A dance left over from previous excitement I gave my first kiss in the back seat of a car in the back of a bowling alley near school same day some little kid dropped a ball on my toe my memory spins like a spring flung backwards accompanied by guitar strains on the radio I was young it was wet wild and wonderful probably like nothing else ever since or before intense concentration of sensation copping a feel a confession I make in a light-hearted mood I could have written a song about it and made a million but instead totally forgot until now barring accident admits the inevitable crying chimes of a complaining child concentration it scatters “that’s right the women are smarter” not that the men are not as smart or smarter but they are truly alone easier to take with children around I want to make this clear suddenly (as usual) realize the great fading beauty of my life can still be caught and touched up the grunts and burps of actors on the screen do not redeem they simply take all we have to give the plenty of time we should keep to ourselves
I am a man of rain sliced by the knife of rain, joining the howl of rain, letting loose with the piss of rain. The nerve of rain always astounds me. I was invited to attend the marriage of rain. I endure the torture of rain. Nothing escapes the spatter of rain. The truth of rain dropped out of the air of rain. I stubbed the toe of rain. The proof of rain is in the pudding of rain. I played the skeleton key of rain on the harmonica of rain. I practice the art of rain (watercolor). The cry of rain underscored the pain of rain. A piece of rain dropped on my shoulder from the limb of rain. The deluge of rain seemed like it would never stop. Then I came face to face with the woman of rain.
3/3/89 buzz me a whole new understanding from some old beliefs 3/4/89 some local Venus 3/6/92 Michelangelo's birthday has been canceled there’s some kind of virus going around 3/7/83 delicate blossoms capture the daylight no film in camera life is cruel when our fondest dreams are those of revenge 3/15/89 tearing pieces of tissue and daubing cuts after shaving an art I’ve yet to perfect “et tu, Gillette!”
Dissatisfaction like the pout of a young girl grants the economy of excuses a breath mint or the overwhelming lethargy of the uncommitted “I want to love and treat you right” practice ambassador ferrous material a good day for plumbing the recesses afterwards as in the pipes are no longer circumstances “children under five can eat for nothing” no joke no comedy no shit and a prohibition on disguise flakes of matter fly like dandruff on the shoulders of a dark side no one ever gets to see even less acknowledged like the following out of talk comfort’s strength of conviction a piece of cake begins as flour and the apparent technique of centuries action speaks the language of body speech words the language of mind there are no priorities of assumption in this case only what needs be done in the mirror advantage has its hand out
I recite the alphabet of rain. I don’t understand the language of rain so I have to read the subtitles of rain. I gather the pearls of rain. The sizzle of rain fried on the asphalt. I run the gauntlet of rain. Still get burned by the acid of rain. I awake to the glimmer of rain. A shroud of rain covers the river of rain. I hear the yowling of rain. It is the cat of rain. I stand in awe of the phenomenon of rain and ponder the meaning of rain. The grammar of rain eludes me.6
Dear Keith—This news is certainly hard to take. It’s a reminder that we are all approaching critical mass, the tightening in our chests at the thought of our unthinkable destiny: that our mindless pursuit of another minute is but a vain illusion—backwoods Buddhism at its lamest (layman-est). My own personal isolation is certainly a hedge against that day, not that there’s any hiding . . . And just when I was beginning to understand what “good health” meant! The eyes, the joints, the abused organs, the neglected muscles—I’m nothing if not battered, bruised meat. There’s a grim ironic humor about it all. I can still look in the mirror and see the seventeen year old kid I once was (though not as often as I used to), but when I run into an “old” friend then the passage of time is real obvious and their faces a much more revealing mirror. I feel for what you must be going through (though I can only imagine and maybe that’s why all the rambling sophistry.) I hope and wish the best for you.
