from The Life of Poetry
Dead power is everywhere among us--in the forest, chopping down the songs; at night in the industrial landscape, wasting and stiffening new life; in the streets of the city, throwing away the day. We wanted something different for our people: not to find ourselves an old, reactionary republic, full of ghost-fears, the fears of death and the fears of birth. We want something else.
We're throwing an event in the city tonight, if any of you are in San Francisco and can come by, here's the information:
A Poetics of Peace
Fear and Beauty in the Heart of America
with Michael Meade
October 29, 7:00 pm
Lone Mountain Center, Room 148
2800 Turk Street
University of San Francisco
An array of stories, poems and song that address issues of war and peace, the necessity of cultural change and the question of who makes meaning in America.
Join us for a unique evening of stories, poetry and discussion as we seek meaning in a world increasingly uncertain and fearful. As a poet already said: ‘A false sense of security is the only kind there is.’ There is no ‘homeland security,’ there is no homeland except the ground where language reinvents itself and meaning breaks into new shapes.
Below the false rhetoric of success and the rise of terror, the deep language of life keeps forming in the secret rivers of the earth. Genuine hope lies in a ‘poesis,’ a ‘making’ through which we, who have become almost speechless, make culture real again. Beauty is the antidote to fear, the dream of life being shaped anew, the impossible trying to be born again. This is the real battle, the battle for beauty and inner nobility of the soul trying to break through the spells of cultural confusion and numbness.
Fear and Beauty recalls the 'other America,' the land of welcoming and tolerance; it inspires a re-imagining that shifts 'olders' into elders and returns youth to the study of ideals; it shapes an artful ceremony that deepens the sense of shared meaning and community.
Everyone Welcome – Donations Appreciated
Donations support A Poetics of Peace, work with at-risk youth, Walking With and other cross-cultural and inter-generational projects.
posted by Lisa on 6:20 AM link |
Last night in the early twilight, we walked out and then swam into the dark water of Tomales Bay. A friend rented a house on the water in Marshall. At first, it was like swimming into the sunset, the orange-pink surface glimmering, still. Up the bay Hog Island held the mouth, and to the south, towards home, hung a slivered moon and its evening companion, Venus. In the east, Mars. We swam with light strokes, not wanting to break the surface, or the silence in the darkening water.
Afterwards a perfectly positioned hot tub provided the best seats for viewing that moon, and above her, the milky, starry sky.
posted by Lisa on 7:15 AM link |
Tonight I'm reading a little travel story that I've written at the local bookstore. If you're in the area, swing by, if not, send your best wishes, please.
This is a submission for the anthology, I Should Have Stayed Home: travelling fiascos, and that kind of thing. So that's where I've been the last couple of days, working on that mornings instead of hanging out here at field notes.
The piece I wrote is called 'Tapalpa' and it's about a hanggliding trip we took to a beautiful mountain town when I lived in Mexico. Things didn't go well from the very beginning. Here's an excerpt:
The trip from the beach to Tapalpa, a little mountian town outside of Guadalajara, shouldn’t take much longer than three hours. But the trip we’d begun that morning was unending, and getting back would prove to be impossible.
I was lying in the rear third of the Suburban, scrunched between various backpacks and hanggliding harnesses, hoping to forestall the back catastrophe I could feel coming on. Luke wasn’t talking. He’d stopped being friendly within a few minutes of our departure when he caught me looking scared on one of his kamikaze passes on a blind hairpin turn between our village and the highway. I think it was ‘Milktruck Turn’ where once years ago he’d watched a milk truck flip onto its side, spilling thin Mexican milk onto the road, and over the cliff into the Pacific. In the first months of our relationship, by being compliant and worshipful, I’d implicitly bound myself to a lifetime of necessary good-naturedness. Any unhappy looks crossing my face were a direct affront to the delicate balance of our lives, a threat to unhinge the perfect world we’d created at the edge of the jungle, under the palapa. How could I suddenly begin to object to things which I had previously encouraged without betraying a stunning lack of character – revealing myself to have loved, but not to have known what I loved?
I let my guard down. I showed fear and disapproval. It all went downhill from there.
posted by Lisa on 6:55 AM link |
The rope jerked up
so the bucket flies
into your catch
pours over you
standing in sunlight
another poem please
and each time
recognition and caress,
the repeated pleasure
of finite things.
