2nd December 2003
The last journal is so dull I wondered whether I should think the real
writing is in the student letters, but it's not. Elderly wisdom and moments
of motion and exactness but it's not that light wicked interested balanced
girl, the one who likes to write about sex and journeys and weather,
and can dart into any topic and touch some little central thing and then
The pall there is in these days, the way I am often having to jump to
turn off the radio when I hear the words 'governor' and 'Schwartzenegger'
together, and Bush's childish whine making speeches telling the nation his
evil war is good. I had sparky years when Clinton was in. Does the wave
that washed stupidity into office also wash through me? It says that's the
way to say it. Bush will be reelected, so it will be another five years
at least. Are these waves meant to pick up the stupid and bring them forward?
Are there implications for how I need to live in this sort of time? Proactively
and instructively. So I'm doing it wrong. Waiting to be carried. Is the
embodiment concentration worth doing? Is it worth staying at [my college]
for? It's my present form of mind and land.
Transcribing, I keep not knowing what to do with the New Age feel of
the notes with the book. The philosophy is respectable though arcane - I
mean from the point of view of the general reader. The weather and days
and friends writing is pleasing. But the bookwork, though the quality of
the other two registers depends on it, sounds flaky. I do not mean any disrespect
to it. I don't know how to think of it published. With Jane Roberts for
instance, that's what she is, all she is. Eva Pierrakos. They aren't wanting
to be read in the communities I want for my other work. And there is something
truly wrong with the communities they are read in. Respectable communities
may do that kind of thing but they keep it out of sight. I don't believe
in that suppression, or any, but there is something to be found here.
What it says is that I should just tell it as a story of and demo of
dissociation, having a way to communicate with dissociated self. If it is
told clearly and in the context in which it has worked, secularly, it is
significant, ground-breaking, interesting.
Okay. That's what I'm doing now.
NPR has been disgustingly enlisted by the Saddaam capture story. It is
extraordinary the sleight of mind they are letting past - he is a bad man
but had nothing to do with the Twin Tower attack. Bush had other reasons
for wanting to get him and he needed a victory and so they went after someone
they could actually get. Now they are playing and replaying the military
commander announcing "We got him" and the troops cheering. This
non-event will sink the Democrats even further.
In Canada I don't have this feeling of an overwhelmingly stupid electorate.
Bush and the many like him are Saddaam and so are in love-hate
with Saddaam. Foreign affairs decisions are being conducted as the most
Oh Maggie. Starting to write her eval I reread her process packet Laiwan
sent last year. There's her voice so heart-rendingly direct. She is the
most powerful writer at [my college] in the sense that she lifts me. She
speaks straight to the sore true soul. I need her writing, I need
Logan's. These people are way young. Early twenties.
The way I've carefully kept amateur status in all my fields - gardening,
philosophy, writing, film, photography. Teaching, too. The thought of being
pinned into any of those lives is very unpleasant. The journal, though,
is the underlying work that holds them all. Personal journalism. Dorothy
Richardson. What can I do, what do I do, that takes her forward? I have
a more mobile life. I have more linguistic flex. I don't know yet whether
there's a readable form closer to the raw. That's what I'd like, to have
it the journal but readable in the way I read Richardson.
2nd January 2004
I wonder how much of this discouragement is political, or at least to
do with what I meet where I am. On talk radio a soldier, a captain back
from Iraq, being interviewed about taking Hussein's palace, described with
such jingoist prurience the backwardness he found, black and white TVs without
remotes, an old microwave, sheets cotton not satin, only uniforms in the
closets. This captain so ignorant, so blustering. They took the palace in
five minutes, he said, because the best Iraqi troops had no technology and
hid behind mattresses. "Our machine guns cut through the mattresses
and we got them."
