Thursday, April 30, 2009

April 29

Waking up with my back out, that sharp nerve of taut pain creeping up my neck. I can’t bend my head forward. Usually it stays local to the geography of vertebrae, emanating in a quick web that quiets in inches, but today, it runs the length of me, head through neck through one side of the back before dissolving in my sits-bone. Opportune timing for one feeling already vaguely confined. Cabin fever closes in to couch fever, or bed fever, unable to so much as drive away.

The day entire between paragraphs, & little of account, my back in its apex, tight & clenched, radiating pain. Just now, though, I find myself cast beyond comfort, missing simple fun, or plain joy, or rhapsody, however brief. I’ve not laughed out loud in so long, not found mirrored gayety in another’s countenance, not felt heart sing but this one protracted dirge, monotone & ache. My feet itch now to carry me to a familiar place, to cast me from here, retract my solitude, trade it for even the quickest of bright smiles. This restlessness in me. I know joy a fugitive, but I know too this other, squatter-in-heart, how my pain halves & half falls transient & the other endures to malinger. There is no life without pain, but there ought not be life without joy either. Flint & tinder then. To spark a flame. Sit & hunch, sickle-back, or prospect some mirth.

& then thinking these the last days of my youth, or those already passed. How we grow. How our fingers clutch after a wake of ghosted artifact.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April 27, 28

An interesting day.


The morning after the conversation. Still, a kind of heightened processing, a thrumming back-&-forth, mind to heart, heart to mind. Good to hear her voice, & my reeling from it more subdued than I’d imagined. & so. Today finally the sun & a sustained sky of blue. A snipe overhead last night, & a first mosquito lighting on my skin. So spring seems to have arrived, tardy, maybe, but charged with what it bears. The light lingering well-past eleven already. Impossible passages of sleep.

Sixteen pages into Hopkins & charging ahead. Writing, writing, writing a dissertation, writing poems, writing quick sketches for stories, notes for a book review. & caulking time stable with reading, walking long & regarding the brittle tall grass swaying just so in the softening firn wind. A sense not of pursuit or urgency but of receptivity, vulnerability. Open-selved. Saying—rush through me, gale & gust—there is nothing will pierce the heart. I flood into landscape where word is restrained, into breeze where touch is abstained. An unpeopled place. It is my conversation. I do my best to think it something other than monologue.

I am no kind of hermit.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

April 24, 25, 26

All of this, a clamor after being heard when I’ve extricated myself from the clamor. This manner of living will serve but briefly, I think. I’ve harbored some sense of this lifestyle for as long as I can recall—now, its living seems an overture to an old dream, a proof. Alaska, by myself, & yet I breathe. It would be an easy time to get cynical, to see errancy in this move, to ask for a medal already. But I regard it with pride, I think, & with careful wonder at what it wreaks in me daily. It is the most ordinary of things to sustain oneself, & yet, for me, it presents unspeakable challenges. For everyone, I imagine—they are just new to me. & so I look upon the bay & the mountains & the quieting sun to one hand & the waning moon to the other, & I recognize a vast beauty, but a beauty that alone will not buoy me here. Already I know the limits of a life carved here, already the longing I would carry forward. I could find half of a happiness here, & that other half would grow into a thin specter & expire. I need to participate in the passions that I hold dear, cultivate them, engage them in dialogue, unabashed & without reticence. We are nothing for so long, & then suddenly alive, & then nothing again, bookended by oblivion. I wait & wait & what I drag in tow, what I would call gravitas is nothing more than ballast, prop, unwitting plaything. I am no victim. I am not extraordinary. No one is looking. Every heart comes to ache, every life to obstacle. It is a small dream. But I hold it in my own hands, fledgling, winging to flutter, eye attuned.


The rain we’ve waited for all this time, to runnel, to wash the grey ash from every sheen. Alaska well-suited for rain, its patient sussurations, taps on copper-green roofs. Rain on pine-needle & pine-needle on wet soil. A circuit. Writing the better part of the day, through with Grecian Urn & halfway through Nightingale. Autumn will close Keats, my clean aim by Sunday. & on then to Hopkins. & meantime, myself here. Long run before the rain at low tide, a whipping wind but the beach to ourselves. Then a long discussion of halibut fishery politics with my landlord after reading over Federal Register posting about the same. He proposed as treasurer of the charter association that I make follow-up calls to recreational skippers, paid in allocated funds. Of a sudden I am embroiled in a war between commercial & charter fishermen the viciousness & deep-ranging antipathies of which are shocking on a cursory level, & sensible on another. & reading afterwards Oppen for a review. Walking Willa in the rain, my hands blue with cold. Breath cut through with falling rain. Same old.


Saturday morning. The sun & small pitch of blue taut over the bay at seven is occluded now in an unbroken swath of grey stretching the eye’s wide scope entire. Dendritic boughs seem to shiver, light-blown in the small gusts. & the water, the water can dissemble so day to day, a blank, ice-white sheen, & none of the patched emerald or gunblue that usually delineate depth, or kelp, or tide. When do we stop feeling like strangers in our peregrinations? What steps to rhyme a familiar syllable, call us to ourselves? Not a wanting of other, but a longing for my own sole self. Maybe the “shipwreck of the singular.” Maybe the slow education of circumstance. & then, maybe a step towards order, towards even briefest fecundity, a soil to till until yield can come. I am thinking of staying in the lower 48 when I go to the wedding in June. Closing the formidable distance between myself & likely opportunities. I fear I cannot find fully formed here what it is I think now I need: a rarified company, artistic communion. I could half-content myself with the eccentricities of community here, retreating to my solitude to render them anew in writing, but it’s a lonely prospect in the end. I’ve cultivated a fairly particular eye for a fairly particular line of study, & in staying I fear that cultivation will decay into a protracted, unchecked monologue, eroded in sense, cloistered & silence-blasted in hermitage. I could not work without quiet. But I could not hear myself speak in it either. I intend to apply for academic positions, one or three year appointments. Get some footing, a firm ground. Cover a base or two, pay a bill, & settle into dreaming from I know not where.


How do I build from this? Seven years. I am splayed tonight, rended, a heap on the floor. I sobbed for an hour without cease, carry a soreness from it, rib-ache, throat tight from no sound. This is a pain I could never have fathomed. I am at a loss. I am at a loss.


The rain incessant, between the lightness of drizzle & the steadiness of storm, just enough to keep us guessing. Finished my chapter on Keats this morning, a good feeling, brief, lumbering up & swiftly receding, an otter’s back in a black water. I can hold no steadfast joy these last few days. I focus on my work & it progresses, & in the meantime darkness gathers on the peripheries, clusters firm in wait, the more a presence for my quick escapes into writing. I turn from the page & find it there, ghost over my shoulder, whispering thing. It walks with me to put on water for coffee. It follows me to the meadow. It curls beside me in my sleeping.

I find comfort in the fact of my writing now, that I thought long ago I could accomplish it if I cut myself from myself & forced hand to key. And here it comes along. In the meantime, I cannot fathom what to do with myself. I look at June like a paralytic, slack-jawed, thinking all the while but coming to no thought, resting on no solution, figuring with imaginary geometries. My decisions anymore waves that yearn across seas entire to arrive, & then convoluted, carriage of detritus, alluvial. They hit me from behind, when I take already a wayward & hesitant step. I don’t know. I don’t know.

