Sunday, May 31, 2009

up to May 28 I think

Sixty & sunny today & perfect weather for our morning low-tide run—the first since my back went out last, the return to it a kind of clarity, cutting in its motion. Stopped afterwards to refill waters & buy a loaf of bread & came home to clean up the cabin & start in on laundry. Got the call from NPS to set up my drug test, though they suggested I head to Puyallup down in WA & apparently have to take great pains now to figure out where in Homer, town of one hospital, I ought to go at this juncture. Once that settles, a clearer picture of the weeks ahead will hopefully emerge & I can plan accordingly. Until then, I remain tentatively Homerian, my few things yet unpacked, my focus now on achieving what I aim to here prior to departure—certain hikes, another fishing trip, an eventual beer at the Salty Dawg, etc. The minutiae of living in this small town. & around the house, too, tying loose ends—dug the four-foot hole through layers of permafrost & icy clay for an outhouse here yesterday, swinging the mattock again, & afterwards applied an undercoat to the cabin to pitch in by way of thanks to Greg. Here cusping on flux again, I relax into a spell of quiet time. Eliot awaits me still, though I’ve little drive to write while I whittle towards leaving again. & I read up on Denali daily, books checked out from the library—its history, its flora & fauna, mountaineers & sourdoughs & so on. It remains some vague insinuation of itself now, as it must, some imagined thing fabricated off that one rough glimpse of a distant range I had from Anchorage north. I find in myself an odd hesitation about it, a kind of skirting, timorous apprehension. Locking myself into a commitment that draws out to the end of September, given the particulars of my being here, touches some rare nerve in me. Four months a permanent sentence by my standards. I apply to faith in this—that, carried along, I will continue to emerge from myself, molt, shake from me the dross that appertains yet. If only to find confident footing. Come October I hear already the cold wind swept across the tundra, snow-blown, spruce-shook, a lonely scraping in that muted expanse. This, strangely, the moment that most lucidly presents itself—the moment of my departure from Denali, my final gaze over its endless visage. Only that glance, & never where it turns. The burning question in me that I hope finds its clear answer by then, this wondering where then to wander, under what auspice, what compass. & all the world blazing open. Where then, heart—

***

The storm hovering here, the sky a sallow bruise that will not break, will not rupture to rain more than pin-prick drizzle. Hiked past Roger’s Loop, the wind off the bluff pulling the gnawed willows & rustling the ash from the grass-blades, the cleft puddles & moose-prints filled with quivering brown water, the sky’s mercurial, argent reflection specked with dirt or feather. & the black spruce thick & unyielding against the gusts. Here in the cabin now, the birch out the window blown sideways, the clouds darkling over the ridge, though still, still no steady rain will come. Over the bay a pinkish halo before the wall-clouds. That muted grey everywhere in evidence. & me, no account. A day, is all. Dislodged, imminently displaced, hovering still over a keyboard or loaned book from the library, neither advancing. & the guitar sounding too loud. & my own voice too thin. & Willa’s breathe in sleep too serene now to disturb. Waking a facsimile of dream today, an ethered thing, slow & languid, like fine hair swaying underwater. Odd, though, that the darkness, however slight, however thinly veiled, seems a comfort after sleeping & waking to light alike so many days in counting. To not feel light’s charge, to drop heavy & bid indolence in, let torpor creep over me just these brief hours. Always alright for me here, in this place, to quiet over & let sleep the world. Come, then, rain, where there was ember & ash. Let lay the light that seems always to shine, a shook foil.

***

Stepping out for a ten o’clock walk, the world quiet & dulled in nearer darkness, the clouds roiling silvered globes. In the meadow, in which downed spruces are covered over with dried grasses & deep puddles cut a mosaic of sedge & bog across the heaving permafrost, we quietly walked directly & unintentionally upon a bedded moose. She rose when Willa was ten feet away, slowly, disturbed from a slumber that kept her well-hidden from us. & her countenance weary but unalarmed, a kind of tired “really?” in her glance. So we turned, & walked away. So many times lately we are deterred or detoured by a moose—in walking, in running, in merely leaving by the front door.

Across the highway & down Bonnie Lane then, those mountains above Halibut Cove a silver daguerreotype with the only color in the glacial shelves, those sheer cutting cliffs showing seaglass-blue, that purest hue, tinged with deep green, rich & profoundly piercing, even from these distant miles, even now at dusk under graying skies. Homer. I will, without doubt, miss this place & its quiet, magnificent beauty.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

