.
Students like Alex - and this is Lise's understanding of embodiment studies
too - hold onto the mind-body contrast and try to opt for body as opposed
to mind. I keep having to say it again, what you're thinking of as 'mind'
needs as much recuperation as what you're thinking of as 'body.' Step out
of the contrast. It's a stupid contrast. It's how dissociated people speak,
it's symptomatic, and it perpetuates the physical split.
People accept the mind-body contrast because there is a true contrast
they aren't naming accurately. They use the contrast to name a conflict.
More than one conflict but always a conflict within their embodied nature.
There are true conflicts, true inner divisions, but using the mind-body
contrast to name them perpetuates them, reinforces them, makes us misunderstand
ourselves. It's a tough knot, very persistent. Undoing it is radical. When
it is gone we stand unified.
Kri wrote "I imagine I may be hazarding some blasphemy" in
suggesting she was wanting to think understanding life as a physical structure
might be "limited in some ways." I wrote: I wouldn't like to be
so dogmatic that anyone would associate me with blasphemy. At the same time
I am often sad to be so alone, even at [the college], in biting the bullet
about death and the supernatural. Yes there is a lot we don't know, but
why is it that humans expect that unknown to guarantee their fondest weakest
wishes in exchange for refusing to know the marvelous things we CAN know?
It grieves me that this is so universally so. I don't mean you - I am just
telling you why I may come across as hard-line. I wrote that paragraph in
a gush of realness and am satisfied with it but when I read it over I don't
see the heart-gasp it was.
The people that occupy the space where these
former structures previously existed are flabbergasted, and rightly so.
I turned my whole world upside down in the span of a year. And I am somehow
still standing here. I am looking at them and saying, okay. Some of them
have tried to hurt me. Some of them have turned away. Some are so perplexed
that they have reverted to the coping mechanisms that have helped them navigate
all of the challenges they have faced in their life.
Some of them are still looking at me. They are
making eye contact. They are the good listeners. I am working to create
a life in which I can write for them and for anyone else I can find that
are like them. I try to love all beings everywhere, but these are the beings
I will write for in this lifetime.
She also says: completely uncontrollable and perpetually
flowing dumb-struck love for the beauty of everything everywhere.
She quotes me: "Ah, that's art. He's stepping
over the line into the inchoate and making something with the best one is
and having no way to know whether it's good or not. Terrifying. It is the
condition of the work. It requires dragon power. And generates more."
I have learned more about myself as an artist.
The conditions I prefer to work under, the kind of stimulus I need, the
invoking of or opening to the sources within myself.
Today I actively go for refuge.
I think I am growing an understanding of the
relationship between the meditative techniques and symbolism of Tibetan
Vajrayana Buddhism and the analytical technology and symbolism of American
neurological science. Dialogue between the living tradition of Tantra and
the evolving sciences of neurology, sensory perception, and technology.
I am coming to see it as the queen's path different
than the hero's journey ... behind the scenes like tracking something in
the forest. You see a broken twig, you get a breath of wind, you narrow
your eyes and you go, quietly.
What I think when I read her is that the revision of the story I need
is to go through it without giving up heart. I can see how compassion is
the attitude that protects best. What I couldn't do that maybe I could do
Another thing I think is that Millie and Susan couldn't go through but
she can because along with being as smart as she is she has Buddhist training.
She's my second chance. She's the real thing. She'll soon outgrow me and
I won't mind because she'll teach me.
The bachelor - what's the word - tacky, but specifically - he
lies continuously - he chooses but he's told who he shouldn't eliminate
yet - they tell him they 'care about' him, are falling for him. A meretricious
man set up to judge among stupid slick-lipped salacious women willing to
be humiliated, crying because they have been rejected in a completely meaningless
contest, or else angrily defiant. They all hugging at first meeting and
kissing at second, as if touch is social performance rather than real being.
All of it scandalizes me but what interests me - looking at young persons
and clothes. What do I think of that one, what's that one like.
On Sunday morning Tom reached to touch me and said Look. The horizon
was hot gold, apricot gold, an even band across the east. Santa Ana sunrise.
