volume 5 of in america: 2004 april-july  work & days: a lifetime journal project







More lonely lonely and complaining of dullness. Part 2 take the jeep camping. Part 3 Vancouver and Vermont, the Coast Starlight train.

Notes: Lessing The golden notebook, Cather O pioneers and The professor's house, Brahage at Concordia, Mary Staton From the legend of Biel, Dawn Prince-Hughes Songs of the gorilla nation, Ted Berrigan Sonnet LXXXVIII.

Mentioned: Jody Golick, Scott Mader, Louise G, Rowen, Luke, Carolyn Hauck, Michael Deragon, Daphne Marlatt, Rosalynde de Lanerolle, Mary Epp, Judie Bopp, Jeanne Chambers, Corin Gintner, Logan Burns, Favor Ellis, Greg Morrison, Carol D'Agostino, Rob Mills, Louie E, Tom Fendler, Jam Ismail, Cheryl S, Tony Nesbit, Sarah Black, Janeen Postman, Frank Doerksen, Diana Kemble, Betsy Warland, David Rimmer, John Turvey, Tony Gordon-Wilson, Margo MacLeod, Juliana Borrero, Janet Atkinson-Grosjean, Gordon Koo, David Beach, Dennis Windrim.

2720 Fifth Avenue in Banker's Hill, 5133 Dawne Street in Clairemont, 5562 Taft Avenue in La Jolla, 5571 Bellevue in Bird Rock, 3743 Charles Street in Point Loma, 4055 Stephens at Fort Stockton, Fourth Avenue, Starbucks on Fifth Ave, Bread & Cie in Mission Hills, the Greek's Café in Ocean Beach, St Vincent de Pauls Shelter, Amvets Goodwill, Balboa Park, the Japatul road, Pine Valley Trail, I8, San Marcos, Hotel Patricia on Hastings in Vancouver, Harbour Centre, Amtrak Coast Starlight, Dunsmuir CA, Klamath Summit, San Luis Obispo, Mt Shasta, Hon's Won Ton, YVR Departures Hall, Plainfield VT, Burlington, Everywhere Taxi, Chicago, Blenz on Hastings, May Wah Hotel 308, Second Narrows, 824 E Pender, Keefer St, Bellingham, the Kwang Chow, Wall Street in East Vancouver, the North Shore, Portland, the Columbia River, Albany OR, Trout Lake, the Williamette Pass, Paso Robles.

David Byrne and Louden Wainwright singing Bizet Au fond du temple saint, Handel Italian duets, Brakhage at Concordia, Schumann's Piano Concerto in A Minor, Huidobro, The bodyguard, June Callwood, KCRW, Nick Harcourt, Amazon Used, LA Times, San Diego Union Tribune, the Women's Press, Gillian Fisher, Falluja, Wings of desire, Pinocchio, Dorothy Richardson, Carol Gilligan, Memorial Day, Ursula Le Guin, Gris, Huidobro, Lipchitz, Roni Horn, Alex Kaya, the Grateful Dead, Ram Dass, Christa Wolf, Toronto Globe and Mail.

 26 April 2004

I dreamed I was looking at a tree I'd pruned. I'd pruned it maybe at the wrong time. It wasn't putting out leaves at all, though close to the trunk and remaining branches there were very young knobs of new growth. A lot of them.

27 April

How does a mess of grass come to be livin' up top of a long pole of a wooden leg, like that? The maturity of a palm tree is all in its leg - the maturity of a person is spread out into the life made to support mature function of an adult body. It's built slowly, like wood, and it sets around one, sometimes inflexible, sometimes a structure that supports a flexibility that has a competence and access young flexibility doesn't have. The palm tree builds its platform, and up there it's as young as it ever was, because it keeps chucking the recent, the way grass does. It's an annual on a platform. I hate extended metaphor and was trying this because I'm too leafless now to write better.