Hypnotized by lyric.
This year's kisses
like diving a hundred times
from a moving train
into the harbour
like diving a hundred times
from a moving train
into the harbour
--from his book of poems Handwriting
posted by Lisa on 7:17 AM link |
It's Monday evening and I'm waiting to board my plane, Orange County to Oakland. I've kissed goodbye my sweet baby niece, and hugged my family goodbye. I'm going home.
Home is where my muse awaits me, where my spirit thrives. But my heart. How this child tugs on my heart. She leaves an ache as piercing as the absence of my truest love.
For two nights I handled the middle of the night shift, sleeping with the monitor next to my pillow, sleeping to her gentle murmurings and frustrated cries as my companion, lulling me to sleep, then pulling me out again as her sounds became agitated. I tasted both the joys and the deep tiredness of caring for an infant. Waking at 2:30 in the morning and feeding Isabelle mother's milk from a bottle, the soft colors of her room visible by nightlight, harp music playing against a mnemonic heartbeat background, this little being looked right at me with the most complete expectation of good that I've ever known. The days were filled with the small joy of providing temporary comfort.
Now, more than before, I am her aunt.
posted by Lisa on 8:25 AM link |
I just picked up a copy of Adrienne Rich's book What Is Found There | Notebooks on Poetry and Politics
On an opening page, I found this:
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.
--William Carlos Williams
"Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"
I think I'm in for a great read.
posted by Lisa on 1:23 PM link |
Yesterday was my birthday. I walked at sunrise to the beach with a friend. Two seals floated dreamily by at the edge of the cove, and a blue heron perched on the end of the pier, as golden sunlight filled the sky. In the afternoon, I swam in that very water, cold now yet still approachable. Soon, I'll talk more about the way the water holds and reflects light and color than about how it feels on my skin. Soon.
Yesterday, the water woke me up and I said prayers for the year--wishes, like the world was a candle, and the sky a flame.
posted by Lisa on 7:09 AM link |
I’m not overly emotional. Yet last week I stood crying in my kitchen after two Red Sox players collided in the outfield and one lay unconscious on the ground. I’d been thinking over the last couple of years, all the pain we’ve seen. I’d been trying to remember when something good last happened on the world stage, and hoping that the Red Sox and the Cubs could get to the World Series this year. I’d been thinking that the world could use a positive sign, a reason to believe that things might turn around. If both teams who’d waited so long to see a World Series were to make it there—to break the “curses” that have held them back for so many years, maybe it would be the first sign that we could all rally around, something to get excited about, something uncomplicated, unadulterated, pure. I’d been thinking like that when the two outfielders ran headlong into each other, and one left the field on a stretcher. I simply cried.
We’ve been through so much. All of us. From September 11th, the bombing of Afghanistan, war and grisly occupation in Iraq, the United Nations debacle, the State of the Union, Patriot Act, the collapse of good will towards the U.S., anthrax, unsafe air, lies and recriminations, Rachel Corrie, the Challenger, the economy, gas prices, to, finally, the California recall. We could use a rallying cry, a new symbol, a ray of hope. Would a World Series between two teams who’ve been kept out for so long heal all of that? Of course not, I don’t give sports, even baseball, that kind of power.
But wouldn’t it do our hearts good to share some mutual hope, even on the scale of game? Some simple good news? It would sure do me good. If any sport were going to carry so much on its shoulders, baseball could be the one. It’s redemptive by its very structure, marrying the achievement of one with the teamwork of all; and it’s followed to some degree almost universally.
As I think through the past two years, there’s only one series of world-stage events that has given me hope. I remember marching amongst tens of thousands of people up Market Street. Yes, we were there speaking “against” war, but the feeling there was one of being “for” something good. It was profoundly, ultimately, a shared act of faith in humanity. Each of those people, and there were millions of us around the globe, stepped out of our houses that morning in a defiantly hopeful gesture. I wonder if we’re not all too beaten down now to do it again.
I think about my life, and there, finally, I find something good, some beauty that seems pure. My brother found love, got married, and had a beautiful baby girl—-all in the last year. That child’s arrival also created four grandparents, three aunts, and two parents. Every day, we all carry this brand new family in our hearts.
