Saturday, March 12, 2011

36. A song heard } through the ceiling.

At the end of winter, I dream of an ice-buried, primeval landscape.

Freshman year of college a storm came through Boston that shut down the trains and stranded me in the city. Geoff, a German who sat next to me in sociology, offered me a couch for the night. His place was “a couple miles” from campus. Snow whipped across my face. The walk across the Mass. Ave. bridge was brutal, but the view of the frozen river and the city lights—ample recompense. Geoff turned occasionally to shout encouragement. We stopped in a bar Geoff knew. The bartender didn’t card either of us, Geoff was a regular, the Irish bartender a pal who liked to give Geoff shit. Except to ask questions, I kept my mouth shut.

Geoff worked on an off-shore oil rig and a cook’s assistant. He told us about the time the cook cut off all his fingers, how he was ordered to pick them up, pack them in ice, and bring them to the infirmary. He told us about an accident with a pipe, it swung loose, crushed a crewman’s head.

The walk from the bar to Geoff’s—a large, empty apartment behind Central Sq.—took a drunk minute. I flopped onto a couch by the window. He brought me a glass of water and a bottle of Tylenol. Boston was a dream. I woke. I reached for the army-green blanket kicked to the end of the couch and saw out the window a man, standing in the tiny yard, dressed head to foot in fur. He roared, and rushed the glass—I shouted and tumbled off the couch. Geoff staggered out of his room, clad only in bright tighty-whities, cursed at me and staggered back to bed.

Numbness the aftereffect of my fright, a fine hangover cure, I stood in that stranger’s living room and stared out the big window. The yard was lit by a flood, mounted on a blank of gray plywood. Snow fell, blurred then erased the man’s tracks.

Next morning, classes canceled, we at omelets Geoff made. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

35. Built on a walk } thru (a bar of green soap).

First “a field of colors” by Charles Lennox, sent to me 4 June 2009, in a cream envelope, by someone who lets their commas hang low. Dialogue in this story is written in ALL CAP, yet remarkably doesn’t read shouting. “a field of colors” is a place where a divorced father goes with his daughters and sometimes alone. The field is of colors, dismembered body parts (human and otherwise, less revolting than an opportunity to make new bodies), chairs, paper, etc. His daughters do what they do, they are bored, they are with their mother, they make origami. It’s a lonely little piece, and I was immediately attracted to the writing and to the presentation Mud Luscious Press (MLP) gave: a little chapbook, with a pale blue paper cover, stamped MLP. MLP was new to me but by goodness gracious not new to anyone else, I guess. J.A. Tyler published the first of these chapbooks in 2008, “a field of colors” no. 33 or thereabouts if y’r counting.

Another envelope, manila, arrived shortly after the first, no commas, no date (the $1 stamp hand-canceled with a sharpie), with three more chapbooks enclosed. Of the three, Elizabeth Ellen’s “a thousand & one others, yes” shocks the most, about a boy, the son of a garbage collector, and a girl, his nearby neighbor, and violence. Unexpected and brutal.

So I don’t know a whole lot about MLP or J.A. Tyler, but for the four chapbooks I’ve read. My editors emailed to tell me he reviewed Color Plates today. My first thought was to read those chapbooks again and maybe say a word or two about them. All are out of print. Maybe a lot of the stories can be found elsewhere? On the MLP site C. is announced, an anthology of MLP “Stamp Stories.” They’re not the chapbooks, see for yourself. However, as part of the announcement for C. are two stories from C. and one is “from Charles Lennox.” I won’t quote it here but here it is and it has origami: “My girls come to me & say THIS IS BORING. CAN WE GO BACK HOME NOW? When we reach the truck they say NO. OUR OTHER HOME.”

I know very much less about Spencer Drew except he also reviewed Color Plates. Thank you Mr. Drew and Mr. Tyler.

Friday, March 4, 2011

34. Live past } the wrong house.

Ron Goba now hosts, with Tom Daley, a poetry salon in his home just south of Boston. Tom invited me to read as feature, so last week I read. I asked Sarah G., the screenwriter/traveler, to join me. She and I used to attend the open at the Cantab Lounge, where Ron was the doorman/last reader for decades. Rain turned to snow at 6:30, when I picked Sarah up at the train station. Look up into the snow it’s dizzying. Sarah wore a white coat. I drove a black sedan.

First we walked to the wrong house—knocked on the wrong door, peered into the brightly lit and comfortable home of Ron’s neighbor. When we were invited in, we hadn’t yet realized our mistake. Not much of an audience, I thought, just an elderly couple. I looked at the old man, thought, Ron has changed he’s unrecognizable. Sarah asked to use the bathroom. She came back, like, in a minute and said, “This is the wrong house.” No one spoke: we left. Sarah said to me, when I asked how she’d figured out we were in the wrong place, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Ron’s house is well-stocked with single malts and decorated with clowns. After a warm welcome from Ron and Tom—the only people at the salon who knew me—I was offered a seat. Twenty-five people came. Before the feature, everyone there is offered a chance to read in what’s called a “round robin”; two more round robins follow a break after the feature. During the round robins, it was suggested I read poems by other poets. I read “The Yellow Bicycle” by Czeslaw Milosz, “Psalm” by George Oppen, and “Why Trees Weep” by John Taggart. The introductions Ron and Tom gave me were most generous. Interesting for me to hear about the impression I made as a young poet, reading with the likes of John Cotter, Jeff Paris, and Matthew Klane. Sarah and I shared an excellent red donated by my father. I read from my unpublished ms. The Rescue: I read the poems about “our daughter,” the Metamorphosis (Ovid’s) poems, “St. Emma,” the entire Dante series, and ended with “[The Forest by the River is Never Empty]” (“Beowulf is ashes. / So bury ashes.”). What a pleasure to read for so long and to be heard. After, for about fifteen minutes, I was asked questions and kindly enthused over. I enjoyed hearing, too. Good to hear Ron and Tom again. Sarah and I were both especially interested in Carol’s poetry—I didn’t catch her last name. We guessed her to be in her sixties. She carried a fossil with her. An ammonite. At the end of the evening, I was offered two features (dates to be announced), one at an art gallery named for the place where I once weekly met with The Blue Poets, the other at The Boston Conservatory. (I wonder if Nina J. would choreograph something and join me on stage?) My thanks to Ron and Sue for hosting me, to Tom for the invite; I am grateful.

Sarah and I found the car covered in snow. We drove north to Boston.