Fiddle Dee Dee

August 31, 2013 § Leave a comment


Strong wind this afternoon, the kind that makes your feel like your hair is blowing off. French-blue sky, wheat-colored mountains drizzled with gold, the sharp grasses bending in great curls. A few deer, a few trucks and me. I could get addicted to this place.

The other night we went to the Occidental Hotel in Buffalo to hear bluegrass music. Multi-instrumentalists with impressive moustaches, a guitar player with an orange guitar strap marked “Dept. of Corrections,” a little girl standing on a box playing her fiddle, a woman who looked like Maureen Stapleton singing a torch song, and a youngish man doing a cover of “The Fox Went out on a Chilly Night,” which Charles used to play and sing to his children at bedtime. A good half of the customers were over 60, the ladies with perms and the men with high-waisted pants. The collection box handed around wasn’t for the musicians but needy townsfolk.

Nothing like live, homegrown music to make you feel the reality of a place, although the animal head décor had a say in that as well. We were looked down on by the big, glassy-eyed trophies and while this doesn’t affect me the way it does some people (roadkill bothers me far more), that may be a generational thing. I grew up thinking it was kind of normal—not that I knew anyone who shot and mounted ungulates but it was so prevalent in novels about England, the West, etc, that it seemed as if I did, and when I began came across the odd, real trophy, in my teens, I didn’t think twice. Now it just seems tacky.

We didn’t stay long at the Occidental, but it was fun to get off the grounds of this monument to creative solitude and remember that art is always of the people and by the people, both common and precious. Maybe before I die I’ll wring the last of the tortured romantic artist myth out of my soul.

Though, of course, I am tortured and romantic. But not because I’m an artist, and anyway, I’m much less romantic than I used to be. As for torment, they have drugs for that.

A Dog Was Crying Tonight In Wicklow Also
In memory of Donatus Nwoga

When human beings found out about death
They sent the dog to Chukwu with a message:
They wanted to be let back into the house of life.
They didn’t want to end up lost forever
Like burnt wood disappearing into smoke
Or ashes that get blown away to nothing.
Instead, they saw their souls in a flock at twilight
Cawing and heading back for the same old roosts
And the same bright airs and wing-stretchings each morning.
Death would be like a night spent in the wood:
At first light they’d be back in the house of life.
(The dog was meant to tell all this to Chukwu.)

But death and human beings took second place
When he trotted off the path and started barking
At another dog in broad daylight just barking
Back at him from the far bank of a river.

And that is how the toad reached Chukwu first,
The toad who’d overheard in the beginning
What the dog was meant to tell. “Human beings,” he said
(And here the toad was trusted absolutely),
“Human beings want death to last forever.”

Seamus Heaney

So Many Clouds, so Many Stars

August 28, 2013 § Leave a comment


So quiet out tonight, so many stars…

I struggle with my work and the attendant depression, but this place is so beautiful, so nurturing, and I’m very comfortable here now. Most of this group is leaving Friday, which is sad, I like them all, but there will be new people Monday, and I’m looking forward to that. I don’t expect to have such an amiable group, but I’m curious about the differences.

This weekend I’ll be alone here with one other woman and we’ve rented a car, so I’ll get to see more of the area. The Devil’s Tower—a laccolith made famous by Close Encounters of the Third Kind is one destination; The Bighorn National Forest another. Lake DeSmet sounds good too. And the Dull Knife Reservoir (okay, I just put that in for the name). Maybe a night on the town in Sheridan or Buffalo.

I love the way new places become home in a couple of weeks. My bedroom, my studio, the dining room where we eat our fantastic meals, the road I walk on at dusk, the mountains and the fields full of deer-—hard to imagine giving it all up, now, though I miss the city every day (or maybe every other day).

Those of you who are artists or writers or composers—you should come here for a few weeks. It’s not to be missed. And Judith–you should come back.

I went looking for a poem about stars–one in the back of my mind, a very famous one I can’t quite remember–and found this; a young love poem by Gary Snyder. Written when he was studying zen in Japan, it has expresses more regret and uncertainty that I’m used to from this poet.

