Tuesday, January 31, 2017

I had breakfast with a friend yesterday. I went grocery shopping. I did a load of laundry and drafted a small poem. I read Mansfield Park. I took a long walk to the library and borrowed Svetlana Alexievich's Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets and Margaret Drabble's The Sea Lady. I made a pot of minestrone.

Today I will return to editing. I will have lunch with a friend. I will try to solve a grammatical problem in the poem I drafted yesterday.  I will look at my library books. I will write letters to my representatives. I will make tofu and bok choy for dinner. I will worry about the Department of Justice.

Meanwhile, day is peering over the edge of the sea again. And the lights glitter on the far shore.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Another day dawns in the Chaotic States of America. Over Casco Bay a thin bank of clouds hovers at the horizon's edge--Confederate grey tinged with rose. A power plant's smokestack is a pale silhouette against those shifting hues. Someone's escaped balloon trembles toward the east. The surface of the sea, shot with silver, ripples, shifts.

This morning I will meet a friend for breakfast and then come back to the doll-house to read and write. It is a day I've been anticipating--a breath between editing jobs. Later I'll walk to the library. Later I'll face the news. Later I'll take a deep breath and start agitating again. My outrage is outpacing my shyness. Shortly it will outpace my good manners. Who knows what good it does? All I know is that doing nothing doesn't give us a chance.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Yesterday afternoon I drove two hours north to play music with my band. Afterward, through the darkening and the dark, I drove back to Portland. I listened to the voice of Elizabeth Bishop reading her poem "At the Fishhouses." My car slipped into and out of the river of red taillights. It swept off the exit, up the curve of Munjoy Hill, onto the urbane peace of the Eastern Promenade. The lights of Falmouth glittered across the invisible bay. I stopped at a stop sign. I turned right sedately. I parked behind the house where I live. I walked up the stairs and opened a door.

Disorder surrounds order. Fear surrounds contentment. A loved face smiles from the kitchen. Reading the news, my heart beats fast, like the cat's does, when he sits on my shoulder and I walk him to the road edge. A bicycle, a bus, a corgi are his terrors, but he yearns for the fragrance of the world.
I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same,
slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones,
icily free above the stones,
above the stones and then the world.
If you should dip your hand in,
your wrist would ache immediately,
your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn
as if the water were a transmutation of fire
that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame.
If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter,
then briny, then surely burn your tongue.
It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.
--from "From the Fishhouses" 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Do I write about despair for America, or do I write about what I made for dinner? Do I write about my children who are thriving, or do I write about the children in Syria who are dying? Where does my everyday life intersect with the chaos and the cruelty being perpetrated in the name of our nation? Where does privacy end and the chasm of the future begin?

I have no answers to any of these questions. But I do know that I agree, word for word, with Philip Roth's excoriation:
I found much that was alarming about being a citizen during the tenures of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. But, whatever I may have seen as their limitations of character or intellect, neither was anything like as humanly impoverished as Trump is: ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English. (The New Yorker,  January 30, 2017)
We are living in a terrible time.

Friday, January 27, 2017

2017 Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching

I'm so happy to announce the faculty for the 2017 Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching. This year's dates are June 24-28, with an optional Writing Intensive on June 28-29. As always, we will gather in Robert Frost's barn in Franconia, New Hampshire, one of Earth's modest magical places--a secret garden, a haven for the spirit.

I've already revealed that the wonderful Kerrin McCadden will join me this year as assistant director. Our guest faculty will be Matthew Lippman, a poet and full-time English teacher in Boston, and Matthew Olzmann, a poet who teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Warren Wilson College and has worked widely in the Detroit public schools. Both have won numerous awards and honors for their poetry. Directing the Writing Intensive will be Kamilah Aisha Moon, a Cave Canem fellow, a Pushcart and Lambda award winner, and a gentle and intense teacher of poets.

