list

17 days to turn-in thesis to committee.

8 undergrad workshop submissions on my desk.

18 submissions out in the atmosphere.

56 rejections of various pieces duly noted.

18 days until the slayer turns 50.

101 days to move-in at old green house in carpinteria.

8 days to mardi gras.

3459 items in itunes library.

1 job application on my desk.

2.5 cups of coffee drank already today.

95% chance i will engage in manuscript sabotage this week.

soigné’sday’s child….

dramatic change or not. if how she died in the draft does not become how she dies in the finished version, then i can take it as simply being how the universe wants to have it turn out. finished memory wall by anthony doerr and found how he writes about and around memory to be wonderfully inventive and thought-provoking. looking at my stack of pages and how i choose to handle memory and the past, i’m enthusiastic to get back to those sections and refigure them in some manner.

here in nola last night it was bead season. ‘tit rex parade in the bywater was maybe the most fun parade i’ve seen in years! all these miniature floats, street musicians, anarchists flowing in and out of bacchanal, tall people, short people, all sorts of everything… then it was a seven-mile bike ride through the city to the uptown parades which were far less fun it has to be said. at least the coming weekend has the promise of krewe of ares and st. ann’s walking parade on mardi gras day itself. and in the meantime, all the grading, all the editing, all the slow back-and-forth motion of that bloody pendulum.

starttheday’s child…

an office with two chairs. a book red. a tray of animal crackers. fracture no fracture. no voice. vocal. speak up, out, distressed. a cabin in oxford, brass tub, the shining carapace of an old typewriter. vote for meaning, tap the ampersand, allow the double-printed remains of a letter to flail on the page. thin white paper never works. keys cut “o”uts into the paper, a holy mess. stress the first syllable here, amalgamate the story with another, remove the ambiguous nature of the mystery character in chapter 4 and replace with terms of peace treaty. sneaking away from the chaos of the everyday seems wise. main square, tall plinth, hatted man. does the brass shine enough to cast a glow? talk about what matters, expose the beams and rafters of the soul and curl fetal on floor. cry, cringe, allow the wash to cover you. laugh cry same time different moment no matter no how no shame no knowledge. see the long fur coat and the double bass in its case the strings frayed and rotted. a place where only you go to find comfort. lie in the basement of the wardrobe covered with a hill of bear a fossilized child a frozen tableau. doors shut shimmer windows catch tongues cook daggers in old pots and the switch on the kitchen wall echoed and reverberated shock when hands were wet thrown across room and float accusations at the family. dry your hands in future. wash my hands of the lot of you. a common refrain from the book of common prayer.

not making the cut… the edits are cruel…

Westport—a bustling port town, narrow winding streets and hobbit-sized houses, a river of glorious blue water flowing straight through its center and I felt relieved to be there, so close to where Una’s family were vacationing. Una’s family were staying in a small village called Bunowen, out on the Southern part of Clew Bay, the enormous natural harbor that spread out on both sides of Westport.

I got out of the train station and found myself surrounded by a bunch of foreign sounding backpackers poring over maps of the area. I had no map and only the barest knowledge of which way the town Una was staying at was located. I walked away from the station and started looking for signs that pointed in the direction of Bunowen.
Once on the outskirts of the town I began to thumb for a lift. This was new territory, never before having been away from home on my own, and I was panicked by the idea I might not get a lift and end up having to stay at the side of the road for the night. And, what the hell was I going to do for a place to sleep that night? I hadn’t extended my master plan that far, thinking only of a romantic reunion with Una and a night spent under the stars on a sandy beach with seals swimming in the moonlight.

An hour later and I was still standing on the side of the road waiting for a ride. All I’d seen go by were three lorries full of sheep and hay. There seemed to be no ordinary traffic such as people coming and going from town on errands in their “normal” cars. The idea that the preferred mode of transportation was farm vehicles had escaped me entirely.

At last, after five more animal carrying vehicles had passed me an old Jaguar S-Type drove past, pulled over and honked its horn. I picked up my bag and ran toward the car. A tiny old man sat in the driver’s seat, a black and white Collie beside him on the ground. The back seat was missing entirely and three chickens pecked about in the springs of the missing upholstery.