Four Poems for Robin

Siwashing It Out Once in Suislaw Forest

I slept under rhododendron
All night blossoms fell
Shivering on a sheet of cardboard
Feet stuck in my pack
Hands deep in my pockets
Barely able to sleep.
I remembered when we were in school
Sleeping together in a big warm bed
We were the youngest lovers
When we broke up we were still nineteen
Now our friends are married
You teach school back east
I dont mind living this way
Green hills the long blue beach
But sometimes sleeping in the open
I think back when I had you.

A Spring Night in Shokoku-ji

Eight years ago this May
We walked under cherry blossoms
At night in an orchard in Oregon.
All that I wanted then
Is forgotten now, but you.
Here in the night
In a garden of the old capital
I feel the trembling ghost of Yugao
I remember your cool body
Naked under a summer cotton dress.

An Autumn Morning in Shokoku-ji

Last night watching the Pleiades,
Breath smoking in the moonlight,
Bitter memory like vomit
Choked my throat.
I unrolled a sleeping bag
On mats on the porch
Under thick autumn stars.
In dream you appeared
(Three times in nine years)
Wild, cold, and accusing.
I woke shamed and angry:
The pointless wars of the heart.
Almost dawn. Venus and Jupiter.
The first time I have
Ever seen them close.

December at Yase

You said, that October,
In the tall dry grass by the orchard
When you chose to be free,
“Again someday, maybe ten years.”

After college I saw you
One time. You were strange.
And I was obsessed with a plan.

Now ten years and more have
Gone by: I’ve always known
where you were–
I might have gone to you
Hoping to win your love back.
You still are single.

I didn’t.
I thought I must make it alone. I
Have done that.

Only in dream, like this dawn,
Does the grave, awed intensity
Of our young love
Return to my mind, to my flesh.

We had what the others
All crave and seek for;
We left it behind at nineteen.

I feel ancient, as though I had
Lived many lives.
And may never now know
If I am a fool
Or have done what my
karma demands.

Gary Snyder


August 23, 2013 § Leave a comment


Gray-golden fields; flat, rounded and pointy mountains; a haze of smoke in the air from those out-of-control fires in Yellowstone and Idaho. A bedroom with a good bed, good light; a huge studio with a desk, couch, several armchairs and a porch; meals prepared.

Dinner last night: cioppino with scallops, shrimp and mussels, salads, breads and three cheeses; flourless chocolate cake with whipped cream. Good company (4 men, 4 women; 4 writers, 4 artists) and no obligations, other than to clean up after myself. I even have phone and Internet service in my bedroom and a kitchen to make coffee in down the hall.

Yet I feel surprisingly homesick. I don’t want to go home, but I miss my domestic world, the triple feline and guitar-playing family. But the writing I have done is much better than what I’ve managed do in the city this year. So. No complaints.

Every night before dinner I’m stricken with shyness. I’ve only ever been in communal living situations with strangers twice: boarding school and college. Neither time was I leaving intimacy behind. And there were boys: walking enchantments, creatures too glorious for my eyes, sinister angels with the powers of heaven, strewn carelessly. None of that now. But the mountains, the sea of grass, the gray-gold, the sage green. Rumors of rattlesnakes. Cattle guards. A winding, metallic-blue creek. A full moon.

I had to spend most of Tuesday at the dentist because a tooth broke (at dinner the first night) but the doctor made the crown himself in 20 minutes, and it cost less than it would have in Manhattan—though not as much less as I expected. He said I needed at least two more crowns done soon. Medical tourism in Costa Rica, perhaps?

I’ve finished a novel (worked on, on and off, for over 10 years). It was really already done; I just needed to believe it was finished, to wrap it up and give it a final polish. Not perfect, but good enough. Now I’m sleepy.

A Bird came down the Walk—
He did not know I saw—
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass—
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass—

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all around—
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought—
He stirred his Velvet Head

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home—

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam—
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon
Leap, plashless as they swim.