Please consider joining us this year. In America's current state of chaos, poetry and community--and our commitment to future generations--have become  more vital than ever. Teachers, administrators, social workers, volunteers, civil servants, health care personnel, journalists, artists--we all bear a common devotion and responsibility. The Conference on Poetry and Teaching is dedicated to tending that flame . . . and to spreading it.

The Frost Place website will give you details about fees, scholarships, and so on. If you have other questions, large or small, please feel free to contact me. I will do whatever I can to help. This conference has changed my life as a human being, an artist, and a teacher. My dearest wish is to share its magic with you.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

I intended to be writing to you from up north, but apparently the roads were terrible and the boys in the band cried, "Don't come, don't come!" So instead I fell asleep on my own couch during an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation . . . the one in which Data is attempting to train his cat, and even asleep I could tell you things weren't going to work out in that regard.

Tomorrow evening Tom and I will watch our younger son make his professional stage debut as the cop who biffs the bad guy in Arsenic and Old Lace. And we've just learned that our older son's summer 2015 internship project--as a camera assistant for the filmmaker Abigail Child's documentary on Emma Goldman--is going to be screened at MOMA next month. They are 19 and 22 years old, and I am full of pride. At their age, all I did was obsess about romance and livestock and Victorian novels.

I've been reading the complete short stories of Margaret Drabble--a very small collection, dwarfed by her enormous output of novels--and thinking again about how good she is at writing about mothers' love for their children, particularly that simultaneous experience of irritation, exhaustion, and amazed devotion. "[She] loved her children with a grand passion. Sometimes, looking at them, she thought she would faint with love."

Yet I was still grumpy to discover the stack of orange peels my son had left on the coffee table last night. At his age, I did know better than that. But some of us are precocious in the art of cleaning up the mess.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Day 5

Trump has been "president" for five days, and already he has proven himself to be what so many of us dreaded: vindictive, unstable, selfish, and reckless; a thin-skinned bully who lies, quashes dissent, and takes aim at groups he perceives to be both weak and disposable: Native Americans, sick people, pregnant women, Mexican immigrants. He will not divest himself of conflicts of interest. He will not release his tax returns. According to an article in New York Magazine, "on Sunday, one of the president’s confidantes told Politico that his staffers have to 'control information that may infuriate him,' a task made difficult by the fact that the leader of the free world 'gets bored and likes to watch TV.'”

Five days. And things are only going to get worse.

Last weekend we gathered in worldwide protest, and that was wonderful and cathartic. But now what? I share my complaints with my senator, Republican Susan Collins, and receive a canned response. I sign White House petitions, but our signatures seem to mysteriously vanish. I stand here, angry and committed, but also aware that I am invisible. And as much as I clamor, I know that anyone who wants to avoid me can just close the curtains.

Yet this man, whom I cannot call my president, who is nobody's president, who is a puppet and a maniac, is now Tweeting about sending federal troops into Chicago, the city where my own much-loved son works and walks. I cannot close my curtains against Trump, as much as I despise the sight of him.

I don't know what we can do. I don't know what I can do. I talk and talk. I sign and protest. I make myself a gadfly. And his response? Even as he closes his curtains, he will do all he can to destroy what I value most: Air. Water. Kindness. Tolerance. Altruism. Lives.

You, who read this letter, most likely share some or all of my panic. Right now I feel that our legal allies are our best hope. Journalists have been crippled; scientists ignored. But the law remains . . . for the moment.

And a poet can still write a poem. So I did. Share it, if you think that can help.

* * *

The Spoils

Dawn Potter

clammy with rot
like a dead goat in summer
a stink so foul the river
curls up in her bed and groans
the earth splits like a bad melon
as you crow It’s Fine! It’s All Fine! So Good! The Best!