I am trying to figure a future from a present unfigured. A projection of some enacted self, one that fills chest full of breath, a caricature, an entasis to counter my slight days now. I think I half-live in adumbration anyway, welcome it, blame it, make instrument of it when I might forge instead with a precise vigor. When I might. I do not want to hide in shadow, cower behind a sadness, galled thing, corner-bound. I would have voice, a clarion boon. But it seems a fragile thing, wishbone-thin. It seems at times a whimper, & me half-abashed by it & half-angry. But isn’t always this way? How we can all tremble at our own soundings, fear our own admonitions? & I nailed hardwood crosswise & thick against all of my retreats. I glimpse them in slivered miracle, but my hand can’t thread through to clutch. What could we envision, after all? Our hands sidle down slow & hang at our sides. We don’t think about them. We turn.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

April 22

I wonder at the past, how it underwrites us, some invisible thread to call us back, calm & tender, to remembrance, even if what unfolds before us here wears the mark of beauty. I think of place, of geographies that tie themselves inextricably to our dreaming. That a friend writing me would note a river in California she wanted so badly to swim in again. Or another describing the old growth firs. These places, even in simple imagining, pull & enchant, cast webs of star & slivered moon. Memory finds it texture this way. The smell of blackberry cobbler, or the dust lining the Mason jars in the mud room. The taste of red-hots. The look of the swirling Missouri sky from the rear window of the van. Sound of the Pecos River, hushed in babble, songbirds branch-flittered, the sun-baked pine-needles soft underfoot, pinon & pitch. Or the wet leaves & slick bark, the vines rotting from Pennsylvania elms when we, full family, walked each in a green poncho. That persistent tap of rain on cheap plastic. Jason pulling a branch & it falling to him there. How is it these places, these details come to haunt us so vividly, pull us so from our presence that we would starve dreaming of them? Fugitive things, kept in safe harbor, beyond recall, beyond slow erosion. I wonder often at what the mind bids come before death. A lingering smile, an embrace, a vista beheld in youth, a word, a gesture. How it boils down, how in our silences we never cease to speak.

Remembrance, too, always that bifurcate thing, as lovely as destructive. How it can unspool in rhapsodic fugue, & wing & come near to rapture. & how it can call out your distances, cusp of oblivions. That Lethe-wards balance—in each recollection there is absence of all other recollection. Privilege wrought of nostalgia may be purchased at the expense of some old piece of memory’s architecture. Say, the smell of a lover’s hair, or the feel of an old friend’s hand upon your back, or the lazy glance of a stray dog, or the country you lived in when you were very small. They fall from us, or we loosen our grasp, & they go. & we, the waves that cross an ocean culling & sieving, until crest turns to trough & we, too, fall, pulled back into that darkness from which we came. Oblivion abounds, but in it, such a richness, such a texture, such a life. “Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror,” writes Rilke. Writes the wind through Rilke, walking along a solitary beach, a storm sloping in from the distant shore. Oh, & that: the smell of air pregnant with rain.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April 20, 21

Of a sudden, evening well past, a tempest in me, a frenzied thing blowing through & rattling rafter & ribcage, calling & pulling. To cull from me my torpor, cast it to the flame. I rut in pity, bog & well in tiresome woe, whittle time to no shape at all, blade over wood that it become wood alone, no shape discernible, no half-form erupting, no Daphne’s arms flailing from the riven bark. Evening calls & I offer it nothing, some pages of overwrought writing, some hot tears, some aimless vespers to forget in sleep. A part of me would upturn the whole charade, but it would not know where next to turn, that part that would shake my whispering from me, rack & vanquish self from self, slap away my muttering & call me to me entire in faith. Safe to say I sicken of myself, spit on my sounding to hear it thus expressed. A restlessness crawling in my skin, these sudden outbursts, head hung in hands, how I can do nothing the day through & fall to sobbing a briefest spell & find myself utterly exhausted by it. How I tire here, & how my heart eludes me, scattershot, peckish, panicked thing. What peace in this warp & weft, honest deflation or a lashing distraction? I am scarring myself with silences, their searing hisses snake-tongues in recoil. & I walk & breathe & pretend a life & worst of it is that now sole accountable I cannot account for it in the least. Now individuated I balk at the individual, some stranger wearing my words, licking my wounds raw of tongue. This me in me trembling in nascence, a wall to shield it from the sun, a groundlessness to shield it from the ground, a ________ to shield it from every fucking thing, pusillanimous & grotesque little creature, just-hatched thing with eyes squinting at the sun, just be in the world, just be in the world like everyone else. How I want to care for you, lend you my love, wing you along, world-sieve, feather & filter, & please, please let me take from you your fear & lay it aside & let you stand a spell alone. How you falter & slip, a caul-wet foal. There is only a heart in you, only a breath, only a thought. & it is the briefest fluttering of flame. Tender, tender now, & whittle no more.


Better today—maybe utterance alone breeds some small traction. In any case, spring-like, high forties, sun & only the calmest intimation of breeze. Ran the beach at high tide again this morning with Wils & then headed to harbor to help Peter put new hinges on the deck above his bilge. Afterwards, took the boat, the Sorceress, into the drink to test the new steering lines in the bay; my first time on water in something other than a ferry or kayak since high school. Traced over near Halibut Cove, past the rookery, hard to starboard & port to ensure a clean-spun wheel. & afterwards, home to walk in the afternoon light, & here to impart it. Took a window from its sill to let breeze flush along the stagnant air, just warm enough. Odd, today, how I feel self-upbraided, that lingering sense after admonishment, in this case both of scolder & scolded. Perhaps the two meet in the middle & would forge ahead in reticent peace, uneasy equanimity. & so. What will color the coming days.

Monday, April 20, 2009

April 19

Falling into redundancies now, a cord whipped back. A long run up to Diamond Ridge along the beach, plus tide, alluvion alone, no packed sand, no firm footing, but sun & a brief window of blue shot through the haloes of cloud. Talked to Willa the whole way, or the air, or the cliffs layered in ochre & burnt sienna, shale & sand, to the stone & pebble shifting underfoot, the runnels of breakup streams spilling dun over the cliff-tops in cut ravine & culvert. The finer points of a self-examination in which no self would stand in steadfast at the close, in which answer’s liquefaction is nearly immediate, a foothold cleft from sand. I would have no answer, bride no certainty, grapple not after wrested fact. I would wrestle instead a shadow & know the bout endless until its end. Toss anchor to tug at tow & undertow, tide & riven wave. no sea-bed, no ample weight to hold. What self would come of self’s ceaseless battery? Self-inquisitor, playing at self’s endgame. So a gull falls upon a stone that shoulders out of the shallow water. So a log washes ashore drawn loose from a mirrored beach in Portugal. So the wind blows or the clouds part or the sun shines. & then, chalk fail-grasping a blackboard, it fades, a dust limning its base. Tomorrow comes. These words we scrawl in desperate hope, these naked gouges in white bark, crude initials, they, too, come to falter & burn. This whale-blue gley, this silt lodged beneath my every footfall, coined a shaded ebony in buried ash, a cliff eroded & dragged leagues from its place of origin, time the dragging leviathan. Say the red cliffs of Aquinah, where we knew a love unravaged yet by time & tide. Where we passed in walking the shoreline the naked man reading Keats, & nothing else for miles. Say the bluffs opening from the Skunk Cabbage trail, where a family of elk bedded down upon the trod grass, cloven prints of two calves tiny hieroglyphs trailing in the sand, the buck alert & watching, its eyes almond-brown & piercing. Say the channel at Galilee, the sand-arm of the Cape, the labyrinth of crag & cliff playing limn to Bar Harbor. The places we inhabit crumble under wave-heft & are pulled from us without hope of remedy. Where then to place a step, where to tread that might hold?