3/17/90 I followed the rainbow. It fell into a field carpeted with mustard flowers. It was set against a sky as dark as asphalt. Off at an angle the sun shone brightly. I steered the curve to the right and the rainbow followed me! I caught it out of the corner of my eye. Then bank left toward the straight-away, and there it was in all its glory, a full color prism of tiny droplets against the flank of a bronze hillock. The highway cut through the center of the bluff and I sped toward it. The broad bands of color advanced accordingly. Up the embankment from the vineyard though its intensity was beginning to fade. It was directly in front of me when I passed into the cleave of the hill. The spray of colorless wet spread over the already damp windshield. And that was it. No, as I explained to the kids, didn’t go bump over no pot of gold, either.
The rain which is taken as medicine in its expected season won’t stop and now wide eyed the weather report becomes important satellite picture scanned for new fronts and the Pacific high cause of all the dryness in recent years nowhere to be found waters returning to their original stream and lake beds find them crowded with mobile homes tracts become lagoons or return to the bay they once were high ground slides onto highways and leave out-of-the-way homes perched on the edge of tranquility dreary cold and wet boards up houses pitches those within into throes of anxiety so much to be done winter’s accumulated dust jostled confined nerves I mean how many books can you read how many rugs can you hook before mere mortality impresses with its tragedy late sun as sky goes partially cloudy illuminates the edges of a window adds to deep gray a faint yellow glow
—Sometimes I suffer from Roussel’s Syndrome: I work in my mountain fastness and expect that my creations have the pulse of life and that everyone is also in tune with them as if they were a permeating psychic literature. When I come down from the mountain, so to speak, maybe I expect, as Roussel did, the adulation of the citizenry. Roussel, as you know, broke out in a rash and was bedridden for weeks. For me, it’s mostly just a relief.
— You should know that choosing poetry is an act of desperation.
—I spent years trying to find an acceptable voice in the eyes of literate society and now that that seems unlikely, I feel that I might as well write in whatever way I want or can. Have I given up?
— The uselessness of genuine literature is what makes it morally useful so you’re way ahead of the game there — its form is empty but present, its meaning absent but full. The real writer, a watcher at the crossroad of all other discourse, does not write about something, but rather just writes; the practice of writing is of itself excessive, playful, intricate, painful, subtle, self-indulgent, sensuous, a language which can never be that of power. Words describe the psychology of objects and writing is the progenitor of the technology of self-consciousness. Your problem is that vanity keeps looking over your shoulder. Don’t look back.
— Do I have a persona and if so, who is it?
—The Deejay, MC Orpheus.
THE PHANTOM OF MONTE RIO
Andrei knew Hunce Voelcker from New York City. I had met Hunce there once myself. His book, Hart Crane’s Voyages, was prominently featured in many of the bookstore windows in the Lower East Side then. Now he lived a few miles outside of Duncan Mills, which, like Monte Rio, was just another wide spot on the road to the coast. He drove an early ‘60’s VW bug, yellow with a black Batman logo on the driver’s door. He was a character even here. Never without the sweat-stained Stetson, feathers, dried flowers, weeds, anti-war buttons in the hatband. A Boy Scout scarf around his neck (he’d been an Eagle Scout) offset a pallid drawn visage that many said reminded them of Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera. Bad teeth and a compulsive smoker, his altruism and intransigent innocence were sometimes hard to take. He lived in a gingerbread A-frame surrounded by a moat filled with goldfish. Crossing the moat was a foot bridge somewhat replicating the Brooklyn Bridge. At the foot of the bridge, where the moat widened out into a small pond, was a cement statue of Apollo, and planted around the outside of the moat were hyacinths, the god’s flower. The A-frame consisted of three stories. Between the first and second floor, cables were strung to simulate the supports of a suspension bridge. Narrow, sharp-cornered catwalk stairs lead to the loft bedroom and library. At one end was a deck that looked out at the downhill expanse of a meadow bordered by redwoods. A weighted trapdoor accessed the third floor where in the low ceiling, pointy peaked attic the poet would weave his craft. The window next to the typewriter looked out onto another deck and a bird feeder, invariably busy. At the other end of the room, beyond the dark shape of the wood-burning stove, another deck overlooked that same downhill rolling expanse. In the sitting room of the first floor, the windows on the north wall formed an H, and on the opposite wall, a V that stood for Hunce Voelcker. What was not said by these simple initials is “Hart Crane scholar extraordinaire, magical poet, craftsman, shaman.” In his own way, Hunce preserved the sacredness of ritual and believed in its power, unflinchingly, in the face of derision, even by close friends who could sometimes be condescending. But his beliefs were set in concrete. In fact, everyone joked that Hunce owned stock in Portland Cement. He must have. How many hundred pound sacks of it did he mix by hand gluing brick to brick, shaping it around plastic pipe to create a fountain-decked perimeter constrained only by the limits of the imagination? Or shaping the moat, terraced to meet the angle of the hill on which the house stood, itself not terribly perpendicular to the horizon, the statue of Apollo, the Mount Shasta replica, the crusty phallic cement fountains, some whose outlines were emphasized by tiny squares of colored mirror imbedded in the mortar, as well as mosaics made of broken bottle glass and bits and pieces of tile inlaid in the cement constraints of the moat, and at each corner of the moat, a diorama depicting a point of Hunce’s magnificent obsession, the life and work of Hart Crane.
