volume 18 of in america: 2009 june-october  work & days: a lifetime journal project  



















Parts 1 and 2, London - galleries, music, old friends, take Eurostar to Paris for lunch.

Notes: Ackroyd London: a biography, Andy Harper Feast of skulls, Updike My father's tears and other stories, Carson The glass essay, Constable's oil sketches, emotional causes of illness, Mariposa traicionera, vocal tics, coastal fog, Sourcebook of decorative stone, Jones The known world, Barbara Stafford Echo objects: the cognitive work of images, Turrell, Richard Holmes The age of wonder, Least Heat Moon Prairy Erth, Shame and its sisters, Hinton Seashore life of southern California.

Mentioned: Tom Fendler, Luke, Margaret Gosley, Jane Downey, Andy Wyman, Tony Nesbit, Sara Chisholm, Lauren Harris, Laura Taylor/Byrne, Wende Davis, Martin Ware, Duncan McNaughton, Larry Stein, Olivia Kachman, Jim Campbell.

111 Ramsey Hall, the Tate Modern, Parliament Hill Fields, Burghley Rd, Sainte Union School, Tottenham Court Road, Caffé Nero, Marks and Spencers, Millennium Bridge, St Paul's, Embankment Station, Charing Cross Bridge, Cat's Café, Warren Street Station, Eurostar stations in London and Paris, St Pancras Station, Hotel des Maronniers terrace, Seine embankment, Prêt à Manger Café, 4 St Alban's Road, 52 Burghley Rd, Ingestre Rd, Holly Lodge, Highgate Cemetery, Makepeace Avenue, Picadilly, Konstamm Nursery, Swain's Lane, Mile End, Regent Canal, Canary Wharf, 62 White Horse Road, Stepney, The Green Man at Putney Heath, the Tate Modern tearoom, The Haunch of Venison, Starbucks at the Birmingham station, St Martin in the Fields, Green Park, the Mall, St James Park, Royal Academy forecourt, Whitechapel Gallery, the Museum of London, Regent's Park, St John's Lodge gardens, new British Museum reading rooms, Tufnell Park, College Lane, Highgate Road, Victoria & Albert room 88, the Serpentine, Foyles Bookstore, the South Harringay Passage, Finsbury Park, Mattison Rd, Table Mountain, Seven Sisters Road, Blackfriars Bridge, Brixton, Westminster Bridge, the Parliament Buildings, Westminster Abbey, St Alban the Martyr in Holborn, Archway, Cilantro Café, Marquis Road, York Way, Market Rd, Brewery Rd, Caledonian Road, Leather Lane, Greenwich, Richmond Park, the Calabria, Capilano Gorge, Jericho Beach, First United Church, River Drive, New Town Bakery, Alexander Street, Stanley Park Seawall, Second Narrows, the North Shore, Siwash Rock, First Beach, Second Beach, Garnet Ave, Target, Amvets, Bloomingdales, University Heights Library, Babycakes, Canyon Pottery, Kearny Villa Road, Clairemont, Ocean Beach Pier, Newport Antiques.

Lee Bontecou, Gordon Smith, Aganeta Dyck, Anselm Kiefer, Cornelia Parker, Time Out, David Claerbout's The American Room at Hauser & Wirth Gallery, Strongbow Jacques cider, Susan Gritton in Cosí fan tutti, Suave sia il viento, Bill Viola, Damasio, The road, Art forum, Moskvitin An essay on the origin of thought, Anne Carson, Constable oil sketches, Annie Liebowitz's photos of Susan Sontag, Richard Long, Gilligan The deepening darkness: patriarch, resistance and democracy's future , Fauré's Requiem, Hickory wind, The pacificist who went to war NFB, Moonstruck, Deleuze, John Adams Shaker loops, Love and its disappointments, Wasowski Native gardens for dry climates, Coast to coast, Alice Notley, Religulous, City of god, Jesus camp, This gun's for hire, Korzybski Science and sanity, Andy Wyman, Martin Bloom, & Kerry Bloom of Shambolica in A sailor's life, The edge of heaven, Enya.

 25 June 2009

35,000', two hours to destination, outside air temperature -52F, ground speed 502 mph, distance to destination 879 miles, headwind 31 mph. It's white below, a fresh light on the wing.

There were a few hours of night over Quebec, lightning. It was every ten seconds for a while, huge light explosions to the east.

The clouds are more formed now, layers below with a different fine structure. Lumps, a flow of crescents.

Now it's as if open below, blue, but I can't see ocean.

- It's an hour and a half. Luke will be getting ready to leave for Heathrow.

Engine noise got louder and then faded down again. Tingle of vibration through my soles on the floor.

- Map shows almost at Ireland.

Old woman with dyed ash blond hair done up in curls, rhinestones on her glasses. Big lesbian gym teacher traveling with schoolchildren, tiny mouth. Crying 3-year-old.

- We're over land.


The sky had cleared when we were cruising lower toward Heathrow. I saw land disposed differently, manor houses with long lanes of trees, little cows.

Came through the exit after customs and stood looking for Luke, and there he came.

111 Ramsey Hall. West window onto a lot of traffic. Lying looking at the tree I can see from my bed, and superimposed over it northern reflected clouds. A pub on the corner, motors growling at the crosswalk.