The fact that this country is headed by a man so ignorant, so stupid,
so unconscious, so unbearably corrupt, and the fact that he is popular -
the sound of his voice saying 'democracy' and 'freedom' while ten thousand
Iraqis are dead, country and cities shot to pieces, a hundred thousand maimed,
a culture trashed. American young men killed or maimed, and all irremediably
brutalized, so they will be the next wave of men killing themselves, and
if not themselves, their wives. And such denial built into daily discourse.
What I transcribed this afternoon was the train trip back to San Diego
just before Christmas in 1996.
I like the writing. One of the things I like is that I hardly ever know
what I'm going to say. Another is that I like the stories told in a paragraph
or a few - the girl who shot her stepfather. I like the unpremeditated movement
of a person thinking rather than presenting to a reader. I like the valiant
honesty. I don't mind the egotism though I notice someone else might. I
like the value given mortal moments. I'm generous when I'm interested. I
like the way philosophic synthesis is there among paragraphs about winter
rain and a chance meeting on Commercial St and a stranger's elegant generosity
in propping my bike at the tea merchant's. I like the simplicity in sex
and grief. There's great naturalness. But what?
Post it on the web, with pictures and bookwork separate. Yes, and then
what? I'm discouraged before I even ask. No work I do in these ways will
get me what I'm starved for, access, ease, a true love.
A true love - what's that? Why aren't the people who love me true loves?
Because I have to hold back with them, always, always. They couldn't bear
me, none of them. I want my work to find me someone stronger, someone so
strong I can be true and love and hate and fear and all. That's what I've
lost. That's why in all his badness Tom satisfied me. I'm sobbing.
Well Tom couldn't stand me either but he could stand things no one else
could stand. He could stand my fury, he could stand my sexual kinkiness,
he could stand my hatred, he could stand my plain-spokenness though sometimes
he stood it by not hearing it.
And secondly, access, being part of the world. And thirdly, money enough
for movement and roots into old age, if there will be that.
None of my work has got me those, none of it will ever get me those.
Sucking-up could get me the second two, though not the first. But I can't
Louie was offended at my letter in which I said what I am about popularity
in a straight-out off-hand way. When she spoke to me last she had a particular
sound I think of as social. She was talking about her party and she sounded
stupider than usual. I mean the sound of her voice. I thought it was the
sound of dealing with people as she does. 70 people she said. I said I don't
think normal people are smart enough to like one for the right reasons so
when anyone is popular with normal people it must be by sleazy means, by
flattery. That's what I do think, and I certainly think it in relation to
Louie, the way she talks on the phone. "Have a nice weekend,"
that sort of thing. If she brown-noses she ought to be willing to know it.
I flatter students, in the sense of being more interested in them than
I am. It's professionalism, but it's brown-nosing all the same. I'm popular
with students by a combination of falsity and exceptional truth. I try to
minimize the falsity but I need it to get to be in a position where I can
be true and demonstrate truth. But I think Louie is still in the grip of
her social training in many of the horrid niceties. It keeps her smaller
than she could be. It is a lack of courage. She has to be popular.
This is one of our ongoing fights.
Vermont 1st February
America. Is it worse now. I look down from 37,000 feet and think all
those lights are people who watch television and want to know nothing of
all there is to know. I didn't think it in so many words, felt it. The captain
kept coming on and telling us the Superbowl score.
The way embodiment is a women's epistemology. What there has been has
been a male epistemology, in the sense that it has been based on male rupture,
meaning denial of the mother and the time of the mother and all that includes.
Women have been mainly uninterested in it and have left it to the men, but
they could be very interested in an epistemology that is based on continuing
connection, because it can support what they can do in the manner of connection.
But do I want to be queen of embodiment in a place that won't do science
and where most of the fac are death-deniers? No.
The visualization I made up this morning for the advising group. Picture
a point of white light anywhere ahead of you, any distance, any direction.
Feel your relation to it. Feel a flow in both directions to and from the
center of your chest. Just for this moment think of that point as the moment
when you're standing at graduation. What do you want to have done, what
do you want to feel? Now put yourself at that viewpoint and look at something
in any direction you want, backward, forward, sideways.
