Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Jane Hirschfield gave a reading and a talk at the big library in DTLA (Downtown LA, remember?). I’ve been waiting to see her on this promotional tour. I thought my mother would like what Jane had to say, so I dragged her along. Although it was kind of an ordeal to actually get there, find the place, and a bunch of other little annoyances like the fact that wheelchair accessible doesn’t really address the needs of people who are mobile but challenged.

My mother was thoroughly charmed by Jane and greatly enjoyed the evening after all. (She had tried to get me to abort the mission when we had gone to the wrong venue.)

With apologies and kudos to Christofer Dierdorf.

My friend Stuart died yesterday. I felt as if a sliver, an entire section of my being disappeared, was sliced from me upon that news. Although I may be melodramatic here, but the reality that I would never again converse with him, drink red wine with him, dance with him, talk to him about music, hear his unique Dylan and Beatles interpretations, enjoy his artistic process … I simultaneously wanted to throw up and get under the bed in the fetal position.

Listening to a poet and a deep thinker seemed to be a good way to honor him and to grieve for him.

This morning, I picked up Jane’s new book of essays, Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World. I randomly flipped it open to this:

Achilles in the cloak of his tent, Odysseus wrapped in his guise of beggar, are persons removed from their identities and signature powers. Achilles, though, emerges from his angry retreat essentially the same proud man while Odysseus learns from the fabric of hiddenness a new power, learns that fabrication itself is a power. Over the course of his much troubled wanderings, he grows increasingly skillful at knowing what stories to speak aloud, what facts to keep hidden, shielded by silence. The man of craft—learning to suppress his old reliance on courage and boldness, learning to govern with increasing humility his tongue and its words—is the one who escapes the tragic hero’s fate, to know again family and kingdom.

The lesson runs deep in both literature and psyche: survival depends on an intimate, attuned comfort with similitude and the art of disguise.

This reminded me of Stuart in so many ways. Although I have yet to fully plumb Stuart’s Odyssey as outlined here several things were resonant: a man of craft, fabrication being a power itself, skilled at knowing what stories to speak aloud, and comfort with … the art of disguise. Not sure who took this picture of LiLi and Stuart dressed up as one another at the Eleanor Powers Halloween party many years ago.

Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the every day we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass, say, the window of the corner video store and I am gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I am speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

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