At Tom's house it's honeysuckle season. The scented geraniums are flowering
I stayed two nights. Yesterday I took a picture of Tom on the couch reading
the paper with the French doors open beyond him. I showed it to him. He
said, I'm starting to look like an old man. I'd thought that when I saw
him standing in line under the merciless fluorescents at Ralph's. But then
at another moment he's fresh pink and silver, a gorgeous man. I said at
our age it is always changing.
I'm so appreciating him. That's the word. I appreciate his good nature,
the way he takes his trials with optimism. His pleasure in life, his good
humor with me, the way he enjoys my thorniness and autocracy.
He's reading Virginia Woolf. I gave him A room of one's own and
now he found The common reader for himself. He says he wants to read
everything she has written.
We are generous with each other now, we look after each other. I took
his computer to the repairman and paid to have him look at it. He buys books
he thinks I'll like when he's in thrift shops. He only ever supports my
confidence - he doesn't hurt my feelings even if he's annoyed. We play with
compromises, I don't want the AC on so I say Okay, I've got the radio, it's
in the console, you can have KCRW on. He knows how to do between-time -
I have just realized that I'm learning from him. He or I will have bursts
of liveliness where we have something to say, and between them we say the
same thing many times, we admire the house or the view or the plants, or
we remember past times, or we tell about daily tasks, or praise each other.
I have thought of that sort of talk as corruption but I am seeing it maintains
an emotional texture. It's like air in the room - is that right? With other
people the between-time goes neurotic, is my feeling, but Tom isn't neurotic.
He's transparent and self-accepting. He will say any little insecurity or
He brings foreign movies from Blockbusters. This time it was Kadak
from Mongolia. I think he's going to be impatient because they're slow but
he likes them, he takes them in deep.
What I wrote Emilee:
Subject heading: intense & purposes
Dear you, that F does not understand you is no matter. He is not your
reader. The woman I sent your tantra piece is. Others like her, who are
lonelier in their brilliance than he is in whatever that is called. It is
sweet-hearted of you to want to make him comfortable but don't let it clip
what was so glorious a dragon's flight. When we don't have the reader we
need, we have to imagine one. And there is still me.
From every direction now the dark man lingers - the taboo you've broached
is central and primal - I'm thinking of Freud - you have stolen the father
from the mother and that brings with it great, primal fear - and so here
we are in one of the burning cores of unconsciousness studies - very tantric.
Standing still in it, yes.
What do I know about writing to a reader - why does the quality of the
reader make so much difference - not to everyone I don't think - I would
notice my emails to Jan were better - but I can write good letters to students
who are only medium bright, for instance lately to Deena.
When I was at Borders last night to look at book covers - which I won
by circling the blocks many times looking for parking - I opened a book
and said I'll buy this. When have I lately bought poetry. It was
Intense and purposes: teaching letters.
I took on a rumble at Starbucks. Was that bad? I was at the armchair
by the window, left computer and journal on the table to buy a NYT. Two
people sat down near me, one on the other side of my table, the other at
the nearest other table, across a narrow passage. They talked all the way
through the NYT and the LAT. The nearest one across the table had a few
strings of greasy hair and dirty fingernails. The other was thinner and
dirtier. The one near me began by saying Starbucks reminded him of Moby
Dick. Went on to mention "the poet Charles Olsen." Meantime
the other man was talking about yuppies moving back downtown. They continued
to make speeches, each on his own topics. The man across the table was sitting
with his dirty hand on his cup the way men sit touching their beer cans
at readings. "I like ee cummings." "Anne Sexton was a great
poet. I met her when I was 19, at a party. I'd been drinking. I made a pass
at her. She was a beautiful woman. I like her better than Sylvia Plath."
The other man, who doesn't know these references, goes on talking about
What was maddening about him. His complacent bluffing voice. There was
no mind in what he was saying, everything was rote, but he was stroking
himself continuously, obliviously, with reference to real minds. There was
also the way he was assuming I was being honoured to hear him, or else assuming
I didn't matter.
When I was folding the sections back into the paper I decided from one
second to the next to jump them. I said "Do you guys realize that when
you talk to each other neither of you hears a word the other is saying?
You just talk past each other." The dirtier thin one said it wasn't
my business. I said I'd had to put up with it. The thin one said it was
a public space. What did I say then. The closer one got into it I think.
