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The road to Reno: more than I can show with these paltry pictures. An epic trip. More words soon.
This morning we slugged down a defile between two greenish plateaus covered in oyster blue tombstones. (I’ve rewritten this sentence over and over again for maximum clarity but find it still lacks.)
Grasses amber, frond-tipped, blue-bitten-green;
the cemetery crumbled upward into pines; on the summit of a hill beyond:
unfinished construction sites flapping with red flags already shredded by summit winds.
(This is the kind of land we cut through on a daily basis. People wanted to merge with it but beautifully faltered.)
We won’t tolerate that horrid phrase: ships in the night. Yes we voyage but distance and strangeness propose no real barriers. Night is not as impenetrable as we pretend; we prefer to be childish about it.
Instead: we are parallel vessels at all hours, relaying, pinging, volleying; piratical courtship across swerving latitudes. The foam kicked up in your wake finds a way to salt my fingers. It matters little in courtly love on the run if the courted is conscious of being pinged. The darts land below the gossip-churning mind, in the surface depths, where chatter is encrypted and made fertile.
They will be changed without knowing that they needed to be.
The problem with writing letters on the water is there is no way to post them except cryptically. With foam or gulls or visions. Or simply more letters on paper as white as the churned waves.
So you boarded elsewhere, a different ship, in different waters, maybe even landed waters. Your burly old car was a versatile dry dock. Those last hurried notes you sent me made me excited for you even though I wasn’t with you. For your work was progressing, nuancing, becoming a project on par with Parsons’s and Torok’s. You had built Portals all over the city, turned the children into experimental Cosmonauts. People with connections were paying attention. But also maps that pointed to an elsewhere you could work with.
I boarded an elsewhere too, with these loquacious companions (Blanchot, Doolitte, Bertiaux). Nostalgia and the sentimental are attacked with such paranoia. Nothing that has happened must keep us rooted. If only life were prolonged enough to make that a real lesson.
We must survive these unendurable coordinates somehow, which is why I talk into paper and into wind without discrimination. But this is why we boarded a ship at all. Survival points elsewhere. I look forward to being disappointed because I’ll know then I’ll still be alive. A citizen of the cosmos! Your phrase as if rewritten by Whitman.
I lacked the gumption to keep track of our overlapping passions in those few months when I was living again on Noctula Hill. I was taking care of my friend’s home, his dog and all his wonderful books. I was house-sitting, as if the house was an elderly child and I some seasoned caregiver. My friend N. was away with his lover in the French Alps, then the Italian, trying to deduce the accuracy of Goethe’s Italian Journey.
In the mornings on his patio, before he departed, when his old dog was still kicking, we drank espresso as the boards creaked in the Pacific gusts. He would read aloud over and over again the part about young Goethe feeling the hot sand under his toes, hot, reeking, blackish sand squirming with miniscule life forms.
The black sand heaped at the feet of ancient villas as if wanting to eat all that vine-choked, Patrician wood. Then he read about the old woman on the hill who made cheese in a shed, how this conflated with Nietzsche climbing the hill and seeing the old shepherd slaughter a kid during a lightning storm. The history of Modern Thought congeals around wild, black hills scarred by lightning. How Nietzsche felt was how my friend N. must have felt reading about Italian black sand and ancient methods of cheese making in the coiling winds of that Pacific Spring.
Had I looked deep in the screen I could have found your research detailed and expounded, all the terrified hours you lived in your car, and kept astrophysical vigils in the eight steepest parts of the city, despite criminals and hunger. That you had turned your life into an experiment freed from the fears of survival, prestige and attractability.
