Covered Bridges of the East, Sky Bridges of the West

Published in: on November 20, 2009 at 5:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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Covered Bridges, Golden Gate Bridge, Writing life, Sky

 November 20, 5 am, 2009

We aren’t sleeping well here, I think there’s too much on our minds.  Up at 5 am to go for a 10 mile run and then to the gym after reading a bit of Mary Karr’s Lit for a while, what a troubling book, what great writing.  She likes to promote how poor she was, and her family is mixed up, but she isn’t that poor in my book because she gets to go to all the right colleges.  It’s funny to hear Vermont described as “hippie” but mostly, her writing sucks you into the sadness of her life with its brutal loneliness with her and the bottle as her very best friend. 

 My best friend at the Farm besides Helen was my pen and writing and afterward too, my pen.  Helen and I just spoke last night.  She says N.H. is down to the 20’s at night.  She spoke of this as not too cold.  I’ve never convinced her to fly to California, and she might not like it here.  She still lives pretty close to where we grew up, she and her sister.  They live in the woods near where the Farm was.  She used to have a parakeet, but that bird died some years back and she hasn’t replaced it although she says she’s thought about it some.  She lives in a small trailer, the same one for the last twenty years; it’s awfully small for three people, but they make do.  Sometimes I wish I could buy her another bird, a canary maybe, sometimes I wish I could just build her a log cabin with braided rugs.  Helen could do with a fireplace.  A trailer, and she’s nearly fifty. 

 I think back to the covered bridges of New England.  Too much covered up.  Like hands covering a face, and I was always afraid that if you took away those hands, I might have no face.  And then I come to this coast, and there are vast bridges with no covering.  Steel structures against sky.  Defying everything.  All that blue as if you can touch it and become sky out here.  That’s what I’ve always wanted to believe.  Sky, you can walk into. Sky, you can be.

Published in: on November 20, 2009 at 5:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Big Plan for Thanksgiving Morning, then 10 m run, then feast!

Published in: on November 19, 2009 at 3:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Who needs sleep? You’re never gonna get it. Who needs sleep, tell me what’s that for?

 We are in the final stages of fund raising for this move to Pasadena… I haven’t tasted this much adrenalin and sleep deprivation– like metal and old caffeine since I studied for my PhD.  It’s like tin, old wine, sand, sesame oil that got left out, there’s a wretched papery feeling to your hair and fingernails and your head feels like old fruit barely attached to your neck.  I’ll let you know when it’s over and I wake up shouting. Tomorrow morning, 15 mile run.  We’ll see if that helps.

Now I lay me down not to sleep.
I just get tangled in the sheets.
I swim in sweat 3 inches deep
Just lay back and claim defeat
Chapter read and lesson learned.
Turn the lights off while she burns.
So while she’s 300 degrees,
I throw the sheets off and I freeze.
Lids down, I count sheep
I count heart beats.
The only thing that counts is that I won’t sleep
I countdown, I look around
Who needs sleep??
Well you’re never gonna get it.
Who needs sleep??
Tell me, what’s that for?
Who needs sleep??
You’re happy wiith what you get and there’s a guy that’s been awake
since the 2nd world war.
Who needs sleep??
Well you’re never gonna get it.
Who needs sleep??
Tell me, what’s that for?
Who need sleep??
You happy with what you get and there’s a guy that’s been awake since
the 2nd world war.
My hands are locked up tight in fists
My mind is racing, filled with lists
of things to do and things I’ve done
Another sleepless night’s begun.
So much joy in life and so many pleasures all around
but the pleasure of insomnia is one I’d never found.
With all life has to offer, there’s so much to be enjoyed
but the pleasures of insomnia are ones I can’t avoid.
Lids down, I count sheep
I count heart beats.
The only thing that counts is that I won’t sleep
I countdown, I look around
Halla halla halla
Who needs sleep??
Well you’re never gonna get it.
Who needs sleep??
Tell me, what’s that for?
Who need sleep??
You hafta use what you get and there’s a guy that’s been awake since
2nd world war
Who needs sleep??
Well you’re never gonna get it.
Who needs sleep??
Tell me, what’s that for?
Who need sleep??
You hafta use what you get and there’s a guy that’s been awake since
2nd world war

Published in: on November 19, 2009 at 2:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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New Poem, The House that Jack Built, this is about my life as a writer

The House that Jack Built

 We built a house of glass in the woods; the rain came in. 

The rain came in through the skylight, the open windows. 

We sealed the house, yet water seeped under the foundation. 

We built canoes to navigate the stream from kitchen to bedroom. 

 All the bookshelves were up high.  The cement floor wore away to gravel. 

We lived in a stream bed in a glass house until the day the sun came out.

 It became hot, humid; orchids filled the place, their tendrils of longing everywhere. Visitors said our house was unnatural, but it seemed perfectly natural to us. 

