Me, reading in French under a hot setting sun, and thirty feet away, a six-foot alligator, doing nothing.
When will the outdoors be in my voice?
Soundscape: distant cars whir round a highway bend; nearby frogs emit a high-pitched vibrato; wind whishes leaves overhead; then a man's shoes pound the boardwalk, a bird's cry pierces all.
When I was a child, was I less afraid to touch this beautiful rot - wavy black gashes in gray green wood, chartreuse velour-like moss.
Everything around me trembles; I'm in synchrony with my surroundings.
Cold hands, encroaching bulldozers, but the lake's up, and I want a snake to swim toward me.
Female naturalist: "The young men come, even in the rain, holding their umbrellas."
Saw palmetto frond, severed, stuck amongst green plant fronds: the living and the dead coexist here.
Close to 5, dancing on the bridge, I raise my arms toward the blue sky, see a chalk-white half moon.
Kneeling, I open my right hand and press it hard against the damp soil, hoping the heartbeat of the earth will enter me.
Now I smell the swamp muck, but first I had to stand in it, let it seep over my stockings.
Draped around the base of a royal palm, a hair-veil of smilax - a wild pageboy with loops, tangles, knots, thorns; a few vines are alive, dead, alive again; a naturalist says, "Sometimes the inner core's still green."
As I'm walking, I feel like my clothes are falling off, and if I just keep walking, I'll eventually be naked.
In my path, a lake of clear tea I'd like to drink; instead I dip my hands in, enter the underwater artwork - a Japanese arrangement of pine needles, wood, rocks.
Sunlight plays over a scene, reveals a network of iridescent threads; what else is hidden here?
Got scared, got spooked. In two weeks, I've seen only one woman alone, a runner.
Rock music blaring from nearby apartment, soft air wafting over my face, blood lichen spotting moss on a large oak - long dead, split asunder by lightning.
On the path, roots, cigarette butts, snake holes, purple leaves among brown ones, then crunching through the woods a slider turtle that would fill my arms - its dark shell tattooed in an unknown language, its head striped with slick yellow and green pigment.
Walking west, blinded by light, surprised by a pile of uprooted ardisias - bright green shrubs with red berries.
The wind before the rain blows seeds and flowers at my feet: red and chartreuse winged maple pods with fat little seeds inside and tiny yellow blossoms from the jessamine vine.
High in a huge water oak, breezes sway fringes of Spanish moss; it's important to master that rhythm - those undulations and flapping.
Liana vines, thick as my arms - shooting up fifty feet, graceful, tortured, twisted - you are my favorite.
The fiddlehead ferns are unfurling; I fall into the hesitating march of a bride.
I keep jumping on benches, wanting to conduct the forest - so charged and musical.
I saw a green garter snake and a woman's blue underpants: it must be spring!
A pile of Spanish moss lies like a coat of curly hair tossed onto the path.
When my friend's little girl grabs a lizard, it bites her finger and holds on; she demands her mother kill it with an ax.
First I want to be so still the forest can take me; then I want to throw a tantrum, see if the forest will respond.
From 13th Street: an ambulance siren and smells of Chinese food - while leaves of low lying plants quietly flutter.
Slipping between the floor boards, bending over the walkway are tender smilax tendrils, tasting like earthy snow peas.
A black snake with red bands swims past, sinuously skirting the water plants;
I want to jump in, apprentice to its power.
Process Description: On at least thirty-one occasions during the winter months of 1994, I visited Bivens Arm Park. The process was as follows: at the end of each trip to the park, I left one line on the "Visitor Comments" form. These comments were collected over time to form a meditative work called "Bivens Arm Nature Poem." From this method of working, I conceived of a new way to exhibit site-specific writing. Each of the the thirty-one phrases would be copied onto transparencies and then laminated. The phrases would be suspended on filament line and hung at the approximate site where they were originally written. A version of this work appeared in CHAIN, Vol. 1, #3, 1996
Ask, request, demand, suggest, cajole or charm
Ingratiate, suck up to, flatter, complement or smarm
Negotiate, debate, discuss, persuade, convince, explain
Or reason, justify, protest, object, dispute, complain
Propose, entreat, beseech, beg, plead, appeal, implore
Harass, go on about it, pester, winge, whine, nag and bore
Annoy, insult, reproach, denounce, squeal, scream and shout
Go quiet, subdued, look worried, fret, brood, tremble, shiver, pout
Act depressed, downhearted, upset, snivel, sigh
Go all glum and plaintive, wobble bottom lip and cry
Sniff, sulk, grumble, stare at ceiling, mope, pine, stay in bed
Get cross, get angry, fume, seethe, fester, agitate, see red
Provoke, enrage, push, bully, aggravate and goad
Screech, smoke, burn up, ignite, spark, detonate, EXPLODE!