Went out toward 3 after a nap - Warren St Station to Embankment - walked across, it's not the old bridge - walked a long way along the south bank to the Tate Modern - later walked across the winged Millennium Bridge that sights St Pauls at its north end - bus to Trafalgar Square - 24 bus to Hampstead - walked to Parliament Hill Fields - St Alban's Road to touch the door of Heath Lodge, which had a passiflora vine - 214 to Camden Town - 134 to Warren Street Station - straight into a deep hot bath - and then it was 10 o'clock. Was thinking I'm going to ache anyway, might as well walk more.

What happened in St Martin-in-the-Fields when I heard Vivaldi through the closed doors. I started to cry.

I saw a lot of art and was interested in little of it, not even the famous people. I liked the building, its plain wood floors and beautiful gridded iron air grates set flush. I liked the milky clerestory panels high over the 5th floor galleries. The stairs, stair rails carved into black planks that also were lit. The long slit windows one of which looked straight down the Millennium Bridge to St Paul's. I liked the big dining room with smart-looking servers all in black and view down onto the river. Mushy peas with mint to dip the pommes frites.

The famous art is old, there's nothing to see. A lot of it is random positing, I did this unusual thing. Mainly that: I found this unusual thing to do and it is my bid to be notable.

From the bus, along the strand the extraordinary architectural jumble, one kind of thing stuck onto the side of another. The 29 route through odd tight little streets I've never seen. Buddleia self-seeded everywhere at eye level of the upper deck.

Parliament Hill Fields with evening clouds. Where there was a simple edge onto the road at Swain's Lane, now all sorts of amenities, tennis, lawn bowling, a little bandstand. The crest of trees taller, grass left long.

The bus passed the end of Burghley Rd.

The convent school I've dreamed is called Sainte Union. The row of houses set back from the street, where Ken Loach lived.

Delicious soup on Tottenham Court Road this morning. Caffé latté at the Caffé Nero with chairs and tables on a bit of waste ground. Stationers where I bought a little notebook with a blue elastic that holds pencil and postcards tight.


I'm walking around jealous of young skin and hair, nostalgic for the easy walk I used to have, staying conscious of my sore right foot that will trip me on these pavements everywhere uneven.


I don't want to write about aching but it's what I have.

London is cultural depth.
London is investigated cultural depth.

People glance at me here. I don't know what they see but they look. In SD I am invisible.

I feel I'm hanging onto life with difficulty, then see the many shambling wrecks still walking around and think life must be sturdier than I feel it.

People being beautiful make me cry. A tenor in the back row, a type, an egg-shaped bare head, glasses, small round mouth, singing with melted devotion. One of two women soloists standing quiet with a long neck and then singing with modest accurate splendour. A blond in red dress and red lipstick, a cockney tart look, who plays the harpsicord.

Now everyone's gone to drink booze, that strange ritual [intermission].

It was hot in the British Museum, thick with tourists, and the Greece and Rome displays were a lot of little things massed in cases. The big white rotunda there now is. The temple of intelligence is wiped out in favor of a shop and two canteens. There used to be a core zone for best people at the centre of areas for milling nations. The way it felt to show my card to guards and pass into the wise forehead of Britain with its echoes of rustles. [ie the old British Museum Reading Room]


London is more Parisian - the sidewalk cafés on this stretch - baguettes with breakfast, better coffee, Sunday noon under graceful planes. Pigeons with their red feet, summer dust in the air, a milder light.

The choir's voice was a texture that filled the nave. One of the basses twice stood out in it for a bar, like a loop of wool. It was an accidental effect that could be used.

I remembered that when I've been here before I was better looking and my muscles didn't ache but I was sometimes in agony about love.

The planes are benevolent, with their relaxed green spread.


On Eurostar, before 7 in the morning. Outside Warren Street Station this morning waiting for a bus, summer mist, a young man sweeping butts and bits of paper steadily with a pushbroom. Early buses. A black driver on the 390. Yes he stops at St Pancras.

Here we go.

I didn't sleep.

Look at the buddleia springing everywhere in the gravel bed.

Such a smooth ride.

Tony is beautiful. I was looking at him gratefully.

He is a fit-looking person with thin legs. No moustache anymore, still his bruised grape eyes and flat lion nose and soft mouth I was feeling with love in my own mouth. Rimless specs, short hair, I said a clerical look, like a wise witty vicar of the old kind. He sat across the table from me and leaned forward the whole time. He said, So what are you doing in London in so warm a tone it did something to me, what, it was like a hidden revival of heart. Then when I mentioned neuroscience he said he had been reading some, and complexity theory and quantum electrodynamics. Thinking of seeing him I'd remembered a lot of things to tell him, I noticed that I have more to say to him than anyone. When he left a phone message he was awkward as if he didn't know me but the moment we were on the phone together I was telling him about my monitor. Then there he was, a good man, a loving father, a responsible husband, a man who has worked carefully at an honorable craft, been generous in his housing co-op, bought and built a beach house on a cliff near Plymouth, who can say he's lonely and uncertain, who doesn't bluff I mean.

- We're in France, I think, without ever leaving land. It became France in St Pancras when a woman stamped my passport.