“Hopintherenowyounglad, wherereyouofftothisfineeveing?” he muttered.

“Uhm, Bunowen please?”

“Bygodsoitis,” he growled, opening the door and pushing the dog in the back with the chickens. A cloud of feathers rose as the dog closed its teeth on one of the bird’s tail feathers.

“Stopyoucurofablackguard.” The dog raised one ear, cocked its head, questioningly at its master.

I scrambled into the front seat and sank into the broken passenger seat. “Thanks very much.”

“Yourefromthecitythenitakeit?” he said.

“Dublin. I’m on a week’s holidays.” I reached back to stroke the dog’s head and it growled guttural. I pulled my hand back fast as I could.

“Byjesusshesabitybitchandthatsapromisekeepyourfingersoutofhermouth.”

The Jaguar’s exhaust must have been full of holes, for it farted its way around the curved road and every so often emitted a terrific explosion of smoke, and the old guy would yell out, “Hurrahforshitethereshegoesbythehokey.”

At length, the dog and the chickens quieted down and the only sound was of the old fellow’s muttering under his breath and every now and again making some wisecrack about Dublin and the “cityfeckers,” as he called them. He dropped me at a crossroads just outside the town and then he turned left and disappeared up the dusty road with a banging of the car horn.

The sign pointed toward Bunowen, ½ a mile. On the grass verge beside the signpost was a small shrine with a blue-clothed statue of the Virgin Mary. All around the statue were floral offerings in filthy jamjars. I crossed myself and asked her for some assistance in finding Una and making sure she was still in love with me.

Nine o’clock and the sun was dipping in the sky, a striated reddish pink cloud promising a day of good weather on the next day. I heard Dad’s voice in my head. “Red skies at night, Shepherd’s delight. Red skies in morning, Shepherd’s warning.” I began searching the roadside for some building that looked isolated and less likely to attract attention. Somewhere I could uncurl the sleeping bag. An old abandoned church was set back from the road. At the back was a graveyard littered with huge moss-covered stones and stone crosses. A massive oak tree extended its branches horizontal to the ground and they looked like the giant fingers of a gigantic spider. This was somewhere I’d probably be able to sleep unnoticed, but I was too big a chicken to sleep beside a graveyard.

A narrow stone cottage with a caved-in thatched roof stood opposite the churchyard and I crossed the road, jumped the low wall, and took a walk around. After looking in the grimy windows, I saw a cobwebbed and broken table and chairs upended in what used to be a kitchen. I walked to the back door and tried the handle. It creaked open and I went sideways in through the narrow opening. A wisp of web covered my face and I frantically brushed the mess away from my hair.

The house had three rooms, a kitchen/living room, a bedroom, and a bathroom. The bedroom empty, devoid of any sign of prior habitation, I put my duffle bag and the rolled sleeping bag on the ground. The thatched roof was pretty well intact and this meant I’d be able to sleep without the fear of being drowned in a downpour. I walked the rest of the cottage and found a straw broom in the kitchen area. Back in the bedroom I brushed the dust from the floor out into the main part of the house. I unrolled the sleeping bag, sat against the wall, and read for an hour before the light faded and nighttime fell.

With the hoots of owls and the occasional sound of a passing car I fell asleep in the ruins. Dreams came in a rush and Una’s face swayed in and out of focus as I tried to catch hold of her with my hands, which had no fingers attached. Instead there were stumps where fingers used be, and the sense of irritation at not being able to grab Una’s face had me awake and sweating.

The caw of a crow woke me the next morning and the sun filtered through the filthy windowpanes. On the floor a strange pattern of light and shadow played in front of me. I picked up the sleeping bag, rolled it up tightly and bound it in the duffle bag. After pissing outside against the back wall it was time to head toward town and see if I could find Una.

Off to my left the slopes of Croagh Patrick rose from the surrounding countryside, the hazy blue peak blurred by the morning haze. Birds wheeled and dived in the sky as I walked the short distance to the town. I entered the small village after crossing over an old stone bridge beneath which the fast flowing Buunowen River went. I had heard of the river from my father, a veteran fly fisherman who had fished practically every waterway in the West of Ireland. I’d never had much luck when we went fishing together, always managing to get the line tangled, or to lose the fly because of my carelessness.