Just remember
it’s you that every god hates

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"Wild nights--Wild nights!" as Emily D. wrote, in memory or anticipation of some long-past New England night that may or may not have involved weather. I can assure you that my wild night was all about weather. For hours, sleet has been whipping frost-stones against the bayside window, which is now completely encased in ice. All night I imagined the bedroom as a treehouse, with a perpetual wind tearing at the siding and pellets of frost rattling and pounding, speeding and slowing, but never ceasing. It seems that every school in the state is canceled today, and the intersection below me, usually so busy, is empty, except for the frozen cars parked along the verge. And still sleet keeps tapping and rattling, faster and slower, faster and slower, in rhythm with the gusts of wind; and I imagine that now is the time that a fairy tale princess, disguised in rags, will knock on my door and beg for shelter; or Mr. Micawber will clank a shovelful of coal onto the parlor fire, mix up a beaker of hot gin-and-lemon, pass around the buttered toast, and launch into a ghost story. It's that kind of weather.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Blue Ribbon Dinner

Scavenging is one delight of living in the woods--mushrooms, fiddleheads, blackberries--and losing that has been an element of my sadness about leaving Harmony. But I am discovering that moving to a major fishing port may offer me a new way to scavenge.

Let me put in a plug here for Harbor Fish Market, a wet, wavy-floored gem stashed like a tipsy uncle out on Custom House Wharf. Among its many delights is the whole-fish display, a giant bin of ice that looks like a fish museum re-curated every day without warning--eel, blue runner, John Dory. . . . I have been eyeing this display for weeks now, and finally I decided to buy a blue runner, which I knew nothing about but which was dirt-cheap and beautifully glossy and fresh.

So I stashed the fish in my backpack and hiked home, and two nights ago, Tom and I had poached blue runner with fennel sauce for dinner. We ate one fillet and Tom peeled off the second and packaged it for the fridge. Then he stashed the bones, tail, head, and poaching liquid in a stock pot and left it all for me to play with yesterday. 

Here's where the marvels happened. I managed to put together what might be the best meal I have ever made, and it was based on this leftover blue runner, which is often, according to the Internet, used as bait, not dinner.

Portuguese Fish Stew

Make fish stock: Combine and simmer leftover fish bones, head, tail, and poaching liquid along with about 1 quart of fresh water, 1 carrot, and half a head of garlic. Let cook for about an hour. Strain out the solids, making sure to press out the soft garlic. Reserve 3 cups of stock and freeze the rest for later.

In a stockpot, fry up a 1/2 pound of diced linguica in 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add 1 diced onion and 1 diced red pepper. Salt lightly.

Meanwhile, peel and dice 3 fresh tomatoes and 4 medium-sized potatoes. Add them to the stockpot.

Now stir in 1/2 cup of white wine, 2 bay leaves, 2 sprigs of thyme, the reserved stock, 1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper, a pinch of salt, and a grinding of pepper. Simmer for about a half-hour or until the potatoes are tender.

Add (but scrub them first) 2 pounds of the best mussels you can find. (I used Bangs Island mussels, rope-grown right here in Casco Bay, at the recommendation of the shopper standing next to me. She was right. And they weren't very expensive.) Then add (after scrubbing) 1 pound of small clams. (We used mud clams because they were cheap and little.)

Let the shellfish cook for about 5 minutes or until the mussels begin to open. Now stir in the chopped reserved blue runner fillet and 1 bunch of chopped fresh cilantro. 

Ladle into soup plates and serve with chunks of French bread. Watch your loved one swoon with happiness. I'm not sure how to describe the depth and complexity of the broth. It was like nothing I'd ever made before. The two of us could not stop marveling. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

I have never, ever, seen anything like it. The Women's March in Portland was scheduled to begin, outside my front window, at 10:30 yesterday. By 9:45, people were pouring into the street . . . fifty, a hundred, then hundreds, then thousands. Many families, young and old. Many men, many dogs, many signs. So much laughter, so much color. As a keep-to-myself kind of person, I was overwhelmed by my own unexpected joy. Friday had been terrible, dark, foreboding. Saturday was a glory.