But that’s personal. I still want the big story, one we can all share, one that will give us hope. Over the weekend, the Red Sox/Yankees game descended to brawl and a 72-year-old coach and a young pitcher had it out. The 72-year-old lost, thrown to the ground after trying to throw a punch. It was quite disturbing as violence permeated the next innings. That became the big story, and now around dinner tables we talk about what’s happened to baseball, about the violence and the anger in our hearts, the big salaries and our corrupt culture.
I’m not looking to a Red Sox/Cubs matchup to save our souls. Even I’m not that much of an optimist. Baseball has always had its bench clearing brawls, its headhunters, its machismo. But it also has sacrifice flys, taking one for the team and stepping up to the plate with the bases loaded and a chance to win the game for the whole team if you come through with a hit. Despite big salaries and bigger egos, hope is built into the game. So maybe this dream World Series won’t save us, but perhaps it could still bring us something good. Maybe in the achievements of these underdog teams, we could find something to lift our hearts.
The fact is, nothing will turn out to be purely good--uncomplicated by the tyranny of emotion, or the indelible marks of time—-like the birth of a child first seems to be. Maybe I need to look more carefully for the hopeful symbols I seek. To the protest that occurs only in the face of war, to the great moments in a baseball game that occur despite the anger that threatens to erupt, and to the natural hopefulness of the human heart, which continues to believe in its own continuance. Despite the evidence all around us, we’re not dissuaded from giving birth to new life: an offering to the future, an extremely hopeful act of prayer.
posted by Lisa on 8:19 AM link |
The Dream of Now
When you wake to the dream of now
from night and its other dream,
you carry day out of the dark
like a flame.
When spring comes north, and flowers
unfold from earth and its even sleep,
you lift summer on with your breath
lest it be lost ever so deep.
Your life you live by the light you find
and follow it on as well as you can,
carryiing through darkness wherever you go
your one little fire that will start again.
posted by Lisa on 8:30 AM link |
I heard one chainsaw, then another, and after that I couldn't tell how many there were. I began calling neighbors, but couldn't reach anybody. I was afraid I knew where they were, but was afraid to look.
We all use the same path to get to the beach. Once you enter "the path," there's a sense of being in the wild. Redwoods guard the entrance, then tan oaks, coast live oaks and madrones stretch out to either side of the path and follow the creek down to the beach--a small patch of woods. Once you enter the path, you've entered sacred space, enchanted ground--your thoughts are let loose from everyday concerns--you're going to the beach.
The path was shaded, with mere slips of sunlight, undergrowth that hid deer and towhees, and could have hidden a lion or a bear. Dense and wooded, the flora guided your attention down the path, to the small opening of light at the end, to the water, to the beach.
But not anymore. After the chainsaws came a chipper, and finally, we walked down to see what had been wrought. Part of the land lining the path opposite the creek belongs to a family who've owned it for two generations. Common knowledge was that it was near impossible, at least improbable, to build on that lot. It's only approved for a one-bedroom septic, it's a small lot, it needs to include three parking spaces, and the builders would be required to bring water in not only for themselves, but for another neighbor further away from the source than themselves. Everybody who looks at land in west Marin has been shown this lot. Over the years, several groups have submitted plans to build, but none of the plans respected the envelope that the land and the laws require. One man had a plan that was approved, but he couldn't get financing. So the stories go, until you believe that the land will never be developed. They say it will cost a million dollars for a small one-bedroom home.
Apparently, the owners of the land are serious about trying to build here despite the restrictions. The young men swarming over that land, that land that is now a lot, are serious about clearing it. They told us it was being cleared for a survey. Just from the ground to head high, they told us. But there are trees down. Coast live oaks cut off mid-rise, logs littering the place.
Of course it's private land. Of course it's their right to build, to clear, to cut, and to raze. You know all this, you believe it, but still it feels like something vital has been ripped out of the world. One small piece of land on it's way to becoming somebody's home. It will be a warm beautiful house, and the people who live there will probably be my friends, will certainly be my neighbors. We will get used to the house sitting there, and in the best scenario, the house will complement the surrounding woods, will reflect the environment. But today there is a gaping hole, both in the woods and in my imagination. Something alive is dying. Something is missing and there's not a milk carton or a classified ad or a police department big enough to find it and bring it back.
posted by Lisa on 7:48 AM link |
Don't walk much at low tide in the summer--instead I go to the beach at high tide and swim. I'm rediscovering the low tide walk.
