Saturday, November 06, 2004


Nov 04 email newsletter
Vol. 1, No. 6

A musician, Jenni Mansfield Peal, told me she helps blind people see. Jenni works in the vision education field, which is learning that people with cortical visual impairment -- "damage to the occipital lobes caused by some insult, such as encephalitis, tumor, or injury resulting in blindness," she said -- can retrain their vision using other parts of the brain. She can see a child with no demonstrated usable vision "reach out and take a toy because we, his teachers, have finally been clever enough to accommodate the way he sees -- maybe just one color, toy in motion, against a plain, high contrast background." She said she didn’t mean to bore me with that news, "but to me this is miracle work the brain is doing. Shows me we may still be in the dark ages."


One afternoon, I took a break from work and started a fire near the forest edge, burning stacks of paper that represented parts of the past no longer important to me. I almost danced around the fire, but didn’t. As the fire burned, I used a stick to stir scatter the ashes in the pit; the stick sharpened in the heat. For a while, I sat and watched until the smoke quit rising from the ashes.

The next day, at 7 a.m. or so, as always, a murder of crows in the forest began to talk among themselves about the coming day (or the going night?). Later, before noon, I watched a willow tree dance in the wind outside my back window, it’s long, thin limbs moving to some earthly rhythm.

One night, Earth cast its shadow for hours across the moon. When the thin, dark clouds would part, the moon would look briefly as if it were covered with dried blood.

A friend sent me her photo. Makes me smile for the artist the photo represents.

I saw a tree frog -- bright green, one inch long with splayed reddish feet for climbing. Makes me smile for its cuteness.

I know an extraordinarily beautiful woman who’s living in Taiwan now, who sometimes likes to wear a mask to cover that face because she wants people to hear what she says. Makes me smile for her growing wisdom.

All three of these things, and more like them, make me rich. Goodness knows it’s not the $21.09 in my pocket. A cousin, Karen Hardie, used this Emerson quote in an email. "A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist."

My next chapbook will be "Eve’s World." I hope to write it as song lyrics as I come to terms with that woman’s world in at least one long poem of many in the book.

I haven’t heard from her since I moved. I left my new phone number on her answering machine, but don’t know if her so-called boyfriend erased it or if she doesn’t want my friendship any more or if she’s finally been convicted on her drug charge and gone to jail or if she’s just busy doing other stuff or . . .

A runaway dog showed up here two or three weeks ago. She chews on things and gets in trouble and is headstrong and self-absorbed and moody and usually fun to play with, and one sunny afternoon she lay outside my door on her back wanting some attention, and sometimes she just sits and stares at the road. I half-heartedly try to break her habit of jumping on me. After I said "down" a few times, I said "down!!!" and she whimpered and turned her back on me. I considered naming her Eve.

At a Halloween party in Fort Worth -- thanks to Rene West and Mark Penland for surrounding me with lots of interesting stuff and a few interesting people -- I pulled out the Mirror of Truth, which usually is in the magic castle on the edge of the ancient forest at the foot of the enchanted mountain that hides the endless sea from my vision. The Mirror of Truth looks like an empty frame. You can put your hand right through it without touching anything, or so I told people. One young woman (age 26) who played looked into the empty frame and claimed that she saw everything, saw the truth in everything. It was a glib answer. It must have worked, though, because we talked for maybe an hour or half-hour. I shared my too-broad, half-humorous, half-challenge theory that women don’t really become interesting until they are 30 or so, men at 40 or 45, if ever. This woman, Tara, teaches English to ninth graders, studies photography, climbed a mountain, jumped out of an airplane, and spends most of her summers in strange, satisfying lands. When she finally left the party, she stopped, turned back toward me, and asked, "Am I interesting?"

I have muses now, I realize. Muses of flesh and flood. Women, of course, as I believe all the classic muses are. The young teacher is not one of them; I have not known her long enough nor well enough. Nor is Eve, who might be a demi-muse. I won’t embarrass any with their names here.

One is my muse for enigma and growth.

One for art and conscious living.