Thank you to everyone, all over the world, who did this. I read that, out of nearly 3 million protesters worldwide, only 4 people were arrested. And meanwhile, our "president" had to lie about the weather during his inauguration. Oh, the sun came out, sure. But it didn't shine on him.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Singing the Blues

Today may be our last day of national sanity. Tomorrow we usher in a "president" who hates reading, thrives on revenge, and has assembled a cabinet of super-villains. Should we be relieved or not that he plans to take a vacation immediately after assuming office?

Yes, I'm singing the blues. Still, tomorrow, while I'm singing, I'll also be leading a class at Smith College, where I'll be helping young women imagine themselves as teachers in a world that sorely needs their humanism and obstinacy. I hope that you, too, will find something important to do tomorrow . . . that you will make or share something, that you will find intersections among kindness and intelligence and honesty and morality and resilience. Despair may also be strength. I'm feeling as if the blues are, in James Baldwin's words, "the only light we've got in all this darkness." So sing loud.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

It is snowing here this morning. In the spotlight of the street lamp outside my bedroom window, the flakes swirl up and down, back and forth, every which way except down. The stop sign beside the crosswalk twitches steadily in the wind, and the frail twigs of the sidewalk trees, bare of snow, bounce and tremble, bounce and tremble, without cease.

* * *

At the grocery store on Sunday, I ran into another poet in the produce section. He was cogitating over apples as I sorted through oranges. It was the literary life and/or the badly-paid-household-member-responsible-for-stocking-the-refrigerator life in action. Either that, or it was a metaphor for [insert abstract noun]. We enjoyed talking to one another but did not mention our fruit.

* * *

Writing shows its influences by the contagion of rhythm and pacing more often than by exact imitation of ideas.

--Adam Gopnik, speculating that Shakespeare read a 1603 translation of Montaigne's essays, New Yorker, January 16, 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Yesterday I read an article by a local writer acquaintance that focused on what he sees as the "Brooklynization" of Portland . . . the grittiness is washing away, the out-of-staters are washing in . . . the upscale construction, the locals priced out to the suburbs, the misery of the poor. His article centers on the neighborhood in which I now reside, and even as a bewildered and innocent newcomer I see what he must mean. My stately Edwardian building houses five condo apartments, two of which have been mostly vacant for the month in which we have lived here. The owners are away at other homes, or on long vacations, or something. And yet they purchased their condos for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Tom and I are only perched here by accident--a friend-of-a-friend-has-a-rental scenario. How is that we're behaving far more like regular neighborhood inhabitants? It's strange.

I am too new in this place to offer any real commentary on my acquaintance's article. I do know that I am overwhelmed by the dog walking, the stroller jogging, the wearing-of-identical-stylish-puffy-winter-coats. I am overwhelmed, if simultaneously enthralled, by having a corner market that carries real parmesan cheese and excellent local greens. Every morning Tom trudges down the stairs in his Carhartt pants and work coat, with actual sawdust stuck to them, to go renovate the houses of the people in the puffy coats. Clearly our kind ought to be living somewhere else. On the other hand, here we are.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on our responsibility to Martin Luther King's legacy

[Trump's] people and their contra-constitutional views are a clear and present danger to America, and it is our responsibility to keep our country’s most sacred values intact. Placing them in positions of responsibility and power sends a message that the assault on “political correctness” is code for an assault on nonwhite, non-straight, non-male, non-Christians. It emboldens hate groups toward violence and justifies further marginalization of these people.

“Waiting and seeing” risks all that defines the United States as a land of freedom. In his 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. argued that it was a “tragic misconception of time” to believe that waiting to see will provide favorable results. “Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability,” he said. It comes through “the tireless efforts” of people seeking social justice. “Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”

We need a new civil disobedience in the American tradition of Thomas Paine, Henry David Thoreau and King. Our efforts must be organized, focused and coordinated with each other. . . .