I am pleased I came here. This world a wilderness entire. I find myself divested, time & again, of myself. Hush, then, matins, & let quiet too the daily vespertine call-note that would sound. It is enough to merely be. Here, as I write it, the steller jay alighting beneath the spruce, the man whose name it bears credited with Bering in the discovery of even where I sit. Choking on dust, a song to yet endure.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

April 18, 19

Bought ample wood at the lumber yard to fashion a desk & chair today. Would you believe that it took all of my will, all of my careful composure merely to ask after two by fours? Tensed, my voice a sliver, shoulders doubled over, wisp-of-self. & a wind blows a reed. The usual perambulations on the beach, trying to work recalls with Willa in the snow, her attentions focused on the lazy circles of blackbirds. Retreated to the cabin, a soft rain, my dear quiet. Notched & sawed & pounded a handful of nails, & for eleven dollars of hickory & metal, I now have desk & chair. Now, the gloaming. The four-hour evenings that haunt & linger. The lights on the spit distance-muted & glowing orange, small fires upon the sea. My heart skittish in its hold, a crumb pecked along, a sparrow’s beak, eggshell-thin. There is no revelation here. Only hour tacked on to hour, an interminable addition of days upon days, layer-thick & holding. I sidle, a tired ring around a silent pith, saturnine & blazing blue. That mark I leave the fire all burned up, a comet’s tail drawn taut in screaming wake.


Less weight this morning, almost lung-room for breath. Sun filtering in through glacial clouds, the ridges over Halibut Cove crisp & sharp across the bay. Imagining in briefest warmth the firn wind. Here, noted the pussy willows beginning to bud, their russet bases jutting up from the tundra scrub & tamped long grass pulled into sudden puddle, a minefield of felled tree & detritus in the field behind us where we direct our morning walks. After breakfast, read some Hopkins letters & sipped coffee. How indolence finds purchase, I suppose. Now to the beach for a run, the hardware store for screws to stabilize the chair, To shake the nightly inundations of my vivid dreaming, pirate of reason, that would draw before me this procession of tableaus, charades of the possible left like smoke to stilt their siphoning. There is nothing extraordinary in what rends up deepest, calls our hearts to bare. Pound wrote “nothing thou lovest well shall be reft from thee.” We are haunted in small measure, each & all.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

April 18

& no sooner do I call in relief on my self than my heart infiltrates my nightly dreams. All week, each night, some new heartbreak, some rejoinder of loneliness, ghost of her, active landscape of the peopled past of which I was once centrally a part. & I awaken burning with longing, enflamed by the desire to feel that subtle tempest of connectivity, to share in life’s vicissitudes, fall back upon or hold up. All of my contingencies vanquished. Self-exiled. How oil-slick & slipshod our brief roles in life can be. Regard an old album of photographs with an eye for the periphery in each shot. These people whose names well up from some forgotten cave, flushed & fleshed to, glimmer-eyed & smiling. Say here, my arm around a friend now dead & years buried. There, an anonymous hand border-severed upon my back, a sidelong glance. What have I been to others, to myself, & how, I wonder, do I haunt them? Some stranger’s awkward grinning in the corner. Oh, that one. I remember vaguely. & nowhere more bewildering than in love, all that open tenderness writ plain upon the countenance, all that swirling heart-tempest conjured & recalled, woven of smoke & ash, an aria sung & echoed dark off the ribcage. Wonderment in amnesic fugue, adumbrated recess. How it feels to be alone. Jackself after all.

Friday, April 17, 2009

April 15, 16, 17

A run with Willa this morning from Bishop’s Beach towards Diamond Ridge & back, along the waterfront at low tide, the sloping slate-grey rocks & seastacks like the barnacled backs of beached walrus. Closer to the shoreline, how the sand lays itself out in ripples that firm up, inches apart, & stretch in semicircles along the receded arm of the waves, themselves multiform, scalloped in their entries across the sand so they might appear from overhead a frothing gossamer doily, a fringe-end, no semblance of straight line. The bay cut half from view by thick & malingering fog, save for a window of sunlight miles along towards the Cook Inlet proper, sparking those distant peaks with sunlit snow. It was good to run, to feel a coursing in me. & spent time before in the library, searching half-assed after anything—a job, a rocking chair for sale in the paper, something upon which to hang my energies. Took out the Skeet Monastery dog-training book, to Willa’s imminent delight I’m sure. Heard from Pete here in town & I’ll help raise the radar on his boat tomorrow afternoon, strip it of its winterized shrink-wrap. A busy schedule I keep. Truth is, I am realizing that I bumble increasingly before seeking out employ & balk at the prospect of any kind of tenured endeavor, not out of sloth or indolence but out of respect for the fact that I have been in denial without quite recognizing it. Hard to call it that, replete as each day has been with breakdowns & lulls & longing & protracted hours of something kin to anguish, but now, the gravity in each instant thickens, the weight of each breath that falls from my lungs a new heft. I am in it, & I do not know what it is, exactly. Only after almost seven years I am suddenly alone in Alaska—that is, perhaps remarkably, as far as my exasperated understanding goes. Past that I cannot comment, abandoned to utter & complete indeterminacy. I am fully aware, now especially, of the import of imbuing these crucial days with intention, guiding them even if I give in to them, holding my chin up even if I am prostrate. I am finally amid the work I set out to do, opening the door & letting myself in, sitting down to engage in an exhaustive & ongoing conversation, a plague of questions locust-hummed, beating against the bare bulb. Times in the past I’ve been this way I’ve focused so poorly. In Providence at twenty-one I stared at blank walls & waited for some knock on my door that never came. At twenty-six in Iowa those months I drank myself blind & stupid, acting a child, hazarding my heart, a ruinous work. I know now what not to do, how not to act as custodian to this ache. I am flooded by it, but it will pass, leaving this intact, that salvageable, this disappeared & that held close. One prepares for a flood, after one has seen its inexorable arrival, not by attempting to divert it, but by bracing & enduring, intrepid, a faith in its finitude, clutching its fluxing crucible to one’s chest. Until that moment when one emerges, water-battered, soaked through, a fine exhale of blue breath, one can only wait, listen for a quieting, slack-limbed, locust against a light.


I grow anxious at dawn. Like light cuts clear the cleft that rendered me here, sets its quick-sloped & sheer cliff-lines in sharp relief. Where I almost came to know the sweetness in the meadow air atop Turtleback Mountain, or the acrid & malingering odor of decay at low-tide along the cove. The cawing of the blackbirds, the ritual cacophony of the rooster each morning. That cathedral of a barn. Or the hotels along the way, or the shuddering at the border, the slow awakening to the cold fact of absence. I couldn’t tell you the names of the towns I slept in. I couldn’t tell you, now, the stretches of road that steered my mind from my heart’s pursuit, that conjured a hand to my chest & spilled praise from my lips. Or those many weeks meandering across the country, the Salt Flats, San Francisco, the redwoods, the Snake River in its slow bends, running into Tahoe’s emerald-blue water. Or Denver before, some fevered & riotous place in my memory, some distant ghost of myself animated in recollection, footfall clapping in echo. & before. & before. Blade to draw, past to sever, to find myself this lumbering island again, this floe pushed past every familiar shore. How I lodge myself in some other’s cocoon, stunt my own manifesting, hush my own tremulous voice & bind it gagging in fear. Caterpillar, to weaving, then. Is every move pretext to delay? If I cannot blame the ground beneath me, would I then blame myself, finally? & what would I put off, what would substantiate my hesitations? If I move, I remain novel victim, wind-martyred. That child in me. So let it here cocoon me, enwrap me, skein, warp & weft, & fill my mouth with silk, & empty it of babble, of words spelled in straw. Brittle house, frail hovel, stretch to taut to cover over. I’ll abide.