Poppies in the field! Goldenrod, fireweed, willows, poplars, evening primrose.


We had lunch, we sat on the paved edge of the river under a poplar tree. Louie was wearing red and looked lively, with a bit of pretty cleavage at her red neckline. Her platte is on the right, mine on the left, both shiny brown with silver at the forehead. Louie was looking at the bridges. We counted seven from where we sat. It was cool next to the water but the taxi driver showed me his outside thermomenter reading 38 degrees C as we were squeezing through lanes one car wide.

The golden stone.

A white dove on a ledge above the Hotel des Maronniers terrace where we drank an abricot and sparkling water over ice.

Eurostar departure lounge, a caffé latté in a little Dixie cup. Air conditioning.


The train on the English side doesn't allow much seeing - tunnels, concrete walls, blurred banks. On the French side it's less moled under, wide fields, tiled village roofs, roads marked with large old trees. Will I sleep tonight, I'm sleepy now, don't go under, save it for wicked night.

1st July

O a day.

Paris yesterday. Was with Louie at an outside table on the Embankment and we saw a beautiful woman. Her head was turned speaking to her friend.

Other glimpses: sideways into courtyards. A small tree next to a staircase. Red flowers.

There was the Hotel Maronnier courtyard where we drank mineral water, a perfect classical courtyard with high walls, thick ivy, a stone fountain at its end, two chestnut trees. A woman at the table next to ours was like a courtesan in an Italian movie. She was wearing a very constructed tight white dress, strapless, and backless gold high heeled sandals. Forties. Her back above the tight line of the dress a bit slack. She was drinking a mineral water and reading a book.

Louie was watching an old man at a table under an umbrella. He was bald, ruddy, kindly, and he was listening personably to the man with his back to us.

A white dove had landed on a narrow ledge above the garden. The woman in the white dress was looking at it too. When Louie went to ask for ice she smiled at me. We watched her walk away on her gold high heels, the horizontal panels of her dress holding her tight, her hips moving as if independently from her waist.

What else, from Eurostar on the way home, the tight formations of the little military cemeteries, evening light on the trees. Mild Europe. Churched Europe.

There's nothing I need to do today. I'll get on a bus and go to Heath Lodge and take its picture, and then to Burghley Rd and then somewhere else.


Burghley Rd, here it is. The row is brown brick with cream-painted stone. 6 pots on the chimneys. My privet hedge is gone and so is the coal hole in the sidewalk.

The railway bridge is behind me at the end of Ingestre Road. Maybe Dr Mackintosh still lives on the other side of it but probably he's retired to someplace lovely in the country.

I looked at Konstamm Nursery, which still is that. I took pictures through the bars of Highgate Cemetery. I walked my block of Makepeace Avenue but didn't recognize Sheila and Roodal's place. I took pictures of the gate at Holly Village. I bought figs at the fruiterer of Swain's Lane.

The ground floor at 52 had wooden shades, which means one thing in terms of class, and the first floor had acrylic lace, which means another. Decreasing size of the windows.

Soft overcast and a breeze.

"Looks skanky, even though." Black Cockney.

Quiet Wednesday midday, working class neighbourhood, kids, a young man on a scaffold sanding paint off a window surround. Clack clack a woman in flip-flops.

Black taxi. They're not what they were. More snubbed. But the sound is the same.

A swift above the roofs. One white butterfly. Maple overhead.


Wow look at the blue shadows of my writing hand - I'm drinking cider - a clear blue shadow, a lavender shadow - good cider on ice - Strongbow Jacques, I'm tipsy.

I've loved this day. - Look up there at the top stories of that brick dorm, the warmth of the brick in evening light. I liked taking pictures through the Highgate Cemetery fence, into pathless edges of stones lost in ivy and self-sprung trees. I liked sitting at the top of Burghley Road, on the curb, seeing the actual street, my street. I like at this moment sitting on a bench I see from my window, there, lit on the first floor. I like getting on any bus or train and touching my plastic folder against the yellow pad. I love that there are three weeks more.

Ha's it gon, he says.


Andy took me into Lincoln's Inn, Bell Yard, Middle Temple Inn, Inner Temple Garden, a pub called Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese for supper, steps on the Embankment, Fountain Court where Henry VI part 1.

Andy saying 52 Burghley Road was a power spot and the house protested their leaving by sparking its wiring the night before they left. That as we were sitting on the Embankment stairs, quite low down, watching the brown Thames slapping at steps that continue under it who knows how deep.


Over the city 20' of made earth, Roman mosaic floors and bathhouses.


Euston forecourt eating a baguette and butter.

The leaves, the leaves.

When I left Jane at Mile End, Regent Canal stop, I got on the 205 that took me home through ancient names, Finsbury Circle, London Wall, Moorfield Eye Hospital, Aldgate, Old Street, Bishop's Gate, Pentonville Road. The top deck of the 205 was hot and I was dazzled by low sun and my feet hurt remarkably but last evening's journey from the East End to my central corridor was a mythic bewilderment of London time.

Exquisite churches everywhere squashed between business buildings of all dirty vintages, the ground floor one thing, a present day street face, and all the upper storeys still their time of building, Georgian, Victorian, Tudor, cut stone, formed brick. The pubs fantasy manors with their emblems and beautiful names, at going-home time yesterday their crowds standing together on the pavement, men with their jackets off, everyone holding an amber glass. The Golden Eagle.