And if all that doesn't work
Here are two little tricks
That should do it with ease
No 1: smile
No 2: say please.
Here lies the teacher who stayed in the warm
While making his pupils go out in the storm
While they were braving the snow and the slush
The building collapsed, and the teacher was crushed.
Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet
The poor little spider
Lay chewed up inside her
the snow came and went
snowmen on the lawn at midnight
now the sun shines and
laugh at me
smile with me
oh its all towards a higher pantheism
in the dark
in the park
rarely in the dark park
your desert was dry
your mountains were cold
your mouth passed me by
betty had million-dollar legs
but she always wore too
I could devour them -
your words, like careless spear-shafts
heaped on some forgotten pile;
history's poubelle, tomorrow's fax,
mixture of fast and furious,
to arrive before the day has broken
from its shell; thought travels fast
between history and dawn -
between imagination and the cut-out lights
that edge the night,
rolled in its carpet-cover, star-studded.
I catch your words like stones
flung at my throat, my toes,
I have no defense.
They scrape me like rough shells
in intermittent water.
The ocean-drag pulls life into my throat,
and now your words are sanded, polished, like a boat
of tasted dreams.
Tide chokes in my mouth
and I spit out pearls.
The hungry clouds stroke sea and me
and rain rushes through me like night.
Night against my skin,
I sink beneath a wall of cloud.
Your words are keeping me awake, star-playing,
on the grey slate roofs.
A plate of moon,
heaped full of melon-seeds.
Moon-dreams lake into my veins.
"Goodnight ladies.......goodnight, goodnight....."
Stars wink and vanish, burst and flare.
I'm curled up on the grey slate roof,
muttering to midnight,
bare and cold and burning.
So - is this a memory of you
I'm touching with my mind,
Or could it be the you
I've yet to find.
How can I know that you are real
Except within the hearing of your words
That tide through me, cave-hungry,
Sand-washed, shell filled
(Inert, abjuring movement,
Rock-clinging, tenements of tide)
I cut securely round your concepts
(Easy this way, listening to your stories)
And paste them in my scrapbook,
Making a collage of crossroads,
Paths, contingencies, directions,
Revelations, that make up the sentence
Of your life, bringing us up to time
(This moment, here, now, indestructible,
Invisible, contusions of the vision,
Scraped cauldrons of our history,
That you are soothing, smoothing,
Your life veers to windward,
Your life becomes the wind.
Measuring this fate of yours
Shaped like an altar,
Garlanded like sacrifice,
I want to say - don't pluck
The deadly nightshade,
She will surely poison you.
Don't water this half-shrivelled vine,
It will place consequences in your dreams
Your heart will not be able to contain,
Draw life from you to feed itself,
Devour your blood like rain
That it was cheated of,
In some new version of our blood-soaked past.
Instead I say - read this
And I will make some tea.
And you read about the vine that grew
And needed to be trimmed
And in the process, thousands died
And garlanded the hills with red.
Why then, should I be caring of this one life
Seek to shelter it, protect it
From the resurrection of this cause,
That many lost their lives to serve?
You were created for this part.
No spell or love or art
Of mine can alter you
One hairsbreadth from your goal.
You were picked and chosen,
And who am I to say
This vine may not transcend its roots,
And bear the fruit its waited
Centuries to nourish, marsh-ages
In the reed-thin grass, to grow?
You are but the tree, to bear the weight -
But the root, to carry freighted
Longings, dipped in origins,
Onto the future shore of Celtic Light.
After the twilight and the knotted, nestled night,
The dawn comes
And you bear it in your blood
Like runes, the messengers of hope,
And everything that has to be
You shed quite carelessly
In words that turn my blood to water.
(Let me support the vine,
Let me be touched by ancient light
That surfaces like sunrise
In our memory, blade-light
Cutting gashes in my skin,
And all wounds will I gladly bear
For you, if you will let me into
The protective circle of this rainbow light.
This is the spirit of this land
That speaks through you, and it is gentle
And it flays my heart like leather
Thongs, why should it act this way
On me, when I have always wished it well?
Love is a strange healing,
It requires an inventory of wounds,
Before each cut is turned into a source of power.)
It seems petty now, to want to warn you
Of the future you have chosen.
I am good at keeping silent,
The ones who are set against you
Will learn nothing from me.