May 21, 22

The sky during protracted dusk swirled with cloud, fugitive glimpses of salmon-pink sun filtered along the edge of the ridge, the red lights of the harbor softened in a layer of thin mist hung over the Spit. From here, the fog lays like a blanket over the bay—I look down over it at nightfall, or in the morning, & gauge the gloaming or the dawn. Eos, rosy-fingered. A tired day, again, every part of me heavy while I wait for my back to return to normalcy, while I wait to run. Took a long hike past Diamond Ridge, a preserve home to moose & black & brown bear & lynx & god knows what else, winding trails of barely maintained grass, heaves of permafrost, ankle-deep puddles or rivulets in constant criss-cross. Every forest has its feel—those Tolkienesque firs in Washington shadowed & soft, the verdure & lushness of the redwoods, the scrub-brush & ponderosa pine down in New Mexico—& here it is a cragginess to the trees themselves, a rugged torsion of bark & twisted bough, a dense chaos of alder & ocean spray tangling labyrinthine, felled spruce greyed over like a corpse in ash. & the tall grass, the fireweed, the lichen & tundra moss everywhere. You couldn’t see five feet ahead if a path weren’t cut, a swath mowed, a series of planks laid down. I carry formidable respect & fear into the wilderness every time I enter it, but here I feel something more distinctly than anywhere else—this sense of interloping, of being noticeably other, vulnerable because outside of the prevailing natural sympathy. It isn’t fear exactly, but a kind of self-awareness. How the natural world here has fought tooth & nail, struggled through extremity & severity & unthinkable torsion merely to be. There is a kind of subtle, careless ferocity to the woods here sometimes, arising no doubt from sheer animal population, its bustle & flow. Not a darkness, not an ominous energy—just the animal, simple as that, writ large. Everywhere here—Willa & I have been turned in our tracks on walks & runs by the presence of a moose in the middle of our path or road. We came upon bear scat in the meadow behind the house. Or I read about eagles ravaging sandhill cranes. There is a world behind our world, & it cares nothing for our own. I think about it lately, knowing I am to move from one of the most dense bear populations to one of the wildest tracts of land left on the planet (six million acres)—I could not find surprise in any natural encounter. Fisherman drop net ten yards from grizzlies on the Kenai or Kasiloff, a kind of mutual understanding there. A child walking home from school paused & yelled “moose” to me while I walked Willa yesterday so I wouldn’t provoke the sow nibbling the reeds just off the road. It is ordinary. “There are things we live among, & to know them is to know ourselves.” Maritain in Oppen. I think often, too, about the notion of alethic thinking, of rising to ourselves as we rise to our environs, a synchrony between perception & mere being. Apophansis. What is it, then, to shift a context? To rise at once to myself & to this utter wilderness? Myself & Denali? What will filter through me there, in the vast shadow of that peak?

***

"That which thou lovest well shall never be reft from thee.” That line always, always returns to me, even in paraphrase. Tonight it ghosts me, & with it a briefest passage somewhere in a Faulkner short story—I don’t remember which one—in which the simplest of human moments unfolds into a panoramic sweeping history of humanity itself, the minute experience the optics for the grand sweeping gesture of life itself. A shaking of a hand, or the shiver of a branch, or a sparked flame to tinder, or something equally mundane, equally absent of idiosyncrasy, & he unfurls that banner tailing back even unto Eden. I like sometimes to think that way—that the instant of being in which we find ourselves continually transacting does in fact under every circumstance bear the weight of the world. & just so because, simply enough, it does. Strip life bare of belief, of faith, if the accoutrements of acute consciousness, & this is our world: a pulsing immediacy, blurring beyond the scope of mineral vision, fading into conjecture. This, then, the world. & we, arbiters & agents arbitrated both. That a fleck of sand was hewn over millennia—its quiet drama. How every detail arborizes in a kind of infinite regression until circling back upon itself, snake’s tail in snake’s own mouth. So a world poised upon its axis.

***

Awakened to Willa leaping on my chest, a cow moose feet outside the window & grazing. Then low tide this morning at the beach, the sun restrained, a wall of obdurate cloud crowning the mountains across the water, light shafting through small fissures & falling slant over the rippled sand & standing tide-pools. The little dug holes where crows beak after some left thing, scratch of their talons. Then work, then halibut & red chard for dinner, a pause while the moose again passed right when we would walk, a walk, & now the same fog falling in the same coronal across the bay, the slivered pink alpenglow a kind of secret blushed to tell. Thought about Denali all day today, in a general, removed, odd sort of way—the pros & cons of it, the probably imminent separation from Willa, that version of life I’ll be leading soon. Impossible to do, really, to prefigure an existence the details of which are absurdly foreign to you. In the past, I could picture her, or Willa at least, or even the familiar minutiae—what brand of pasta sauce I’d be eating, the artifacts of our old day-to-day, the carriage in me pulled in wake. & these days I have trouble enough picturing tomorrow for my self-same strangeness, this wisp-of-me in me yet, emptied cavern, echoed voice, lone light flashed across that capacious dark. If I am to ask myself what my life will be like I would ask first what I will be like, what I will be, & I do not know. The self dies into each day regardless, a threshing, slipping dissemblance that leaves a skeleton adorned in little hopes, small dreams. Fever the dream & let walk those bones & what a rattle to wonder after. & that cordate thing lub-dubbing in the ribs, crimson-hung where white arm stretches to hold. & that little ghosted voice. There was a book we read as kids called Funnybones where the skeleton family goes out at night to scare one another while the world sleeps—one of them, I think the dog in a clamorous game of fetch, is shattered & the ensuing pages depict these inchoate suggestions of form, sort of recognizable but for their random inversions: the tail where the head should be, the hind leg where the forepaw would fall. I’ve not thought of that book in at least a decade, but of a sudden it glares at me from its remembrance. What was that Berryman line in the Dream Songs? But it can’t be taken from its source—

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) “Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no

Inner Resources.” I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.