The World's End, the Grand Union, the Eaglet, the Black Stock, the Four Seasons, the Queen's Elm, the Spotted Horse (Clydesdale), the Slug and Lettuce (modern), the Butcher's Hook, the Black Bull



On the 29 going to Crouch End a Cockney girl sat opposite. She was wearing tight, very short white shorts and a sheer tight undershirt that showed through to a pink bra with bows on the straps. Round breasts very compressed. Black hair cut to an asymmetrical point down one side of her jaw, big heart-shaped silver earrings dangling, and big mirror shades over a clean well-cut little mouth and chin. She was remarkably put together. Seventeen, maybe younger. I turned myself on by imagining slipping a finger into her bra, just very slightly, setting her on my lap, touching her little wet nub. She was a gift, a magic package willfully given.

Luke's street a hill slope with an elaborate Victorian schoolyard, a canal, a narrow slate-paved passageway.

A horrible thing in this new London is the woman's voice announcing the obvious everywhere. In the elevator, "Doh opening," "fust floh," "doh closing," and on the bus every stop, and between them constantly repeating the route number and destination. Luke says street cameras everywhere that can recognize faces and when not faces, walks.


Luke yesterday in the Tate Modern tearoom looking across the Thames. We were there for hours. Sometimes the air went thick with rain. He is despising Roy, why would I have a baby with him. It's as if Luke is saying, why didn't you give me a better father, which is a question that bites its own head. Dear Luke he was my way to you though I had to be wrong in many ways to get you.


Brought home an Art forum, found it a midden of junk innovation written up by cut-off heads searching consciencelessly for anything to say. It's a desperate milieu where success seems impossible and disgusting. I want a life in good making with good makers, and the life defined as that is hideous, unhinged, corrupt. Tony saying he's looking for something underneath, he wants to analyze art, seeing is not enough. I'm Romantic, he says. By that he means trivial. And yet the defense not just of the body but of happy earthed body is central and current surely.

Tony's story of watching Jessie born by Caesarian. He was in a tiled Victorian operating theatre with ranks of benches for students. Christine was behind a drape. He'd been holding her hand but when they said they were ready he said See you later and went around into the stands. The surgeon lifted his blade and cut once down, once across. Christine's belly opened like a flower. Out popped the baby, liver-colored. There was pink water on the tile around his feet. He hadn't wanted a child, Christine said either she was having a baby or she was leaving. He said okay, and maybe he'd stay around for a year. When they put the bundle into his arms that was it. He was capering in the corridor.


Walked and walked in Regent's Park with my tall son. The rose garden, where he likes to go, for hours, and then St John's Lodge secret gardens. We looked at the colors of roses, looked at a yew hedge, at a wall of pleached limes, at fuzzy ducklings, at a pigeon stealing bread from another.


Humanities 2, a good corner. Other people like it too. Good air. Good light, good faces closed into their own elsewheres. Ranks of laptop screens. Each slot a brass plate with a number, two electric outlets, a small square that lights up to say Please contact issue desk.


Tony yesterday. The best was when we were in the room with the slice of oak tree on the ceiling and I lay down on a bench to look at it and he lay down next to me and we were two mid-sixties people talking side by side in a public bed, looking at something together.

The worst was when we were in Diana's circle by the Serpentine, looking at teenage girls on the grass, and he said the word 'nubile' in a squashed lascivious tone and then told a hideously violent misogynous joke. Did I laugh? I might have.


The Red Rose, the Black Cap, the Twelve Pins, the Castle.


Getting off the bus at the foot of Mattison looking around for a bread store and finding a big Cypriot bakeshop with racks full of round loaves of Greek bread, the kind I used to buy in Tufnell Park. I bought one with sesame seeds, walked uphill, took the South Harringay Passage across to Luke's street. He made tea and toast, told me two more hero stories. The garden was lit up at the end of his good kitchen. The toast was exquisite, with a thin slice of ham folded on it. The cat miewed sharply. It was midafternoon. I said I wouldn't stay long.

Then I took Harringay Passage as far as it went (it ended at a tall chimney) and found my way into Finsbury Park, where the long aisles under trees were dark - I want to be able to say this. Under these moody slate-grey skies the enormous park trees were so thick-leaved the avenues under them are very dark, there's something about these long receding tunnels of leaves, and the strength of the trees, the darkness of their green masses, their avidity, even. Luke had said go diagonally to get to Finsbury Park Station. It was an englamoured passage. Fine gritty paths. I remember a willow tree, lighter, and spread in perfection beside the path, not a weeping willow, a very large silvery-leaved ancient thing with a gracious perfect form.

City of massive flourishing trees.
City of buddleia fountains everywhere.
City of endlessly varied fantasy facades.

I was sitting on a bench and asked a man passing where the path went. He replied in an Irish accent. He was a tall man in his forties. There was something about the meeting, just the fact of stopping a stranger to ask a question and hear his voice. He looked at me. He wasn't blind. I've loved asking directions.