I will wear the seal of the Old Spirit
In a place they cannot reach,
I'll bury it beneath some future tree,
For some new heir to come across
If your seed doesn't take and doesn't germinate -
But that is in a corner
Of some unknown field of memory -
In this moment - as you stir your cup of tea -
You are sharpening the blade
That will connect the future with the past,
That will revive the power
That sleeps beneath this earth,
That will rekindle all the mythic figures
Who slept fitfully in people's twilight dreams,
And who are now preparing armour for the fight.
They are waking and I think that you have called them.
They have come to turn oppression
Into a celebration of the dawn
And I think that you were born out of
A sacred dream, whose will is to unite
The fire of spirit
With the deep-dark magic of the earth.
An ordinary man.
You have 'the common touch.'
Perhaps a common self-deception.
There are many of us think that we can save the world,
Or wake a nation to its destiny.
But if this is self-delusion,
To what can I ascribe this sense of marching feet,
The fire beacon beyond the hill?
If this is just your dream
Then let me share it too,
For the intervening centuries -
Bush, forest, valley, loch,
All the terrain of your once and future land,
Has been calling, whispering,
Among the rain-swept mountains -
I should have stopped in Arles
and honoured you in the melting light,
sun-flowing into painted stars;
but we were stretched thin by circumstances -
stolen passports and money,
grounded by the van's burst tyre -
immobilized and penniless in Beziers,
dried out by the heat, curdling
our intentions, sucking dry desire
for that other world, other dimension,
you've flung me into, many times
in our cold and cloud-infested country.
Your visions of sunflowers and sunlight
were like traces of some liquid dream
arising from a half-remembered paradise.
The shock of recognition and of memory,
lodged nostalgia for some unaccountable
experience I could not remember having,
yet knew I'd had - in these
whirling cypresses, lunging at the sky;
in those glowing stars, spiralling in night;
in the sun-colours of bridges,
and your somnolent yellow room,
in the night-light of the night-cafe,
spilled sun-dreams spreadeagled
on the cobbled streets, white sentinel stars
spin messages that catch
the breath; all these I wanted to possess
by walking the same streets,
touching the same cobbles,
breathing the same light.
Have we passed Arles? I said
(it was early in the morning,
we were heading for Marseilles).
He said 'yes' and when I said
'what was it like?' he shrugged
and said 'a lot of neon lights'.
I had never seen so many sunflowers,
field after field of sun-splashes,
sun-lakes, sun-waves cresting
on the hill-slopes; but to think
of the night-cafe and its lights,
sensuous and peach-soft on the skin -
erased by neon, was like a bitter reprimand.
the dream would have been there,
the warbling crickets in the soft dark.
Depayse, the sun swirled in an isolated sky,
a current of confusion, rainforests of the heart,
The old van rattled noisily through Vincent's vision -
i held onto it like a parachute,
or Ariadne's thread.
The engine drummed its way
into the night-cool air, that threaded
my chaotic, unkempt dreams.
I'd dozed off - then woke up again.
'Have we passed Arles?' I said.
You might have said that too, Vincent
on your way to the asylum,
and the ending of the nightmare
of a heart aching for company,
love bursting from you,
like the sunflowers from the earth,
far too much love to find its way
through the confines and the passages,
the convoluted labyrinth
we call the human heart.
It's just beginning to get dark
and a blackbird sings of spring
in the courtyard of Blackfriars.
The air is still, speckled with night
and the January blackbird
sings of spring.
In the Jazz Cafe,
Brenda buys a bottle of red wine
and the owner passes us two tumblers
from behind the bar.
Someone sitting at a table opposite
has an earring and dark hair
and smiles to his companions.
We go home in the pebbled dark,
past the Monument,
and the Italian cafe
and the shopping centre
wind rustling the garbage bags
and throwing paper
and pizza boxes across the road.
The streets are damp and solitary,
warm and windy
for the time of year.
The young man in the Jazz Cafe
whose smile did not reach my table
reminded me of Jen, with his earring
and his green eyes.
Jen lives in Delmare Street
and to reach his house
I took the pedestrian bridge
that crosses the railway
and gives you a view of the sea.
When I said I'd best be going
he said yes, you'd better.
That was what he said. And then -
'Otherwise I'd keep you here forever.'
I picked up my books and bag.
Put on my jacket
wondering where the words might be
to say - I'd like to change my mind
and stay - and really, its OK for you
to keep me here forever.
But there's never space for words like that
and so I leave and walk up Delmare Street,
its old stone houses,
gardens in the front, with summer roses
trailing scent and smells of cut grass
mingling with the salt air of the sea
which I catch a glimpse of
when I turn around.