They said I didn't have to listen, I said I was leaving. Then I said, "Not
so much you" - to the thin one - "as you" - to the
other one - "you're unbearable." We gave each other a long stare.
He said "You've made my day." I said "Good."
Two mornings ago, about nine, I suddenly thought of going camping. Phoned
Tom. What would you think of going camping today? He was cranky and I was
casual and he said give him until eleven.
Indian Flats campground is closed. We creep along the dirt road above
it until we find a perch with a view southwest across ranks of blue mountains.
We get into our beds and lie there seeing the stars milk over with cloud.
Sphinx moths motoring about in the nearest bush. Very distant barking. In
the morning it's Tom's birthday and very cold. I make us tea and we walk
up the road with our cups. We're looking at plants. The yerba santa is everywhere
blooming pale purple - we didn't know it was called that. Indian paintbrush
in neat clumps red or, once, pale orange. Desert Canterbury bells indigo
blue. Below us roadways and amphitheatre in decomposing granite - everywhere
the boulders' surfaces shredding. Everywhere the shrubs radiant with clear
growth - redshanks, manzanita - refreshed. Further on where the line of
oaks rose from the campground's streambed, broad trees hung with old-gold
tassels. Tom and I walked along looking at everything, "like one mind"
he said later, interested together.
There was a moment falling asleep on the mountain where I saw fairyland
beauty. Small scenes, two, taken from what I'd seen during the day, flowers
among rocks, but sharper and as if color on black. If I can do that I want
to do it more. It is whatever 'vision' means, like other times I've slept
out and seen faces: maybe something from the place.
Yesterday Tom and I in La Jolla on the garden tour. In Bishops School
Gill's arcades. Tom and I crossing the grass laughing at a tuba ensemble
feebly playing an ode to Viagra. It's bigger, it's bigger, it's harder,
it's harder. Tom was in his jeans and a black teeshirt, his doc shoes and
his bracelet. I liked his bad boy vibe in among the society matrons.
Mediocre gardens with too many people on narrow paths. We were feeling
class irritation, naturally. Stopped in PB after, sat with our lattes watching
much younger bodies passing on bikes and skates. A lot of plump men without
shirts. As we were arriving on the cliff walk, looking down at the beach,
I saw a black-haired girl in a bikini playing ball with a young man. Said
to Tom, There's a very pretty bikini. What it was, was the line of her waist
and hip. She was the sort of small girl who has an unusual amount of indent
at the waist, an exquisite curve out around her hip. Tom saw but he averts.
I want to share that kind of pleasure with him but I also like the way he
looks away as if he doesn't trust himself not to like it much too much.
Ways we are easing into ourselves with each other. I was ragging on him
about the way he takes a ridiculous round-about route. Nothing annoys him
more than me telling him he's doing something wrong but I wasn't going to
shut up. He said I'm like a chipmunk gnawing on an elephant's foot and I
just won't quit. (We were shooting along 5 toward Pacific Highway by then.)
I said slyly Does the elephant have a little owie. He sent me a look I saw
in the corner of my eye. It was admiration. Scandalized admiration. I'm
laughing. - We are playing that way, elaborating on each other's nonsense.
It's gratifying but at the same time I marvel it took us so long.
Coming of age in Karhide 1995 I admire her strategy as a fiction
writer. She publishes first in sci fi magazines, among the outsiders, she's
immense without being famous. She gets herself out of what she doesn't like
about her time and place. She evades perpetuating it. She lives where she
can always be a newcomer. She varies framing parameters. She makes herself
aware of the outside, the real, the way little famous novelists are not.
The planet is real to her, time is real to her, vast time. She becomes physics,
and she is a smiling grandmother in Portland, registering erotic sensation
exactly. "His skin against mine, a wonderful feeling like sunlight."