Forgot to say that on the bus to Mattison Avenue I sat next to two Rom boys, 16 or 17. The one across the aisle from me was wearing four or five bracelets on each arm, two feathered earrings in each ear, and a lot of necklaces, a cap. He was holding but not playing a cheap guitar. He and his friend were sometimes singing. They seemed to be speaking Spanish. When the one next to me talked on his cell phone his voice was remarkably loud, and more than loud, it had a hard authority unlike any voice I've heard.


Andy and I did find something wonderful together. A church he hadn't entered before, an inner courtyard and then music, a choir rehearsing. We sat listening. The organ was above us and the choir director in white shirt and suspenders kept looking around to cue the organist. The music was exquisite. I seemed to know it, though I hadn't heard it so alive. Fauré's Requiem. The church was St Alban the Martyr Holborn.


Ackroyd. After the bombings,

in Broad Street and Milk Street bloomed ragwort, lilies of the valley, white and mauve lilac.

Quiet lanes lead to patches of wild flower and undergrowth not seen in these parts since the days of Henry VIII.

Boswell suggested that 'the intellectual man is struck with London as comprehending the whole of human life in all its variety, the contemplation of which is inexhaustible.' It is the vision which was imparted to him as he was driven along the Haymarket in the early days of 1763: 'I was full of rich imagination of London such as I could not explain to most people, but which I strongly feel and am ravished with. My blood glows and my mind is agitated with felicity.' It is the fullness of London which prompts his happiness, the congregation of people, of all races, of all talents, of all fortunes, releases a massive air of expectancy and exhilaration. 722

The prodigious city said Mirbeau.

So Broadgate, in the early evening, contained many times, like currents of air invisibly mingling.


Evening that ended in misery, walking with Luke to the bus, falling, picking myself up angrily humiliated. It's only us, he said. It's not only you, it's especially you, I would rather fall in front of strangers. Why, he says mildly. I don't want you to have that picture of me in your head.

I'm walking beside a tall graceful man tanned in a good blue-striped shirt open at the neck. He doesn't have to be a grey small woman who keeps falling in the street.

At the dinner table he was the easy centre of everyone's interest and I was not. I was miserable losing the competition to him, baffled at how to be in that, not fighting it, silenced, sinking.

I was wearing my syrup-colored satin shirt and the tighter jeans and thought I looked nice, but get no sense of being noticed as a body. Life stripped of erotic play and possibility is very bare, I am very bare away from that power. I had such living times with these men, and could enliven them, and as a courteous visitor to their solid families I feel I'm nothing, and then have no stories worth telling here and write whatever junk has come up but in misery at its dullness and my death into dullness.


Local caff after going to church, around the corner from Leather Lane. Do I know more about why I cry in church. It's the slow dying I mind, I mind.

Was thinking during the service what are the real stations of the cross, the cross being mortality. 1. womb life, 2. infant simplicity, 3. beginning to talk, 4. open realness of childhood, 5. selfconsciousness in adolescence, 6. erotic liveness and struggle, 7. developing honest needed work, raising kids, which is sacrificial, 8. leadership, 9. and then what is this stage, I was asking, conscious dissolution? Tragic witness? Just disassembly?

Looking at the church and ritual with an eye on its being a homosexual institution. Smiling at all the penises there were in large, the Gothic arches on either side, the long tall apse ahead of us painted with mostly male bodies. I saw only about twenty parishioners in the benches, most of them older single men I was assuming were gay. At the altar were three altarmen, not boys, there were no children or families, and three hierophants in brocaded pinafores who when they had entered in procession sat in a row of thrones facing us. How does such a small congregation sustain a professional choir, three or four priests and a massive church kept very clean?

The sermon exhorted us to be good shepherds. I said to the universe, I am a good shepherd, I have loved in good action, but please help me find a way with more felt love and fullness. More of something for me too.

Wondering what would be a more honest worship service in that space. A beautiful naked woman up the aisle, sitting in a red velvet armchair on an altar, opening her legs. Communion would be everyone coming to face her, touch humbly into her, be smiled on in radiant erotic personal acceptance, and so be made physically complete as they once were. A true renewing which would be so right it wouldn't need architecture, incense or Bach. Though Bach could certainly be there.


Luke yesterday, two in the afternoon until nearly 7. I waited for him on the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields, watching the walks of passers. He took me through the lane at Charing Cross to a river boat for lunch, and we sat talking at our table on deck through the mid-afternoon, and then caught the second-last ferry to Greenwich.

- I'll have to wake up more before I can tell this right, but the long grey hours on the brown Thames, which curves more than I realized, so that landmarks were often seeming to be placed in the wrong direction.


It's a wet morning, my last day. Bacon and egg on baguette back in my room. I'll soon bring the big suitcase down from the closet shelf and reverse the unpacking I did with Luke in this chair when I'd just arrived.


On UA 923 packed in over the baggage hatch. Month later.

Vancouver 1 August

At River Drive last night when we had eaten we three were sitting in a row on the porch surrounded by leaves in the dark, grape leaves at the far end of the verandah, wisteria vines at our end, the three apple trees ahead of us backed by the three-stemmed * towering out of sight. David was kidding Dorothy and we were laughing together. He was barefoot in knee-length jeans and sat with his feet on the chair and his arms draped over his knees. He looked like a teenager in the dark and we were having a perfect moment. Dorothy was complaining about his dinner and I was defending it, and then she was munching happily at the hot chocolate he'd made her like the sweet daddy he is.