3/18/85 “These are my fantasies by which I may try to give an idea not of things but of myself.” -- Montaigne nothing to report 3/19/89 prepared for poetry reading gave reading drank four beers danced twice 3/20/89 where are you when your best qualities are skepticism a matter of adjudging the commentary and murmur of the previous evening, filing them in sequence, and in order of importance, and reviewing them periodically as your own best but subjective critique, sorting out the meaning of their intent 3/21/91 I have no energy just like a particle infinity: one past now Year of the Ram, 4689 VIRGO: As the week begins, count any news to be good news. A trip is well favored. Past progress provides a launching pad to new and exciting goals. Change is in the air. You’re off and running.
Hey I was up with the dew this morning the pointy trees behind the house across the street looked black and rubber stamped the mist turned a creamy orange at its hem while above the cottony white dropped from the bright blue shoulder of the early sky but I was changing a diaper and my knee had fallen asleep and I couldn’t get up to go to the window to get a better look and then Flipper lost his hearing and I had to find out why it was just as I thought we all want to have friends like the dolphin instead we have each other and Cream of Wheat I’ve had too much coffee and it’s only seven-thirty I’m ahead of myself again and it’s already time for another cup or two the breakfast I should have had hours ago because now sun comes in full and bright through the windows of the back porch and makes a shimmering design baby boy calls to recognizing its intrinsic intelligence and possibility as I munch a possible apple the dishes I didn’t do I feel guilty over when I hear the rush of water from the tap in the kitchen I know someone else is doing all I can think of is regenerating myself getting stoked up so I can ski through the day on the slopes of creative splendor every move I make another click in the right combination to amazing coincidence the bright arc of fusion illuminates when everything becomes quite clear in the momentary flashes that electrify my world
THE POETRY READING
The cabin down below the main house where I worked had been transformed into an overheated, smoky, packed-to-the-rafters literary event. Someone from the University was videotaping it. Another enterprising soul had taken up a collection and returned with an ounce of marijuana that was promptly rolled into cigarettes and passed around to the participants after which time a very congenial atmosphere prevailed. The readers of poetry that night were myself, Michael-Sean Lazarchuck, and James Nolan (no relation). Fortunately no one read overly long and in no time, it was Michael-Sean’s turn. Now it was Sean’s practice to be pretty much oblivious by the time his turn came around, and tonight was no exception. He talked loudly to his neighbors while the other poets read, and tonight especially, as he was in pursuit of the fair-haired muse in the guise of Karen Gordon, the readers, and the audience for that matter, could have been in Kokomo. Another thing about Sean was his attitude towards his work. It ran hot and cold and there was no predicting as to which way the wind would blow. Hopefully he would be psyched up before a reading but that wasn’t always the case. The slightest whim could send him into a self-destructive tailspin and then his work was shit and he wasn’t going to read that crap to anyone. Tonight however, he simply could not be bothered as he was more interested in making time with Karen, but after much coaxing and physical coercion (which Sean thought laughable) from myself, he reluctantly shambled up to the podium through the sprawled maze of debauchees. He wasn’t going to make it easy, that was obvious from the mischievous grin. He sorted through his manuscript folder, shuffling one page behind the other. One poem would look promising and he would read it over silently to himself, shake his head and place it at the bottom of the stack. All the while those assembled waited in anticipation, though there were some at the back of the room who hooted their impatience. This continued for some time and finally Sean looked at the audience and stated flatly, “These poems stink.” There