–Emily Dickinson

A Shady Boon for Simple Sheep

July 11, 2013 § Leave a comment



I haven’t had the creative energy to write here since Delilah’s wedding. Too much work, exhaustion…how the days do pass. I learn a lot from editing, though it does make me itch to write my own fiction. But I don’t think this hiatus is a bad thing. My creative voice, which got polluted with…stuff…is airing out, hung on a line in the afternoon sun, eyed by squirrels and robins, ghosts and beetles.

I want to write a story with beetles in it, beetles spilling out of a desk drawer, a manila envelope, the bodice of a woman with dark-red lips…and maybe a claw-foot bathtub in the woods where the drunken man sleeps when his wife is angry at him. And in the sky, bothering no one, a talking sheep talking a lot. Yes, the images and characters are there; they always are.

Charles has a gig, subbing, playing with Sol Yagid, legendary clarinetist from the Benny Goodman era. Yagid’s over 90 and apparently cussed—unfortunate because Charles feels inadequate to play swing. It won’t be fun for him, I guess, but such experiences are always worth it. He’s in the other room now, practicing, practicing. He sounds great to me!

He doesn’t know enough of the songs, he says. He reminds me of a guitarist he met, used to play with Peggy Lee, who told him that one night he was busy and asked Joe Pass to sub for him. When Pass got to the club and heard the line-up of tunes, he said, “I’m not going to play that shit,” thereby losing the original guitarist his job.

“Just be polite,” I said.

I have to go meet a client later, then back for more editing and fractured thoughts of my unfinished novels, which will, I assure you, benefit from time passing. As long as I don’t drop dead, that is. The heat, the clamoring cats. I tell them it’s too hot and they’re too furry to sprawl on my melting body, but do they listen? They ignore my weak rejections, coming back and back until I give in. Charles thinks Mouchette is losing weight but he doesn’t have to spend heartwarming July afternoons underneath her.

At any given time, I feel like half a person (CFS); it’s a good thing I’m overqualified for most of what I do, although not in the organization department, nor housekeeping, nor memory. Charles and I need an overqualified wife.

Btw, as a wife I get points for not nagging. That’s easy, Sugar. Nagging is way too much work.

You remember the first line of this, but do you remember any more of it?

Endymion, Book I

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

Nor do we merely feel these essences
For one short hour; no, even as the trees
That whisper round a temple become soon
Dear as the temple’s self, so does the moon,
The passion poesy, glories infinite,
Haunt us till they become a cheering light
Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast,
That, whether there be shine, or gloom o’ercast,
They alway must be with us, or we die.

John Keats

– See more at:

Yesterday, When the Sun Was Shining

June 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Lola guarding Charles' money

Lola guarding Charles’ money

The creamsickle pussycat had a cold for 4 days and we were very sad. Now he’s well enough to toss my jewelry-making wire-snippers in the air, catch them in his paws, chew on the rubber handles and do it all over again.

It’s the little things.

What a beautiful day! I have so much work. I’m glad I have so much (paying) work, but the day is so perfect, breezy, warm, blue and sunny, a day for a picnic in the park.

I’m ghostwriting the first chapter of a book about committed relationships. I get to invent case histories: flash fiction. Also copy editing a couple of novels, which are good enough that I like working on them, and writing a grant for the Cathedral.

Now it’s later…I took another walk, but am now making dinner and waiting for the wandering minstrel.

Charles and I are both satisfied with our endeavors (Charles makes friends out on the street: musicians, children, Rip Torn. Yeah, Rip Torn. He left a $20 in the guitar case.) If we only had a third person to clean and do the laundry, this household might approach normal for the first time ever.

But, I agree, that would be a loss. Such gigantic folly, passion and tragedy as I’ve lived should lead to something better than normal, something like the fantasy I just read where the teenage protagonist was traumatized because he remembered murdering his beloved girlfriend but it turns out his brothers implanted those memories and what he actually did was turn her into a white cat because his brothers were forcing him turn her into an inanimate object as they had made him do with other targets, since his transformation power was very rare and useful as a way of not leaving bodies behind, and he wanted to give her a chance to escape.