He drove me to the 22nd Street station in his pale yellow pickup and we sat for a while talking as buses pulled up and left again.

On the skytrain I was in the last car and leaned on the back window for the whole trip. The rails shot backwards, sharp lines of light, and the cheese-yellow half moon zoomed upward above them, rising without rising. I loved some strangeness in the city spaces seen from above and swiftly falling backward. A dark store on a street corner, tall young trees, lit rooms in highrise condos next to the track. The flat bare rail a high curve we were streaking away from. The city's moment shown in lights.


Rowen's thin fine dark face, bright black eyes, curly dark hair, flat cap like an Italian boy of the 40s. He ambles. This morning in the New Town Bakery he ordered two cocoanut buns and an apple tart and told me the plot of an anime he liked, a fish who became a little girl, whose fish-sisters became massive waves she ran along. As we left the hotel he was eager to tell a long dream about post-apocalyptic travel.

Last night with Louie we were on the sand as it got dark and the moon two days from full was rising over condo towers. Louie was sitting broadside to the water, Rowen was lying next to me and I had my hand very lightly on his head behind his ear.

Saturday night we lay on my bed talking by lamplight. He described being so anguished by having someone try to teach him closing-down accounting procedures that he had to resign. It was grade ten again. I said it was reactivation. More of that. He turned and put his arms around me. "You're always trying to get me to be angry with you."

He told a story on the beach about how he learned to swim. He met a girl called Rose Celeste Clark he liked tremendously. He saw her home one night and she kissed him. He went home to an apartment with a swimming pool. It was the middle of the night and he was elated. He jumped in and found he could swim. Buoyancy said Louie. Yes buoyancy he said excitedly.

Plainfield 8th

Jaes' story of a church that has a hole in the floor where people can touch earth.

Another story of a church with a black madonna at the end of a dark passage.


Caryn like an oiled frog gleaming cross-legged on her chair saying Ellie should do workgroups so somebody else could do three-part workshops. She and Ruth had cooked it up. Lise defended me, Caryn crossed swords with her and blocked her. She shut up. Ruth said which workgroup would I be interested in.

What do I really think about this. I think the others do how-to workshops because they are easy, don't take much prep, don't need an original framework. I don't think putting me into the how-to work will promote them into doing what I do, I think it would just mean residencies without intellectual scope.

I was coming from the faculty meeting, furious, and on the way met Jaes and Deidre at the door. Jaes said to me, out of the blue, Do you have a workgroup now? I said no and rushed on. Later she said she saw something in my eyes she'd never seen. It wasn't that my eyes were going back and forth but as if something behind them was, a trapped dashing side to side.

She said she was watching me during the [cognitive significance of birth] workshop. I present the workshop with my whole body and there are sparks in my eyes that are trying to ignite something in the student. She was across the room trying to hear and the young woman next to me jumped up to trade places with her, so she ended next to me with her soft bright face watchful and amused. When it was time to start the round of reading what will we know I hesitated, four lines each? Said three. Lise on my right began and we went counter-clockwise along the circle. When we were down to the last page I was wondering whether it would make it all the way around. There was less and less left, but then exactly three lines for Jaes on my left, so it was done, beginning to end in the circle of chairs like a torc open where I sat.


When Caryn during our fac meeting showdown was saying she didn't at all mean to imply that she doesn't value my workshops etc, I took a swift but slight step into the open, said, holding thumb and forefinger toward her about two inches apart, Little bit. It was a moment completely jumped out of the polite covert mode of fac meetings, naked challenge, and yet inscrutable probably.

Then later, at supper, Caryn walked into a pillar with her tray, crash, and I felt, there's my reply reaching her - something like that.


Three hours to go. I've set my clock to Pacific. We're at 36,000 and above someplace with straight roads. The very small farmhouses are bits of white gleaming under haze. Here comes cloud cover in little cells, formed, except for here and there a fuzzed glow, a smudge. Like blown snow on top of packed snow in a long exposure.

O round earth how implausible you are.

A river full of gravel shallows, looping broadly, its floodplain visible as smooth land with an edge.

I look at this knowing I won't remember any of it.

Lake a greenish gold. Stopped by a long hard edge and there's a little dam.

Field-squares cut between parallel crevasses.

The light has changed down there, an old light on orange-glazed dark umber and dark green.

I so want this traveling to be over. It's almost two months.


Read something last week about more complex brains organizing simpler brains - thought that's what I do with students, the letters organize them over the semester.

Friday morning on Garnet Ave, the smog station, there's the squeal of my beast.


We had no information. Marriage is a way of handling men's freakedness about women, but no one had explained that. I'd seen that marriage levels women, that's all I knew. So I was in a battle zone with men. Their infant ambivalence surged at me. They had to demand what they didn't actually want. I had to refuse to give it, but I had to refuse it in pain at losing their company, confusedly. What would have been the right way, if I'd known what was going on? Clear firmness, I could have said this is yours, deal with it or don't.