I left them there in the silence of the computer humming and waited to
see whether I could reach a point of my own and look out from it. I saw
a perfectly calm ocean, nothing but ocean and sky. A living silence very
deep in space. It brought tears to my eyes. It was as if I were looking
I saw all the faces quiet and waited to see them start to open their
eyes. "Come back when you're ready." There we were in the quiet
after. Just sitting. "Shall we leave it at that?" I look at Cam.
She's saying yes. Okay, let's go home.
San Diego 24th
Very deep black loam, yards deep, nothing growing.
Stone walls dividing it into sections. I'm visiting. From an upstairs window
I can see my home place. I'm seeing it's not far, and wondering at how different
the terrain is.
I'm certain about many things, unusually so, but working through the
journals I marvel at the spot of uncertainty Tom is. Even now, I can wake
at night not knowing whether he was or is bad or good for me. I was fascinated
by the instability. I'm imagining a zone of the air that's blurred like
the traveling spot of blur that is used to censor faces or genitals on TV.
It's a spot of blur I walk in and out of. That image is wrong because any
individual meeting with Tom wasn't blurred, I always knew what I saw at
any moment, my attitude at any moment was decided. But the unfixability
of an attitude over time - that was extraordinary.
It's 5:45, dark. I've been awake since 3:30. The streets sound wet. Thursday
morning. I'm still sick. Yesterday I could hear a wheeze in my lungs. There
has been a bitter taste in my mouth, like aspirin. This was the third night
I've woken with my stomach a dense dark bar of sensation - not pain but
compact intense sensation. All of that was making me remember that people
who live alone die sooner, crumble physically as if the body decides it's
not wanted in the human herd.
So then I wonder whether I should do what I did in my forties, find bodies
to enliven me. And then I say I can't imagine doing that again. And then
I'm just where I am, living like a very old person, staying close to a tiny
I feel myself waiting to say to Tom, Let's try again, it was better together
than it is apart. And then I say, He still won't have any money, he'll still
be afraid to grow past himself. And I'll still be stuck wanting to move
up to a bigger space, and not wanting to, for some reason.
Driving east on University I found XLNC on the jeep scanner and there
was baroque music, wonderful, baroque instruments, voices shouting hallelujah!
hallelujah! [not Handel]. I kept pushing the volume up and rolled my
windows down so that at stoplights I was a baroque boom car. I had tears
of joy in my eyes, delivered from depression.
At Mission Hills Nursery the gay young men know me and speak to me fraternally.
Down near the fruit trees there was someone singing, an older Mexican man
on his knees pruning and weeding. Only the tune, a sentimental song. I think
you are happy, I said. I am happy for the plantas, and my job, he said.
A power moon rising.
In the market this morning there was a cross-cut slab of a pumpkin so
beautiful I stood and stared. A beaten-brass skin and fine-fleshed - very
fine-fleshed - deep orange meat. Next to it, the rest of the pumpkin it
had been slabbed off had curly antlers, a couple of feet of twisty dried
As I stood gazing a man with a folkie's big flop of white moustache came
out from behind the Moonrise Farms banner ("no herbicides, no pesticides").
He found the pumpkin as wonderful as I, a heritage variety he said, taken
to France from Mexico, where it had been grown for a thousand years. The
Mexicans know it, he said, it's still grown there. In France called Conte
de fee. He was so happy a man, so pleased with his little farm at Temeculah,
and his mountain lion that didn't jump, didn't run, but flowed fourteen
feet in one motion, tail fluffed to a six inch diameter. I stood and talked
to him on and on. Something about the pumpkin (and when he was emerging
from his van he was carrying a purple cabbage to put next to it) - and something
about the joyfulness of the man - and more particularly something about
the angular quirkedness of the pumpkin stem - did strike me as indicating
the presence of an elf or fairy world.
Willa Cather often writes about herself. She's interested in what it
is in her that carried her so far into autonomy, excellence and success.