Thinking this morning about the value of & commitment to honesty harbored here with me in this small space, equitable companion. Awakened again heavy-hearted, a headache even, but have tried, as ever in this process, to allow for the dolor that underwrites an eventual joy. & minutes into the morning air, Hopkins sprung upon me from his waiting in the wings—
My own heart let me more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst’s all-in-all in all a world of wet.
Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call of thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
‘s not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather—as skies
Betweenpie mountains—lights a lovely mile
His an anguish rooted & clouding both, a soul’s torment that endured through many years. & I wouldn’t offer mine as a tormenting mind, nor consider my Jackself jaded, though I am well aware of my tendencies towards the dramatic. In all, it is merely the notion of kindness to self that appeals to me this morning. In Chodron, she touches on the same idea. Honesty can attain to generative heights only if tempered with kindness. Only if comfort find root-room. The difficulty here for me is separating the act of living honestly, which I take for the presiding concern, the compass & cartographer of my time now, from the act of conclusion. The impulse to totalize, to investigate with pretext, to anticipate meaning, even if by calling after an echo, conjuring a ghost. Hardest to let moment dehisce blankly into moment, a husk layer-sheathed, another husk. Totality & infinity, for Levinas. The Saying & the Said. To refrain from a stale dialogue with the touchstones of my past—or rather, to recognize those touchstones re-animated in their retrieval. to sound without hope of precise measure. How I am both who I have been & something entirely other. One thinks of retreat, of a terminal bid with honesty, as a sort of field work to evaluate certain hypotheses. Surely, that plays into it here, but the challenge is letting the page go blank before turning it. Discovery rather than recovery. & kindness along the course.

& a Nietzsche bit that has helped years over to pull me from ossifying: “What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions; they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins.” Truth, for him, was willingness-to-call-truth, a rack upon which we hang our hats. No telos. No working-towards. No system by which to gauge progress or demerit—only the blank possibility suffusing each day with its morning.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April 14

Crushing, these afternoons. Today it’s like a dirge in my blood, the echo of some sad song reverberating in my chambered heart. Sick with it. I am of no use today & hereby check out. Took Willa for a hike, ate a cup of soup, walked along the beach in the coming rain, the little waves lapping after each other. Came upon a dead dog hefted parallel the wave-arm in the sand, ten yards from the water. Or coyote, one of the two, its teeth bared in a frozen grimace, no bodily wound upon its coat. From a distance I thought it burled driftwood, but closing in, saw its black pads flecked in sand. It looked a painful death, its muscles all contorted, its countenance braced against sudden trauma. & then more rain, & more sad songs about love on the radio. Here in the cabin, I talk to myself, ask myself what I am supposed to do in this situation, how to greet it, how to breathe into it, bowled over by it as I am. You can be conscious of a longing in you, a filament, a fine kind of thrumming that endures over days without eruption. & then, floodgates are hurdled, the shabby architecture of the day thrashed violently into splinters, & the body left quiet. The heart struggles against its constraint like a prisoner led to execution, a maelstrom between the ribs, a tempest spilling out. It will calm over, I know, but just today, just this afternoon, how it whirls around me to drag me down. What fight against it? Deny my missing, tamp down my pulsing heart? It is nothing to ignore. A flood that passes. & me, a wake.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April 13, 14

In the morning the flakes elephantine, great floating orbs ushered feather-soft to the grass. The sky here never fully committed, grey with streaks of blue rayed through with sun scrawled out over the bay. A cold morning, bitter to the skin. Along the beach, Willa in her sprints, the winds pierced my layers, bone-chill, wet-bone. A different cold along a shoreline. & now, late afternoon, thinnest snow, an afterthought of snow, miniscule punctured dots that strain the eye in their regard.

A quiet day, unsurprisingly. Touched up resumes. Spent some time at the library, had an odd letter from the chair of the English Dept. up in Fairbanks about my application in the adjunct pool, warning me off its doldrums, telling me I’d be better suited seeking a full-time position. I told him to give me one, then, or else trust that I was aware of what being an adjunct entailed. Good will can appear confounded, & living here how & why I do has lent me perhaps a touch more gumption vis-à-vis communication of that sort, anyway. Probably ill-advised, but it touched a nerve. Took out Don Quixote & will try it fully in English for the first time. The pet store for bully sticks. The general store for a sandwich & another round of Deadwood episodes. Back home, revised a bit on Keats, gearing towards exegesis proper. An uneventful report, I’m afraid. Even Willa is bored of it, curled on the couch & asleep.

Likely the novelty of arrival has withered & left me the plain & gaping question of the everyday. Now, a bit of Simic comes to mind. “There’s a kind of responsibility here, care towards the actual, the sheer wonder of dailiness, the manner of our being in the world.” He writes about poems, but he may as well write about our regard for the recovery of sunrise each day. I remind myself. Novelty in transit is one thing—when I find it faded anymore I am left palms up & shoulders shrugging. I don’t know what to do with the notion of longevity; I am ill-educated in the vocabularies of the sedentary. Honestly, I must actively recall my feet firmly to the floor, remind myself that this is not a layover but a life, not a whistle stop but an intentioned relocation. My groundlessness has burgeoned so that I can barely fathom a chthonic pull, a tended soil. Something like air rushing always through me, gust cutting hard through branch & bough, & this, the whistling you hear. Settle, quicken quiet. Breathe & be. I keep inside to stay myself from rustling off.


My sleep these days exhausting, an ether-world from which I groggily & barely arise each morning. Ten hours here, nine there, an alarm now to get me on my feet when I’d prefer, leaden-boned, glossy-eyed, heft like a hangover from sober passage, not a drop to drink. I lend myself little room for the justifications of sentiment—but then, nothing is sovereign to it. Trying to dissemble my days in the garb of busy-ness or duty proves only valuable if I remain honest with myself throughout, emotionally & otherwise. I am, these past couple of days, inclined to feel the weight of it upon me, contrary my will. Then I think, how could I not be floored to some degree? How could I let a penumbra of sadness’ attendant torpor spur my impatience? Better than umbra, better than envelopment sheer & absolute. I permit myself some time lost to it. I permit myself the flushed tone of each ache without the quick impulse to smother it in this or that pursuit. There is a self in me at odds with progress, & a self that would put it to swift course. I wrestle, Jacob, me too. It seems the time for it to catch up, to presence itself most clearly, the inertia of the move faded, the familiarity with my surroundings more complete, the sense of urgency now a remembered thing. Now, the thetic turn. Why I am here to begin with, & how I weigh the absences about me. How she is not here, & how I am to be. A heavy door hung upon a heavy hinge.