Someone in Bangkok googled lifetime journal and then google-translated the index page of w&d. The translation leaves words it doesn't recognize in English - misgivings, Boetia, Hesiod. In the first two pages of the search it was the only actual journal.

Was at Tom's doing laundry tonight, found him worn out by his month on $65, a thin-faced quiet man I immediately loved. There were a couple of things in particular. One was when he wanted me to see the star he was seeing in the Gegenschein he took my shoulders lightly and moved me into position. He did it naturally, without thinking. What was the other. When I said I'd been cranky he smiled broadly showing his new teeth. I liked his thin face and his blue canvas deck shoes worn w/o socks.


Spy thriller Tom gave me - I was reading it suspiciously, by the end disliking most the feeling that everything in it manipulates the reader. At first it was the politics, a book Rush Limbaugh could like. Dick lit, the usual, powerful competent men on both sides admiring each other, a lot of fast travel, supremely easy money, a few females who now have impressive jobs but only matter to show the hero winning with women.

At the same time the pull of shreds about places - the railway bridge I crossed into the south end of Hampstead Heath, Parliament Hill Fields - and times - bright Christmas morning at Westminster Abbey.

Dramatized back room information about government and secret service dealings and structures. Dread of Islamist evil and torture shown as effective. Paranoid ambiguity. The seemingly inescapable vileness of all the agencies, all of the sides. It did make me feel the naivete of the left along with the stupidity and venality of the right - it dissolved confidence - a feeling of not knowing enough about what is really happening. Came out of it feeling doped.

3 September

Last night went to Mission Beach at 6, saw the sun marachino pink just above the horizon, standing in warm water to my chest, small waves from many directions, fairground noise behind us. After the sun went down a storm pile of cumulous pink above the roller coaster. Then later a three quarters moon. Foam hissing in as lavender lace. Bare feet in the parking lot.


Juliana's note about a conference in Bogota on performance and politics. I wrote a reply I liked finding,

That 'performance' shd be code for embodiment - I guess for me there IS something suspect about that. I have felt sometimes as if there are two main branches of what embodiment studies can be: one of them to be crudely general is about wildness, desire, conventions relaxed, 'embodied writing,' etc. Recovering the repressed. It has an excited tonality. The other has a different tonality, for me more like silent space. It's more a reframing of everything, a way of understanding ALL writing as embodied, all mathematics, everything any human does. The implications of that.

So for instance when Christine says that neuroscience says the body is chaotic, that belongs to the first branch. In the second branch, where I live, neuroscience says the body is not chaotic but exquisitely ordered, like the Milky Way, like a field of grass. 'Chaotic' in this context, the physics/math/science context, does not mean disorderly but orderly at a very very fine scale. So when Christine says the poststructuralists show us what it means to work from that chaotic body, that tells me why I am still not very interested in the poststructuralists; I don't want to work from a disordered body, I want to work from the whole of an exquisitely ordered body. I'm lonely for a community interested in that.


I don't like the artificial significances in art discourse - the making too much of. It accompanies metaphor.


On Sunday morning at Starbucks where I went for wireless but also bought the Sunday Times, I was sitting in the armchair by the window when from the side of my eye I saw a man dithering about whether he was going to sit in the other chair. Dithering isn't exact but I didn't see him exactly. There was some indecisive jerking motion. He did sit down and when he laid his Union Tribune on the table next to my NYT on the table he said "City girl and country boy." I looked at him and went on looking with pleasure because he was unusually clean and fine-grained. He had small hands and feet and a narrow thin-fleshed lively face with thinning fine white hair, very good white teeth I decided were his own. He was wearing a clean crisp pale blue cotton shirt with sleeves rolled to the elbow. We went on talking fast for an hour. I said in fact I was a farm girl and he looked like he was from New York, meaning I could see he was Jewish. Philadelphia and Boston, he said, but he'd been living in Miami. When I said what my degrees are - he asked - he said he has a cat that's partly wild cat that he walks on a leash. It growled at strollers when there were two of them. I liked him but I got exhausted and felt I was dying by the second, had to go. He held out his hand and said his name was Larry. I'd like him as my gay buddy to talk about movies and life stories. He was jumpy but interested. His last story was about his cousin who lives with his parents in LA at sixty, who is watching his own fading like someone holding a stone and feeling it cool.

Weds 23

Wrote a piece for Juliana about why I like The glass essay, liked finding what I knew about it

I find it courageous and clean and extraordinarily skilled.

I like the love in it, written as it is from a position of interestedness that generates so many kinds of precision.

There's something maybe Canadian about her, a plainness inflected in subtle ways; and the inflected plainness is something she has learned from her Greeks too.

The poem isn't necessarily autobiographical. Carson's mother doesn't live in England, and I doubt Emily Bronte is her favorite author.

I like that the writing isn't hysterical, though the character has moments when she is.

I like the way Carson positions her character between the banality she grew up with and the soul-intensity she has found in reading and in loss.

The structure interests me every moment as I read: a woman probably suffering of unfinished passion writing about a woman suffering of unfinished passion reading what another woman wrote about unfinished passion long ago, and I as reader reading all of them. The structure is complex and she makes it coherent.

There isn't much fiction about reading, which has puzzled me because it is so interesting.

