Six. Since that perfect Louisiana day. Jeanne Leiby’s memory. The book on the desk, the memorial card inside. Her copy of the Artist’s Way on my desk, her contract signed back in 2000. She saw herself as a shadow artist. That resonates. Her handwriting points out how her teaching fit the role of the shadow artist. Now she is gone. Now I am teaching. shadow artist? Not sure. Working to improve my craft. Not enough time. Plenty of excuses. Novel nearing an end point. Too few stories from her pen. Days walking across to the Old President’s house on the LSU campus. Jeanne outside, puffing away on a cigarette, expounding on some idea or other. Always provoking the conversation. Living her dream, perhaps. Six. Reminded of Whitman, ‘O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’ Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
- Days to Spring Break: 3
- Pages written today: 0
- Cups of coffee: 3
- Essays commented on: 20
- Quiz keys made: 1
- Clean desks in office: 1 (not mine)
- Pairs of eyeglasses on desk: 3
- Soda bread loaves in oven: 1
- Socks with holes in toes: 2
- Miles to Dublin: 5179
- Miles to Mexico City: 2018
- Books to read on shelf: 3
- Cash in wallet: $15
Early. Dawn over, the world awakens. Coming in the gate from exercise class last week, a red-tailed hawk swooped from the nearby telephone pole, its claws grasping a rodent, and scant feet over my head it made for the trees across the road. A sign. Significance. Metaphor for some unknown lesson. Pain and suffering. Father would have been one-hundred years old. Daughter asked if Grandpa Jack would have liked her. Bittersweet answer. He would have adored her. The fleet raptor with the struggling prey is me in the clutches of the universe. In a recent meeting someone said, “We teach articulation.” Giving words to the ideas and feelings and confusions of the day. I looked to the shadows of the tree line and asked “are you still there?”
Cups of coffee: 3
Posters of James Joyce in office: 1
Dogs walked: 1
Pages written: 3
Hours of TV watched: 0
Minutes spent Skyping Ireland: 45
Books read: 0
Books to read: 4
Clean desks: 0
Messy desks: 2
Cash in pocket: $0
Blue Pilot V5rt pens on desk: 2
Folded National Library of Ireland bags on desk: 1
Years since Yeats’ death: 78
Times I visited his grave in Drumcliff: 6
Frost on my mind.
“Nothing gold can stay…”
The red tailed hawk builds a nest in the adjacent orchard, another hawk on the next tree.
Lights flash. Warning signs.
In deep water the octopus stretches its tentacles and embraces the current.
Badges and postcards litter the desk.
A letter from an ex-girlfriend’s mother to my aunt and uncle, written on the occasion of my grandmother’s death.
Years later I’d fall in love with this woman’s daughter.
Two weeks after I moved to California my father hit a hole-in-one.
Ancient scripts from Old Ireland.
My mother’s cousin wrote, “You would not believe a father could say such things about his daughter.”
Beechmont Lodge, Navan, County Meath: Sunday.
A photograph of my mother as a child with her cousins, also relatives of James Joyce—John and Desmond Murray.
Remember that day you caught the sun? When you crested the first of the waves my heart fell as the sleek seal’s head disappeared under the swell and did not return. On land I had no idea of the secret harbored inside you, the birthright of Neptune, Poseidon, fish-gods both.
Slope of sun across streaked red sky, the trajectory traced in letters too large for the eye to comprehend. The time you stared through the pinhole at the sun, seared a memory to take beneath the water. Lighthouses cast steady beams, wide and near, the rocks beneath were where we met. Somehow the pelt didn’t suit you, and that desire to land on shore became too much.
Crushed sand dollars decorated your hair the first time we danced at the foot of the lighthouse all those years ago. Turn and turn again, the quitting sun splashing fire across the sky, we moved in anti-clockwise circles, the land, the sea, the land again. Every now and again the sun would catch the shimmer of trapped quartz in your hair, blinding flash, terrifying premonition of a return to a watery life. On the edge of the rocks the seals collected in pairs, saltskinned and apart, no bitter irony in their eyes.