It was that last bit in my head, though you see the necessity of its place, of what precedes it. & here spill continuously my plights & gripes, & here so often I read myself bobbing in some wake to forget my hand upon the helm. All to say it was a sad day, & nothing more.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Up to May 20

My back growing worse today than it was yesterday, starting the morning with the illusion of progress & finding it now evening utterly & irreparably fucked. Every time it slips, it worsens, lays me out, intensifies in pain & tightness to the point where I literally dread putting on shoes or walking Willa for the tugging at the leash. Too, it makes for a deeply absurd kind of day, half-spent grimacing, half-spent supine & immobile, artifacts of industry gathered around me as if they might magically spring into use of their own accord—a phone that will not ring, a chapter that will not write itself, a book that just annoys me the further it unfolds, a guitar that I can’t sit straight to strum. & if I’m on time-out anyway, I’d prefer a painkiller that works, a muscle relaxant, anything to alleviate this to some small degree. I am taking this personally, taking offense to my spine. Goddamnit. As if my hours weren’t fraught enough. As if I didn’t quarter myself enough already.

***

I am thinking about movies with alarming frequency lately, on an aesthetic level, in terms of what potential they carry, what wonder they can articulate. My Life as a Dog, or Small Change. Where poems conjure image they seem to only usher it into insinuation; the clarity they possess is the onus of the line itself, the particular word. Time exists differently in a poem than it does in life, even if Pound would have it differently (image, for him, being “the emotional and intellectual complex in an instant of time”). A poem is a kind of intimation towards something imagined simultaneously by heart & head alike, true, an opening, an illuminated rupture, an invitation. Then I think of movies as this sort of heavy artillery of tools: language, visual language, empathic humanity, music, presence, time outside of its imagining. A film is capable of so much, of so much beauty & tenderness & care for the actual as it actually is. If I write a poem about standing in a field, it could well be striking—it could describe the sallow bend of a dried stalk of wheat, or the swaying grain-tops rippled with wave like a sea, or the sussuration of it, the wind sung through brittle stalk while cicadas muted & soft bleat under sounding gales. I could write about the cerulean sky, its dimpled cloud, its pale sliver of early moon arced against that vastness. The soft give of the soil underfoot. Or the simplicity of it, the field & the sky, the horizon line right there, cut swath between that yawning shock of blue & the sepia grain-tops, almost graspable, almost at hand. But then I could also show it to you while I described it in whatever voice I could fathom, play an etude of Satie, let the camera linger over a hand running slow over the wheat-berries, & let it all unfold in a demarcated time—shackle it to the ordinary, to the actual. I know nothing about movies in any practical sense, though I’ve watched more of them than I can remember. Lately, though, I wonder if I might want to learn.

***

& isn’t it odd how the simplest lessons seem to take the longest in learning? How, for example, we know the fiction of tomorrow, how we are well-rehearsed in its delusions, & how we find self-satisfaction when it comes, bearing a semblance to our imaginings. Or how we cull the patterns of our pasts for transposition, bring them to bear on a contextual puzzle entirely other. We make clich├ęs of extraordinarily profound insights so that we don’t have to heed them head-on. Say, there is only the data of the present, only the promise of your immediate life. Say, you cannot wait for what you want to come knocking on your door. Say whatever you like, & then let it linger, & settle, & come to flesh & mean. & right now it is forty-five degrees in my cabin & my breath is spiring before me. My fingers waving over the keyboard. Willa’s fine hairs adhering to everything. The condensation on the windows. The radiant pain from the middle of my back. But here it all is, fully realized, the world’s articulations in this briefest of dramas. & here I’ve been goading myself, wracking & wringing, when really it is sufficient merely to be. It is enough living, I wrote once, it is enough life. No more happiness than pain, no more pain than ambivalence, no more ambivalence than ecstasy, no more ecstasy than dullness, & so on. How we must make room for them all, listen to them all, heed them all even when they splay us sickle-backed on the floor. Something is always being communicated, most often from ourselves to ourselves, & I rarely grasp after my body’s vocabularies, but I begin to over time. A self-optics. A pre-original empathy. Then speak to lull, disc & vertebrae, & spoken, hush down.

Two bits of Oppen: “Clarity, clarity, surely clarity is the most beautiful / thing in the world, / A limited, limiting clarity // I have not and never did have any motive of poetry / But to achieve clarity,” & then prior to that but more illuminating: “Clarity // In the sense of transparence, / I don’t mean that much can be explained. // Clarity in the sense of silence.”

