Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Creole Belle

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we--
Of many far wiser than we--
And neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:--

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


That's Windermere--Cumbria, the Lake Country, not yet visited...so very English, with gray northern light, flagstone walls, trimmed hedges and flowing ivy... But the season here is winter--time of the solstice, banked fires upon the hearth. Maybe even older--like Beuys, in those early drawings--his creatures emerging almost by themselves, from a time of peat bogs and runes. No such telling here--La Californie--where even the shell mounds remain unknown--everything new, unfounded...

A woman, too--time of warmth...

Sunday, December 17, 2006


La Jolla, looking down from the cliffs, blue green water, golden kelp, eel grass around all the rocks... Everything shifting back and forth with the tides. Out beyond the point, a white foam breaker's edge, then calm. Swimming out from the beach, long strokes, summer air, like the day with Peter and Pat, out farther still, Pat's rocking ChrisCraft, athwart the seas, lifting and pitching with each new swell. A goodbye of sorts, mid-ocean... incomplete...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sea of Okhostk

12 December. A little later, towards the end of the afternoon. Mixture of raw sienna, orange and umber, thinned down, and applied over translucent wavery dark-brown ground. Enough water so that it becomes misty, the touch of cadmium orange subtle but prominent. Also a boat—a ship, rather—like the one the Chinese girl gave me at school, an old freighter from Shanghai, piloted by her grandfather. Mark saw it in my office—real for him as well. “The things most real to us are the ones we experience before the age of five.” From somewhere in Marx. Feel of a surface—the material of a certain time, a certain place. Undefineable except to the senses. Like the dark brown masonite of Dad’s table, varnished by hand, the one my arm rests on now… A kind of bedrock, in it’s own way--perhaps only to me…

Sea of Okhotsk.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


12 December 2006, Tuesday. Dark rainy day. Imagining a beach on the coast below Sydney—Maroubra--the name coming from an Aboriginal word which means “like thunder”—from the sound of the waves on the rocks… But here not so much melodrama as mood--all grays, with raw umber brush drawing of a single boat, the first one in several months. A surf boat, that is, or at least it could be…and which I always associate with places like this—Sydney, Melbourne, Perth…the Western oceans…

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Owl Harbor

Late in the evening on a winding Delta Road...light breeze, darkened waters, stands of cattails and reeds. A few bars still open, hints of neon--the Saddle Club, Bullards, Johnny C's... Otherwise, it's only night sounds and the dark, sleeping cormorants and mallards. Su Shih, writing long ago, "On a Boat, the River at Night," his concern for spider, moon, mud worms in the cold...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Hong Kong Bound

Dark ship on a dark sea. Lighter lines scratched into umber...reeds on a marshy shore. Banks of the River Plate. El Río de la Plata--River of Silver--with waters wide enough to be unending, invisible, all the way to Uruguay.... And every other ocean as well--in a storm, off the coast of Sicily, for instance (Mike Richardson's story), sailing in a worn Greek fishing hull, running close-hauled between the capes, unable to make headway, too near the cliffs... But here we're well offshore, in the calm of a winter fog, harbor bouys far behind... Heading out for Hong Kong, Singapore, points beyond. My library books, in Oceanside, as a boy--sea stories, working ships just like this: the engine-room, a wiper... Reappearing again just last month as a photograph in the hands of a Chinese girl at Berkeley--her grandfather a Shanghai sea captain. Picture of his steamer--around the time of the war... His jaunty pose, leaning against the rail...

Monday, December 04, 2006

L'Atalante/Li Jiang

Two boats, two streams--the Siene and the Li Jiang. Jean Vigo's young river captain, Michel, and his bride, Juliette--a girl from a small country town. She boards the barge unknowing, dressed all in white--dark hull and river mist, bringing with her what she can--the freedom of tenderness... But can it last, amidst the channels and shoals, bales of river ware, chalk and grain... She flees at last, in Paris, lost forever; Michel lies dreaming, vision of a river maiden undersea... The Rusalka--water spirit--Warszawa's mermaid, sword and shield. In the east, who knows--does this story find its twin? Late evening, below Guilin, that was Yangshuo, another small town...darkened room, river night, a single lantern out on the water, but only the sound of soft currents lapping. Summer air, as it's always been, Po-Chü-i, Li Po..the river, my friend...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Rock Dove

Sometime in April...that was at the beginning. A rock dove, full body, strong bones. No great mystery on sidewalk or curb--but wait, once in flight, it's back to the time of Odysseus, or Noah--the messenger--another being, moving through the air. Gray city skies, building shadows, where the light never reaches the street. Like Giacometti, in his Swiss valley--a condition of the earth. But here the temperament is more southern--Mediterranean even, 14th and Broadway, downtown. Oakland, yes, all those years, slide open the narrow grate, step out onto the street...

Oh have you seen those lonesome doves
Flyin' from pine to pine
A-mournin' for their own true love
Just like I mourn for mine...


High in the Sierras, just below the Yuba pass... a small mountain town with steep metal roofs, banked for snow. "We close down at the end of September, open again in May." Wooden cabins along the river's edge...continuous sound of water, rushing, churning against stone...

But now it's high summer, later afternoon light. High above, the Sierra Buttes, craggy granite outcroppings. In front, near the road, the red rust of old barn paraphernalia (even if just for show) and a large, shallow trout pond, also rimmed with stone. Gray forms of fish meandering back and forth…moving slowly in circles, now seen, now disappearing...