Friday, April 01, 2005


Apr 05 email newsletter
Vol. 2, No. 4

I sat on the steps of the small place where I stay, enjoying my second listen to a new jazz CD, Lost and Found, by Judith Owen. Nearby, birds sang in the trees and flew above thick underbrush along a rusty fence as the spring day turned warm under nearly cloudless sky. The dog lay in the sun, wanting to lick my face. Wash my soul in these simple joys.


April. National poetry month. Pendrift looks through a dirty window. He shields his eyes from early morning sun and looks through cracked glass into endless darkness. A small lamp throws dimness as Pendrift's eyes adjust. A form becomes a wrinkled old woman, pepper-colored hair falling below her shoulders; bent, she sews fragile moments into patchwork quilts of lives.

Pendrift hears the woman quietly curse the dark, quietly curse her eyes, quietly curse the light, quietly curse her hands, quietly fondle the soft moments as she sews.

Pendrift begins to see endless stacks of old quilts in the room's far corners, notices a small, dwindling pile of scraps in the woman's reach. As she sews, Pendrift walks through the window into the musty dust, begins to speak to her.


Sometime during the night, I may, half asleep, have heard persistent knocking at my door. Awake, then, I thought, "If it's real, whoever it is will knock one more time." I went back to sleep and missed an opportunity or someone in need, or simply a few minutes of oblivion.

In the morning, I did not recognize my country. A vice president of the National Rifle Association suggested teachers might carry guns to prevent classroom violence. Politicians scared me, instead of serving me. Wal-Mart and its business practices were a shining example of capitalism. Rich got richer; poor got poorer dreaming the American dream.


Meanwhile, the only bookstore in Van Zandt County closed on March 31 because the store's owner, seemingly confused and in the wrong time and place, could not sell enough books to pay his rent. April 11 at the store, I was supposed to host a poetry and songs open mic; the building's owner won't let me use the parking lot because he’s worried about liability.

From the movie Closer, these two sentences: "Have you ever seen a human heart? It looks like a fist wrapped in blood" . . . Where the sky is always dark, where the earth is always quiet, life swallowed Pendrift whole . . . The last time Pendrift drank a bottle of wine, he kept on . . . From an Afghan song: "precious flowers of our feelings we give to you."


I napped in the car from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., a hundred miles away from a sleepless night's tumbled thoughts. Between not sleeping and then napping, I taught "10 Elements of Creative Expression" at a community college. One student, a young woman who studies cinema, told me she writes in a spiral-bound journal. She said she tears out each page as it fills and throws it away so nobody will read it.


She is doomed to receive affection but not return it. Her tongue is too dirty for my face, her claws too sharp. She needs a bath. She is a different species. But she usually comes when I call her, and she eats out of my hand . . .

The dog, Ginger, managed, somehow, to chew her collar off. She pranced around the yard with the collar in her mouth, shaking it like a snake or a lizard, tossing it on the ground and jumping on it and prancing again.

She stays inside a kennel at night. There are coyotes, which probably would not bother her, and the occasional bobcat, which probably would not bother her. People tell random tales of rare cougars.

One late March night, I lured her, as usual, toward her kennel with a snack. Dog treat, tortilla chip, cracker, whatever. This time, the cracker didn't work. So I ate it. Right in front of her. Got a Boca burger patty from the freezer, thawed it, offered it to her if she would walk with me. She went out of reach under my magical castle and lay there looking at me.

I talked to her. Every time – three or four times – I walked inside the castle, she would come out from under and stand at the screen door wanting the appetizer. I would walk toward the kennel with it. She would follow for a step or two, then go back under the castle. I talked more, making it clear she would not get the treat (and her regular bowl of food) if she did not go into the kennel.

When she came out from under the castle for the last time, tempted by the Boca burger, I did not grab her and put the leash on her new collar and drag her to the kennel. I never want her to cringe away from me. I talked with her and patted her head and shoulders and walked toward the kennel. This time, she came with me. I filled her bowl, checked her water, and gave her the Boca burger, which she promptly buried under leaves.

I am more patient with the dog than I am with many people.