Sunday, December 24, 2006
22 December 2006. Bright and clear, after dark day of storm--the change delightful and astounding. Last night, "a kind of angel," Gus' line. Transcendent, my suggestion...but it turned out to be himself in disguise. Narrow, arched nose, high and alert--modest and incisive. A kind of character, not giving the world any more than its due--hard won, perhaps--and not without a playful (kind of) resignation. On the whole: pointed, though. Lucy's Mexico sonnet--their fiesta, swaying figures... Ted: four million teeth, all on the front seat. Dick: a personalized natural history of the elephant. And Sue--her son at thirty--great distress, touch of love.
All our beginnings... Hemingway and trees...
Thursday, December 21, 2006
21 December 2006. Chinese elm against gray sky. Fan of angled branches, arc of gold-green leaves. Workmen with tool containers--De Walt, scuffed polyester--making their way into shop next door. Here, the German doctor, singing under his breath. A ruby-crowned kinglet, he told us last week... Mellifluous voice in middle-low register--always the positive. Morning banter, back and forth, also a kind of song. A maroon Subaru with cream silver siding backs out across the street--yellow head lamps on a dark day. Feels like rain--or is it just the winter chill... Lights before dawn on all the houses--arches and curls, long row of tiny single red bulbs all along a fence. No Santas or sleighs--no crèche scenes either. An agnostic Christmas, safely abstract...
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
20 December 2006. Tiny plane banking upwards at dawn. Pool denizens huddled on steps in the dark, waiting for Laura to unlock the doors. Her figure approaching, seen through the glass. Plans and anticipations, thoughts before dawn. Another plane--silver sliver against distant cloud. Sixth night of Chanukah...red blue, red blue, red blue, one white above--the shamesh--servant--placed on top. Stan's brother's challenge--twenty-five years ago, maybe more: speak only of the present. Realized this week that I finally had a response: in the Chanukah blessing itself: sheh asah nisim l'avosenu ba-yamim ha-hem bi-zman ha-zeh. "...who made miracles for our fathers in those days, at this time..."
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
17 December 2006. Bright, cold, clear morning. Tom Adame walking up the street as I'm heading across to pool. Face turns to smile... Steam and mist rising off water, Humann slouched comfortably in tower chair. He smiles as well...morning allowance, a kind of ethical spare change that gets you through the day. Small Asian woman, older--the picky one, always polite, always demanding, intent on Dell monitor near window, leaning forward, golden line of her glasses sloping down towards screen, lenses on her nose. Her sweater a Beijing gray-blue, tannish coat scrunched up on the chair behind, sunlight pouring in through the window to street. What am I--some kind of gendarme--these noticings. Who am I following? Photos of the Kresy--the Borderlands--from Lithuania deep into the Ukraine. Kamienec Podolsk...one long narrow bridge, all of stone...
Monday, December 18, 2006
16 December 2006. Cold night, bright morning sun. "The Blue Sky Foundation"--Pasha Ivanov. Arkady Renko again, sardonic, unfailing...the telling is in all the gaps... Faulknarian almost, except that the plot (and only the plot) follows crime story requirements: who knew what when, the reader also alert to cues... But the characters here--or is it Russia itself--transcend the genre. And the central event, of course--which is Chernobyl. He becomes disconsolate in the spring--around May Day to be precise. Children of Kiev in street parades, carrying bouquets of flowers. Chornobyl in Ukrainian--wormwood. How that very word? As if the meanings of folktale and legend were somehow less real. Baba Yaga--a book of fairytales, carried under a boy's arm, along with a well-worn chess set. The poles of knowledge, poles of truth.
Friday, December 15, 2006
15 December 2006. Pale yellow sun through high cirrus clouds, illuminating the sky above magnolia branches. Single figure in down vest, green and black horizontal striped jersey, striding down the hill--her bobbed hair keeping time. Last night, the musicale. Kashah the enchantress, quite uncovered, North African dance--Maroq, Tangier...a young Daniel Weingarten on Ladzepko drums. Later: Anthony and Steph after half an hour's practice--as if they'd played the songs all their lives. Talk, lots of wine--Nathaniel's generous spread--with their paintings on all the walls, each persona distinct, unabashed strokes of color, also unlabored--the meaning in the making alone. Mark and Peter, our guests, Katie, all smiles, singing along. "What about Freight Train?" Elizabeth Cotten at eleven or twelve--how did she know? "...way down on old Chestnut Street..."