Monday, April 13, 2009

April 11, 12

Coming now to a close, this shaky, awkward & illuminating day. From sunrise to the sunset that only now feathers its last lights, a roll call of friends & family calling to wish me well, taking the shine off the loneliness. Such deep & enduring gratitude for these continued gestures from those I love, those whose steps rhyme with mine even over countless miles. & so. I survived it intact. One episode of inconsolable weeping, but that is to be expected. After all, I spent my thirteenth birthday in shambles, accosted by the malingering idea inherited from my Jewish friends in Ohio that my childhood was forfeit & that I was, from that point forward, a man. This, somehow, easier to bear. Another bit of data on a laundry list of exhausting items of greater urgency, I’d say. Had the pleasure of speaking however briefly with my grandparents, Grandma suggested knowingly that it was the Cherokee in me that caused me to roam like I do. I like that. The notion that there is encrypted in my blood this relentless compulsion. That my heart lub-dubs directives like some rusting compass. North. Northwest. How am I to change what courses in my veins, metronomes my very pulse? Lub-dub, lub-dub. Run the fuck away. Seek shelter immediately. Etcetera. & of course it preoccupies my thoughts almost constantly anymore, the why & how of my stutteringly nomadic life. How I would anchor, root down, let be be the end of be. How I know what carriage I tow, what precious little ever stays behind.


The evening that lasts forever, the sun a lumbering thing, torpid disc slung sluggish over the paling sky. It will outlast me today, exhausted from nothing at all. A hike earlier west of town, coming first upon a gargantuan moose, its fur nettled grey about its mane, its eyes steady on us while we backed away, Willa leashed, twenty yards away. Calving season can render them fairly aggressive—more injuries stem from man’s contact with moose afoot than with bears down here. Pin it to population or habit—a bear will scurry from sound, while a moose couldn’t care less for trespass unless it nears the calves. Down here, I am told, in this sliver of semicircular lowland, we have namely black bears. Past the ridges on any side of town, the grizzlies & brown bears are in preponderance. During the hike today we came upon a broad meadow cut through by a creek in rapid runoff, maybe two acres across from one treeline to the next, a low foot-bridge of lumber scrap nailed hastily together leaning over it. As soon as the meadow opened Willa balked, her eye intent on something against the far trees. I know her reactions well enough by now to gauge in them fear or plain interest, & there was fear in her. A moose she’d start after, a deer whine & yip, a porcupine or raccoon pull at her lead. So far, I am only aware from experiences in Colorado & Montana respectively that she fears lions & bears. (Go on, sing the refrain, it suits us both). I didn’t spot anything, but it gave me pause. This is different country up here. We made quiet retreat along other paths, listening to the birds readying for spring, the whooshing of a raven’s wing flapping feet overhead in flight, the piercing call of the eagle hovering motionless to the north. Nothing of incident, but a kind of caution anyway, to one already over-cautious. Odd how fear can penetrate me at times, along certain hikes or runs, when in environments more remote I can as often be free of it entirely.

So another day settles into rest. I suppose it ought to be dawning on me that I live here by now, that Alaska is my home, my itinerary clear. Certain days we feel the breath in things suspiring about us, or coeval with our own. Others, a glass seems to split us from our worlds, opaque & dim, allowing only a removed & distant glimpse at the empyreal that limns its other side. Not as if we had dreamed the day ourselves, but as if we were lobotomized characters in some other’s dream, blurred scratches in the peripheries that moved only because they had to in order to support the grander scheme. Well, so it goes. Yesterday took a toll, held breath, anxious bird. Today its slow exhale. I can forgive myself that much.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

April 11

My thirtieth birthday. Snow driving down all morning, an Alaskan idyll. A pair of pheasants crossing the meadow, a fresh track of moose prints across the frozen gravel. Awakened in earnest at seven sharp, alarms of messages & well-wishes already flooding in, making it damn near impossible for me to feel somehow sorry for myself today. I hauled myself here in the first, & now I look about my environs, & with each renewed glance they strike me ever more capaciously beautiful. Here, then, a choice, a walk along a razor’s edge, between letting some figured loneliness call out a pattern for the day or assuming full & complete accountability for my time. I will choose a celebration. I will choose the snow-heavy boughs of spruce, the icy wave-arms along the bay, the sleepy drone of the pickups along the Sterling Highway, the air—even in the interstices of falling flakes—redolent of spring. That I am alive to see it, resolved to be here, buoyed by such rich supports. Let me celebrate it, then, this turning, not by taking account of all that I have done & failed to do, but by embracing precisely what it is I am doing. No palimpsest in the present. & all of it mixed up together—a simple beauty in grief just as in mirth, in tears just as in laughter. It is the recognition of being in the world that I choose to cherish, the wonderment of it, that we are constellated always by readymade tableaus of life’s multifarious bounty. Truly, to look upon the most infinitesimal of minutiae is to encounter the heart laid bare, its gratitudes, its capacities, its self-same reflection. The frayed end of the two by four lining the stairs into the cabin, gnawed back by a gumming husky some years past. The ventricle. The barely perceptible shiver of the willow. The aorta. How I feel my way along, forging through a thicket under a slivered crescent of darkling moon.

But enough of the melodrama already. Happy my birthday, as my brother always says.

Friday, April 10, 2009

April 9, 10

“I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, on various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously—I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason—Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.”

Writing again, finally, in my chapter on Keats. A few weeks ago, half-asleep & irritable in the barn on Orcas, I came of a sudden to an understanding in regards to his poems & poetics, & though I’ll usher it along elsewhere & appropriately, here it’s worth mentioning in a different framework. In the early odes he always opened a trap-door, pulled a velvet curtain, snapped the integrity of the poems’ pursuits in order to extrapolate some conceptual daemon. The Grecian urn devastates the work of art beyond repair, & its feeble recompense is to pull back a step & cryptically remark on beauty & truth. The nightingale thieves the poet of his numbered, tubercular, fugitive hours, & in the end, the poet merely asks if he was awake or asleep. They are weak gestures, rhetorically empty of breath, tableaus of poorly acted liminality. & then a remarkable thing happens in the final ode on autumn—he disappears. The stubble-field lays bare & cold, windblown, ravaged. The air grays, clouds quietly obscure horizons. & that’s all.

What strikes me again, nagging thing, is my tendency to umbrella concepts over particulars. That I am not this gun-grey day in a cabin of yellow walls looking over the snow blanketing the bay, but that I am rather doing some work on myself, prospecting truth, prodding at theoreticals, taking time to merely feel. Our faith in concepts absolute. Our fear of plain detail a quiet thundering in us, murmuring heart. I tremble to let it be, to let pass the day unannounced. This daily missive here, my application for meaning beyond what has already passed. Evidence to myself that I have participated, processed, found in the pile of splintered alder beside my window a fitting metaphor, seen inscaped in the thawing wheat some richer profundity that I cannot, need not name. An uncertainty that I yet frame, make object of, teach to dance before me, threadlined marionette. The wilderness in every instant tamed & tempered just so, even unwittingly. & so Keats descries the necessity of the uncertain, & just as certainly installs as its protector a sense of Beauty. & so I let the stark alder bough speak for me of some time-weathered desolation. I let the leaf scrape the empty drive & gust into the culvert to freeze overnight, I let the gaping silence between rifle reports below the bluff ring the clearer in hushed anticipation of coming sounding. & though I am not in control of these things, a ghost in the mineral world, a wisp, a waif, still I put my fingers forth & still I bid them dance, still I bid them sing. & how I love the natural world. How I love it for its ability to ignore me completely.