were protests of “just shut up and read!” and “come on, don’t cop out on us now!” Sean set the manuscript aside and looked out over the crowd purposefully. Then he began talking, easily, improvising obviously, about how he had been out walking on the beach at the coast and how coming across the dunes he saw a figure approaching, and as the person came closer, he recognized him as Frank! Well, he and Frank had a long talk about poetry that rambled on and on with Sean inserting quotes from Frank’s poems and even Ted’s poems and connecting everything in a spontaneous montage depicting the poetry experience with such vivacity that everyone in the room was stunned speechless. The creative process had been demonstrated to be the opening of one’s self to reveal the bright glowing core of being right then and there.
3/22/91 Zen in the 90’s -- the young monk places his backpack on the front seat of his Volkswagen bus (his begging bowl a corporate mailing list) 3/25/85 slam not the cake the light inside my head makes me squint ambiguity and indirection are methods of consciousness 3/29/81 Ah, the modern poem! in which meaning is glimpsed but hardly possessed. It’s like scientists inventing the electron microscope and concentrating on the instrument rather than the thing to be magnified. When you use language in this way, you magnify aspects of your reality. You can’t picture anything because that would take at least a thousand words so that writing poetry is more like dance, it’s a series of gestures and movements, it has its own music, and in this flow the mimetic arises, and the sequence of these actions signify, but never as an object, always as a verb; it is, like myth, the thing said.7 3/30/89 lightning naps and other engaging forms of sleep day marches through its artificial compartments each hour an additional weight to listless life forms who like dust alight wherever the breeze blows among open magazines and piles of library books overworn socks night wear school notes hair brushes the facsimiles of an existence scattered or strewn as the archaeological refuse of a dig in progress who’d dare disturb this sanctum with wakeful thought radio drones on persistent static or a steady rain a backdrop for the weaving of dreams into memory
Light is a kind of joy it penetrates and gives delight to the least magic of things it leaves dark behind and returns in its seasonal guise the make-up of the skies depends on the humor of the atmosphere sun invisible but precise adept at the shape and shadow size wheel of fire turns with its original awe and potential as the source as undoubtedly it always must blue in its approach red in its leaving
 I have a certain ambivalence to all this. I’m not really concerned with what has been or what will be or even what is though the latter is unfortunately undeniable fact. If an adequate number of years have passed then those things are ancient history as far as I’m concerned. For me there is only what is about to happen, the happy or sad anticipation that the next moment I might come up with something really great or something really awful will happen. These are things I can’t control, don’t want to control, that are indications that life moves forward in a steady progress with moments of joy or grief lengthening or shortening the pace of events, how one day can seem like a week and one week can seem like a day. I spend hours examining the minute to see if it can blossom out into some generalization.
 Originality is a hand that’s been overplayed. The drive is to find how what you do fits what you are. Autobiography proclaims the individuality of destiny. The observer is observed as the center of his truly unique existence as complex as any systematic relationship.
“. . . Orpheus reminded the gods of their place in the scheme of things. That’s how he elicits sympathy from Persephone; by reminding her of her earthly existence, the compassion of the dead for the living. But to teach Orpheus the impertinence of his logic, the gods show him the fickleness of human nature, the tragic curiosity, the crisis of faith! Once you look back, you’re lost—time passes, shit happens, and looking back is peering at shadows. Poets sing of yesterday to assure themselves of a tomorrow. By the time you read this, it is way past now . . .”