What I want to say is that she's larger than she's known to be. People
like her, critics and public do, critics for her skill and public for her
love, but they see her as a fiction writer. In my experience she is Odo,
she's a philosopher who has chosen a medium that gives her simultaneously
scope and privacy. She doesn't have colleagues, she doesn't have to go to
conferences. She teaches without having to read student papers. She is a
global synthesist. She teaches a framework centered on early love, and defending
early love by scholarly research. She has been my teacher since 1977, thirty
years. Lessing, Dorothy Richardson, Gordimer, Woolf, but none of them have
her off-world scope. DR is closest, DR has historical metaphysics. These
massive women and my journal with its unconnected bits. I'm sore-hearted
saying that. They have made something one thing, and given it, and I am
just a little bit accomplished, hugely helplessly prepared and undelivered,
making do with tiny satisfactions. A student who's grateful, a free moment
with Tom, my unread thesis, a lecture at a college where the standard is
so low I look like a star.
So here it is. KC writing about Fading. So what do I think. She's
worried about the program, will admin make more trouble. Would it make trouble
for the program at my account? No they'd fire me but they couldn't blame
the program. Or they could blame the program for not firing me I guess.
My joy at [the college] when I felt I and students could be our difficult
selves. My joy with Margo when she seemed to like me to know what I see.
Seven years later I see more lying everywhere, more forelock tugging, social
fear so pervasive people don't know how deeply they have adapted themselves
So I'll password protect, for now, and when I leave or am pushed out
I'll put it up uncensored, and will that be vindictive? It will seem so.
What am I feeling. Sore hearted. Is it the sore heart of ages ago? I'm
brave. I'm doing good work, I do exceptional work. I can see it's not an
Having Fading up has defended me in some way. It's like hoping
someone will come for me.
What would Joyce say. She'd say, You knew there was going to be trouble.
It's still like wanting my mother to come through isn't it. What's the
alternative to that? I saw a glimpse earlier, it was what it would be like
to treat anyone as if they are students. KC now. I can't do anything for
her. She drinks. She drinks partly because her social mode is so self-deprecating
some private self must constantly feel insulted. But I can't tell her that,
so what would it mean to treat her like a student? Gently, which I am, but
that gentleness is why I need the journal.
Okay, so it's necessary self loyalty and people can't stand it and what
else - making a living - there's a contradiction I'm struggling in - the
work needs me to be the opposite of what the program needs me to be. The
work needs me to be fearlessly perceptive and articulate. The program, meaning
the faculty, needs me to be paddedly congenial and circumspect.
Tom was laughing. He said, You're dancing on the trapdoor, in about six
months it's going to be over. I adored him for laughing. He began after
I said what I like is that I'm saying to them, I'm not hiding it because
I'm gutless, I'm hiding it because you're gutless.
Tom is happy like water warming in the sun. He's reading The golden
notebook and cooking his own dinners. Steaks. Burritos. Spaghetti. This
is the first he's been willing to cook since I've known him. He loves Doris
In the bed under the window at Tom's last night, window open, I'd wake
and there'd be perfumed air flowing past my head. It was more than honeysuckle,
a datura flower had opened during the night.
When we had got into bed Tom was saying he was tired, wanted to sleep.
I asked him a question and he talked on and I faded sweetly away. It was
a question about whether he ever has the state where everything is only
consciousness. He talked about how when he was tweaking he'd imagine going
to always finer grain, to the spaces between molecules, where he'd find
himself continuous with the rest of the field. Then he'd feel a small area
of yellow in front of him, lemon yellow, and he'd say, I wonder if I could
go into the yellow, see from it. Then suddenly he'd be there. He'd think,
I wonder if I could go over in the corner, or into the corridor. Then he'd
Reading her story I understand the way our family was a good family,
there was a platform of secure order that let us open our edges. Mary laid
herself down for that and Ed did something too. I'm grateful now for the
order of the week, the fresh bread on Saturday nights, the waxed linoleum,
the Sunday dresses, the intelligence that was our common air.
Afternoon. I reread Margo's eval note this morning and then wondered
whether she would have thought I'd gone into therapy with any of my students
this semester. Scanned Deidre and then Jaes with that in mind but then got
interested in a better question, something like, what do I do with these
students and how do I work? What happens, how do I order it?
I found a literary talent in Jaes, who is so wooden in her academic writing.