I haven’t changed at all since I was seven. First wish, last wish: I want the power of transformation. In stories about wishes, I was never interested in the castles, the toys, the bushels of candy, or whatever. I wanted the ability to turn people into animals (including myself). And back again. It’s all very well to say: that what fiction’s for. It is what it’s for, but it’s not enough.

I went through some writing from last year, looking for something to submit, and got all weirded out again. The past is liquifying like lettuce wrapped in plastic and left for weeks in the fridge. “You going to eat that?” says my superego.

“No, thank you.”

“Then don’t stick your dirty little fingers in it.”

This is a short post (for me) so here’s a long poem.

To Think of Time
by Walt Whitman


To think of time—of all that retrospection!
To think of to-day, and the ages continued henceforward!

Have you guess’d you yourself would not continue?
Have you dreaded these earth-beetles?
Have you fear’d the future would be nothing to you?

Is to-day nothing? Is the beginningless past nothing?
If the future is nothing, they are just as surely nothing.

To think that the sun rose in the east! that men and women
were flexible, real, alive! that everything was alive!
To think that you and I did not see, feel, think, nor bear our
To think that we are now here, and bear our part!


Not a day passes—not a minute or second, without an
Not a day passes—not a minute or second, without a corpse!

The dull nights go over, and the dull days also,
The soreness of lying so much in bed goes over,
The physician, after long putting off, gives the silent and terrible
look for an answer,
The children come hurried and weeping, and the brothers and sisters
are sent for,
Medicines stand unused on the shelf—(the camphor-smell has
long pervaded the rooms,)
The faithful hand of the living does not desert the hand of the dying,
The twitching lips press lightly on the forehead of the dying,
The breath ceases, and the pulse of the heart ceases,
The corpse stretches on the bed, and the living look upon it,
It is palpable as the living are palpable.

The living look upon the corpse with their eye-sight,
But without eye-sight lingers a different living, and looks curiously
on the corpse.


To think the thought of Death, merged in the thought of materials!
To think that the rivers will flow, and the snow fall, and fruits ripen,
and act upon others as upon us now—yet not act upon us!
To think of all these wonders of city and country, and others taking
great interest in them—and we taking no interest in them!

To think how eager we are in building our houses!
To think others shall be just as eager, and we quite indifferent!

(I see one building the house that serves him a few years, or seventy
or eighty years at most,
I see one building the house that serves him longer than that.)

Slow-moving and black lines creep over the whole earth—they never
cease—they are the burial lines,
He that was President was buried, and he that is now President shall
surely be buried.


A reminiscence of the vulgar fate,
A frequent sample of the life and death of workmen,
Each after his kind:
Cold dash of waves at the ferry-wharf—posh and ice in the river,
half-frozen mud in the streets, a gray, discouraged sky overhead,
the short, last daylight of Twelfth-month,
A hearse and stages—other vehicles give place—the funeral
of an old Broadway stage-driver, the cortege mostly drivers.

Steady the trot to the cemetery, duly rattles the death-bell, the gate
is pass’d, the new-dug grave is halted at, the living alight, the
hearse uncloses,
The coffin is pass’d out, lower’d and settled, the whip is laid on the
coffin, the earth is swiftly shovel’d in,
The mound above is flatted with the spades—silence,
A minute—no one moves or speaks—it is done,
He is decently put away—is there anything more?

He was a good fellow, free-mouth’d, quick-temper’d, not bad-looking,
able to take his own part, witty, sensitive to a slight, ready with
life or death for a friend, fond of women, gambled, ate hearty,
drank hearty, had known what it was to be flush, grew low-spirited
toward the last, sicken’d, was help’d by a contribution, died, aged
forty-one years—and that was his funeral.

Thumb extended, finger uplifted, apron, cape, gloves, strap, wet-weather
clothes, whip carefully chosen, boss, spotter, starter, hostler,
somebody loafing on you, you loafing on somebody, headway, man before
and man behind, good day’s work, bad day’s work, pet stock, mean
stock, first out, last out, turning-in at night;
To think that these are so much and so nigh to other drivers—and
he there takes no interest in them!


The markets, the government, the working-man’s wages—to think what
account they are through our nights and days!
To think that other working-men will make just as great account of
them—yet we make little or no account!

