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retrospective: old journal

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Les Semaines



Speaking of It Sometimes

This week I was almost eaten by the black dog. I could feel it; I almost gave up, gave in, rolled up and let it swallow me.

But I was lucky. I acknowledged it, spoke of it. This time, it was enough. This time, I kept moving ahead of it. Though the miasma of its breath was all around me, I looked forward enough that I outdistanced it.

I am so fucking grateful.

But it's 11:38 pm and I have to be at work tomorrow at 7:30 am, so while I could describe other things about my week, I will not. This is enough.


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Went to hear Aiko Shimada and Willow last night play at a local chai house with Jim and Tamar. Jim has been obsessing on one of Aiko Shimada's songs, so it was a good time to hear her. Though she had only her bass player and a violin player she hadn't played out with before, her sound was quite finished. Her voice clear and strong as always. Willow was somehow a little muddied in sound--her vocals didn't stand out as well and so the songs blurred a little. Too bad, because I love the moods she can create with her rich, dark voice.


last week's listening § next week's listening



Gregory Frost's Fitcher's Brides is the most recent in Terri Windling's Fairy Tale series--a series of novels that retell fairy tales in different setting. This is a retelling of "Bluebeard" and "The Fitcher Bird". Set in New York State in 1843, three sisters are brought by their father and their stepmother to live as the gatekeepers to a religious community which is waiting for the immanent end o the world. The charismatic leader of this group decides he wants the eldest daughter as his bride, but she disappears. And then the second... It's an interesting story about religion, obsession, and darkness, and one final, level-headed heroine. I have many minor quibbles with this one, but overall quite enjoyed it.

Sherryl Jordan's young adult novel, The Hunting of the Last Dragon, is far more interesting than the title would lead you to expect. What I liked best about this, was the frame of the story. It is a man's adventures as told to a scribe, a monk under a vow of silence, so we only get the man's side of the conversation and what he thinks the monk may be saying to him through his silence. This adds a layer of interesting interaction ad of course reveals a lot about the man's assumptions about his world. His tale begins when he leaves his family to venture to another village, and returns to find his home destroyed by a dragon. Rescued by a travelling circus, he discovers that the savage woman with the birdlike, deformed feet is really a young woman kidnapped, far from her own country on the other side of the world. A really fun read. (See my January 6, 2002 entry for comments on another book by this author.)

Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White is an ambitious postmodern-flavoured novel about Victorian prostitution and the divisions between the classes of the time. It focuses on the relationship between Sugar, a prostitute since the age of 13, who has risen in the world by being willing to let a man do anything to her (though forced to by her mother who is her madame) and a ne'er-do-well that she helps guide to success in the perfumerie he inherits from his father. It is also about his disturbed upper-class wife and their invisible daughter. I found it utterly fascinating until toward the end when I simply didn't believe the characters would act the way they did. Still, a fascinating novel which is written in an intriguing self-conscious but not annoying style.

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The mind is willing but the spirit is weak. The well feels empty, like it couldn't possibly be me who has ever written anything.


last week's writing § next week's writing


Retrospective: old journal

November 1987

1525. the very word poetic
November 8, 1987

Writing the poem about what?
Rain tangling the branches of the cedars
saplings growing over filling in the tracks
change in the weather change in desire
but no stories worth telling
nothing to say with it.
About waking in the forest.
About hiding there.
About the grey curl of Maddy
on my lap, still and asleep
About the grey of outside
not yet rain.
If I could speak about the sepiroth
I surely would.
If I could spill some useful tale
of my own dreaming
I'd do that.
It's the failing light outside
the window that fails me. It's
used up. Only the brightness of the leaves
from the maples is alive.
It's such a fragile thing.
What is ever-returning
is rage. [1]

1526. For this hour
November 27, 1987

brother of Circe Canto XVII
     So that the vines burst from my fingers
I am on my own.