8th May

The photos I've seen show an unintelligent-looking American girl soldier holding a leash attached to the neck of a naked Iraqi man writhing on the floor. She's standing casually with a cigarette in her other hand. It's a complicated moment, isn't it - we women like to see a woman getting revenge on the men of Islam for their crimes against women. Americans like to see an American humiliating someone of the kind though not the nation that humiliated them. That the Islamic act was a brilliant and heroic one, and the American act a form of moronic bullying, spoils the moment somewhat, but nonetheless there was a felt debt and the photo gives symbolic pleasure and is reproduced everywhere. Just realized this is personal too - Istanbul spring 1965 I was humiliated by Islamic men - but were they all Kurds, in fact? - and felt a debt myself maybe. The fact that images of humiliation give satisfaction is being hidden by a public outcry denouncing it - we Americans really are not like that, we're high-minded people with only good intentions, and something went wrong and we're deeply sorry. Meantime the publication of the images everywhere does inflame Islamic men so that young, poor and often minority American men will be more likely to be killed. Only hope the rednecks will pay good attention and let go of their fantasies of a resolute, pious protector.

18 May

It is evening, quarter past seven. The sun is full through the west window onto the closet door, twelve panes of light slipping sideways to round the corner onto the south wall. There's sun on the open door. It is this room's beautiful hour.

I am drinking a small amount of Cinzano Rosso in the good wine glass - the one from the goodwill on University, glass so thin I walked around the store ringing it for the beauty of the note.

I'm happy. It is the light and the music, the beautiful glass (which I will soon someday break) holding itself so nobly with its pointed half-ellipse of lit amber, but it is more the day I had transcribing March and April 2002, happy months. Say more - something else is coming true, as then. I know I'm committed to putting the journals on the web. All the many years I have transcribed and then fallen into dejection. They were what I most wanted to show and every time I lost confidence in them. So now as I read them I am confident of them - which isn't to say that I can imagine who would read them. Transcribing, I am feeling with wonder how much of what I see and know is unbearable to the people I know - how can I have lived so long that way - feeling my actual self to be unbearable to almost anyone.

Anyone must feel that, so my readers would have to be people I don't know, but only those who aren't dog owners, Christians, etc.

A way of reading, the way I read DR, over years, dipping, forgetting, overjoyed at her company. She made a matrix too, though she crafted and I do something else. It will be something. I don't know what and won't try to look ahead.

24 May

At noon I was in a meadow alongside a rocky streambed. Oaks and dried-out wild oats. There were butterflies of many different sizes, a thumbnail-sized iridescent pale blue. A buzzard. A fat little bird I watched through the binocs perched on one of the dangling twigs of an oak opening its beak seriously and emitting a trill. It was quiet. The oaks had lived long. Butterflies were working in peace. Boys helmited and costumed in space suits were blasting past on dirt bikes - so odd an image of complete disaffection and fantasy. They and their roar would pass and there would be the grove undisturbed again.

I sat. After a while I could tell I had relaxed into the place, a remarkable feeling.

28 May

Goldberg says she and I should talk to the rest of the fac about working with poems, students complain that people don't. I was in the grip of the question trying to fall asleep and woke from it too, and have to process it to be rid of it.

First, I'm ferocious about poems. I hate almost every published poem I see. Student's poems come in two kinds, professional and non. The non are competent pleasant ways to talk about some point of relationship anxiety usually. There's nothing else to say about them. I talk about those in terms of content.

Professional - what do I do with those - I extract whatever lines work for me. Often by those means I give them a version. I praise bits. I criticize diction by saying what that word does to me. My highest praise is 'clean.' I talk about spacing and punctuation by demonstrating. I weed. With Logan I didn't touch his poems except to fix typos. They were flawless as far as I could tell - I mean they were his own making and flawless in those terms, so with him it would be a matter of fixing the person not the poem.

For him fixing the person was prose. With Favor I said, Don't be miserable just to be able to be a poet. With Michael I've said, Look at Artaud, he has the freedom you want and yet there is a feeling I in what he does.

What it is about poems is that one is afraid of not understanding them, or showing that one doesn't understand them.

The real poets are often lost in their material, that's why a version is helpful. They see it cleaned up.

Goldberg said talk about images you like, line breaks. That's how an educator talks.