The vulgar and the refined—what you call sin, and what you call
goodness—to think how wide a difference!
To think the difference will still continue to others, yet we lie beyond
the difference.

To think how much pleasure there is!
Have you pleasure from looking at the sky? have you pleasure from poems?
Do you enjoy yourself in the city? or engaged in business? or planning a
nomination and election? or with your wife and family?
Or with your mother and sisters? or in womanly housework? or the beautiful
maternal cares?
—These also flow onward to others—you and I flow onward,
But in due time, you and I shall take less interest in them.

Your farm, profits, crops,—to think how engross’d you are!
To think there will still be farms, profits, crops—yet for you, of
what avail?


What will be, will be well—for what is, is well,
To take interest is well, and not to take interest shall be well.

The sky continues beautiful,
The pleasure of men with women shall never be sated, nor the pleasure of
women with men, nor the pleasure from poems,
The domestic joys, the daily housework or business, the building of
houses—these are not phantasms—they have weight, form,
Farms, profits, crops, markets, wages, government, are none of them
The difference between sin and goodness is no delusion,
The earth is not an echo—man and his life, and all the things of
his life, are well-consider’d.

You are not thrown to the winds—you gather certainly and safely
around yourself;
Yourself! Yourself! Yourself, forever and ever!


It is not to diffuse you that you were born of your mother and
father—it is to identify you;
It is not that you should be undecided, but that you should be decided;
Something long preparing and formless is arrived and form’d in you,
You are henceforth secure, whatever comes or goes.

The threads that were spun are gather’d, the weft crosses the warp,
the pattern is systematic.

The preparations have every one been justified,
The orchestra have sufficiently tuned their instruments—the
baton has given the signal.

The guest that was coming—he waited long, for reasons—he
is now housed,
He is one of those who are beautiful and happy—he is one of
those that to look upon and be with is enough.

The law of the past cannot be eluded,
The law of the present and future cannot be eluded,
The law of the living cannot be eluded—it is eternal,
The law of promotion and transformation cannot be eluded,
The law of heroes and good-doers cannot be eluded,
The law of drunkards, informers, mean persons—not one iota thereof
can be eluded.


Slow moving and black lines go ceaselessly over the earth,
Northerner goes carried, and Southerner goes carried, and they on the
Atlantic side, and they on the Pacific, and they between, and all
through the Mississippi country, and all over the earth.

The great masters and kosmos are well as they go—the heroes and
good-doers are well,
The known leaders and inventors, and the rich owners and pious and
distinguish’d, may be well,
But there is more account than that—there is strict account
of all.

The interminable hordes of the ignorant and wicked are not nothing,
The barbarians of Africa and Asia are not nothing,
The common people of Europe are not nothing—the American
aborigines are not nothing,
The infected in the immigrant hospital are not nothing—the
murderer or mean person is not nothing,
The perpetual successions of shallow people are not nothing as
they go,
The lowest prostitute is not nothing—the mocker of religion
is not nothing as he goes.


Of and in all these things,
I have dream’d that we are not to be changed so much, nor the law
of us changed,
I have dream’d that heroes and good-doers shall be under the present
and past law,
And that murderers, drunkards, liars, shall be under the present
and past law,
For I have dream’d that the law they are under now is enough.

If otherwise, all came but to ashes of dung,
If maggots and rats ended us, then Alarum! for we are betray’d!
Then indeed suspicion of death.

Do you suspect death? If I were to suspect death, I should die
Do you think I could walk pleasantly and well-suited toward


Pleasantly and well-suited I walk,
Whither I walk I cannot define, but I know it is good,
The whole universe indicates that it is good,
The past and the present indicate that it is good.

How beautiful and perfect are the animals!
How perfect the earth, and the minutest thing upon it!

What is called good is perfect, and what is called bad is just
as perfect,
The vegetables and minerals are all perfect, and the imponderable
fluids are perfect;
Slowly and surely they have pass’d on to this, and slowly and surely
they yet pass on.


