Time awoken by rustling outside: 3AM
Cups of coffee: 3
Pages written: 4
Prose poems written: 1
Pages to edit: 262
Beers in fridge: 3
Books on desk: 3
Items on coffee table: 7
Scratches in eyeglass lenses: 1
Books to return to library: 7
2004: “We solved the world’s problems, including our own.”
2005: “This has been a week of deaths: The Pope, King Rainier of Monaco, Saul Bellow…”
2006: “Today, up at 5:15am to write daily pages.”
2007: “Herzog introduced Nosferatu and held a Q&A afterwards.”
2008: “Taos at last. My room is perched at the top of the building, a windowed space up a steep set of stairs.”
2009: “The smell of magnolia blossoms on the way home last night. The flower, a closed cupcake.”
2010: “Jeanne died yesterday. She was driving to Lafayette. Overcorrected and lost control. Ejected…”
2011: “William Gay dead at 68.”
2012: “Ireland. Home. An emotional mortar and pestle.”
2013: “A sallow man surviving on a diet of nuts and berries.”
2014: “I don’t know if he ever said he loved me.”
2015: “Let out the demons. A spiritual matter. Decline the irregular verbs. Thirteen of them.”
2016: “Without words a bargain is struck, your position changed, closer now.”
(Lloyd Cole & the Commotions, “Are Your Ready to be Heartbroken,” and The Gloaming’s “Samhradh, Samhradh.)
On the road to Lafayette, LA, my mentor and friend, Jeanne Leiby lost her life five years ago today. Sadness, pain, loss and a complete failure to comprehend the gaping hole she left in this world are some of the thoughts churning about my head on this spring morning in Carpinteria, the sun rising red in the eastern sky behind the foothills. I’ll never know her final thoughts, nor her plans for her writing, or life going forward as she drove the two-lane highway in her convertible. We are not privy to the thoughts of others, given only the sometimes difficult charge of marshaling our own ideas and contemplations. Her book is on the shelf and I’ll read from it again today, as I always do on this dark day. “Viking Burial.” No more perfect a piece of flash fiction is more appropriate. Later, I’ll raise a glass of Writer’s Tears to her memory and get on with the living of life and the mourning of those gone too soon.
I read this to my students today in my classes, as this is my father’s birthday and he’s been on my mind a great deal lately::
I sleep on my back and the light fixture showers my face with petals from the dried flowers we brought back from my father’s grave. The day he died, a light freeze covered the neglected lawn outside the ward window; the blades curved with the weight of the frozen water, as if they were the discarded ribs from Sunday’s roast. A bowl of fresh fruit sat beside his steel-framed hospital bed, despite his three weeks of unconsciousness. He unpeeled a greenish banana, looked at me with his good eye, and said I wasn’t to feel guilty for not being there when he died.
“Fear no more the heat of the sun,” my teacher said in our literature seminar. I recall a summer’s day when my father stood ankle-deep in the coldAtlantic water, trunks speckled with salt residue, his cheeks puffed out, body intact and goosebumps all over his bare skin. I chose to ignore his attempts to communicate with me, the subtly-put advice he tried to give me falling into the waves. After the class ended, I checked my phone messages and learned how a series of mini-strokes had left him without color and with one foot in Charon’s ferry.
After a long flight from LAX to Heathrow the payphone’s tiny screen flashed as I dropped the coins into the slot. Three rings. My mother’s voice. “Ah, he died this morning at six, as the sun was coming up.” I sat among the haphazard travelers and their carry-on bags waiting for the connecting flight to Dublin. Three cups of strongly-brewed Costa coffee; and in the cup, the spiraling sand dunes and sharp-edged marram grass, summer holidays in thatched cottages, the memory of his laugh.
What I remember of the drive to the funeral home was the dead bugs embedded in the car’s radiator grille—moths, an early wasp, and a mayfly. My father tied his own flies for fishing—a real knack. By the banks of the Boyne he wristed the bamboo rod back-and-forth, the soft ripples spreading from the false fly, ever outward, to where he stood in his waders in the river water, dead at eighty-three, but still unknowing.