Yesterday we walked under darkening skies. Fog hung low over the bay, just above head-high, glowing pink and orange from the sunset. Heading south, I stopped to make bad rhymes over my broken rudder, then picked up speed enjoying the cool slip of evening. Just before Chicken Ranch Beach I stopped behind some rocks to watch a group of snowy egrets on the shore just ahead of me. Dog sat in the sand, and I crouched near the rocks. We settled in. The egrets were startled, but didn't seem to pinpoint where the disturbance lie, as they flew towards us. They continued past our still forms, heading upwind, then banked a slow, beautiful turn and returned downwind, speeding back the way they'd come, turning again and flying over my head to disappear above the cliff behind me, only to reappear again to make the slow banking turn and again the heady flight downwind. We watched them for a breathless while. Most stayed together, but some strayed behind or joined late and were on opposite legs of the circuit. Some near-collisions occurred and always it was the downwind bird who broke stride to avoid the upwind bird--akward and polite.
As the egrets made that first upwind turn, before it became a flying game, they slowed and became angels. Lit by diffuse light and seen from below, each upward wing beat impossibly white against the already-whiteness of their bodies and the sky, combined with the slow upwind ascending turn to suspend time and bridge the earthbound with an idea of heaven. Each upwind turn an attempt at ascension, the downwind sprint a return to pleasure and the limits of time.
I forgot myself, crouched there in the sand, until they gave up for the night, and lit in a tree--a resting place somewhere between the restless earth and the beauty of sky--a place from which they could reach both worlds.
posted by Lisa on 7:56 AM link |
Our local historian, Dewey Livingston, writes a column in the Point Reyes Light called 'West Marin's Past'. Last week he excerpted the following from the local paper of 48 years ago, the Baywood Press:
Dial Phones Come to Pt. Reyes Area Night of Sept. 30
Over 400 telephone subscribers in Pt. Reyes, Inverness and nearby West Marin will get new dial telephones Friday, Sept. 30.
...The change over, from the old-fashioned "box and crank" telephones which are among the few left in use, will come at 10 o'clock p.m.
Complete instructions covering use of the dial instruments for those unfamiliar with mechanical telephones, will be given by company representatives before that date, Gilman said. Pt. Reyes numbers will carry the prefix Mohawk 3 and Inverness, Normandy 9.
A special telephone directory will be distributed before Sept. 30.
Change to dial service affects Pt. Reyes and Inverness exchanges serving Olema, Tocaloma, Five Brooks and Marshall. In addition, service will be extended to Cypress Grove, Hamlet, McDonald and Ocean Roar, formerly toll stations, North of Pt. Reyes, and to Camp Taylor, in San Geronimo Valley. San Geronimo Valley villages long have had dial service.
Why did we ever drop the convention of referring to our phone numbers in this charming way. Normandy 9-5555. I love that. Also, where in the heck are Ocean Roar, Hamlet, McDonald and Cypress Grove? And finally, when did we stop referring to ourselves as villages, and start calling ourselves towns, and why?
posted by Lisa on 7:22 AM link |
We're back to weather as usual here. The coming-of-winter scare has passed, for now. It's warm again, even this morning with the fog "in" the temperature inside my cabin is pleasant. I measure the temperature by what I need to wear. Reports range from 'barefoot with shorts' to 'long johns, two sweaters, fingerless gloves and an all-day fire'. Today's a 'sweater but barefoot'. For October, I'll take it.
Yesterday the water on the bay glowed electric blue. Just before sunset I pulled my old boat out from under the boathouse. Before embarking I made a shoreside repair--new duct tape to hold the rudder in place. A summer of high tides and sun had eroded the old repair job so I opened a brand new roll of duct tape and slapped it on. I made it just beyond the end of the pier. The big moon was hanging to my right, and I was just clearing the point that hid the setting sun when I felt both pedals go slack to the floor and knew that the rudder had drifted away from my boat. It's tricky turning around to see the back of the boat on a surf-ski. It's a 19' fiberglass boat with mere indents in the surface for a seat, feet and legs. To turn fully around is to get wet. But I could see and feel enough to know that I was dragging my rudder by its cables. Fortunately, I was close enough to shore that it was an easy matter to turn the boat around, right myself in the wind and paddle with the incoming tide back home.
My inaugural trip was short, but sweet. Bring on the fall.
