Saturday, September 27, 2008

Visiting Mom

My mother's dog bit me, twice. She has this completely undisciplined dog, Jingles, that growls at her own husband and bites every person who comes into the house. That dog runs the place. They completely modify their lives around the dog, and blame the victim when Jingles bites. Cruisin' for a lawsuit.

But overall I'm happy with my visit to Virginia. Rolling hillsides, crickets. I'm over-fed on Mom's filipino food. I've fallen into the pattern of my mother's life: picking-up and delivering, picking-up and delivering food from donation sites to homeless shelters and day centers. My mother, Thelma, is a one-woman ministry to the homeless. Bingo twice a week, listening to the old filipino ladies tapping their cards and whispering the numbers they need like invocations. At 63, she has the energy and drive of a Tasmanian devil. Wonder where I get it from?

My youngest sister, half-sister by another marriage, Elizabeth, drove 3 hours to visit. And my youngest brother, George Jr, a state wrestling champion who I hardly know, comes and goes with his buddies. The house is quiet, except for Jingles patrolling his property.

Walking somewhere with my mother I saw a burnt out house. The thing that stuck with me though was a bird house, also burned, nailed to the center of the porch. Somehow the bird house, in miniature, illustrated the dynamism of the fire more than the blackened house itself. One of those images you see that sticks with you. The bird house will likely work its way into a poem because it evokes more than it is. It reminds me of something else. I just don't know what yet. Something to do with families in crisis? Black soot-marks like the memory of crisis. Memories now abandoned and quiet.

I'm in Virginia until Wednesday. Then I catch a train for Connecticut.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On the Road Again...

On Saturday morning I began another cross-country journey, from Washington DC to Washington state. I'm connecting 2 out-of-town projects with a leisurely visit to family and friends, with special emphasis on the Northeast. Fortunately, everywhere I plan to go has wireless Internet, so I can work from the road.

I'm in DC now, staying with new friends, part of the extended Radical Faerie network. One of my hosts is an editor of the literary journal White Crane, and I am eating his poetry collection. I'm also delighted to spend time again with my dearheart friend Johnathan Morpurgo. I'm in DC because I have a 3-day job, teaching RoboHelp software, an authoring tool for tech writers who create HTML Help systems. Big dick stuff. Day 1 went well, 2 more to go. Hope I don't run out of material.

After this job I go to nearby Fairfax, Virginia to visit my mom for a few days.

Then I may catch the Chinatown bus from DC to NYC. My friend Matt Levine will meet me, and we seriously want to visit Vermont. Hello? Vermont in October! I hope our friend Brian Stowell in Boston can meet us en route. We'll likely go to Camp Destiny, another Radical Faerie property in the woods.

From there, I don't know. Chicago? Keen to visit my old friend Daniel Hall and do a short performance of selections from Mona Rogers in Person. A free performance of about 20 minutes for the Chicago Radical Faeries, at Daniel's house.

Then another train to Seattle, to rest (shuh, as IF) a few days before I begin the wonderfully reflective 2-week creative residency in Port Townsend. Whew! All that, and work. At least in Port Townsend I'll be offline for 2 entire weeks, enforced downtime to reflect and write.

See ya'll back in New Orleans first week of November, I think.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Any Ideas for a Title?

"Who am I talking to in this poem" continues to trouble me. Originally, I had one person in mind, and then another. And then began to wonder if this was the big "fuck you" to every guy who's ever hurt my heart. The poem's darker and angrier than I expected, which makes me suspect there's accumulated hurt going on here.

I think I'm expressing my inability to express.

We've been sloppy with our bodies,
boys playing scandalous games inspired
by the Bible,
Jonathan and David,
Ruth and Naomi,
Jesus and hHis beloved,
John. My favorites were Ruth and Naomi.
Whither thou goest.

But me, I should stick with abide by things
I know how to hold onto:
the certainty of outrage,
the moral stamina to write the worst
love poem ever, to say “fuck you”
with a smile on my face. Damn!
The craziness of the flesh!
It stops me. So beautiful. I mark it.

Alright, you have my attention.
Tell me something sideways again, hint at need
in the oblique ways that you and I communicate.
Or wWrite my fate in the margins,
leaving volumes
unsaid between the lines.
It's August in New Orleans,
a hard time to write a love poem. anyway
when all mMy ink pens keep exploding from the heat.

But our story epic
cannot end, not here.
No cinematic walk-offs, please.
(Yes, I am listening to myself.)
We have a longer story yet to tell,
something I can't compress into a poem.
And wWA
nd why would I try?

Any ideas for a title?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hurricane Update

Communication and electricity are still challenges in New Orleans, but overall we weathered just fine, cozy in fact. No electricity at our house, but no damage either. Because we have a gas stove and water heater, we have hot food and hot showers! Kerosene lanterns and plenty of books to read. We turn on the generator a few hours a day, mostly to run fans and the refrigerator, although we keep most perishables on ice. A few grocery stores are opening here and there, but close early. I was able to use an ATM, my cell phone gets good coverage again, and today I found an Internet cafe.

My plans to evacuate changed at the last minute. It was a high-stress moment, exacerbated by our braying mayor alarming the nation, and us. We took the well-informed advice of an extremely capable and well prepared couple who invited us to ride out the storm in their historic Uptown mansion, which is built on natural high ground and has withstood a century and a half of hurricanes. It was the right choice. We were very safe the entire time. We grilled salmon on the BBQ, swam in the pool during high wind, and talked. An occasional Valium relieved the boredom.

A few things we learned: Turn off television news and scoff at anything said by our mayor. We went to the National Hurricane Center website instead, and got a very different story about Gustav. We decided to trust the scientists and not the politicians. We also learned to have ample chocolate on hand, red wine, and to never share towels.

Yesterday I moved back into our house. All's fine. Bunch of broken branches and leaves to clean, but that's it. I'm happy to be home, despite the lack of power. I have a lot of reflect about, and the enforced downtime is good. Also I'm enjoying the novel, The Master and Margarita.

New Orleans was spared much worse damage, although that Industrial Canal over-topping gave us a scare. I love the spirit of community here, and of course, the bars are packed. Ostensibly there's a curfew at sundown, but last night you wouldn't know it. Locals who rode out the storm were in the French Quarter last night in full force, celebrating our survival and unique way of life.

Thanks to everyone for the well wishes, concerned text messages, and the occasional phone calls that got thru. The offers of money were very generous, and contact from the outside world was comforting.