Her talent is deep and rare and specific: she comes on images that summarize
a psychological circumstance brilliantly. For example her story of riding
an oak tree during a lightning storm, or Judy standing in the lake biting
into a sparkling fish, or her rescue of sections R-Z in a record store after
a fire. Her feel for moments that speak from/to the uncon is what makes
her a ritualist. I see the way she came into her first residency last summer
walking carefully in her big tracker's hat. A Mormon outlaw, it turned out,
quiet, with something in the eyes. I told her her story struck awe. A gnostic
tale of falling into an underworld, uncontrollable by the time she was 13,
Mr Cabot the guidance counselor trying to fuck her, Officer Hauser photographing
her in his patrol car, booze before school, her parents clueless.
Deidre much savvier. Not at all wooden in her academic writing, easy
and swift. She gets the point of a book, sums it up, writes about it personally,
is centred in her quest, which is for a framework. I worked with her on
framework all semester and it looks like therapy because of the nature of
the framework I can offer. She would say what she had been worried about
and I would lay out how that corner of it works. She'd get it and then we'd
do more. Patriarchy, objectivity, art, dualism, addiction, dissociation,
women's intelligence, social fear.
Deidre's self evaluation is a model document in relation to the discussion
Margo wanted us to have. Margo lost her nerve, instead of fighting vigorously
for the principle of it she slunk away. If she had fought vigorously on
principles of progressive ed she wouldn't have been fired. That's my disaffection
with M. She supported the best work up to a point but she didn't blaze up
against the fear and stupidity of her bosses. We could have marshaled or
generaled a case and taken it to the board. We could have said: look at
this and this and this, this is what we do. This is why we do it. This is
how it works.
These mornings have been grey but today there's high bright cloud. Have
been wanting to remember to say it's the time of purple trees.
What would I be like if I were a poet now instead of whatever this is.
This closed authority held so bare and efficient.
Transcribing 1982 I see the mass of nothing, the useless dream records,
the reading notes, the anxious gnawing, the psychological noting, and in
them rarely a line or passage I took for field & field. I'm too
efficient now to be a matrix like that, is what I'm thinking as I transcribe.
I slog at all the useless typing, I feel I'm better than her, and then come
to a line that feels engraved because it now has another context. That younger
woman writing all her junk was also the one who could see what was good
and collect it into another place. What I'm dimly wondering as I type and
notice this is whether I could just start in that other place and live there,
use writing in another way, as what I say when I am being that. The dictionary
writing was that wasn't it.
Once in a while I send a burst of ultrasound, infrasound, across the
world to Susan - a flare - because she is that - and no one else - a flare
of will and self permission - effort.
The so many references in the Dames rocket journals. I stayed
out of the local social present, didn't want to be cornered in it. I mean
I chose my company from a lot of times.
8:30 Wednesday morning. Is the daylight this white because it is reflecting
somehow off the marine layer that is still present though pulling back over
the ocean. An unusual light I've seen in the last couple of days.
That tree opening and stirring in the breeze. It's there above and amid
grey roofs, this grey factory zone of roofs and roof machines - one of them
just started behind me, loud, a high rasp over a dark low hum. Street noise
the same machine world.
Emilee writes that M said "I understand you were in touch with Ellie
this semester." My heart is squeezed. What is it afraid of. What's
it saying. It's pain to be in trouble for doing the right thing. Being suspect
for the good work of the semester, the best work. Jaes, Deidre, Emilee:
I support their groundedness in themselves, which makes intelligence possible.
The fan - it stopped a while ago but I'm hearing virtual white noise,
a hissing as if the atoms of the walls were rung into motion they are still
giving off. I heard it yesterday for the first time when I went to stand
outside at night. It's a huge new aluminum thing like a jet engine. It is
going to be running 5-10 every day.
Starbucks in a huge loose mall off Fenton Parkway at Friars Road, early
afternoon. Lot of fake boobs here - three sets walked past in five minutes,
the Barbie shape, long and tight below the waist. Retired men, that one
just said he was ex-navy. There's the 4th. Proud racks.
Leaving Santee on the tram with Tom last night I had a fit about dancing.
I don't know what to say about it except that it was true and necessary.