The last day of my twenty-ninth year, the tug & pull of a personal history, the bottomlessness of sprung introspection. Caverns, craters, scars, lines drawn & maps rendered—a shook foil. How to gauge the days, take their measure. I think of my twentieth birthday, that child, that cocksure hollow eye on the horizon. The spring in Iowa, its heavy odors & soil-rich air, its levity. To look into my eyes then, I wonder, & again today. Always this remove. My twenties a roaring cannonball shot through & landing here, another bit of detritus for the yard, tucked between scrapped lumber & clotted surplus concrete thrown aside & forgotten under layers of steady snowfall. That quick fire. Was I supposed to be something else? Somewhere else? Had I a dream that died? Or is this its manifestation? I don’t know what thrived in me then, what youthful energy, what latent hope, anxious compulsions. Twenty, you believe your own myths, & when faith is fine, the feeling is close to grace. When it falters, it falters over a looming abyss. & then twenty-one I extricated myself, reft & cleaved from what I knew, alone in Providence. Here it was pride, & arrogance, & utter, unspeakable fear.

& so began this lasting courtship with groundlessness, or my own version of it. A root some unthinkable thing. & falling in love, that tectonic shift, world-change, coming to fulgence. A partner to sing the same song. A pup that abided it, abides it still. Colorado. New Mexico. Colorado again. & then Orcas, that isle that undid me. & Alaska, now, here. How I arrive slowly at my slip, the berth of an old dream. Too much to fathom in between.

Today, last night’s snow already melting from the stand of spruce outside the window. The sound of water rushing, gutter-run, rivulet & culvert, ditch & drive, everywhere a tendril of the same gushed melt-off. The flatulent call of pheasants in the tall grass. Inside, write a spell, read a spell, pace in front of the window, look out over the glaciers. Days I simply cannot grasp what to do with myself, & sink into without struggle. No distraction alluring enough to totter the epicenter of slow change. Nothing to shake from me the ash. Where I tindered kindling. How difficult to remain still, & how impossible to conceive of motion. The stillness, I suppose, the point. This is where I’ve come to jury over my ghosts, put my selves to trial. & it is a trying, a taut, a sluggish deliberation—but it is a progress. Just look, how I’ve shed my twenties already, molted skein in wake.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

April 7, 8

Almost ten & finally the light is fading, though the luminescence of the white peaks glows still under what appears to be a full moon. Tonight, thinking about the abstractions that govern me, how I am constellated by vagaries, intimations of conjured dreams. Solitude, or love, or prudence, or investigation of self, or truth & beauty. These auratic, nebulous things that I seek out, as if some overturned rock would reveal them, some cloud part or bough bend low enough. Forge into this furrow to find a longing that aches in me for none of these things, or rather for how these things adumbrate & finger out. Not the recollection of a smile, but the smile itself, fleeting, waning & wilting both at once. Not the joke but the sound of the laughter, the head tilted back, the nape, the jawline. & not the sadness but the tear hesitating upon the eyelash, pregnant globe. How many small dreams were captive in these minutiae, how many versions of my life have I hushed & foregone, that I might sit here in my solitude & write about beauty rather than behold its breath? How I’ve died a thousand times over, fallen into fears, headlong & thrashing. What I have taken from myself, self’s thieve, & cast aside for time’s slow erosions. I am nowhere in evidence. Is it safe, here, to say how caring burns at me, galls me, how a kind word floods me in quick shame? Imagine, a practiced denouement that convinces even me. I have nothing together. I am a quiet shipwreck.


A breed of fierce solitude in so many of these people. My landlord, a charter captain, has been away from his house only on one occasion, & then only for a couple of hours. A gentleman with a choice mustache at the general store whose eyes, though clear, were far away, as if focused on some just-discernible object on the horizon. He told me with no provocation in kind about the bark beetle epidemic along the peninsula, how it began after oil prospectors plumbed the shelf along the bay decades ago. He walked away in the middle of his sentence, trailing off as he went. Cautionary tales, these, of how it can confound & perplex. But I remind myself it is not solitude I seek primarily. A healthy portion of it, with a prescribed goal, & around that I will gather the ballast of community, I hope. Days unfold to tell.

Worked through the afternoon on Pete’s charter boat, helping apply a fresh coat of paint, scrubbing the props, oiling the flashers, all in a gusty & cloud-obscured shade, ash from the shrink-wrapping about the boatyard flying heavy. Afterwards, headed to the Salty Dawg, the infamous saloon of choice on the Spit for the fishermen. Had a cup of coffee while Pete downed a beer, the entire bar filled at three-thirty with leather-faced captains “working on their boats,” swilling whiskey & smoking cigarettes. Maybe my first time ever exiting a bar without having had a drink. Afterwards, ran along the beach with Wils, white-capped waves roiling in with the fierce wind, & bone-chilled headed back home for dinner. A good local day. I will be paid for my work in halibut, or more precisely, in the opportunity to catch my own on a charter day with an open reservation, once he puts in, after the beginning of May.

Found out Redoubt blew again, around noon, though it seems the ash likely blew north to Anchorage, our skies still crisp & clear. Tonight, some prefatory re-reading of Keats & Hopkins. They are quiet hours here. Even Willa, so accustomed to high alert, sinks into our time here, only stirring when the odd moose drifts past on the property leaving hulking bifurcate prints in the thawing mud, sprawling heaps of scat in the fireweed & grass. An acrobatic feat for me to reach a spruce to piss on without stepping in something. & so. Tonight the same drawn silence. Feeling, at least, less despondent than yesterday, though it is admittedly difficult to not find my brief episodes of productivity book-ended by a creeping sadness. How could it be otherwise? Well. Little song. Moonbright. A shivering bark. Tomorrow & tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

April 6

Strange to come upon such vacant hours, such yawning, chasm-wide days that wait at my beck & call, or else stagnate & silence & wonder after my will. How quiet can menace me, make a reflex of guilt just as easily as appear the arena of productivity. Here I am in Alaska, where I chose to be, surrounded by a titillating landscape, literally thousands of miles from anything or anyone I know, & here, within the four walls of this cabin, that carriage I drew out from place to place, that same heft & weight, lies in wait for me. I have limned it so long, walked its periphery, glanced to its center time to time, maybe even rushed in headlong for a protracted moment here & there. Come to find my hours my own. Whittle into accountability. How easily I could weave my days of tentative deferrals, dissembled promises. Now the hours ask after my writing, after my emotional integrity, after my distractions, my fundamental reality. Are you pleased with how you’ve spent your day, they ask, its hours spent. Really, how are you faring? What precisely have you achieved, they badger. Well. A scale of minutiae, I say. What it took for me to build up & break down, to forge ahead, to swath the back of my hands across my eyes for lack of tissue, to arise & eat, to haul myself here in the first, my heart this sinking ship. Other days, other times, there is no triumph in these things, no small victory to proclaim. To war against what would envelope me, this little battle I wage & win, days. It is a quiet progress, an endurance, a self intrepid against itself, the shock of the present against a habituated past that clings, that takes firm hold, how the wake holds the cutting keel. Days, I say, how I am breathing into you. Now breathe into me.