This stuff is so obvious to me. My sensation is of something like karate, swift decisive chopping. Judgment in poetry is first judgment of state - writing is an emotion, Logan said - that's how I write off polished poetry, as either too fancy-language heady/schooled pretentious, or as too sociable/anxious unfree. I want something so simple that what counts is the achievement of emotional clarity. That's judgment of the person's achievement of best self - whether they've known to and been willing to. That goes for both personal and impersonal.

1st June

This morning I have Carolyn on one hand and Cam on the other, the fresh girl raring to be real and brilliant, the adapted woman holding up a community and hiding her thoughts.

I am holding them both in mind, and while I sweep the floor I am thinking more about putting my journal on line, the consequences of saying what one thinks. I would lose my job if I said what I thought about students and fac. I won't lose my job for saying Tom fucked my ass and it was less mystical than pussy, but I would lose it for unflattering true observations of particular persons.

What is the cost to everyone of the social padding enforced?

Vancouver 14th June

We argued about art - she's such a courtier - knows what the fashion is - when I told her about David Rimmer's footage of the Indian woman's foot, the sari hem, the grain lifting and falling, she said such footage could never be shown without something else that 'contexts' it - it would be seen as appropriation, a privileged man essentializing a brown woman etc. What would contextualizing be, for instance? Another video with a white business man's shoe. I say, What, if you want to show something you like to see you have to show something you don't want to see? We squabbled about Roni Horn - she said the water is a text. She said, You are underestimating social conditioning. I said we perceive by means of our structure and the actual world makes our structure, the whole of evolution. She said, more or less, Whatever. She said, What do you think is David's muse? I said, I think it's love. Love, she said. She's choosing the bitter love story. It's a corrupt ideology, it's a corrupt time, it is as if we have to put our work away until this witchhunt of the real world goes away.

15th June

It is as if, whenever there's something we need, we (I mean artists) are required to forgo it, and not only that, but to forgo feeling we need it.

Why is art ruled by corrupt ideology?

Why is it ruled by doctrine? As if we are in the Middle Ages hiding from the world.

Vermont 17th June

We came down into Chicago between and through cumulous towers, immense, all leaning slightly to the east, mysteriously neat in outline, nothing fuzzed, everything rounded and intact. Seeing them, passing among them, is like seeing true angels, not anthropomorphic - gigantic, only partially visible to humans, marvelously unsolid, extremely charged with light.

Vancouver 29

Oh gosh - while I was looking at the painting the sun as it lifted above the edge of the mountains raised a white mist over the narrows so that it's standing in a brilliant haze. A pigeon flying against it had its tail feathers transilluminated. Three cranes in the container port are raising their giant headless necks looking north.

A can prospector pushing a shopping cart has stopped at the dumpster and is opening garbage bags. Found a beer can. He's digging assiduously. Found another. He's wearing a watch. Juice boxes.

1st July

I was waiting for a bus on Hastings yesterday on the way to meet Janet at Harbour Center. The bus stop was in front of a wire fence with a garden behind it. A street woman came toward me along the fence, stopped and held an arm of a rose bush in front of her nose. She was playing at peeking at me over it. And then she came and stood in front of me and said, You're about my mother's age, and if you were my mother I'd tell you you're beautiful. She was brown-haired, very thin, worn-out looking, pale. I said, How old are you? She said, I'm forty-three. I don't know my mother. I'm lost. Ninety percent of the people around here are lost.

My bus was arriving. I can see that, I said. She was starting to step away. I blew her a kiss. She blew me one back. My feeling was that the kiss had really begun in her intention rather than mine. It was very synchronized.

San Diego 9th

Is that daydreaming alright? I sat dreaming-up a perfect lover while I watched the flow of land. When the coach was darkened after ten I was on my back across the seats in my sleeping bag touching my clit imagining it was with him, feeling the jolts and bounces of the car. I came blissfully, and it was after that that I stood happy at the window looking at the stars. And then I took my sleeping bag and pillow through many cars to the lounge car. The train was full after the 4th of July holiday. Each seat had someone folded into it unconscious. A child and mother fitted across the seat, the child away from the edge on the inside.

In the morning when I woke in the lounge car I popped my head up and there were people sitting around me looking at the red sun on the horizon. Good morning! said a woman with thick grey hair, amused.