I said I wanted Tom to work with me so I could learn to jive. He started
making suggestions and I went into a fury of disappointment. I wanted something
in particular. We were riding through stations we'd seen earlier in daylight,
now with fading pink on the horizon. I said I was born to be the sort of
person who would dance from the beginning to the end of concerts like the
ones we'd been to. I said when I was 12 we'd put 45s on our little record
player at recess and noon hour and people would dance, and I would always
be having to watch. I would be feeling I was inferior to them and that was
a horrible feeling. When I said 'inferior' I sighed. Tom would say this
or that and I was cutting him off and hissing and swearing. I wanted him
to understand me. I didn't want to have to explain. I wanted him to be thinking
fast and getting it right. I wanted what I've never had in this spot, except
with Trudy probably. I wanted accurate subtle empathy. He would start to
say something about how I'm not crippled and I would cut him off, "That's
not the point," or he would start on how he was in a hole with this
and I was hissing "Why don't you just fucking listen." I said
I was feeling something in my solar and it was fear. He reached over and
poked it a couple of times, which was so stupid as a form of touch I was
hard-jawed over again. I was feeling alone. So then I thought, it's hopeless,
I won't get it from him, I'll have to do it myself. Closed my eyes, felt
into the solar. The dark pressure soon shifted to the forehead, concentrated
there, then let go, that slipping-up sensation, followed by light energy
from the forehead up.
There were two things I loved to see at that Santee train station concert.
One was a mother jiving with her eleven year old daughter, who had the moves
perfectly. The other was a family group doing the stroll across the way,
a couple of older women, a couple of younger women, a couple of kids, and
a man holding a little girl. They were stepping, turning, forward, sideways,
backward, in perfect rehearsed unison. It was complex and light.
Then finished transcribing 1983 Feb-Aug, 183 pages. As I'm transcribing
I'm thinking how good that era was in experimental/perceptual art, experimental
film and music, what good discussion there was, what a strong home it was.
I kept assembling bits into themes: point, line, hover, music, twoness,
waves. I was keeping myself in a matrix of concrete abstraction - is that
what I mean? - matter based abstraction? - that must also have been a matrix
for photos. Want to write about that. - Looking at second level slides today
seeing that some of them are strong at the furthest end of my discipline,
ie to make photographs that find subtle and total order over a whole frame
imposed on natural material. For instance a couple of slides of nothing
but long grass or a wind-laid snow surface - the slide of nothing but cultivated
earth in furrows - slides of a stone in grass. They aren't the star photos,
I didn't pick them for the show, I may not have seen them. They are exercises
of the far end of my photographic strength, which is framing.
This morning I was sitting at the table with the computer in front of
me when the room pitched like a ship. Swayed solidly I think north-south
for six seconds? It's hard to tell how long, because while it was happening
I was bemused and vacant. Another thirty seconds and Nora downstairs hollered
Earthquake! Everyone was going online googling Earthquake San
At the movies with Tom and lying next to him watching TV smelling my
own jeans crotch, a smell I like, warm biscuits. I asked Tom whether he
could smell it. "Pussy musk?" he said.
Someone in China google-searched "Ellie Epp" and clicked straight
through to Being about. I don't know what that means. Can't imagine
a story that would make that happen.
I like the thoughts I have when I wake, though they are often grim. They
are thoughts about life. For instance this morning I saw a man carrying
home a Christmas tree and said, There is so much of that, over and over.
Sitting with Emilee. The moment where I said "If Margo was here
listening she would be thinking I'm wanting you to be something you're not
and there IS something I want you to be because it's something you can
be." It was bursting out. I had wet eyes. "I want you to be standing
in the circle of us warriors." There was more I don't remember well
enough, a true-heart burst her kindly calm allows. I talked about the tone
of her tantra essay. "I was heart-broken you couldn't continue to be
that." She was too she said. Something complete.
There was Margo looking fatter on the couch across the room. I wanted
to ignore her. I'd jumped up and given her my seat so I could move to a
chair closer to the door. Later on Katt was saying "Ellie do you want
to trade with me so you can come and talk to Margo" and I was shaking
my head no. I'd been talking to Lise who was standing behind the couch.