Falling in love with city streets
is a hazard only if you miss
the boundary between the pavement
and the road, dividing line between
protective, tended gardens
and the highways with signs like -
'To the Predators Path' or -
'Lane of Utter Loneliness' or -
'Last Refuge of the Heart' or -
'There's Still Time to Get Off This Highway'.
Open road or tended garden,
which is the more lethal
of the two?
I made a narrow escape
I tell myself, no mistake about it
as I turn around and there's the grey sea
on horizon and a whiff of salt.
I cross the bridge
over the railway and wake up
in the morning with an ache
between my shoulder blades
as if I had carried something heavy
on my back for a long long time.
I spent the summer
trying to shrug it off,
kept myself busy painting walls
and hanging pictures at the exhibition.
I grew precise and intimate
with folds of muslin, staple guns
and velvet hangings that I stroked
with vague nostalgia I couldn't place
until Jen walked inside one day
and I ran my fingers carelessly
across his head and the soft fur
of his hair reminded me -
of velvet. Not that I had ever touched
his hair before, but I should
have known - I don't know
what exactly but there was this
strong sensation in my fingers
telling me I now knew something
that I should have known before.
Jen takes me two blocks down the street
where we rescue an abandoned chair
and bring it back with us,
to the exhibition.
He has tattoos, one earring,
a sheaf of papers and a ball of stories
that he can't unwind.
He looks at me for clues
and I know I must abandon, now,
my pretense of counsellor, of objectivity,
of older sister who knows
all the answers, for I have none,
just this gesture of my fingers
moving through his hair.
Soon after that, he leaves
and when the exhibition closes
I take the chair home.
As we dismantle velvet, muslin,
nails and the branches, stones,
shells and tapestries and sculptures
from the window,
there is a chill, a shiver
in the grey air, that was
not there before.
It was not there in the early morning
sunshine kissing the flagstones
and the fronts of buildings
when we opened the doors,
spread butter on croissants
and gave coffee and wine to our friends,
and when he came he brought
the salted sea air with him
and pieces of a story he kept trying
to tell me, while I put more coffee
in the filter, poured out cups,
added sugar, handed them out,
spread butter on croissants,
got some on my finger, licked it
and looked at him -
and he said -
'I travelled to Iona' -
'And met an albatross, was that it?'
I spoke crossly, for it was clear
that he'd been stung by miracles
and he kept finding his way back to me,
needing me to hear his story.
'Well, I hope you didn't kill it.'
Me, I was just jealous
and he grinned at me
and I caught pieces of his story,
among the croissant crumbs
and sugar cubes and milk cartons
and wine bottles and the bracelets
of my friends and the bright colours
that they wore and the talk
and the hanging pictures,
glinting in the sunlight
sloping and slinking through the open door.
But when we said goodbye to the
nasturtiums leaning their soft
orange petals on the ledge
outside the window -
goodbye to the downy folds of
muslin on the walls
and the snakes of gold thread in the hangings,
the sky was parcelled up
tight, in its drawstring bag of cloud
and the air snipped its chilly teeth
I still have the chair we found
abandoned in the street -
I also have phone messages
and cards and promises to meet up -
soon - and - I see someone in the Jazz Cafe
and I remember
smells of sea and cut grass,
the green eyes, the feel of velvet
as I stroke his hair; crossing the bridge
over the railway line, crossing the threshold,
out into the street -
'You'd better go, otherwise
I'll keep you here forever.'
Falling in love with city streets
and tended gardens
and the scent of roses -
and choosing the highway -
What stays forever anyway?
I say to Brenda, as she
pours more wine and I watch
the young man with the earring
laughing, in the Jazz Cafe.
'Some memories do, I guess,'
I don't know how she did it. Fire
She was shaking all over. It took
her hours to put her make-up on.
But she did it. Even the false eye-lashes.
She ordered gin with triple
limes. Then a limousine. Everyone
knew she was the real heroine of
Blonde on Blonde.
oh it isn't fair
oh it isn't fair
how her ermine hair
turned men around
she was white on white
so blonde on blonde
and her long long legs
how I used to beg
to dance with her
but I never had
a chance with her
oh it isn't fair
how her ermine hair
used to swing so nice
used to cut the air
how all the men
used to dance with her
I never got a chance with her
though I really asked her
where you do
in the mind
and turn the head
of everyone in town
her shaking shaking
second blonde child
after brian jones
oh it isn't fair
how I dreamed of her
and she slept
and she slept
and I'll never dance
with her no never
she broke down
like a baby
like a baby girl
like a lady
with ermine hair
oh it isn't fair
and I'd like to see
her rise again
her white white bones
with baby brian jones
baby brian jones
Less than if
Is more than but
Why times not
Big is more
Than small is less
And yes is nothing
Not, I guess