Monday, April 6, 2009

April 5, 6

For the most part, unpacked in the new cabin, the agreement signed, meters tallied, & out my window I see the sun crisp over the peaks across the bay. The moment I closed the door behind me, as has been the case in moves past, I was overwhelmed, unable to find any defense against the inertia I’ve built up & deferred. Now, hours later, a trip to the grocery store under my belt, I stretch out into my new home. It is the second cabin, up East End Road, which boasts electricity, heat & a functional range in the kitchen, even if it does lack water. Always a honeybucket if I need it, though I have constant access to shower & toilet up at the main house. One room, a kind of rectangle with a sloping roof, stucco in semicircles. A relatively clean beige carpet covers the majority of the floor. Rough-hewn & unfinished two-by-fours frame each window, nails & coat-hangers sticking out at random intervals. There is a twin bed to wrap my queen sheets around, two camel-brown couches considerably the worse for wear, but clean enough to the eye. Rail shelves cover half of one wall. I have seven windows, three of them looking down to the water & beyond. Moose make frequent stops on the property, & I am told to be weary of calving mothers, especially with my dog. Bears make their visitations as well, I am warned, though they generally target obvious food sources—dog food left in bowls outside, fish entrails in a trashcan, that sort of thing. & so I am to settle into this quiet, breathe it in, know it as my own. After a day or two I’ll hunt a job. Tomorrow, I’ll open a p.o. box & a stop at salvation army to find a suitable desk at which to write, I hope. Make a go of it. Tonight, I will cook myself dinner in my own kitchen. That, at this point, is enough.


Morning, the sun weary to spread. Across the water, past Kachemak Bay State Park, I somehow just this morning noticed three gargantuan glaciers—Dixon, Portlock & Grewingk, each of which cuts a wide swath in jutting peaks, a frozen river hefting moraine ahead. The snow is melting along the shore & up the first hills on either side of the bay. Here, the afternoon sees mud & puddle & rushing runlets, culverts flooded, ditches widening against the spring run-off. I am on a slope, as most of Homer is, with Diamond Ridge & the Skyview loop behind us, looking over our rooftops & out to the water. My windows themselves give over maybe three hundred more feet of elevation drop before water’s edge (garsedge in Old English, a word I love meaning, perhaps obviously, grass-edge). They are high enough, the windows, that while I am seated I can only see sky & spruce-top, rolling cloud, which prevents me from prolonged rapture (though I pause & stand at them often enough).

It was a quiet night. No radio, no television, a few books, a bit of writing. Quietness & commitment create, an echo I hear again. Today, an address, I hope, & afterwards a few household items, a run along the Spit if the ash is better-settled. The birds down there befuddled by the eruptions, the eagles already stark & starved by the death of Homer’s Eagle Lady, who made it her personal mission to feed them daily for twenty-eight years. They look on Willa with a ravenous yellow eye when we walk at Memorial Park Beach. People with small dogs are warned against taking them to the Spit at all. Always a predator in Alaska, I suppose. Enough, though. The day waits.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

April 4

The heavy pallor of early morning seemed to hover long through the window, gungrey-light, muted. & come to find everything covered in a fine film of ash, Redoubt blowing at 6:00 for a solid half hour, pluming 50,000 feet in the air, a southeasterly current ushering ashfall along the Kenai & depositing it in a thick shroud here & in Seldovia. We are under an ash advisory. Stepping from the door was a strange shock, akin to wondering into some post-apocalyptic landscape. I half expect a father & a boy wielding a fire-stick & a shopping cart to come trundling past on the Seward Highway. & so today unfolds under a tight constraint. Manacled to waiting, the air unsafe to breathe, an anxious & cabin-fevered dog restless on the bed, I can only shrug, only resign, let a day quietly stream past. In a way, it will be a relief to extricate myself if only momentarily from that storm & stress of finding anchor & settling place. That unclear panic, that galaxy of obscure stars spinning around the head. Much easier, in the end, to release the vague pressures that vice the present, to air it out, let fly the chaff. Too easy to feel tunneled in by unnecessary haste, forgetting the kernel unforged in flame, locus of the possible, the still moment in the turning world.

Later, the sun gauzed & obscured, 30 knot gusts swirling ash into eddies & wind-devils. Went to the bakery for a loaf of bread, my mask on, & came back with ash welled up in my ears, my eyes burning from its fine silica powder. Had to brush the thick build-up from the windshield. & stuck inside, beginning now to feel a breed of confinement, a kind of defense building up in me against the day’s enforced hermitage. Most places in town are closed. Being outside for longer than a minute or two is ill-advised, if not plain idiotic. & so to myself I turn, finally, unable to offer up distraction. Here, here, here. A print in the ash. Evidence of life in the blown ember of having-been.

& with myself as sole witness, the tales I tell turn suddenly from their urgencies. Look yourself in the mirror like Leaud & repeat your name over & over until it dissolves into babble, & a line is ruptured, a floe issued solitary from the break. Past falls into neat mythologies, amorphous, there for the plucking when my courage would swell, my sadness would have company, my exultation a partner. A kind of chorus to embolden the present, a choir of ghosts gathered round, transparent, wearing the feeble rags of revision. & the notion of the foreseeable the strangest breed of faith. Hoping that chimeras cross the windowpane come morning. Hoping that windmills protrude from the sloping hills. Dulcinea, Beatrice. No name here to follow. I think I stand upon the roiling shore, the violent waves in their crashing upheavals, torrents of massive sound, & the wind a lashing whip, the ash & sand ripping across the night sky, the dull stars swallowing whole their sickly pale lights in retreat, clipped moon in silvered cutting arc, & me there, black form, whispering prayers & hoping them heard. Such precious susurration. Gentle call-note. Doting thing. A leaf dropped in an ocean hoping for some distant shore. What we traverse to delineate the eye of the storm, its fine contours, its changing borders. Where that calm resides, that promised exhale ferrying us hushed unto ourselves. That a tempest should rage around a stillness, a circumference warring against its center, the most illuminating of natural sympathies, maybe. That there is respite in release. What can I tell myself but unembellished anecdotes tired from over-rehearsal? There is a starkness, a poignant, honest, bare skeleton in this kind of foraging alone. I cannot lie to myself & make myself believe. There is no passing glance, no pertinent design. I am I. A wave. The prayer’s transit. The light itself.

Friday, April 3, 2009

April 3

Quarter to five on Friday afternoon, in the library, wondering where I ought to lay my head tonight. Looked at three cabins of various levels of modernity today before hitting every real estate office in town for leads on alternatives. The first cabin was twenty-five miles outside of town up a barely passable road, a kind of makeshift shack nailed feebly together of particle board & woodscrap, a corrugated tin roof, like a picture of a cabin comprised of different puzzle pieces of cabins cut roughly & taped together. The outhouse did not have a door, snow drifting three feet against its inner walls. The second cabin, perhaps where I will stay here at first, is caboose-shaped, clean, two yellow walls, the others cedar-planked. A cut carpet covers it, an oil heater sits against one wall. It has electricity, which is to its credit, & seems clean & orderly enough. Drawback here being no water, but access to the landlord’s basement bathroom, where I could shower or use a flushing toilet when need be. This, perhaps strangely, is the frontrunner. The last cabin I looked at was two stories, two bedrooms, with all of the amenities, but well overpriced. While talking to the would-be landlord there, it was unveiled that he moved here literally to be under Palin’s governance. He almost frothed at the mouth, unprovoked, talking about that lying sonofabitch in the White House. Maybe not an energy I’d like to have hovering over me. & as for the real estate offices, they require year leases for efficiencies in duplexes & ten-plexes & want too much money for what they offer. Right now, I am unsurprisingly having a good deal of trouble deciding on this evening’s course of action. Pay for one more night at the place I’ve been staying or just bite the bullet on the middle cabin. Who knows. Hoping Willa will tell me. Hoping there is providence in patience & the right thing comes to pass. There is little beyond that of note. Again, walked Bishop’s Beach along Kachemak Bay, at low tide earlier. Coffee at the general store. An omelet at the diner. Wondering how it is I am supposed to be doing all of this. The usual.