Recall Election: If you know anybody in California who would vote no on the recall, but might not get to the polls without a friendly nudge from you, please call them, write them, urge them to help. If you think the political scene is surreal now, just wait until Wednesday if "Governor Ahnold" takes the helm. This proves to be a close election, every vote will surely count!
posted by Lisa on 7:10 AM link |
I heard Bly recite this poem at a conference that I have on cassette. After several months, a friend finally located it for me.
Warning to the Reader
Sometimes farm granaries become especially beautiful when all of the oats or wheat are gone, and wind has swept the rough floor clean. Standing inside, we see around us, coming in through the cracks between shrunken wall boards, bands or strips of sunlight. So in a poem about imprisonment, one sees a little light.
But how many birds have died trapped in these granaries. The bird, seeing the bands of light, flutters up the walls and falls back again and again. The way out is where the rats enter and leave; but the rat's hole is low to the floor. Writers, be careful then by showing the sunlight on the walls not to promise the anxious and panicky blackbirds a way out!
I say to the reader, beware. Readers who love poems of light may sit hunched in the corner with nothing in their gizzards for four days, light failing, the eyes glazed. . . . They may end as a mound of feathers and a skull on the open boardwood floor ...
from What Have I Ever Lost By Dying?
posted by Lisa on 8:34 AM link |
In the morning I said I agree with Jon Carroll, and enjoy being sick, the dreamy, graceful stretch of the day. By late afternoon, I recanted--bored, lonely and depressed.
The Giants' loss had something to do with it. Watching Jose Cruz Jr. drop an easy outfield fly in the 11th inning gave me a sinking feeling. Two games in a row, this guy who's a genius in right field all year dropped balls at crucial times. The Giants had their chances, they left 18 men on base--three of them in the top of the 11th inning.
After that dropped ball in the bottom of the 11th, Tim Worrell, the relief pitcher, got into trouble. But he made two outs himself, recovering a bunt then throwing across the infield to get the out at first, and again after the bases were loaded he stopped a "comebacker" with his bare hand, then picked the ball up and threw it home to stop the tying run from scoring.
They were so close, just one out away from taking the lead in the series, but inevitably, a hit got through, and the Marlins scored two to win.
Yes, that was depressing. But more than that it's being stuck in this house, too sick to read, wandering from couch to computer, crummy weather outside. I talked with my neices (the older neices) on the phone, and felt too far away for comfort. The fog is in, has been for days and days. Yesterday it cleared for about 15 minutes. I've got cabin fever, need to see the sun, need some relief from these walls, this view, this chair.
But the Giants play again in twenty minutes. I can't leave the house before that game ends. If they win, I'll feel hope again for my own difficult dreams, spring's promise--fall's glory. If they lose, I'll turn off the TV before the camera pans their dugout, before I have to see their dazed expressions as they watch the Marlins celebrate at home plate, unaccepting that something they believed in so much could turn out to be untrue.
posted by Lisa on 9:53 AM link |
Monday we were swimming in the bay, the water a bit chilly, but still recognizable as late summer. Yesterday, it was cold enough for my first fire of the season. I noticed several of my neighbors had fires as well.
I got my first load of firewood Sunday, and I've begun to stack it. It's a beautiful mix of oak and bay. The trees were cut to build an access road on one of the local ranches. I'll continue to stack it on breaks from work, slowly and carefully. I've never done my own woodstack completely by myself. I've always had help and so never mastered the edges, which are vital. My first attempt at a stack looked like a pyramid, ever narrowing in from the edge. I couldn't figure how to place a log on the end without it falling off, or worse, bringing the whole end crashing down. So far, this woodstack isn't suffering from those problems. I'm not trying to match anybody else's pace, so I carefully pick each log, and use wedged and flat pieces to weave firm rows. It's a beautiful thing, and with each row placed on the stack, I welcome the coming season.
Summer was just long enough. In the middle of it, I worried that I wouldn't be able to let go when the time came. But somehow, I'm ready for the falling leaves, the chilly water, and the occassional October fire. Fall brings things that temper what's left behind: the Giants in the playoffs, cozy fires, moody weather, big waves, fall migration, new friends and new possibilities, and a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers who've moved into the neighborhood.
posted by Lisa on 7:49 AM link |
Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005 Lisa Thompson. All Rights Reserved.