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