I swear I think now that everything without exception has an
eternal Soul!
The trees have, rooted in the ground! the weeds of the sea have!
the animals!

I swear I think there is nothing but immortality!
That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is
for it, and the cohering is for it;
And all preparation is for it! and identity is for it! and life
and materials are altogether for it!
– See more at:

In the Merry Month of May

May 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

James Carter, photo Vincent Soyez

James Carter, photo Vincent Soyez

We went to hear the James Carter Organ Trio Saturday night, and it was most definitely a holiday weekend: Carter, who’s always been a showman, piled on the razzamatazz so thick I felt like I was watching vaudeville. He tortured his horn into doing animal tricks: a Cadillac full of monkeys burning rubber on the California coast road, a dozen toucans celebrating spring break in a Jetblue restroom. And the audience patter was so slick and curlicued I wanted to throw pineapples at him.

Of course, there was also some fantastic music, truly virtuoso stuff. Carter can grandstand because he knows what he’s got. (An extra pair of lungs, for one thing. Horn players always amaze me. I’m the kind of person who gets tired blowing up balloons on the first balloon.) He entered the jazz scene in the early 90’s, talent spilling out his pockets, flaking off his shoes, leaving trains of hot glitter wherever he walked. You could say I had a crush on him.

The audience, which at the Jazz Standard is usually a mix of foreign tourists, American tourists, serious young people and Jersey couples who’ve been in the music business for 40 years, was almost all American tourists. “Do they even know who they’re listening to?” Charles asked.

“They do now,” I said.

Carter’s grown older (fancy that), put on weight, and though he’s still got charisma, doesn’t exude that supremely confident sexual heat that used to make my heart—well, not my heart—

It was a fun if short evening: we had dinner at our apartment before the set, then walked home after: Park Avenue South (wandering young folk), Union Square where the buildings and pavement gleamed from the earlier rain, the fading flowers on Fifth Avenue. I love the cool weather. It was probably disappointing if you were at the beach, but perfect for hanging around lower Manhattan.

Sunday, I worked for the Cathedral (at home), answered client emails, vacuumed, made a pork and green bean stir-fry with garlic, onion and hot sauce. Monday, I did the taxes…the 2011 taxes…the IRS is not so embroiled in scandal that it’s completely forgotten about people with bureaucratic avoidance syndrome. Thank god for credit card “Your Year in Spending” statements and online scans of checks. I did almost all of the prep work without moving from my laptop, although when I added up how much I squander on books, it made me wish I spent more time writing them.

The next step is to make Charles figure out his income and expenses, a fraught endeavor likely to result in repeated questions about things I couldn’t possibly know the answer to, and early afternoon drinking.

I dreamed a friend’s mother, ill with cancer, had an operation where her mind was transferred into the body of a cat, supposedly temporary. It was a pretty little cat with soft gray hair who cried when I picked her up, clung to my chest, then skittered off to flirt with the cat down the street. “What is she thinking?” I asked. “Is she thinking like a person or a cat? Can they do that to me?” My friend got angry that I wasn’t respecting the dire experimental nature of the treatment.


It’s funny when the mind thinks about the psyche,
as if a grasshopper could ponder a helicopter.

It’s a bad idea to fall asleep
while flying a helicopter:

when you wake up, the helicopter is gone
and you are too, left behind in a dream,

and there is no way to catch up,
for catching up doesn’t figure

in the scheme of things. You are
who you are, right now,

and the mind is so scared it closes its eyes
and then forgets it has eyes

and the grasshopper, the one that thinks
you’re a helicopter, leaps onto your back!

He is a brave little grasshopper
and he never sleeps

for the poem he writes is the act
of always being awake, better than anything

you could ever write or do.
Then he springs away.

Ron Padgett

Love Comes in at the Eye

May 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

Fitzroy's opinion of  the freelancer's site Elance

Fitzroy’s opinion of the freelancer’s site Elance

“I’m more attracted to women’s noses than their breasts,” Charles said as we walked down Lafayette in the warm summer evening.