Lise said "Don't you want to talk to Margo." I said "I'm
mad at her." Lise looked across the room at Margo and announced "Ellie
is mad at Margo." I said with irritation "It's not your job to
say so." "Are you mad at me now?" "For this moment I
am." And then there was Margo across the room looking at me with intent
and I was caught on my side trying not to look at her, which felt foolish
but when I gave up and did look at her she was smiling complacently like
Ms Guru. "Should we talk about it?" she said. "No. We did
that already." And then I gathered up the Sunday Times I'd stacked
under my chair and sneaked out.
Doubted writing down this story, it didn't seem worth telling, but there
are a couple of things about it. I don't forgive mothers who drop me. On
the other hand isn't it (too) childish to sulk in this way. But is it sulking
exactly. It's minding but recognizing - she did well by me but she didn't
finish well. On her side, I think when she was realizing she was done she
let herself get less professionally benevolent. She let herself dislike
me for various things she'd had stored up. And then she used the Francis-Emilee
debacle to opt for Indian religion and thump me. That disgusts me. Francis
complaining about me in fac evenings in the dorm and saying Emilee's gracious
apology proves he was right disgusts me. Lise agreeing with me in private
but not in public disgusts me too.
18 San Diego
Best moment on the flight - we'd been trailing dusk, falling behind very
gradually. I was looking south. Came to an edge of the cloud, cumulous in
shallow piles at a little distance. The sky above was pale biscuit shading
down to an edge of pale flamingo above a narrow grey-blue band that was
just above eye level. There suspended in the band was the clear clean moon,
not quite full. Beneath it in the cumulous piles now falling rapidly backward
little sizzles of moon-colored lightning flashing between adjacent clumps,
sometimes here, sometimes there, the whole pile balancing its forces.
Not long out of Dulles rising through a depth of shredded fabric of light.
In Cynthia Curley's photos the other face are always smiling. I am not.
In those photos how can I be so broad and old? It isn't fat, it's my bones
settling. When I feel myself lying around in tight jeans I feel elastic,
limber, 40. Then I look at the old thing so elderly broad at the hip and
I'm incredulous. I'm going to have to spend the rest of my life elderly,
there's nothing I can do. Though my voice in Emilee's fac/student reading
CD from last rest was just what it always was, flirtatious. I was a beauty
at 50. It's fuckin' menopause, destroyer of form.
I wanted to write about how it was giving the Dragon girls workshop.
I was talking to them about what I'd most want to talk about, what it's
like to live in furthest work. I had the notes and sometimes spoke from
them but sometimes winged it. I talked about writing Perception without
representation. "I was writing it my way. I knew they wouldn't
like it but I was saying what I knew. I didn't care who loved me, I didn't
care who I loved." I said I'd thought of that state as a dragon. Then
I talked about love woman and work woman. "I fell in love, and I fell
hard, to the point of confusion." Having to switch state between love
woman and work woman.
I had a paragraph that said "In this MA program I see women scared
to know what they know, scared to open the can of worms, scared to challenge
authority, scared to know authority isn't looking after their interests,
scared to say This is what I see, this is what I know, scared to
have negative thoughts, guilty about negative thoughts, scared to write
critical papers because they're scared of negative thoughts. Scared of anger.
Scared to know the worst, scared of chaos and failure. Scared no one will
love them if they show how large they are."
I said "How far into the room do you want your breath to go?"
Alright, what about it - it was straight out - not cautious. But a bit
in trance? I don't remember seeing the audience.
What else about the res - that Caryn snagged Deidre and Emilee for herself
and instructed them not to be in contact with me during the semester.
On the weekend, pre-convention footage, Robert Kennedy at the podium,
convention of 1964, standing looking out at an ovation that lasted 12 minutes,
so beautiful, sad eyes, great tenderness and realness, remarkable sweetness.
Tonight Michelle Obama in a pale green sheath. Tall, competent. She has
Jackie's elegance and does not have to speak in a baby voice. They're physically
Bill watching Hillary speak at the Democratic convention. Moved, shining,
crying, proud, laughing at her jokes. She was wearing pumpkin orange against
a deep blue light panel. The camera would cut to Michelle listening.
