Monday, January 31, 2005


Feb 05 email newsletter
Vol. 2, No. 2

I walked across the yard one day a couple of weeks ago, head down, reading the liner notes to one of the new CDs that came in the mail, minding my own business, when a tree attacked me. Reached out and poked me in the corner of the right eye. Didn’t even scratch or bruise the skin; just went right into that tiny opening between the bone and the eyeball.

I could still see the buzzards circle in the pale gray sky.

The next three mornings, I washed goop out of the eye so it would unseal and open. It’s fine now.

Seems like the buzzards often circle in any color sky around here. It’s indifferent nature’s reminder, I suppose, to keep on living. Or to be buried deep.

From way higher than the buzzards’ viewpoint, this big part of East Texas begins to look the same. Each little village is different, of course, but there’s sameness, too; miles and miles of God’s land dotted by little tombstones of towns of tin and red brick connected by ant trails of asphalt.

One day, I called the depression support group listed in the Van Zandt County Line, and nobody ever called back. I suppose everybody’s cured down here, or they’ve given up.

I decided I have no problem with fundamentalist Christians, per se, because I know some very good people who are fundamentalists. I examined my own attitude, because none of us should fear Christians – despite the history of the Crusades and the invasion of Central and South America, of Mexico and what is now the American Southwest and coastal parts of the South. Still, I fear the ones who want me to be like them. I can’t help but wonder, though, if some few of those people want to do to democracy what our ancestors did to the Native Americans.

A used-book store opened recently here in Van Zandt County. I fear that it will fail. There is so little live music to hear in Van Zandt County. There are rumors that a multi-screen movie theater may open sometime in 2005, but I’ve already heard a complaint that the theater lobby will have video games in it that will tempt teenagers, and teach them to be evil.

I heard a TV commercial twice, for a local literacy program, where a young woman appears on the screen and says, "I learnt English" at Tyler Junior College.

Some joy rains, though, even outside the cynical humor and the joys of septic tanks, pilot lights, and the onslaughts of cold and heat.

In mid-January or so, I hosted a "pizza ‘n’ peers" meeting for local artists. About 15 people -- writers, painters, storytellers, songwriters, weavers, photographers, etc. -- showed up. One said that it was the most at ease she’d felt since she moved here several years ago; one said later that the people who attended were "too smart" and that he probably wouldn’t return.

I went to an open mic poetry reading at the Barnes & Noble in Tyler, about 30 miles east of here, late in January. One high school girl read a poem about what a nice guy George Bush is and people should get off his back.

One shy, quiet, thin little girl showed up with one poem to read and two of her friends tagging along for support. Later, I asked her if she were in junior high yet; she said she’d graduated, and was 18.

Cocky young guy, maybe in his early 20s, showed up about an hour into the reading. He wore a stocking cap with wing-like protuberances on it, and a flashy shirt and pants. He carried a small, worn notebook of his poems. Our hostess grimaced when he walked to the edge of the circle; he asked, "Am I welcome?" She hesitated, and said yes. He sat beside me and, as soon as I’d finished reading a poem, said, to dramatically establish his place in the circle, "That’s the most cliched thing I ever heard, not really." It wasn’t; I reached over and pulled the stocking cap down over his eyes. Everybody laughed, including him, and he shook my hand when the evening ended.

Some joy reigns, too.

I am, of course, in love again. I love a new, usually but not always young, woman every month or so. And I love each of them/you forever, at some level. (Someone emailed me in January, writing, among other things, that she believes I am "gentle, compassionate and from what I can see give and love unconditionally." I thanked her, and said that unconditional love is often expensive.)

I am, as I wrote, in love again. Not with the young woman but with the sweetness, real or not, I see in her face.

February: the month of Valentine’s Day: the winter month of wounded hearts (listen to Ralph Stanley sing "Pretty Polly"): St. Valentine, much earlier pagan feasts, Hallmark.

We love what we value.
We love what we value.
We love what we value.

Emotional intimacy.
Emotional intimacy.
Emotional intimacy.

In January, as I worked, quietly, along an old fence line thick with brush, across the rusted barbed wire fence I heard hoofsteps in the brown leaves. Across the gap between man and nature, I heard a deer approach slowly, like an idea. Across the tangled underbrush, I heard one step heavier than the other as each hit the damp winter ground.

One or two steps at a time, wary, I heard its steps come within feet of me in the blindness of the forest’s growth. I stood upright, still, silent, watching without seeing. I waited, too. I never saw it, never heard it move away.

One Saturday morning in January, I stopped by Van Zandt County’s only music store because a handful of people gather there, then, to swap songs and stories. The owner, in some context I’ve forgotten, mentioned the phrase "grain of sand" and the word "diamond." I asked him if he knew the Mickey Newbury song, "Wish I Was." He said he did not. I said I wanted to go to the car and get a CD with that song on it.

I went outside, knowing that anytime anyone leaves that shop the ones who are still there always have to talk about the one who just left. I came back with the song -- a version by Cowboy Johnson on my 2004 compilation CD -- and asked, "Okay, what did you all say about me while I was gone?"

"We were just wondering if you are ever going to grow up," one said.

No, I said, and meant.

Unlike the girl at the poetry reading who I’m sure wants to look older, or at least her age, I do not want to grow up. At least not in the way the guitar store gossips mean it.

Here are the lines from the Newbury song:

"Wish I was a grain of sand
Playing in a baby’s hand
Falling like a diamond chain into the ocean."

Buzzards circle. Land dotted by little tombstones of towns. Doing in democracy. Pizza ‘n’ peers. Love. What we value. Distant sweetness. Wounded hearts.