Every time I hear someone say, “Let’s wait and see,” I bristle, because I’m reminded again of King’s writing from Birmingham. “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see . . . that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’”

[from "How Boycotts Could Help Sway Trump," Washington Post, December 1, 2016]

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Yesterday I went for a long cathartic walk with an old friend, made mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts for dinner, and then listened to the men I love sit on the couch and watch football, which they hardly ever do but which entertained us all. I find football the most boring of sports, but I love the comfort of game sounds. I like the treat of arranging dinner plates on the coffee table. I like never knowing what's going on in the plays, and I like hearing the boys debate the big moments I miss when I wander into the kitchen to make hot chocolate. Tom has spent the past two days driving back and forth to Harmony to cart away the last of his enormous shop tools. Paul has been working six- and seven-day weeks at the theater. I have been swallowing grief. An evening spent in front of a game we didn't care about was exactly what we needed.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

So. The sale is done.

All last night I dreamed of the house, of forgetting things in it, of strangers striding through it. . . . And today is day one of never going back.

I wonder what I will do with myself today. I feel too large for my own skin.

I suppose this is where chores come in. Dusting and sweeping as a patch for bereavement. Something, anything, to take care of.

Friday, January 13, 2017

We're driving north to close the sale on the Harmony house today. The book is about to shut. It will slide onto the shelf. It will sit unopened. It will collect dust and and damp and mildew. It will be thrown away.

Or that's what my melodramatic self might claim. In fact, I am dry-eyed, at least for the moment. That may be because I am so sick of killing time on the phone with utility companies, and banks, and insurance providers, and their ilk. Or because I want Tom to return to his calm, unfrazzled self. Or because limbo is an unpleasant state of mind.

Yesterday I went for a zigzag walk among the side streets of the neighborhood. I found myself in a little square park at the top of the hill that overlooks the city and the highway and Back Cove and beyond. Portland is a tiny metropolis, yet it buzzes with motion and sound. Buildings tremble skyward. Planes slide down, down, through cloud and fume, toward the tarmac. Signs glitter. Sirens weep. Meanwhile, the bay and the river embrace this crowded rocky little peninsula, wrapped in seawater and wind.

A dog bounces past me, chasing a tennis ball into the weeds. Drizzle films my hood and my glasses.

I am homesick. But after today, it--whatever it is--will have to be different.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

In good news, Paul received a Christmas present from his girlfriend yesterday, and you should have seen his face when he opened the package. Somehow, she'd managed to acquire a beautiful scuffed game-day baseball . . . signed by the great David Ortiz himself. Paul was nearly in tears.

And in other good news, the temperature was 50 degrees yesterday, with a warm breeze whipping over the bay. No wonder the Victorians liked to send sick relatives to the beach to convalesce. Lifting my face into that wind was a joy.

I've been reading A. S. Byatt's novel The Biographer's Tale. In it she reprints a translated snippet of Ibsen's poetry. I'm not sure where it's originally from, but this is what she quotes:

He turned his ship's
Prow from the north,
Seeking the trail
Of brighter gods.

The snow-land's beacons
Quenched in the sea.
The fauns of the seashore
Stilled his longing.

He burned his ships.
Blue smoke drifted
Like a bridge's span
Towards the north.

To those snow-capped huts
From the hills of the south
There rides a rider
Every night.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Iron Inside

I don't know if you're wondering why I've been so quiet about politics lately. I've been wondering. My feelings about resistance haven't changed; if anything, they've hardened. But I've also watched myself fall quiet. Still, I think there's a difference between quiet and silence. Quiet connotes watchfulness. Silence connotes stifling, and I have not been stifled.

Last week, during my trip north, my friend Angela was pondering her feelings about this moment in time . . . what she described as a detachment, not a side-effect of cynicism or carelessness but more like having the flu: a sense of watching oneself watch the world. I know what she means. There is so much to fear, so much to hate, so much to dread. I feel as if I am waiting for a 10,000-pound anvil to drop. And the waiting becomes a version of breathing, a heartbeat, a tremor.