One for beauty and intelligence.

One for listening and longing.

One for distance and compassion.

One for passion and decisions.

The many facets of all these subjects. And more.

November three. What a sad damn day. It takes both the left and right wings for an eagle to fly, but this regime gives thoughtful conservatism a bad name. We can expect more arrogance and incompetence. More division in this country. More hatred from the rest of the world. Erosion of liberties. I cried just a little bit late last night; early this morning, I woke and threw up. I might crawl into a bottle of wine tonight, but all I’ve got is that empty Il Bastardo bottle.

Oct 04 email newsletter
Vol. 1, No. 5

So, now I live in a magical castle on the edge of a deep, ancient forest at the foot of a mythic mountain overlooking an endless sea on the other side. Some people think it’s just a 30-foot travel trailer, but it’s got a queen(-sized bed).
My kingdom is this little space on some land that’s been in the family for a long time, and whatever bits of your imagination I can hold. I used to play here when I was a child, and I’m still figuring out who I am. I might be the Pope. Or, at least, one well wisher said that me leaving Dallas is like the Pope leaving the Vatican. Or I might be an old chunk of coal, but I’ll be a diamond some day; that’s the Billy Joe Shaver song that Beth Garner says she dedicated to me when she opened for Los Straitjackets at Gypsy Tea Room, although I wasn’t there to defend myself.

What I’ve done is to purge myself of about 90 percent of every physical thing I owned, “tithing” the other 10 percent to myself. I finished moving what remains of my stuff into the place on humid Sunday. Two inches of rain fell beginning about 7 a.m. Monday. Some might think of that as a cleansing rain, but as David Halley wrote, rain don’t fall for the roses; if it rains, it just rains.

From my sister, a place to live. From my ever-practical parents, a care package of toothpaste, paper towels, toiler paper, bars of soap, and a “Country Dreams” scented candle.

I want to write a lot, and to publish. And to sell my poetry. And to do readings. And workshops. And help kids tell stories. And tutor kids -- one on one and in small groups -- to become better writers and communicators. And to stop starting sentences with and.

1. “Eve” kicked her boyfriend out of her apartment -- she has an apartment now, or at least did the last time I talked with her -- a little more than a week ago. She’s backslide into the crystal meth. She told me her boyfriend came back the next night, beat her, and assaulted her. Five days later, she called me and said her boyfriend’s car was broken down and would I come give them a ride. Same boyfriend. I told her what I thought about letting him back into her life, and refused to help. Tomorrow night, I might call her with my new phone number but I don’t plan to give her my address.

2. I located another of my muses in Taiwan. Some might think of her as “Jolene,” because she’s on the cover of “Jolene’s Dragomon.” Always beautiful and always intelligent, she seems to be growing wise, too. Jolene could have been Eve, but she’s made different, sometimes difficult choices.

3. A month or so ago, I set aside this odd little ceramic piece of work to give to a third muse, someone I am connected too as much as she is connected to me, although we are often distant. The colorful piece, made in a little Mexican village, is about a foot wide and 15 inches high, is a bar scene: two couples dance to a vinyl record behind the bar, a man sits on a toilet, a bird and a demon perches on the roof. All of the men wear dark glasses. I thought this third muse would like the colors, the movement, the humor, the basic poignancy, and the little nuances; however, I’m looking at it now and I’m going to keep it for myself for a while.

Symbolically, the first CD I listened to in my magical castle would be important. I settled on “The Definitive Charles Mingus” from the Ken Burns jazz series. It may or may not be his best, but it’s a good one. Then I moved to the old “Baez Sings Dylan” (“I Pity the Poor Immigrant,” “Tears of Rage,” “One Too Many Mornings,” etc.) in honor of the just-released Dylan book. That CD led to a search for a CD of the early Baez singing her own delicate, searing stuff, but I couldn’t find it. So I “settled” for “The Essential Doc Watson.” And then, for some reason, Keith Jarrett’s Koln concert, with its piano cleaner than today’s rain. Now, Miles David and “Kind of Blue.”