That art entails hard and fast discoveries for others than yourself …
more from the Vegas Wetlands…
From a new bookish thing in progress:
The rumored fire came but not how we thought, we saw it start with bees on the sill, then russet fog
and we fled to a border where dunes outnumber trees. Busses ran later than before. We took them all, no reason not,
wombed in each other’s jackets. The fire was finally dreamt but ghostly heat seared the bedroom floor, we fingered the
fragrant holes, infesting us, skins thirsty peach orchards
moods political because ill. The sheets caked in fear and dessert you stole from the schmaltzy French bakery
on Cossack Hill we smiled the stray hairs croissant flake fingernails. The border has all-hours donuts and chickenwire pyramids you
hack through with garden shears and the biggest Laundromats for five towns cathedralesque and steaming. Incense fumes by
the Valentine Buddhas while dice clatters to polka music, as in New Orleans outside the
termite brothel we ran the aquaducts cat- screeching, you’re dreaming of mutated wolves again in a ubiquity of back doors for lack of entrances but we could wait several dreams to age for laundry here to dry.
Our apartment designated for accidents especially a small animal’s room behind the kitchen where the actor lived with filth, X-ray cereal box bifocals, his Bettie Boop boxer shorts,
the scripts for surrealist Westerns –How tired was he to tend a shoebox filled with wax horrors showed off at parties?
No parties at the borders, only lingering vigils but somehow I acquired his famous box—
(In New York I stayed with an out-of-work actor and his girlfriend’s rabbit but no girlfriend so he napped all day with his hand in a broken aquarium no fish and ate fast food on his exercise bike. You must think I’m really something, he said. Things actors would do not even acting but the girlfriend needed to get the rabbit back he said tearfully—)
Some rooms shouldn’t be slept in but times were cheap. The best way: to pretend to read the newspapers while listening to the railing’s vibrations as if they led back to a parking lot we wrote our collective will in.
We ate white bread with dollar store ketchup drank hot rice milk and never thought about children until they were in the house our rooms sleeping in luggage with their cousins, because islands collide under our chins like parachuting firemen.
Bus terminals snowed over from seagulls, and the tracks came hurtling back to an esoteric kiosk selling tarot cards. You couldn’t put your hand anywhere except your friend’s pocket. The surprise unpacks itself on the bus. We are there, now, where the fire meant.
contrasting winters: a super quick trip to New York over a week ago, 4 days and nights in snow and 20 degree temperatures and then back into the 75 degree desert. I think that got me sick, and the plane’s air circulation was broken too. Spent two days, when I wasn’t in my house writing or laying on my couch, walking aimlessly through the Vegas Wetlands — which is an odd concept: wetlands in the desert but they are there and there is rushing water too with birds balancing in it. And wonderful mazy trails and you find ominous desert things like big piles of boulders in a blank white stretch or blue netting inscribed in the parched earth. the flat openness of the desert does conjure up the possibility of communication with something….bigger even if its something inside you that the well-ventilated land compels forth.
Summer nights in Southern California as coyotes wailed staying up late and listening to weird music on the radio by the bed dreaming with my eyes open of what a secret means when it is transmitted to you in the darkness. I’m gonna buy a new radio and have hot summer secret transmission nights in Vegas. Maybe I’ll go to Radio Shack even.
The Aquatic Hour
Night radio in bed
Dials pulse low green
Dark is swirled lines in the room
I look away I listen
Coyotes come to life so late the hills shake
I found this strange station not to sleep
House creaks with cooling mortar,
stars in cactus and perfume glass,
triangular in the dirt.
This late music born neglected
made in diner basements
salt white flatness of middle country
rickety nowhere depots.
Now two, a book falls somewhere
cavernous, an image blots the sound.
Things I thought I knew
I hope to hear tonight: names of
minor towns famous
for halfwit mayors and soda factories.
This maudlin DJ drowns into himself,
his lumbar valleys. Lulled by his sleepless
baritone that speaks of UFOs
and Neptunian interferences, he
pins me darkly between land
and water. Such dark lines keep me buoyant,
excited for nothing morning brings.
I hold vigil for a secret that enters me,
like him, through embrace gossip or hymn.
You don’t recognize a secret until it is in,
forgotten. Gardens outside swim
with deflected sounds, figs knocked
by blue windows, furs and trash rustling.
Under tented sheets and ceiling blades
as coyotes feed quiet by the dams
I await a song promised made under duress
subterranean the one song silted by creeks
and tornado shelters long vacant now here