Many of my acquaintances are busily telephoning their senators, and planning marches, and sharing news flashes, and writing incendiary Facebook posts. I have attempted to take part in this, though I can't tell if it matters. But the resistance I feel--the iron inside--is a weight of tension and stillness. A coil, perhaps. I don't know where its force will drive me. 

Yet I do know that quiet does not equal apathy. Quiet does not equal surrender. I do know that waiting may also be watching, and that watching is what truth seekers do. The weight will spring.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Today is Tom's birthday, so I will be spending a chunk of my day making dinner for him. We'll begin with an after-work snack of cheese and smoked fish (not yet purchased so I can't share the details). Then, as a first course, we'll have whole artichokes with a vinaigrette dipping sauce. The main courses will be beef stew (with Harmony beef) and ratatouille, both garnished with lots of basil and scallions. Then we'll have a salad of grated vegetables, probably daikon and broccoli stems. For dessert, we'll have panna cotta with Harmony raspberries.

In between cooking and shopping, I'll be trying yet again to get my violin bow rehaired, this time by someone who, I hope, won't be out of town when I arrive by appointment and won't subsequently fail to show remorse or even embarrassment.

In other news, Paul and I discussed the aptness of the word fluster, which sounds exactly like it feels, and was exactly how I felt yesterday when I realized I had to find a gas station and figure out how to put air into my tires. Somehow I've managed to get through life without ever doing that for myself before. And Paul was no help. As he once cheerfully told me, when he was about ten: "It's a good thing we have Tom and James. You and I don't know how to do anything."

Actually, I do know how to do a few things. And so does he. Hardly any of them involve cars, however.

Monday, January 9, 2017

A quick post this morning, as I am rushing off the to Bureau of Motor Vehicles with the (vain?) hope of not waiting in line till Wednesday--

It's 2 degrees in Portland, and still I spent all day yesterday feeling homesick, even though I knew it was much colder in Harmony, and I would have been trudging around in it hauling wood.

It was the smell I was missing mostly: that clean silent fragrance of deep cold, the whiff of woodsmoke behind it.

Did you ever read Heidi? Do you remember when she visits Clara's family in Frankfort, and they're all so wonderful to her and treat her like a sister and a daughter, but all she can do is cry because she's so lonely for the mountains? That's how I felt yesterday.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Since Friday, I've written two small poems . . . and when I say small I mean nearly nonexistent. One is six lines long, the other nine, and internally the lines are spare, sometimes only a word or two long. Neither poem includes end punctuation, and both are mostly lowercase. All this is to say: They're not like most of my writing.

At first I thought maybe I was imitating Clifton's poems, which I have been copying out off and on since the beginning of December. I do know Clifton has offered guidance in ways to approach the structure of spareness, but our syntax and word choice are entirely individual.

What happens when the poet who is me strips out the Miltonic, the Romantic, the Shakespearean; strips out the Dickens and the Woolf and the Carruth?

What I am seeing are the bones.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

I've been reading the book Paul gave me for Christmas, Blood Brothers, a history of the friendship between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X. The authors are not elegant writers, and their past books are mostly biographies of sports figures. Also, they're two white guys, which I find unsettling, though their coverage thus far seems fair.

I've already done a lot of reading about Malcolm X but this is the first book I've read about Ali. So I'm learning a lot about the world of boxing, which I knew nothing about before. I'm also learning a lot about the rise of self-promotion in the nascent age of television. For instance:

When [Cassius Clay and his scheduled opponent, Archie Moore] appeared together on a half-hour television show called The Great Debate, Clay came off not so much as an occasional scene-stealer but as a serial scene-mugger. As soon as Moore said "Good evening," Cassius began a spontaneous filibuster, drowning out virtually everything Archie tried to say. Moore considered himself a thoughtful speaker and conversationalist, but it was difficult to engage a rabble-rouser and a shouter. "Don't humiliate yourself," Moore finally said. "Our country depends on its youth. Really, I don't see how you can stand yourself."