That one can clarify without conclusion, hew without complicating. It is complicated enough, after all.
***

Interviewing tomorrow for a dispatch position at Denali. Worked thirty more hours in three days, my back slowly struggling out of its torsions, sending still radiant pulses of pain like shivers from time to time to remind me I’ve no unguent for what ails it. Been hovering around my approach to the chapter on Eliot, volleying, retreating, batting about its access like a horse hooving a starting line. Found & escorted well beyond the threshold of my door a brown recluse, that milkwhite cross blazing upon its back. & then all the regulars, loosing & wefting, tying & untying, tallying days, weighing their carriage, wondering at this version of my life even still, finding it sort of removed & quaint & alternately marvelous or frustrating in its simplicities. I spill out, a single syllable. But then there are no webs to tend cornered in flushed dark, no lines taut with pull & bid, no tassel, no tether. I greet myself in my selfsame recognitions—if it is anger welling, I bid it welcome, or sorrow all the same, or a brief eruption of joy. To tell it true, if it isn’t joy it isn’t sorrow either that mainlines & directs me, compass to my wandering. There is a steady hum & it comes unadorned & what the day assumes, it too assumes with neither judgment nor hesitation. My mood knows no palimpsest, no encomium, no stern disavowal. I am breezed, galed, gusted, & find myself almost uttering my name without an enclitic shadow from which it must struggle to emerge. It is given just so, how hands can cup together & hold some miniscule thing to the heavens—a leaf, or a grasshopper, or a blade of grass—& how that obeisance is somehow invariably & heart-rendingly humbling. Say your name & the air parts to receive it, & it is taken from you, & you are there still, asking the air who am I—

***

& so I will be packing again & moving up to Denali, where I was moments ago hired on as a seasonal dispatcher in the communications office. Must have been the clear cutting baritone of my voice that convinced them. I’ll need to do a urine test & clear a criminal background check first, which means maybe two weeks before I head up. A part of me is loathe to leave Homer, because of its familiarity at this point, its inchoate connections—but then I remember where I am to go & my jaw begins to drop anew. Denali. I’ll be living literally at the base of the highest peak in North America, during months in which the sun rarely absents the sky, at a latitude amenable to the auroras when it does. That peak is a kind of Mecca, jutting well past twenty thousand feet & cutting out of the Alaska Range’s sprawling, jagged skyline. I imagine now the energetics of the place & find myself reeling in that imagining. All of this, though there is a sore spot in it too—Willa cannot live in the government housing. Either we live outside the park or she goes to live with Stef in Oregon. Heartbreaking to think of it, time away from her, but she is Stef’s dog too, & I wouldn’t want to compromise a decision directly informing my felicity in this life because I wasn’t willing to entertain what would be best for both myself & my dog. She would be thrilled, I’m sure, to spend time with her ma. Clearly, I have grown ludicrously close with old Wils. That part & that part alone gives me pause. I came here, among other reasons, to see Alaska. Working at Denali seems a fairly decent way to continue along that particular road.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

May 10-16, in that order

Here in this yawning time, this time split & spilled open, this yaw, wrung sudden from that line I had drawn, I am finding my mind drifting unbidden over the strange & synchronous landscapes of a past I’d almost forgotten. Or that I’d not conjured in as long as I can remember. As if faced with this skeleton-of-self, this small & quiet breath suspired remote & removed, I subconsciously cull memory for evidence of having been. I’ll sit reading & suddenly notice I’ve been in fact staring out the window for several minutes, recollecting such fugitive & frayed fragments of my life. Punching Kent Baker in the eye in third grade, Diane Dutka’s girl scout uniform, smoking pot at Saylorville Resorvoir after singing with Bill Hoover, this endless procession of encounters that swayed & steeled me, riveted me to me. & the sense of it: always that smell in the mud-room at the farm, or of the pine needles layered thick & blending sweet with pinon at Rio en Medio, or the feel of the outcropping rock beneath my knee when I proposed, warm where the sun poured over it, miniscule pebbles & blasted grains of sand indented in my skin. How a proposal looks like a prayer, its bending supplication, its life-meaning hope. I am thinking about that day oftener now than perhaps ever before. How my car threatened to overheat the entire drive down & I could not surpass 60 mph, pulling over every thirty miles to call Jon for help. Those ten hours of relative silence, the radio defunct. How I stole glances at the ring & breathed unevenly. & then Atalaya, that place so dear to me even still. & she & Willa running that steep graveled mountain to meet me, there on the outcropping. Maybe the only secret I was ever able to keep from her. & my asking & her answering. & the sudden gale, the sudden bulkhead of cloud run grey the moment, the very moment she said yes, even as we were embracing. I am devastated thinking about this, over & again, & it keeps replaying. It remains one of the most singularly beautiful moments of my life. But here I am. But here I am. What is troubling me always is reconciling this distance; if not from her, than from everything else I have lived, every person I’ve met, every person I’ve been, every breath I’ve taken from infancy to the moment I crossed the border. It is nothing new. It is nothing singular, nothing special. It is how we are in the world, wave of conscious thought sweeping ineluctably through our shifting contexts, trying to grab hold of meaning along the way, trying to grasp after something to bring along, some dear carriage to tow. & we are built this way, as wave is built of a wind blown from some distant place & a forgotten disturbance in calm water & a current & inertia. Wave as it is signifies only how it is composite, result, consequence. & even still, it is borne along, bending into its progress, almost heaving, violent struggle, almost fighting to lay down its will & admit of its fragility, to crash upon some shore & open, finally, into its beautiful vulnerability, its dark heart, its having-been. Tending to memory, shepherding these undercurrents. Tend as in tender. & memory as in hours, years, a life, a wave. I am cusp here, & tumbled thing. I thought I wore some stone upon my knee, & here, it’s ocean all around.