Thursday, December 14, 2006
14 December 2006. Delicious pearl gray mist of rain...best right at dawn, everything still. Yellow windows of Albany pool, two small figures in adjacent field, hidden in the dark. Light-colored dog bounding across on the diagonal. Just inside, folded sign on desk: Please pay on deck. Alongside, elegantly slouched, head down, figure of Humann...he looks up with a smile... Sounds of running water, steam. Two more figures, veiled in shower. At water's edge, I attempt a buon giorno with chubby regular, waist deep at the rim. She lifts her head slightly, shifts to adjacent lane, beyond the rope. Laura's wan smile from lifeguard stand--still sleepy as well... Morning mores--Ovid, Catullus, Po Chü-i--everything touched, everything known...
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
13 December 2006. Slow morning with a late start. Natasha jumps onto high round table--compact mass of tortoise-shell fur, tiny pink tongue against dark little face...waiting for a rub. Last night: Arkady Renko at Chernobyl--the Zone. Hot spots and blasted trees--"a stand of red pines." Cooling pond six kilometers long, with ponderous catfish each the size of a truck. "Renko--that's a good Ukranian name," declares the seventy-something Hero of Socialist Labor, in Slavutych, a replacement city, but there's cesium in the topsoil there, too. As if they were followed--impossibility of salvation. Images of taxidermy: a badger preserved, a reactor embalmed. And yet the older couple in the black village, serving them pickled mushrooms, cucumber, salted fat. "Don't turn on your dosimeter." The key phrase. "Don't turn on your dosimeter."
12 December 2006. Rain rain. Glossy pools on morning street. Yellow catalpa against pearl gray sky. Dark magnolia leaves over the 7-eleven sign. This kind of silence--invaluable, even while it lasts... Whoosh of cars zooming up Solano, ding ding of backing truck veiled in the distance. Beautiful, despite the interruptions of Sue's incessant mutterings--comments to herself on this and that as she works on book. "It does look a little fuzzy up there." Greg by her side. "It's got a little boo boo here." Possibilities of the language--a miniature truck wreck sometimes--depending on the ear. Martin Cruz Smith, for instance, with the ancient Nina on her Pripyat bench, "Wolves eat dogs." Declarative, not a comment. "Wolves eat dogs."
Monday, December 11, 2006
11 December 2006. Winter morning, gray chill. Woman in dark coat, slender cut,with one hand extended, holding translucent box with light blue lid--holiday cookies, one atop the other, their ends dipped in chocolate. A struggle to describe--the recalcitrant world. Sometimes it flows. Like Rumi's guests--they arrive in all forms, whether we think we want to see them or not, like family--right of access--but not always welcome. Like the dancer on the streets of New York. "Forty Sixth, between Seventh and Eighth." Known stretch of turf, ritual of knowing, redeemed through use. "Come visit. We'll have some brandy." All smiles.
Make it new.
Friday, December 08, 2006
7 December 2006. Narrow plum tree alongside Solano...burnished red leaves touched with brown. Reading Su Tung-P'o. That was his formal name, but everyone knows him as Su Shih...the second syllable softened at the end, disappearing into the surrounding air. Sitting with Shui Jing and Hin, in the evening--she tells me the story behind Cold Food Festival. A common man, a prince, a burning forest...need and longing intertwined... A family lost, but memory forever preserved. How do we say it? Rak b'simcha. Only in happiness. May we encounter each other only in joy...
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
5 December 2006. Golden marshland...gray fields. Sun low in the west, over wide expanse of valley. A bridge, creosote logs, over dark canal, wind dropping to a whisper--vespers--only the slightest ripples. Barn swallows in late light, forked tails disappearing in the gloom. Stubble fields--the summer's crop, harvest bales in low-lying sheds...barley, millet, hay. Visitors from afar, gathered around a fire. A cup of wine, old stories--all that's shared.
...our own future, we make our own past...