I like the character's love for Bronte:

But in between the neighbour who recalls her
coming in from a walk on the moors
with her face "lit up by a divine light"
and the sister who tells us
Emily never made a friend in her life,
is a space where the little raw soul
slips through.
It goes skimming the deep keel like a storm petrel,
out of sight.

I like that there's landscape and weather in the poem, and that her descriptions of them are exquisitely accurate. "She whached eyes, stars, inside, outside, actual weather." I get bored when writing has nothing but people in it. I need people to be seen in a context of world to be interested in them.

On the edge of the moor our pines
dip and coast in breezes
from somewhere else.

"Dip and coast" is exact and unusually said. She does that a lot.

my knees were cold inside my clothes.
A chill fragment of moon rose.
At this time of year there is no sunset
just some movements inside the light and then a sinking away.
But by now the day is wide open and a strange young April light
is filling the moor with gold milk.
I have reached the middle
where the ground goes down into a depression and fills with swampy water.
It is frozen.
A solid black pane of moor life caught in its own night attitudes.
Certain wild gold arrangements of weed are visible deep in the black.
I reach up and switch on the bedside lamp. Night springs
out the window and is gone over the moor.
I've seen those and I like coming upon them written.
I also love the way observations of natural time and place are there in the midst of banal human time and place:
Is that you dear?
Yes Ma.
Why don't you turn on a light in there?
Out the kitchen window I watch the steely April sun
jab its last cold yellow streaks
across a dirty silver sky.
Okay Ma. What's for supper?

I like the way she doesn't gloss over bodily fact or paraphrase it:

that one moment
when I found myself
thrusting my little burning red backside like a baboon
at a man who no longer cherished me.

The tiny instants when a dull conversation has something personal, unusual, in it, a family's intimacy startling to see.

with his collar up,
one eyebrow at an angle.
The shadowless light makes him look immortal,
for all the world like someone who will not weep again.
He is still staring into my face.
Flaps down! I cry.
His black grin flares once and goes out like a match.

This character thinks, is a body often thinking, here thinking about a woman who has been dead a long time, working for that woman because she honours her:

It is a shock to realize that this low, slow collusion
of master and victim within one voice
is a rationale
for the most awful loneliness of the poet's hour.
She has reversed the roles of thou and Thou
not as a display of power
but to force out of herself some pity
for this soul trapped in glass,
which is her true creation.

By the end a bravura display of scope, the way she can so economically comprehend material and imaginal, the kitchen clock, sublime creative vision of the fact of death.

I saw a high hill and on it a form shaped against hard air.
It could have been just a pole with some old cloth attached,
but as I came closer
I saw it was a human body
trying to stand against winds so terrible that the flesh was blowing off the bones.
And there was no pain.
The wind
was cleansing the bones.
They stood forth silver and necessary.
It was not my body, not a woman's body, it was the body of us all.
It walked out of the light.


Writing this I've wondered whether my years with journals and the journal project have tutored me to see the sorts of things she's able to do in this piece - something about the phenomenology of mixture in journals, the way there's weather and daily company and reading and anxiety and thought all together and making a texture of realism in which all can be more alive than when they're sorted? Work & days.


Saturday morning, light sea fog at 7 o'clock. Last evening Tom and I went to Mission Beach. Dense white mist on the far side of the second bridge so we arrived at a beach simplified to just a few figures and the sea wall. When we left our clothes on the sand we couldn't see past the sand slick. Went down into water that seemed unusually strong, even in the first foot of depth, pulling backward and then forward. Out at waist deep we were in a scene that seemed somehow Japanese, grey-green and white, peaked piles of water moving forward at slight angles to each other, on each other's heels. I am seeing as if a photograph, now, one instant of it, closed into the near, elegantly simply uniformly grey-green slopes with white foam, but at the time it was relentless aggression, always an assault to be watched and met. Sometimes I'd be pulled off my feet and knocked around feeling bottom until I struggled up looking back for the next one. Went on the rest of the evening euphoric, skin relaxed the way it is after salt water massage. Loved walking barefoot across the parking lot with sand on my feet.

We stopped at Ralph's and I got olive bread for toast, pastrami, romaine lettuce, a red pepper, sharp cheddar. We ate on the blue couch, which is grimy now, with the doors open, airplanes' bright stars on the flight path.

Forgot to say that as we left Belmont Park it was dark and the neon was glowing in mist.

I was euphoric also because of the meeting with Art and Scott to look at the estimate for the Mediterranean garden. I liked throwing myself into it with unchecked authority, friendly unchecked authority, as they did too.


Last weekend I loomed up and said that it's my kitchen too and if I'm going to cook in it, it should be clean. This weekend he had spent Saturday afternoon cleaning, behind the sofa even, the corners. He had a certain look, too, somehow clear-eyed and bedroom-eyed in ways he can be but lately often isn't. I liked looking at his strong wicked face, though he was wincing around like a rickety old buffalo.


Emilee's work came in last evening as I was checking mail at Starbucks after seven. She sent journal and said she didn't want to explain anything. Good, Emilee. Starbucks closed and I went home and sat up reading through her 48 pages, oh happy it was alive and Emilee again. When I'd read the last dream I put my hand on the screen as if that could thank and bless her, felt the fine electric buzz.