 The children tumbled amid orchids in summer, paddled streams in winter.  Electricity not possible, but we didn’t want it.  Electricity would have forced us out of the glass house. 

 We’re still here in the glass and mud, the unbalanced checkbooks, the poems and silence.  We hear water, breath, the house letting in light.

Published in: on November 19, 2009 at 11:27 am  Leave a Comment  

The Atlantic Ocean and Love, written shortly after I moved to CA

“The Atlantic Ocean and Love” from Where Crows and Men Collide


in the East the ocean smells raw

the water hurls itself on rocks in Maine

the light is the color of water freezing in air

glass green blue grey in winter

the air the water the sand fly up in the face

as if one must breathe the Atlantic ravenously

it is like falling in love to step into it

and be swallowed into sea air

the salt becomes your skin

you beat on rocks tossing yourself

into their arms again and again

flying into air and the laughter of seagulls


The L.A. Pacific is bright and smiling

it is plastic orange buckets pink shovels

bikini clad race walks for skaters

whose thongs disclose everything

the air is the color of money green silver

shimmering oily as the inside of a saucepan

it smells of coconut palm sun tans

paid for sex it curves like an artificial breast

it hums in the afternoon sun with volleyball games

and rival gangs it is a beach that hustles

to look good for itself every morning

it tastes of stale beer and reefer

it is the way love feels when it’s past trying

when love is hot dry tired

unwilling to turn over

hardly worth the begging

parking difficulties in L.A.

keep the sane from the beaches

where the remains of love

turns up the sound of a rock band

to drown out the lapping of an obedient surf

the shape of love on Los Angeles beaches

is an open hand asking for something

closing into a fist in the bright neon sunlight


the Atlantic rushes toward you

carries water into your hair

until the salt becomes you

the cold beats into you

as if your heart were gills

the tide goes so far out

that only moonlight can show you

the way across the sand

in the morning lobster boats appear

pulling nets full of movement and brine

the Atlantic ocean is the edge of the world

raw indecent the smell drives you wild

Published in: on November 19, 2009 at 8:29 am  Leave a Comment  

James Doolin’s Los Angeles Freeways, early image for Los Angeles Review

Published in: on November 19, 2009 at 7:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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Writing is being outside time and space, Planning a Mexican Thanksgiving

November 19, 2009

 By 6 am, I was on the 405 freeway heading to work.  My daughter and I were on the phone talking about our work and our partners and their sleep habits.  Because my husband and her partner were still sleeping and we were up, drinking coffee.  My Starbucks.  She had made herself a little French press.  She seemed to be in much better spirits than I was.  But she’s in Santa Barbara, twenty feet from the ocean, and I was on the 405, two feet from the next car. 

 The workshop last night at Lisa’s house went splendidly.  We mashed over Billy Collins, Kay Ryan, and we even read around the room, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” all that musical poetry pouring over us in a torrent, like liquid song.  Oh, Eliot who misused poor Vivienne and locked her up to die, I still love this poem as I love wine and C.D. Wright, and ocean and wild, lilacs and sleep.

 Thanksgiving is next week, the holidays have crept up on us, and then we go to the Guadalajara Book Fair.  I feel that this whole fall semester has crashed over me like those big waves when you are body surfing, the ones that tear your swimsuit off and then you’re naked and hope nobody notices. 

 We are having rice, stuffed chilies, turkey, cranberries, stuffing and fried plantains for Thanksgiving.  Maybe tequila.  Certainly pies.  I will start the cooking Wednesday night listening to Bossa Nova and salsa music.  Maybe time is moving faster because I’m getting older?  Or is it because I’m running.  I’m trying to get back to 60 miles a week— Running enough that I will be surfing on light and my mind will feel time forward and backward.  When you run enough, you feel like you are inside light and sound and outside time.  That’s what writing does too.  It’s a good place for outsiders.  People like me.

Homeless in California

Published in: on November 18, 2009 at 3:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Never homeless in California

November 19, 2009

When I first moved to California, I absolutely expected to be homeless.  And I was pleased to see that being homeless in California wasn’t too bad.  It was warm mostly and you could survive outdoors.  I had a tent and a car, and I felt I could survive as a homeless person for a long time.  Having been homeless though before I got here, I knew that it is not romantic and the not bathing gets really old.  So I hoped I would be mostly indoors.  So far I have been.  So, that’s a measure of success.  Except when I was deliberately on a camping trip at the beach or in the Sequoias, I have been living indoors in California.  I think I should celebrate tonight with some more California wine.  We’re having a poetry evening at my friend Lisa’s house.  We have such a great time, and I have some wonderful Kay Ryan poems for us to read.  And I think we’re having Mexican food and pie.  Here’s to love, and life and poetry and living indoors.

Published in: on November 18, 2009 at 3:30 pm  Leave a Comment