April 2

A light snow beginning to fall on today’s thaw. Up to the mid-thirties earlier, the drives & culverts & watercourses all puddle over in layers of water, then slush, then winterlong ice. The black soil gives underfoot like a sponge. A good day to have neoprene boots. & as is my two-day habit, back in the cabin for an afternoon intermission marked by a sunken heart. Each morning when I begin the day’s endeavors I do so with zeal, with breath, & over the brief hours it fades & flees from me, & there rises that quieted ghost in me, a swelling pith. A moment ago I felt a guilt at its feeling, but recognize the lunacy in that. It will reside in me for some time. Grief, or sadness, or whichever it is, has a palpability that other emotions cannot stir, a kind of tintinnabulation, a thrumming that, when it opts for clear & cutting tolls, cannot be denied nor skirted nor left for later. Taken by grief, they say. Possessed of it. & so.

Took Willa to Bishop’s Beach this morning, where she had free reign for a solid mile or more of oceanfront along the Kachemak Bay, the wind a good deal less piercing today than yesterday. Looked at postings at various places in town & found two cabins past Fritz Creek that I will see tomorrow, both of them rustic & removed, but both with electricity anyway. Imagine. Stopped into the woodshop of the captain I was going to crew for to introduce myself in person & talked for a brief while. Now, wondering what to do with myself. As adept as I have become at inhabiting liminal moments, I am still susceptible to time’s ripdtide, its undercurrent of quick undoing that thieves a still instant of its stillness, hollows one’s senses & lends instead a breed of dull & witless panic. An ought to. A should be. An anything but sitting unbuoyed without design of mooring. Here it is, though, the crucible I conjured, the stepping flame. Let teach the present, & let fade those borne along desires that tether me to a ruptured past. Hass wrote in his best poem, to paraphrase, “longing, we say, because desire is filled with endless distances.” It is the endlessness that kills us, the fact that in order to desire there must be in the first separation, distance, space yawning out between. The greater the distance, the more profound, it seems, the longing. & so a word that would reference a person, a place, a shared moment in the past, becomes a fainter & fainter shadow, further from its light. Well.

So perhaps the weight of it awaited me fully at the tugging anchor, at the end of the road. But I made it, anyway. & now.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

April 1, Afternoon

Late afternoon on my first full day in Homer, the sun still blazing through a diffuse air, the gargantuan white-capped mountains sprawling across Kachemak Bay, an ashen haze obscuring the view. Earlier, took Willa down to the Spit, where she chased gulls along the shoreline, sprinting headlong into the frigid water over & again while the wind whipped the waves in over the packed sand & rounded stone. What can I tell you about Homer? The view in every direction is absolutely breathtaking. Muir, who spent a good deal of time along the Inside Passage, cautioned people against coming to Alaska. Once they’d seen it, he wrote, everything else would seem an ordinary disappointment. In one of his essays on Alaska he began by writing about how everything here strains beyond our regular notions of scale; writing about a place up here is like capitulating a universe in a sentence. I have found something interesting, too, in viewing it all alone. Somehow, its geologies seem clearer, more keenly articulated against a backdrop of solitude—not because I want them to, but because of how I find myself situated in relation to them—no tether, no backdrop, no buttress, no sounding board. I am diminished by this landscape, to the point of curiosity. Rendered suddenly so miniscule, one feels a compulsion towards natural unity, towards the sympathies offered by the mineral world. It makes sense here in a way it hasn’t quite before—that selfhood can find oblivion & fulgence at once, singing through aphasia. There is a bird in my heart when my tongue goes still.

I am staying in a tiny one-room cabin right outside of town, my window opening out to a view across the bay. Everything glows at this hour, a kind of aureate emanation. It is twenty-four degrees before wind chill.

Between Watson Lake & the Alaskan border we covered roughly 550 miles in just over thirteen hours. Towards the border I nearly veered off the road at every turn, stunned by what was laid out before me. That range cuts up like I imagine the Alps do—sharp & unforgiving & confidently wild. Glacial rivers crawl between peaks, slit valleys into hard granite & coal. Permafrost on the road, along with spots of fairly intense snow, made for interesting passage. This highway is neither for the faint of heart nor the weak of stomach (being both, I am confident enough in that caution). At the border, I was asked a quick round of questions, the only traveler in sight, & motioned along without any drama of any sort. The Wrangell-St. Elias range to the south along that stretch of highway is among the more remarkable things I have ever seen in my life. Reaching it at sundown, orange-blue cloud & shade appertained, with darkling lavender tones giving way to slate-black in the recesses, peak after peak after peak. You pull over & you see what must be at least a hundred formidable peaks, the tallest 16200 feet high, lining the entirety of the horizon. That night, we pulled into a rest area to sleep, Willa in the passenger’s seat covered in my coat, me in the back curled up in my bag. At four o’clock, after a good deal of shivering & a scant bit of rest, we pushed out. Above us, there was a kind of semicircular gradation of light, a clip just barely discernable that bore the shape of an eclipse. As we drove along it began to transmutate, to drip into changling forms, a green phosphorescence. The Northern Lights. It felt good to be alive.

When I finally came upon an open gas station three hours later, the woman inside, after peering out the window at my plates, laconically asked if I had driven all the way from Washington for a cup of coffee. My thrill at finding some must have been fairly evident.

I ended up driving fifteen hours yesterday, taking my time, walking Willa in the deep snow, stopping over at the Anchorage campus to have a look. Once we reached the Kenai Peninsula, what I had thought was already an extraordinary landscape became something else entire—my words fail at every turn, but along this last stretch, they cannot even begin to relate even the finest of details with any degree of precision. Imagine your moment of most elevated awe before a landscape & multiply it exponentially. I must leave it at that. We reached Homer just before nine, the sun finally setting, & found this cabin immediately. A turkey dinner from a nearby restaurant & I was out for nine hours in a warm bed.

Today I awakened to find my tire flat. 2500 miles without incident, & the moment I arrive, I find a flat-head drill bit lodged in my rear tire. Switched to the spare with the help of the innkeeper here & then had the tire shop switch it back patched. An easy fate. Afterwards, I gave myself a tour of the area east & west & tried to ferret out a place to rent without success before deciding to just be still for a solid stretch of time. Willa is curled up on the bed, her nose tucked under her tail, the sun slanting in across the bedclothes. & I sit by the window, heavy sad of a sudden. To go through this & be in transit was one thing—to arrive, to find myself here, is another entire. I am fond of the town, floored by it, really, & remain resolved to be here. At the same time, it seems the furthest thing from a rational or even sane decision. This epic journey I undertook to mine some heart’s ore. How I miss her. How I miss her so terribly. How I feign to have it figured out, put forth my best argument. I know nothing of what I do, invent & reinvent each morning, flail hard against intrepid current, but I am certain that such flailing will cut a path, will come to progress, wend me who knows where, but someplace I am meant to be, someplace I mean myself to be. Fare forward, Eliot wrote. A mantra to me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April 1

Reached Homer last night after a fifteen hour drive. More to come once I breathe a while.