Sun leapt from my fingers--the dusty scent
of skin warmed into a web of light.
And salt from the spray of the waves
spilled from the Strait to season the air.
You like stretched on a weathered log
lightly sleeping, the win tickling the fine bones
of your face, a dream hovering close by
the edge o the forest, waiting to escort you in
My legs in the water, cold and away from me
ready to run up the sand, my hands sprinkle what sea and sun
I can carry onto you.
           And then we are walking
over the rocks, the logs, into the arms of the forest,
the path closing around us like their embrace.
The air is rich with the loam years of falling
cedar builds and a hint of the nearby shore
already hidden from view. This moment
we are truly here, each wind reminding us
of what builds this place and marks us
as part of it: the smell of evergreen, earth and love
as we rise from the scratchy bracken
of our bed in the ferns, our scent on my thighs.
What can lie next to this? Memory falters
and imagination can create nothing equal
to this. I hold the moment under my heart
like a child and cannot speak. In my pocket
I finger a piece of driftwood and a pine cone
I stole from the grave of this day. If I could
I would turn back and run into the sea.
This is how I would always want you
to remember me: salt and sun warm on my skin,
my hair tangled with bits of cedar and moss
laughing behind you, following you up the path
we make to the trail and our way home. [2]

1527. What story have I to tell?
November 28, 1987

I call it sorrow that makes me leave
this house. I unfold the cloth that covers
the windows, closing the eyes of the dead.
It's grey, raining outside and it suits me well,
pulling the door to, turning the key in the familiar
lock on last time. This time I forgot to say
goodbye to each room, like I did as a child,
so I step through the soggy leaves and circle
the house trying to make it whole again before I go.
If I knew the words to make the sort
of a spell it needs, I would say tem. Instead, I walk
out o the car and try not to look back.
Suddenly I'm miles away in the rain
on the highway and I don't remember how
I got this far. The windshield wipers are hypnotic
scraping in front of my eyes
and I'm driving inland--away from the land's
edge, from the house at the end of it. Staring
out of the attic window at the night sea
I cannot quite make out where shore ends
and ocean begins. The limits of everything
are undone in th darkness just as on the highway
the grey road merges into grey sky. I am
leaving nothing, take the weight of my life
down this road, though I thought I had left
it behind. Sorry, like darkness, like rain
blurs all the borders and everything comes
flooding in--I greet each room like a child.[3]

1528. Talking at the end of my days--for the storytellers
November 28, 1987

So what is warmth and love, since we yearn
for it so unevenly, and think we touch
it, but so fleetingly it is brief as a touch
of the dream's finger to our lips as we sleep.
Seemed like hell to me, all that lying
in the sun and sweating, lazy sex.
I like mine in a colder climate where
the only warmth is what we generate
between us, and call it passion: the heat
of our bodies coming alive between us.
I'm sorry to digress. I know I wander
somewhat when I speak; it's because
my mind entertains so many guests--each thought
reminds of another and they all crowd
in at once, too quickly to separate so I embrace
them all. Sure I've travelled, had lovers,
married, had a child and dreams, and I
wrote some of them down. Found myself
living lives I didn't know I'd had. Sometimes
I got lost in the intricate tangle of my days
and theirs, following one thread, then
turning to another, studying a knot that
had locked me to a place, to a time, and I
gave it to them and was free to break away
to follow another part of the web.
The myriad of voices woven with my own,
golden threads of singing, something I could hold
in my hands, a pattern describing the inner
and outer sides of my life. A song, a madrigal
of light, each note a point in the woven sky
I've created that created me. One of my
favourite memories is the most simple--
sitting at night on the chesterfield, the rest
of the house asleep the cat beside me. I
touched her face as though it were mine.
There isn't much I would do again
if I could, you see I haven't yet let go
of it all in my mind. I can unlock it at will
but it all floods in, more than I can control.
I always liked the feeling of having
more in my hands than I could control.
I always like dangerous men, but I knew
enough not to live with them. I won't tell
you the names of any of my famous lovers;
there's no point, the ordinary was the best,
when the spark of feeling between us wasn't
just pride. And we weren't afraid to let
ourselves be taken...enough of the flesh
for now or it will weigh me back down.
I feel I haven't lived enough, have lived
too much, have lived on first trying to dance
so fast the flames would not burn. And now
I'm lying in a snow field flush with the
earth; it's cold, but I can see all the
stars in the sky and a few are falling.
yes, it's true, each one is a small ball of fire
like the sun, but a few are falling.[4]


1. This never went anywhere.

2. Quite radically revised, this became "Beachcombing Along the Pacific Rim" in Spells for Clear Vision.

3. I mostly revised the form of this. It became "The Limits Undone" in Spells for Clear Vision.

4. This has always been one of my favourite poems--the first time I wholly imagined a persona whose live was the subject of a poem. I revised this somewhat and it became "Storyteller Talking At The End of Her Days" in Spells for Clear Vision.

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