“I’m attracted to their dresses,” I replied, looking at all the bright, patterned cloth and bare shoulders. We had nothing much to do, so wandered into Astor Place Wines & Spirits for a free tasting of German Rieslings. Nice cold wine, lots of info about where the vineyards were in relation to the Rhine River, which made me want to interrupt and whine that I didn’t win the wine-tasting Rhine River cruise sweepstakes I entered last year, ten days and plane fare, dinners.

We drank a thimbleful of a new ginger-flavored cognac, cut with sparkling wine. It tasted like a cross between craft ginger ale and the nectar of the gods. I stood there with those drops on my tongue and saw myself swallowing 6 or 8 ounces—the biting creamy sweetness sliding down my throat—then darkness—and waking up in another world (and I don’t mean the world of headache and vomit). The world where edges are always rounded, where people are naked like the nudes of great paintings, where poetry flows like water and water speaks in its own erudite tongue.

Astor Wine, in its new incarnation on Lafayette Street, is big and roomy. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to buy one of everything, not because you’re feeling alcoholically deprived, but because there are so many choices, with such pretty labels, and the years and vineyards and countries all compete for attention so politely.

The aisles are wide enough. The traffic isn’t bad for 6:30 in the evening. The jug wine cabinet is only steps from the locked “rare dessert wine” cabinet, where one can see a $599 half bottle of wine behind glass, and wonder if the old boyfriend’s credit card number has expired yet. The traffic was mostly couples. I glanced around, trying to see what connected them. I was too overwhelmed by memory, though, and only saw myself, myself, myself, in different eras and guises. If I were young now. . . if I had known then. . . .

Home to dinner: lamb chops, roasted onions and asparagus served on a fold-up table in the bedroom; iTunes routed through Apple TV (Chet Baker, who always sounds one or two stages of sad beyond where I’ve ever been); cats on the table, the bed, the floor, one each. Charles asks to be read something and I read him the previous five paragraphs of this entry, composed before dinner, and he laughs at the old boyfriend’s credit card number joke. Then he says, “The only way I can get a message to my girlfriend is through your blog. She’s too busy to answer my emails.”

“Can I quote you on that?”

“You can quote me on anything.”

“I like to remind my readers I’m not the only one who sinned against the bonds of matrimony,” I say, and he looks at me quizzically. Sinned? Bonds? That’s not the way we look at things.

Though I sometimes do. The pain of jealousy is brutal. But I never cut Charles off, never stopped being his friend, never let anyone else hurt him. That wouldn’t be enough for most people, but Charles and I are different from most people.

He’s playing his guitar in the street every day, making a little money. He doesn’t need to make much. I’m getting more work and we’ll be okay, pay off the debt, stay in NYC. When my nerves subside, when my nerves uncross their legs, when my nerves return or leave or sheathe themselves in fur, I’ll write my own stuff again. In August. Maybe sooner. Meantime, this is it, my bulletins from the land of needy cats, thawing hearts (I’m at the stage where, if I were a pound of ground beef, you could bend and slowly break apart the mass), and creative aging. On the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog. I have my own version of that, but this is the Internet so it shall remain behind the veil.

As if I haven’t told you all everything already.

A Drinking Song

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

W.B. Yeats

A Noun Sentence

A noun sentence, no verb
to it or in it: to the sea the scent of the bed
after making love … a salty perfume
or a sour one. A noun sentence: my wounded joy
like the sunset at your strange windows.
My flower green like the phoenix. My heart exceeding
my need, hesitant between two doors:
entry a joke, and exit
a labyrinth. Where is my shadow—my guide amid
the crowdedness on the road to judgment day? And I
as an ancient stone of two dark colors in the city wall,
chestnut and black, a protruding insensitivity
toward my visitors and the interpretation of shadows. Wishing
for the present tense a foothold for walking behind me
or ahead of me, barefoot. Where
is my second road to the staircase of expanse? Where
is futility? Where is the road to the road?
And where are we, the marching on the footpath of the present
tense, where are we? Our talk a predicate
and a subject before the sea, and the elusive foam
of speech the dots on the letters,
wishing for the present tense a foothold
on the pavement …

Mahmoud Darwishh translated by Fady Joudah

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