10th March 2003
There is another thing that this house does
in the deep of the night. I have heard it before and now I wait for it to
happen. The house releases the day's footsteps. All day we press down minutely
on the wide old floorboards, moving about on regular errands, from room
to room. It takes hours for the boards to readjust, to squeak back up the
nails, for the old fibres of the pinewood to recover their give. As they
do so, they reproduce the sound of the footsteps. In the night the maze
of pathways is audibly retraced.
Louise Erdrich, 2003, "The painted drum," New
This story struck me so much I thought of tearing it out of the magazine.
Copying the paragraph, I'm realizing why.
The sky was a threatful grey, yet the willows
blazed in tender bud, and drifts of wild-apple blossoms floated in the cavern
pines. I kept the window slightly open as I drove the back roads to the
Tatro house, and breathed in the watery air. The Tatros had always been
too cheap to keep up their road, and the final quarter mile was partly washed
out, the gnarled bedrock exposed. Overgrown swamps and ponds lapped close
to either side. As I bounced along, the frogs quieted momentarily, so that
I seemed to be continuously pushing against a wall of sound. Once I stopped,
the frogs began trilling again.
I turned off the light and got into bed. I leave
my windows open just a crack at night, even in winter. The darkness seethed
with spring music, and from time to time, deep in the woods, a barred owl
screamed like a woman in pain.
I loved the way it goes from the drum to the house. It's evident that
the drum is the body and her theft is the assumption of herself. Then the
house's release of the day's footsteps is like dreaming. Delayed sounding-out
of another version of the drum. But what about the passage about driving
through a moment of spring countryside, and then at night hearing the seething
of spring music through a crack of open window. It is Louise Erdrich having
seen and heard the real world and releasing it later in the form of these
The letter to Michael my most creative. I work with his materials mostly.
I pull out what rings true and give it back to him. Then I say five things
in my own voice. It's not love if it isn't particular; settling for longing
is hopelessness; he has to find out about the unconscious on his own; there
is an ethic in getting it whole not forcing fragments; images of women are
images of the man's unconscious. The parts of my reply all fit together.
I'm modeling coherence.
I used to be like Michael longing to find creation. Now I feel I am creation,
though many times I'm vacant and dull. What does it mean, feeling I am creation?
I feel a coherent platform, one thing. I'm not on either side of a divide.
It's not spectacular but it's ready. Am I imagining that? Yes. But is it
I love in Ezra the faith that honesty is the necessary thing. "More
writers fail from lack of character than from lack of intelligence."
But, but, lack of character looks like lack of intelligence to me.
The long life's technical study: Yeats, Pound, Stan in his medium. But
what has my study been? I haven't had an art, I haven't learned an art.
But something - what? Something hermetic. You mean I'm a philosopher. Yes.
Specifically a philosopher of mind. Yes. Without a community. Yes. I don't
know what I should be doing to set what I've made where it can be found.
I have to do that. Will you comment? 'Seeing.' Question is, what are the
resources of mind. Yes. Do you want to say more about this? Persist in the
child's brilliance and courage and anger. 'Seeing' and childhood of the
philosopher? Yes. They're the same work? YES. Do I need to look for the
roots of this where I first imagined it? YES. Is this remaking? No. Remembering?
Yes. I caught sight of it as I was finishing Being about. It's about
the uncon, in a way. Yes. You. Yes.
I snagged on Pound and the Provencal because there is that something
I could begin to know in the time with Jam - it is also the way forward
and I don't know anyone going there - the chrome-sounding music - I love
this direction - it is very tenuous - close to something that's wrong, an
inflated feeling - call it a zone - it was there in Trapline - it
was there in the notes in origin piece for those who could see it
- it's Greek, it's Celtic - it's a euphoria - it wants word derivations
- is it illusory, is the question - it says no - it's a true perception
- it's bardic - troubadour was southern France, northern Italy, eastern
Spain - a climate that supports walking and sleeping out - and was specifically
lyric - finding done with noble women - trouvère is a better
word but the northerners sang in another mode.
euphoria - eu-pherein - well-borne
And doesn't it have something to do with Ed - it's a possibility that
comes to me through him. Maybe emotionally through his image? An ideality.
Something altogether aside from the interaction with him as it went. Is
that early love, that fineness? As if it is one of several selves.
It's the landscape of the Ryder cards - the Buddhist is something else
but it is related - what I saw after sesshin -
Who tells it - does the state itself speak? It seems to me rather to
listen. It's a clarity. It hears voices as sound. Oh it sees.
Yesterday. We drove and drove and saw some fine things but all day Tom
in his various ways, unconscious, rode herd to keep me contained and disabled.
I tracked them but could not break out. What I was feeling was, I have to
leave this man.
How does he do it. He doesn't reply to what I say, so I am suspended
impotent in my interests. He frightens me by taking a corner just barely
in control. He explodes into cursing another driver. He drives through exquisite
country with loud music on. When we have stopped somewhere wonderful he
says we're going, but then when I get into the car he sits fiddling with
something, as if to assert that he's in control of our coming and our going.
When he's done something disrespectful he immediately demands a kiss, so
that I have to either compound his disrespect with submission or else make
an issue and bring down anger.
All of these are patriarchal mechanisms he has developed in the imperative
of keeping control of women. They also keep control of him and are not in
his interest. His bursts of insecurity and remorse come from the fact that
he partly knows what he is doing though he isn't conscious of the mechanisms
as such. His babyish-seeming demanding of points for every normally decent
thing he does is for the same reason.