Even their best call on god. They describe dead people looking down on
them. They shout praises of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
The populist sell in the convention - his body and Michelle's sell one
thing and the rhetoric is designed to sell another - there he is, the messiah
of intelligent princeliness, thanking as they chant - he's a physical prince
and he is declaring, they are insisting, that he will take care of all who
aren't princes. A true prince in love with a true princess. Can he do what
he says he will? What they insist tediously is that everyone can attain
a goal that is a mediocre goal, home ownership, car ownership, a secure
income. He has more than that and doesn't mention it: perception, sophistication,
global scope, beauty, sanity, earned confidence, young energy.
Educated young people were his base and they are not being mentioned
in this convention - the convention is wholly designed to court the working
class. They are all saying We're dumb too, we believe in America, we believe
in God, we believe in the military, we watch TV and don't read. Tom noticed
this - Kennedy's speech was literate, and none of these speeches have any
breadth of reference. - Oh poor creatures cheering and crying. He's promising
health care, education, energy independence, equal pay, international regard,
the defeat of Al Queda in Afghanistan. It's populist and it's nationalist
- it's so nationalist - no one can say I want to be an American president
vowed to the well-being of the world as a whole.
I woke at night and was lying on my back starting to drift. Saw something
wonderful and complete that vanished the instant I noticed I was seeing
it. It was a spot of western sky at the horizon, brilliant silver between
clouds - the sort of phosphorescent silver there sometimes is just over
the horizon line above water. I saw the edges of cloud around it in sharp
What else - I noticed the import of the way Tom and I sleep now, with
our heads together and the rest of our bodies at ninety degrees.
Yesterday I was nothing but concealed impatience with his talk.
- What did I mean yesterday morning riding down through Little Italy
with Tom when I said my journal writing was like a postmodern condo tower
we were looking at. I'd been saying the way they build now is Christopher
Alexander's idea about having a lot of different scales that are well related
to each other rather than a straight-up slab with windows or any of those
other crude ideas from the 60s. - I didn't mean much, just the way small
sections are stuck together, like the balconies on the condos. That there
isn't a sense of a simple-minded whole everything is subsumed into; that
Something I've been feeling about older journals - for instance the one
this is being patched into, 2005, is that there was a kind of light humor,
the balanced light humor of saying whatever oddness happens. I don't think
I have it now. But then when I've gone back looking for it I don't find
it there either. I'm wondering whether it's something that forms up incidentally
- is that the word - in sustained reading.
Palin's speech - how sickening the roar of the convention floor is when
it's the other side - they're yelling USA! USA! There's the captive teenage
boy. She's confident and comfortable and about as smart as Bush. She's a
dream girl, vowing to be everyone's pretty fertile mother. Actually she's
presenting herself the way I said Hillary ought to, femme in image and tough
Cheap shots, scary. Those familiar Christian women with dull faces shouting.
"Ladies and gentlemen the American presidency is not meant to be a
journey of personal discovery." They stand up and roar.
She's harping on McCain's war record now. Her gestures are very contained.
She lifts her right hand and jerks it, or lifts both hands very slightly
together above the podium.
Now she's standing with her family holding the doomed baby in front of
an image of the waving flag. Now the baby is back in her husband's arms.
- There was one black face I saw in the crowd.
I googled 'cripping femme' and discovered 'cripping' is politicizing
what they call disability. Will I look further into an embodiment studies
framing of 1. social disadvantage and 2. impairment, which are different?
I'm not going to be signing into crip identity why - I would like being
able to talk about social disadvantage, the subtleties. Being more conscious
in that discomfort would help. At the same time I don't want to override,
or try to override, my horror at impairment. I don't think any impairment,
as such, is something to be proud of. I want all bodies to be beautiful
and intelligent. I can be proud of myself without being proud of my poor
stick of a leg. I am proud of myself, as well as anxious about myself, as
I feel I'm passing and never do actually pass but I want to identify
with what I'm good at and what I love not what other people hold against
me. At the same time I know there's more about the effect of that holding-against
that I should understand. At the same time I was happy in downtown east
end politics and in the Golden West because in those communities I'm seen
as and feel myself to be one of the royals. It would suit me always to feel
that. The embodiment studies frame would ask what bodies feel when they
see damaged bodies. Distress. I don't argue with that. - And also involuntary
interest: what is that, how is that, exactly. The main thing, I think, about
my circumstance is that I'm often confused about exactly what's going on