Sunday 24 February
A dog and its owner go by. The dog has a thick stick in its mouth. The man swings his arms. They make their way, counter-clockwise, around the lake like this. The dog is a middle-aged sheepdog. The man is a middle-aged Caucasian. The dog lays his stick down before the master. The master walks past without picking it up. The dog must anticipate where precisely to place the stick to encourage his master to pick it up. It drops the stick 10' before its owner, races behind it and bows down. It lays in submission, in wait, in prayer there, head nestled in the grass, eyes up. Every so often, the owner picks up the stick and throws it into the meadow. Mostly, though, he walks past without picking it up. The dog must then pick up the stick himself and begin the process anew. Race forward, drop the stick strategically, hurry around, lie down and wait...
It strikes me that this is what the poet is doing in society, carrying a message, a mystery, a piece of the world, racing around in public, placing it before the reader. Please, please, please see this stick. Please read this. This poem, this song, this stroke of light. Please read this bump in the road. This chip of ice. This feather drifting from the eaves. See this please.
The reader walks on.
CALL & RESPONSE
My first visitors are working artists, Linda Davidson and Beth Richmand. A painter and a jewelry designer.
Linda has new work on display this May at the Catherine Person Gallery (near King Street Station). Linda talks about the role of poetry in her work. She collaborates informally with the poet Anita Feng. They work back and forth in a sort of call and response. I wonder how much time elapses between their exchanges? I wonder if they show together? Linda explained their the process. They work within a loose structure. No requirements, no explanation, just an open response using one's art.
Beth Richmand designs art deco jewelry and works in enamel. She sells her work at Folk Life and The Rest of the Best (Bellevue).
I offer Linda and Beth chocolates in the shape of little mice, artisan chocolates my mother has sent. When the rain begins to dapple the desk, Beth puts her ball cap over the mice. Her natural instinct to protect the small things in life, the gifts.
Gene visits. He tells me he writes things he thinks might be poetry. I ask him to read me a poem. He has nothing with him. I give him Peter Davison's "The Passing of Thistle." As he read, he exclaims, "Now that's good poetry." "That's real!" He went on, reluctantly, interrupting his own reading again and again to discuss the poetry he was finding. He never finished the poem. He seemed too overwhelmed by its poetry. I give him homework. Memorize a poem this week. Make it your own. Next week, call it forth from memory. Call if forth whenever you need it. Pace your walking with it, entertain your friends, explain a force or a subtlety in the world with it, call it forth when you are bored.
I am alone again. I pace in and out of the forest, Little Sherwood. There are no bandits about. I stand behind my Major Oak for spells to cut the wind, then pass out into the crosswinds. I pace my watch. I pace the weather side of the quarterdeck, from the forest to the far tulip tree and back, an immemorial tradition of the British Royal Navy. I pace with my thoughts. Wonder about the direction of our ship. The safety of our crew. I consult charts. Take a compass reading. I dead reckon. We are not on course. Not the least bit on course. I am troubled.
When I turn from the wheel, when I turn out of the forest, I am confronted by a group of women who have mushroomed out of nowhere and stand before my desk. Eight of them, all lined up. I am amazed. "Where did you come from?" They smile in answer and ask for a poem. I select "Emergency Haying" by Hayden Carruth. "Would one of you read it?" They call to someone on the pathway. They say, Professor. And Professor walks into their group. He warms, slowly, to the idea of reading. He locates his glasses. He reads the poem softly. Everyone must lean in. He reads, "I change grip and the image fades." Each word receives fair emphasis.
"She snicked her hand off and took it/and threw it grandly at the sky." It is hard, hearing this, not to iterate this gesture, not to play out this scene. A defiant laborer, a cane-cutting grandmother, taking her own hand, her own power, now severed, now cut away from her body, and throwing it to the sky, throwing it into the face of her maker. What a grand gesture! Defying the one who would own her labor.
"Are you together in class today? How did you come to be walking around the lake?" They wouldn't say. "You don't want to know. We are walking in memory of someone. We have to go now. Thank you."
A SMALL PERCENTAGE
I spend all afternoon with Erik Lacitis of The Seattle Times, who has come to collect information. He vacuums for details. We photocopied my journals. I'm not sure why we did it. I waffled back and forth thinking it may be an invasion and remembering I'd intended to keep a public journal. What is a public journal if not published? Notes, sketches, a head count, random thoughts. Contact info, a history of weather and names. What does it amount to?
Butkui came late in the day. A lonesome man. A Rupert's Drop. "I feel trapped in my body." I sympathized with him. This is the universal condition, Butkui. The best we can do is make art and try to share the world. This is the state of humankind. We are solitary souls trapped in bodies. Some say we are "a wealth" trapped in "poverty." Butkui asked for a poem about terminal illness. I read Zach Sussman's "Cancer."
30 people visited my desk today despite the wind and cold. I did not need a megaphone to communicate with them. I learned their names. I heard their stories. We shared long poems and short poems and discussed and viewed art. It was a lovely day. A memorable day. A day of strong images and genuine connections.