***

Haven’t written a word today, nor flipped a page, nor even thought constructively about any of my work. Ran over an hour at minus tide. Spoke with Ma. Filled in my usual five or so answers on the crossword. Spoke with Stef. Ate coconut rice & mango. Blank reportage, this, but true enough. Some days the heart grows tired & wearied & wants after a little rest. Some days benumbed. Some days calling for evening, for waning light, for sleep & sleep alone. A bone-dry beehive absent of bee; brittle cone & dust & air. Birdsnest empty of bird. Branch bereft of leaf. Just, tired, is all. A moon in its arc, & roseate dawn. Then come buzz & chirp & budding, & then—

***

Working nine to ten hour days at Coal Point, receiving & shipping fish, doing the office work surrounding the process. I am the only man who doesn’t work on the line, or boxing, or canning, etc. Four days a week, at least nine hours a day, out there on the Spit, with the water on either side, the eagles & gulls perched about the property, the fog when it breathes across an afternoon. We’ll see.

***

Keeping an eye to the east today, where a downed power line sparked a fire that over the last three days gradually spread to over 1000 acres, with its initial spark & epicenter at 17-mile, the road closed off at 14-mile, & me here in the smoke at 9.2-mile. Evacuations are underway miles up the road, & the blaze has skipped from the south (bayside) to the north side of the road, flaring over beetle kill spruce & the swaying grass already dusted thick with ash. & the wind a frenzied thing today, a firn wind blown across the bay, a tunnel made along the inlet, under the bluffs, to stoke & push it, away from me at any rate. Went from forty to ten percent contained over the last six hours. A turn in the wind & it may be the homeless life for me again after all.

& beyond that it was Coal Point ten hours a day the last three days. I work the office, which means I do all the figuring & tallying when clients bring in fish to be filleted, vacuum-packed, frozen & shipped. Being the slow beginning, I do intake, weighing the fish, tagging them out in totes, etc. I am learning that Coal Point is an institution in Homer, a kind of rite of passage. The structure itself has sort of crowsnest cabins lining the top of it, bare bones perches of unstained wood with just space enough for a bunk & a bag, where many of the seasonal employees stay. Others will live in their tents either on the property or down the spit on the beach. People show up fresh from the ferry with just backpacks on their backs, their hair in disarray, bags under their eyes & dirt caked along their nails, asking for work on the cutting line or the docks. & then skippers gather in at the close of day on their way to the Salty Dawg, their voices Marlboro baritones, faces wind-ravaged. & it is a kind of chaos there, & a surprisingly effective one in terms of its aim. & so go my days. Alaska grows by the day more familiar in feel.

Now, the helicopters ranging a couple miles away, the smoke falling like a fog over the town, I exhale in the cabin, taking stock & weight. I am exhausted today, physically, emotionally & otherwise. Running earlier in that relentless wind—more a prolonged gale—did little to help settle me. I’ve not cusped on breakdown for a little while, with ample distraction, & here the distraction is pulled to reveal those same severed quicks, soldered nerve-ends with some swift splice unfraying. It is still me, after all. I have to believe I am carried towards some clarity; for the moment, though, it seems the strangest of fictions.

***

Went fishing yesterday with Greg & threw my back out again reeling in the second halibut. At least I reached my quota. The seas were rough & tumble, cut by unrelenting wind, peppered in rain, with whitecaps at four feet minimum, so the boat in its sway & bang demanded every muscle taut, & me, sickle-back, weak-of-spine, I spent the last two hours in the cabin holding myself erect with my arms on the table, fixing my gaze on the horizon so I wouldn’t get seasick. When the back is out, I am thrown, & thrown besides. Not the Heideggerian thrown-into-Being kind, in which one searches for & finds avenues of attachment & connectivity with the world, but that other, darker, gloaming kind in which I am rendered utterly & absurdly useless to myself, in which hours unspool into hours in a kind of monotonous addition, an algebra of boredom & loathing & exhaustion, in which I watch myself with contemptuous scrutiny. I don’t foster this behavior, but it comes upon me from time to time. There is something of sublimation there, I’m sure—how my confusion translates itself, how that pain in me turns & wants after some precise aim, & here I am, target alone, to hear my barbing voice barb my own. A maelstrom to shiver the spine. & so.