The parallels between this scene and the 2016 presidential debates are notable. Ali has become an icon of the civil rights movement, a progressive hero. Donald Trump is anathema. Nonetheless, their behavior on television was nearly identical.

I now imagine Trump studying tape, the way athletes do when they're preparing for a game. And if Ali's footage was part of that study, then the ironies and complications of his victory are far beyond what I've already recognized. Hitler was an influence we feared. But did we think of the figures we've learned to honor? What does that do to their legacies? To our trust in our own powers of discernment? The poisons run deep.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Well, I made it to the north and back, and, yes, the driving was horrible, and, yes, I did have to check out conditions at the Harmony house, which I had been dreading. But on the bright side I did get to play music for a few hours, and I did spend the night with some dear friends, and I did discover that the house is in perfectly fine shape, with no broken pipes or dead heaters or meth labs or anything.

Now here I am, back in the doll house, without enough sleep, but with the prospect of spending too much time on the phone talking to utility companies. The closing date and time have been finalized for next Friday. In a week we will no longer be landowners.

People keep telling me, "You must be finding a lot to write about." That has not been true. Since our move to Portland, the writing I do for you is the sum total of what I've been able to say about anything.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Here in Portland, the streets are only wet, but the north, I gather, is encased in ice: schools are canceled, pickups are sliding, sand trucks are struggling up hills. Nevertheless, if things clear out weather-wise this afternoon, I'll be heading up there for band practice and then an overnight with a friend. I'm excited about seeing everyone, although I'm also anxious about laying eyes on the house. I wish I didn't have to drive past it.

Oh, well. I am happy about the prospect of playing music again.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

This day has dawned strangely: with an invitation to apply for a job, with the cat begging to wear his harness, with a son getting out of bed without being prodded.

Today, the first official work day of the new year, will also be my first day alone at "home." I hope to accomplish many things, and also to discover what those many things might be. Some of them will be duties. I wish that some of them could be seeing.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Tangerine daybreak over the shadow hulk of an abandoned fort. Green flicker of a channel marker. The new week shivers and wakes. There are many k sounds in this note to you.

A grey sky is haughtier than a cloudy sea.

Tom goes to work this morning. Paul begins his internship tomorrow morning. I will edit and maybe imagine writing something new. On Wednesday afternoon I'll drive north for band practice and an overnight with friends. Since I've moved to Portland, I've put gas into the tank a grand total of once. My life as a perpetual driver has screeched to a halt. I'm almost looking forward to spending a couple of hours in the car. Almost.

The mantlepiece clock ticks and ticks, but sometimes I forget that it also tells the time. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Yesterday the three of us walked downtown to get library cards. Then we went to the Portland Museum and wandered around looking at Matisse's book art and a variety of pieces inspired by Moby Dick (Rockwell Kent, Frank Stella, and others). In the evening I made roasted fingerlings and a big seaweed salad, and we watched old clips of Soul Train and a Parliament show in Houston. Outside our bedroom window someone was intermittently letting off Roman candles. There were a few drunken hoots, here and there, but mostly the neighborhood was sedate.

Now, on the first morning of a new year, the streets are vacant. Even the dog walkers are invisible. A single car mutters past. Beside me, the cat hunts a long piece of red and white string. I consider the tedium of resolutions and resolve not to make any. What happens will happen. I will read and write and cook and haplessly love people and play music and slip on the ice and fret about world troubles and feel ignorant and miss my land and do many things I don't want to do and second-guess my intentions and be curious and awkward. The same old story goes on and on.

I wonder if you have a similar sense of consistent self. I feel like I am the exactly same person I was when I was six and twelve and sixteen and twenty-five and thirty-three and on and on till now. Even the shifting, circular obsessions stay the same--animals, lovers, children, books. Only the carapace changes.