She's interested in other people too, and she fictionalizes, but she's so
natural in her interests that she lets herself tell her own story often,
all the stories of young persons on a farm or in a prairie town, who rise
up through into communities of cultural power.
I have that sort of interest in myself but haven't been her sort of clear
about the young person who gets to autonomy and excellence but doesn't make
it to success.
Cather is very warm and direct, she's visual in the way I am, but more
so. She has amazing memory for light and weather and landscape. She wasn't
a shy child, she mixed with anyone and studied how things are done. I was
withdrawn but also I wasn't on the way to being a novelist, though I was
on the way to being a novel reader. I had that elf-edge where I think she
was all human, and I was on the way to being - oh shit - a philosopher.
But a philosopher who learns in novels and writes in personal journal form.
What I am feeling is something like a hideousness of life. I've felt
a benevolence sometimes but it's as if this stretch of torture by isolation
and paralysis is a slow blank taking-account of the destruction of spirits.
Spirits are smashed in this life. I hate it for what it did to Janeen and
Frank and Joyce and Ed. I hate the way it teased me with Tom, let me think
I had what I needed so I'd fight for it, wait, suffer, in such faith, after
it had already taken it away from me.
I can see that Frank killed himself because he decided to go in his own
time. He wasn't hateful, he was done.
There was a newspaper story about an 89 year old man who was losing his
vision to a tumor. He was taken up in a biplane for a birthday present,
because he had been a flier in the war. As he and the pilot were coming
back to the airport he took off his helmet. Then he jumped over the side.
He fell into the courtyard of a condo.
I have lost my work, Joyce, my house, Tom.
I have [my college]. It's a small thing but good, I'm good at it.
The good in life is so precious. Bontecou's sculpture that I see across
the room is so needed an assertion - wonders of human making are so needed
to hold up against the ways we get smashed, the facts.
Is it necessary to feel this to know what work is for? Bontecou's entire
life can be given to making one piece as humanly splendid as Shakespeare.
Looking at Frank after his life and the journal of my dad's death
I was feeling how no one who knows either of them would want to read them.
Everyone would hate what I saw, what I say. There are people who don't know
them who could like the writing in relation to facts of their own, but that's
not what I want most.
A hollow-hearted hunger to be liked and wanted in my own life. I keep
lifting the cover of my computer wanting someone to be talking and listening
to me. I have been so stoic about being unwanted in my communities. I've
gone to the world as far as I had to go, far. It doesn't occur to me to
complain. Exile is a condition of life.
Ocean Beach pier. It's spring break. The fishermen are hauling up banners
of seaweed, one after the other. Break. That sudden stop.
O unspeakable sea. O faceted ocean, lifting, lifting, falling away.
The motion of that area of shattered reflected water is visible but incomprehensible.
I can see it but as if not very deeply. It's two colors, dark and light,
but I can't hold to either as figure. As I try to see the motion of the
dark, the light washes into its place. Such brief but complicated counterflow.
The concrete posts in their fuzzy legwarmers.
Falling asleep at night I sometimes wake suddenly in a small flush of
fear, too hot and my heart beating fast. Last night it was fear of hell.
When writing about myself isn't egotism is when there is that feeling
of noting what life is, what human being is.
I was lying awake in the dark at 4 this morning thinking of the little
Sunday dresses my mother made for us - pink satin with white lace yokes,
or especially the pale green dotted organdy.
I was feeling the relation of that dress and a quality of mine, the quality
I like, which is an organdy quality. Tenuous? Sheer. Do I know anyone else
who has it? No. It is as if my value. It is not the way I imagine myself.
If I did imagine myself that way, would it tell me what my work is? Is its
name intelligence? Female intelligence? It's the quality of the voice on
tape reading to Tom. It's somewhat the quality of the Bontecou piece. The
whole grain book. People are reserved with it because they are attracted
to it. It's linked to my father. He could see it. I'm exquisite and deformed.