Progress such a fragile thing, thin-boned & unsure of step, a foal thrashing to find its footing. How it will slip, how it will rap its jaw on a stone, how it will buckle & bend, caul-trailed, wonder-eyed, & hide its every growth.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

May 14

Been working a lot. Will update soon--

Saturday, May 9, 2009

May 9

Got a job today, down at Coal Point on the Spit, the fish processing/flash freezing/shipping/gift store that deals most directly with charter skippers & their clients, adjacent the harbor, its docks stretched like taut fingers over the greening water. Owned by a family renowned now for its two sons operating a crabbing boat called the Time Bandit on “World’s Deadliest Catch.” My compeers. I begin Monday & will be cross-trained in clerical, office & fish processing duties. Rubber boots are the only requirement. In the meantime, a beautiful Saturday & the usual saturnine heart trying to sing through it. Leaden weight. Off shortly for a new hike, past the bluff, towards the old Russian village, bear spray in tow, to see if that rich communion can ferry me from myself, from this sustained & thrumming chord strummed what seems already so long ago. & yet I hear it, waxing & waning, returning to me crystalline & clear, then taking wing to become some other birdcall buried in a dell, then again piercing in its cutting return to ache in me & ache in me. & so. I walk an anchor in me & a sliver of severed twine. I have left no wake. Here, as I am, to myself displayed, displaced, a quiet kind of living, un-intoned of grandeur, bereft time being of surge & swell. That I pattern footstep & echo footfall, even in a thick & viscous mud that swallows under in a rain, even in a patted sand that wave subsumes, even on a trod blade of grass that windblown springs again erect. I have been, promise to myself. & promise I will be.

Friday, May 8, 2009

May 8 in fact

Finished my Hopkins chapter this morning & now on a briefest pause to reread Eliot. Celebrated with a run. The beach thick with attendees of the Shorebird Festival, clod all in Extra Tuffs new off the shelf, in wide-brimmed hats, hand-holding, children gazing into tide pools while sandhill cranes stalk the limning water, & finally the weather cooperative. Had to run a mile off before Willa could roam loose, but at low tide, the roaming is good, & we took an hour in it today, marooning ourselves in a distance. Still, the evident happiness of others is no salve, but barb & gall. The pith in me heavy yet. I know I can’t shake from me this inborn ache, but I try, flailing against sun & wind. & I breathe into it the better this way. Now Willa curls in a patch of sun at my pillow, pleasantly tired, & I ready to make my rounds in town, overflowing as it is with weekenders and “peeps,” as the birders call themselves. There are, perhaps, worse people to move among. I harbor an empathy for them anyway; how I have spent unfettered moments of witness, noting the scratch & scurry of a bird, its quick neck, fluttered wings, gaze almost pensive. Or heard a song to stop me squarely in my motions. Or wanted to fly far from here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

May 8

Long run from Bishop’s Beach at high tide, running along the fluxing limn, frothed white wave-lap in its endless advance & retreat—an hour before a storm broke, the heaving crests four feet & taller breaking over the rocks & pulling them ineluctably back with a magnificent & effortless violence, the sound like a building being razed, ominous enough to keep Willa close at my heels. At one point pinned with three feet between water & cliff—an unusually high tide. & now the rain constant, the sky grey & occluded, the range across the bay a dull insinuation of itself at root, peakless where summit drifts into clouded mist. There was a run I did once, up Mount Sanitas in Boulder, maybe a year ago, where the summit was swallowed whole in thick & heavy fog. Slivers intimated human shape & you heard a voice & looked & saw the rended seam of white closing up & nothing else. I sat a moment, then, & watched what few figures there were come & go, & thought it some rare & fine glimpse at something beyond itself, something beyond our living, beyond our numbered days. & though it was my body there in its torsions, my knees absorbing the blows, my eyes fixated on coming steps, there was nothing of the corporeal thereafter—it was a dream, an ether. & maybe it’s that way with fog, or with obfuscation or penumbra—maybe when our optics blur & smoke over there is a different kind of world we must abide. This time here. This heart in me. This awareness that I am, beyond my comprehension, beyond my fledgling soundings, irrevocably changed, even already. How we approach the swirling umbra, & whether we run headlong into it or turn away in slow-trod retreat. Is it too much to say, perhaps for the first time in my life, I am proud of myself? It is only fear, after all, & it, too, only throws a fading shadow, a quick mist.

***

& what is everdrawn, what carriage carries still, beyond a hope, beyond a vague diminution of hope? Time’s foe is all. & we, like Hopkins says, selfwrung, self-racked, & always already a lonely begun. Here is the thing of it—beauty crushes me, & I find it, crushingly, everywhere in evidence, & all the attending terror of recognition, all of the mortal nerve splays out like quick to needle’s touch, tender-in-me, brided to the rich ache I carry now. & I don’t care what it is; only, that I care, beyond my wanting. A dog’s forlorn gaze from a wooden porch, a shallow puddle, a house in the distance with a warm & aureate glow, a kind word, a photograph, a memory, always a memory—how saturated the fiber of the daily grows in it, all of this beauty, & all of it fluxing into disappearance, coming to quick dissolution. The ache in me sometimes the world-ache, the thanatos ache—is that the word?—hum-of-life, our contract, how we relinquish to time, & how we would purport to claim some of its loosened strands our own. There is the beauty—that though we know it will all be reft from us, yet we wrestle to cherish it. And that we cherish it.