There were weekends when Dad would leave the house on a Saturday at the crack of dawn, bound for some tributary, and he’d reappear late the same night with a number of silver-scaled trout wrapped in newspaper, gutted and filleted, ready for Mum to throw on the frying pan for supper. I loved to poke out the eyes. My early years were warning signs of the vicious little bastard I would later become as a teenager. But on the nights he returned home victorious the house became full of the aroma of frying fish and his voice would rise as he sang songs of militant soldiers and raven-haired girls.

The sight of the “Reek” as Croagh Patrick was called, rising craggily in the distance, reminded me of my father’s visage. I shuddered to think what he’d have said if he’d known I was loose in the West of Ireland in search of a girl.
I heard the voice admonishing me, always teasing, cajoling.

I walked across the bridge into the narrow main street of Bunowen. Nothing much seemed to be going on there at all. There were only three or four stores and a couple of pubs, and at the far end of the main street a Catholic Church loomed large, its steeple towering above the relatively low buildings of the town. Everything appeared to be thatched in the town; the bank, the pubs, the shops.

Rural Ireland: a pub, a cross, a stray dog, a famine memorial, the demarcations of a troubled history. Travel the country without encountering a pub or a church and you’d have to be a blind man. The town was a typical Irish country one, whitewashed buildings, thatched roofs, the odd country bus chugging through, people walking here and there, on their way someplace.

I had no idea of where Una might be staying. True, there were not that many places to go in the town but there were probably dozens of rental homes in the area dotted here and there on the coastline. I’d have to do some detective work.

turdsday’s chord….

the past haunts me in ways i’m unwilling to admit, except under the most extreme provocation. opening up the cellar door, the fingerprints of stale air, the stunned silences of saturday afternoons, the way a hinge creaks from misuse. ebb, flow, the reversal of airways, no need to poke about in there, amongst the large sacks of vegetables and the filing cabinet filled with unlabeled bottles. nobody sits in the rat-bitten leather chair anymore, but the bald patches from his elbows are the color of bleached linen, and the single lightbulb is the nexus of a dozen spiderwebs. i sit on the scorched floor, palms in the dirt, the narrow beam from the outside letting me see the innards of my past. say three hail marys and a glory be, say not another word, and if the devil doesn’t come for you by suppertime we’ll maybe let you out. this floor is forty years ago, its filth the accumulation of painted rust hinges, its promise the bulkhead of a dark floodwater. i want to peel my skin off and hitch a ride to childhood, the pendulum swinging back into the fractured ripples no one’s dared disturb until now. an ache rumbles from off the planked walls of my gristle-bound core.

wodinodinsday’s childe….

third, first, second. the book began in third. the book began in a much different place and time than it’s in now. third. plenty of reach for perspective there, even now i sort of long for the ability to lapse into third person and show some things i cannot easily show with a first person narrator. second is a no-no. never thought of second person at all, seemed too tough to pull off, and it is. and then i read mark richard’s house of prayer no. 2 which is a miracle of second person narration, and a bloody, swashbuckling read, to boot. i can’t do that. no way can i sustain that voice for three-hundred plus pages.

the clouds move speedily here in new orleans of late. at night the ping-pong ball moon shines so bright in the windows and the clouds move by like legless sheep on their way to a legless abattoir. never spelled that word before in my life and to even think of the word causes my brain to do somersaults. and that’s another word to cause pause. somer. old english? childe harold and all that. there’s much to consider.

the days to mardi gras are fewer and fewer, the coming of some of the most fun moments of the year. the crewe of ares parade that runs through he bywater late at night, the st. ann’s walking parade that winds along from the marigny to the river’s edge by jackson square. when we’re not living here next spring i fear a massive depression setting in at this time of year. to not have access to king cake and costumes, to not wander the streets of nola and marvel at the inventiveness of people’s garb, to not be immersed in the carnival atmosphere. meh.

for now the work calls. pages upon pages to read, comment on, cogitate over. and that’s before editing a single word of my own work. perhaps i’ll reach that later, out of the steam and sweat of the morning’s endeavors.

tally-ho!