He does get something from the practice - he gets that I am at bay and
neutered, and he is free to make fine sentences.
I also get something from the practice - he does the driving and I am
free to look.
His devices work together with my training. They trigger my training.
Some of what I've named is incompetence rather than patriarchal mechanism,
but it is tied in. When he has another man on his tail on a mountain road
he drives faster than his competence because he doesn't want to be thought
unmanly, even by a stranger whose face he'll never see.
Destruction of curiosity is the worst.
With Tom I am like a Baghdad observer. I lived in a ghetto for many years
and now I am an embedded reporter in the Evil Empire. I break bread with
the enemy and that is how it has to be. Isolation is not needed but steady
sorting, moment by moment, is.
Woke at 4 anxious and sad.
I hardly want to write in my journal these days. I don't have that central
loving wish to tell.
- I have tried to write Paradise
- Do not move
- Let the wind speak that is paradise
- Let the Gods forgive what I have made
- Let those I love try to forgive what I have
I'm crying - not crying, feeling the pressure behind the eyes.
It's sorrow for Pound who was beauty and contempt, because he fought
hard and was whipped down.
It's agony at having to give the day to Sharon's hopeless incoherence
instead of my own best.
I wish before I die I could make strong beauty of my own - live in strong
beauty - give strong beauty where it can matter -
Then I burst into real sobs. As I sob I notice a young quite buoyant
self - I felt her tone - thinking that the sobbing is good, it will open
a way to something. It's the first time I've felt the balanced watcher as
David Adams Richards, The coming of winter. He wrote it when he
was 23. On the front cover a photo of beer bottles in the snow.
These barely sheltered beings. There they are in their haplessness and
there he is in his clarity. Nothing in this book bends the light, it comes
direct. No one is redeemed. No hope is intended. No one is blamed or praised.
There is scrupulous comprehension, none of it given as explanation. The
authority is all in perception not abstraction. Compassion is not the word.
Grey. A steady grey. A strong air holding all.
I hang onto this book like a mother's hand.
The sky is lightening over the palms north of the cathedral. A bird is
twittering, whistling. My own bird in the heater is scratching and twitching.
A bus goes by on 5th. Across the room in the cupboard shelves the steady
burn of color - that is not the way to say it - of live flowers, pink ivy
geraniums, dark orange nasturtiums, California poppies, a red salvia, purple
verbena. On the table yellow ranunculus and oranges in the Moroccan tray.
These living things seem to give off more than color, and they seem to give
it off with a very strong constant push. The room without them would be
We zipped to Ocean Beach in his nifty car with its high, tight butt and
walked to the end of the pier. A crescent moon cast its pale blue roadway
on the water. At the horizon, in the space of sky between it and the moon
on its back, the darkness thickened into a darker mass, like the Rosicrucian
pyramid, Tom said, but fluid, dissolving and reforming, a quite powerfully
but dimly suggestive illusion.
Inside the arm of the T of the pier the water was black and showing in
a welter, moving chaotically in patches, up and down and in all directions.
The movement was diagrammed in the network of orange light from the sodium
vapor lamps on the pier. Sinister, Tom said. He was imagining the helplessness
of a swimmer in its disorganizing cross-motion.
Tom in the parking garage of Ralph's last night, smiling as I look back
at him with my head half out the car window. I had got dressed up and gone
downhill in the dark to visit him on his last night at the West. His smile
is very beautiful to me. It is a change of person. He flashes someone else.
I can't describe the man I see when he smiles. He's pink, he's whole, he's
shy. It isn't a social smile, it is a burst of youth.
We sat shoulder to shoulder on the bench under the clock and saw the
20 foot pillars, pale blue; the plaster swordfish; the desk clerks' cage;
the red, flowered carpets dirty at the edges where the janitor slops his
mop. The telephone booths where Tom used to stand dialing 604-253-9618.
The balconies facing each other above the stage. Cigarette smoke from the
south wing of the lobby slightly stinging the eyes.
Tom was reminiscing formally. "That's where I saw you coming down
the stairs." "Where were you standing?" "Right there"
(by the mail window). He gave me back a copy of a photo I took of the east
doors of the lobby. An old man I think of as Irish because of his flat cap
has his hand on the glass door passing into the light. On the far right,
a ways back, a younger man sits gazing after him. It's a good picture. Tom
wrote on the back a renewal of the vow: "5/26/3 Going for broke. Still."
That would be well done if it were true.
I was sitting on the path outside the herb garden when Brian came through,
and as he passed he said "devoted focus." He meant me. The word
devoted surprised me. I wondered whether he meant more than the weeding,
whether he saw something general. Maybe he was stoned, I thought.
Later in the afternoon I was weeding the edges of the middle path through
the espalier rows. A reddish middle-aged man carrying a plant looked at
me and said "devoted." Just that. And then when I stared at him,
"It doesn't go unnoticed." I was very startled. What world am
It is Sunday afternoon. Rowen this morning did three sections of graphs,
three hours straight. Kept going after I said he could stop. I worked alongside
him and intervened almost not at all. He likes graphs. He was a serious
beautiful boy doing homework at a table in a beautiful house. I was typing
on the laptop in the red armchair. There was sun on the floor and burning
in the green wall of balcony plants.
Typing Tom's soliloquy moved me. There he is bare and clear, the one
I adored, longed for, worked for, my mate, my true love, Tom. There he was
for a moment.
Fauré. The thin floating lines of his voices. These funeral songs.
This is what I need to feel. Raw loss.
I found him. I lost him again.