“So, what subjects do we copy out and paint, we mandarins with Chinese brushes, we immortalizers of things that let themselves be written—what are the only things we can paint? Oh, only ever things that are about to wilt and lose their smell! Only ever storms that have exhausted themselves and are moving off, and feelings that are yellowed and late! Only ever birds that have flown and flown astray until they are tired and can be caught by hand,--by our hand! We only immortalize things that cannot live and fly for much longer, only tired and worn-out things! And I only have colors for your afternoon, my written and painted thoughts, perhaps many colors, many colorful affections and fifty yellows and browns and greens and reds:--but nobody will guess from this how you looked in your morning, you sudden sparks and wonders of my solitude, you, my old, beloved—wicked thoughts!”

Damn it, Nietzsche.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

May 5, 6

Thinking today of how hastily I would sound my retreat—tuck my tail to saunter into the lower 48 so soon. This place I’ve dreamed of since a child, fogged over & adumbrated in circumstance, & maybe now I begin to see it, the shock faded from my eyes, the stony pith in me loosing. & the thought of wandering again, alluring for all the wrong reasons. How I could almost live in my truck & convince myself it felt good. & how I would tug this carriage in me yet. So I think now of staying the summer through, committing myself to my commitment in full. I’ve not yet kayaked to Seldovia, nor seen the fjords from a Cessna, nor found a good running trail past the ridge. Not explored a wit for my paralysis, & here I am in Alaska, the very place where all of my fictitious exploration found berth. I believe I might stay. I believe, maybe, I ought to stay.

***

Headed to Soldotna, blooming metropolis 75 miles north, to withdraw cash for rent, & made a day of it with Wils. Stopped on the way at a deserted beach in Clam Gulch, the tide low, Iliamna & Redoubt—with its cone still spewing constant smoke—clear-viewed across the water. A dilapidated trailer sits there under a cliff tufted in tall grass, a runnel cleaving the sand nearby to reach the water twenty yards off. Every window long-since smashed through, the doors ripped off & tossed to the side, proclamations of love or, as Garfunkel put it, “the old familiar suggestion” scrawled over its inner walls. & then one wicker chair half-buried in sand ten yards off, stones piled around a fire-pit. & no one to see it; not a single print on the sand, human or otherwise.

After Soldotna, drove over to Kenai, which underwhelmed as a town. The moose were out in scores along the drive. Stopped at a Kasilof River landing further south, where bulges of extant ice hug the riverbeds, great heaping things that slope down to a water the color of seaglass—the most peculiar & most beautiful water I may have ever seen, like a rushing jewel, a rare gem-stone in a riparian liquefaction. How I have loved the lightness of Caribbean ocean-blue in Mexico, & the deeply intoned emerald of the lakes on Orcas, but this was something else entire. I must admit on a side note my urge was to return with a fishing pole, odd as it is to hear myself say it. Afterwards, pulled over again by Deep Creek, itself an unremarkable sooty brown, heavier, it seemed, in ash & carried dirt. & then home.

I am wanting after this place, stretching my fingers now to caress it & know its contours. This vastness, this utter abandon, a wild entirely wild, even where roads wend & weave. I feel more firmly that my footing here should hold, that I can do more than endure time here; that I can embrace it, eventually, more overtly than my bearings now allow me to do. I don’t expect to be unencumbered, but I am realizing that my fears appertain like cocklebur when I resign & stagnate, festering things in the wings. & here in Alaska after all because I wanted to do what was most fearful to me. & here I see that terror waning, a condensation on my optic that may clear of its own accord if the focus of my gaze remains its beyond rather than its fine drops gathered in fine constellation. I have lived this first month here curled in a ball, entirely closed off. Now I would loosen, ungrip hand from opposite wrist, bend my neck to see. Gauge to self-gauge. We are our contingencies.

Monday, May 4, 2009

May 3

The yawning hours, laid out quiet & haunting. How they shiver in me, premonitions of their disuse. & what would a life look like, here? How rest my head upon my pillow & know an honest accounting? Is it the glacial fields spreading & sprawling across the mountains, the gunpowder-blue in the bay? Is it the sound of lapping wave, the under-rush of shifted alluvion? Is it Alaska at all? Or this wilderness in me, this landscape unpeopled, abiding grief, itinerate hope. Because this does not feel like a life should feel, does not thrum & ebb, sounding its whimpered song. I don’t know, I don’t think, how a life should feel. How I would have it feel. & in that restlessness how I have run my finger over a cornstalk or down the bark of a red cedar or cut it through the lulling tide to hold it to a wind that I can’t read anyhow. No, I’ve said, no, not this place, nor this, nor that other. As if a geography would draw lines around me, enfold me in its being-settled, its ongoingness. The cartographer’s erasure. But everywhere I go my voice echoes off whatever it will, vale or valley, skyscraper or shock of air, & comes back to me ever my own, ever intoned in familiar under-pattern. & aphasia worse still, fear pinning tongue to tongue-bed, hour upon hour of grating silence. A quadrille rattled off with every partner a ghost. Me in this empty place, waltzing to this imagined cadence. How to escape a life in its living, tunnel under the heft of its conceptualization to find, after all, a fine soil under the nails, or the spiring blue breath, wisp-of-self, flower-of-breath blooming to dissolve. & on. Every day a clutching after vague designs penned of smoke & ash. Wave a hand & watch them falter, disappear. The design is in the day, onus of the heart, fulcrum of the quick will. & mine so slow.

***

Sixties today & cloudless azure that falls now into pink light, shadow rising like contusion from the sheer steeps, that after-sun when sun has passed, its salmon glow on the ice-fields, soft-haze. Ran with no shirt today—a thing I didn’t think possible in this state. Five sandhill cranes in sharp skein drawing down towards the water. The woods brimming now with life, the hours leaning long to bookend the starlight. Halibut & collard greens for dinner, a brief walk with Willa, & Anna Karenina waiting for me. Today it was that general befuddlement, that way I have of hesitating over nothing at all, infirm, overcautious, as if walking to get a paper would toll some hidden danger. Do I dare eat a peach &c. & kept from town, letting Anchorage flush through & return north, leaving hoof-prints & atv tracks striping the Spit. The emptier the beach, the better for Willa & I. Worked five or six new pages on Hopkins, nearing a rough draft of chapter three. Four hours for those pages—I am unaccustomed to working so slowly. But today I am ghosted heavy & wrung that way. My own & not my own in mind. Errant, corner-struck. Some days you feel like a stubble-field fallow & blown over by some intrepid wind. Sort of barren, divested. & so, what can be done about it? What was that Wiebe quote, “forgetfulness is the dream of sleep?”

Saturday, May 2, 2009

May 1, 2

Awakened at five thirty this morning, sun filtered through low fog, Alaska asleep while we walked in its broad quiet. Then went fishing. Lighting on the dock, there is a slope from the Spit lot down to the harbor, a grated metal ramp at quick decline. From the top I say five elderly men in matching camouflage on the Sorceress. So it goes. Five loose-lipped conservatives enchanted by the sound of their voices who discussed only three things (& I wish, I do, that I were exaggerating in employing the term ‘only’): hunting, fishing & those goddamn liberals. Subsets such as the specific merits of particular rifles or the finest bear hunt in Canada or the charity underlying African safaris or, well, anything pertaining to goddamn liberals were, of course, in no short supply. Men talking about hunting, I realize; regardless of the content of the tales, the impetus, the violence; is a matter of meaning-making, an empathic bridge, a means of fraternity. The interloper, I was quickly nicknamed “the professor,” though from time to time “the liberal” also signaled. When I was asked what it was I studied & was writing about, the silence that rang out after my reply was beautifully deafening. Made for an entertaining day, seven to four on the water. “There ought to be a poem about that damn cod, professor.” “Why don’t Obama write a damn poem about them boys in Iran?” “There once was a poet in Homer. La da di di da di di Gomer.” (All verbatim). That long afloat & I fired back repeatedly, & it ended up good-natured jibing in the end; dishing shit five ways, even still, gets you tired by the end of the day. I kind of liked being called the professor, though. Pulled in three halibut (though had to release one per the bag limit), four cod & a pollack. All in all, a successful introduction. A freezer full of fish.

Now home, sore as hell already, my body yet convinced it’s on the water, the room passing the periphery in waves, my equilibrium maladjusted. Hard work, halibut fishing on open ocean. But bona fide Alaskan, I suppose.

***

Thinking about writing the wedding leads me to obvious ruminations. The eye culls backwards, grasps after its evidences, substantiates its claims. I am remembering love this morning. That fervent, inebriate heart we carry into our youth & lose over & again, a willing & rhapsodic sacrifice. We grow, we fill out the contours of love, know it matured & in relation to countless contingencies. There is something, though, in the bombination of a young heart, or a heart, at least, young in its love. I carry autumn into its conjuring, somehow. The swirl of starlight, the gleaming breath paling the sky, sussuration of leaves, & everything, everything alive. A white body in a black lake, clipped ripple of reflected moonlight. A silver cloud. The shuffle of winging birds. The world charged with grandeur. The way a branch seems complicit, or a wave seems to lap against a shore at the right moment, the cicadas a chorus to lift & elevate the spirit. The abandon of it. Falling in love something like that thrumming youth, that surrender to a wilderness untrammeled. that self gaping open, that heart in its ineffable aching. The pulse of the world entire. Dickinson asked Higginson if her poems blew the top of his head off. Where heart’s heat rises—utter vulnerability, sheer & unfathomed. The care, the tender carefulness of loving perhaps its richest aspect. & how it thrills, the sustain of it in quick tremolo. Even its echo. Even me, here.