Saturday, June 30, 2007



What's in a rouge?

Shrub rosebush


& red wheelbarrow (2)

Petunia (white)

Endless Summer


White Clips & Blue Clips


My Jane Eyre

I got home late the other evening from the Icarus Project holistic fair and from watching TARNATION -- has anyone seen that?

I was too tired to reply to X. re: her post about Y.Z. but was thinking of my own scrapes in grad. school w/ professors -- there were two such scrapes -- both near misses (as X.'s w/ Y.Z. was ... ). In one case, I earned a "B" for dodging a bullet w/ a known grad. school predator. I wrote about Willa Cather in his class. In the other at the other school (this is when I became dx'd) I tried to "marry" my professor who was living as a threesome married w/ a mistress. It was MY delusional phase, as he himself pointed out, and in a remarkable way, we actually had a productive teacher/student relationship most of the rest of the time -- w/o ever crossing physical lines. Is there a story there? Maybe THAT's a novel I could write/he could write/WE could write/the women could write. His then-wife wrote her last book about ADD using one-line paragraphs. His now-wife (?) the then-mistress, was one of our most recognized for her small (but clear) talent in short story. And he, J.R., is regarded as "disappeared" by one of his later U of ND students, meaning what, I don't know, "disappeared" from the internet. It wouldn't surprise me if he lives near a beach somewhere -- he would be about 63 today -- but is okay. Our student group were fond of one another, but in a love/social-derision kind of dynamic.

For me, it was about writing (more than romance) no matter what. For them, the peers, who all fared better than I did in the workforce & some of them in publishing (who were not ahead of me aesthetically when we started), it was about crushes on teachers. Bipolar dx is a serious undertaking, one for wh. chemicals are prescribed and that takes you into difficult cultural territory. It's too bad, the writers at the school couldn't place writers-as-writers and writing first then, as I'm fairly convinced our teacher did, even though I had had this unwitting Jane Eyre attack around him.

I'm having troubles w/ writing recently, but not only recently, but in a different way recently. To know which type of writing to pursue & using what venues are the hardest aspects of it. I don't want to write tell-all's, yet I've done a certain amount of that by blogging. Rather than write a book about my true-to-life fables, I write very short weblog entries that encompass whole swaths of time and development and that provoke fear in me to do then I get very little feedback. There's ambivalence, of course, about whether writing for the internet is writing the same way as paper-publishing or juried internet publishing is. But I'll say that I recently had four of the short weblog pieces accepted for journal print by Minnetonka Review, wh. is a new national publication, named for the lake and town where I live.

About the Icarus Project. These are a handful of community activists living in MN (Portland, San Francisco, New York & elsewhere) who are leftist & optimistic about their outcomes (progonoses), though they have this dread dx. The other night there were three topics -- how to navigate in a crisis for the dx'd; how to fill out a directive for hospitalization & find an agent who knows your wishes; and how to handle activist burn-out. I don't go through activist burn-out, but I go through caretaker burn-out from dealing w/ alcoholics & addicts -- fatiguing to contemplate. I am gearing up w/ Alanon to help w/ that. All is rosier when actions are available to take and one takes them (yoga & exercise are other prerogatives), but it doesn't change the fact that "illness" is the theme, even in wellness.

Let me say I didn't think that your (B.'s) greatly encouraging notes to me were what I meant by "stagnant" in our little list. I was trying to say (to the main list) that we moved our depression topic to a much smaller place, and it lost some of its steam -- wh. is true. It was almost that we needed the large list to really give out our ghosts in a charged way.

The Icarus people were asking how poetry works as a business or field -- as I had raised as my topic "internet-related panic" that I go through. Well, it turns out that they go through that, too, and most sensibly try to avoid too much internet communication. (I went home & disabled a handful of weblog entries to address anxiety & shield privacy.) Their symptoms manifest other ways, such as ... (Their confidentiality policy is different from others I have seen elsewhere: It is all right to share content from group but not names.) Community activists & poets "give" and compete at "giving" -- time & energy -- and to be multitudinous as bosses. Poets are self-representing -- isn't it true? -- & work for their names & achievements & rep's & -- (here is something I told them -- beauty in one's 20s is more of a qualifier than sustainable talent).

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Butterfly Weed

Asclepias. This is a wildflower in the Milkweed family.

Tawny Daylily

Red Elderberry

This is the first shrub to bloom of the season; a shade tree, birds eat the berries.

Building #2

Janis wasn't pretty in the face. Even her voice wasn't pretty. Her voice was a cave, a cause, a gouge in the universe. She was unrecognized, even after she became famous. She sang and died of recognition. She was never once rejected for her lung capacity or her diaphragm or her vocal range or her throat. She was rejected for her mouth.

It's no different from playing saxophone or oboe or flute -- women making faces. Even God hears more than he sees, God who betrayed Beethoven. To want the experience but not the view.

(March 17, 1995)


I was always a writer, but I became one, deliberately, as an adult, to express pain. I believed that I could reach the anonymous ears of God that way and give courage to people who loved truth.

I met people who were not afraid. Some of them loved me more than I could tolerate. Some taught me with more pain. Love and pain overlapped. I ran from both toward a future of writing and arrival. I moved slowly but eventually. I lost a child, rode twice to its funeral on my bicycle, paid in cash. I lost a husband, a father, and more friends than I had ever dreamed of knowing. When I lost writing, as I was losing it, I fought with all my ingenuity for as long as I could -- longer. I sat outside the hospital for hours, reading signs in every movement around me, until nothing was left but fear.

Losing writing broke my spirit. I had been consciously arguing for spirit at that time, noticing it missing in many of the writers around me. Their lack of spirit challenged me. It was a serious and beautiful offense, but I didn't imagine then as I do now that some of them also lacked soul.

The price of fighting for spirit and soul has sometimes been sanity. I want sanity, but I believe in spirit and soul. The sanity we live by is worth less without them.

A woman with spirit appeals to men who fish because she is still alive. If they hook her, they despise her. They never fear dying themselves. They watch remotely as she gropes and sinks, nothing stirring them to love or remorse or even pity. They are bored but fortified by her death to want another.

I have lost will and found it in refusing to accept that men are incapable of equality. I have believed that they are able but unwilling. I have risked my life pulling men's doubles from drowning water, while the men themselves sat comfortably on shore. I have died of this illusion many times -- for humanity, for writing, for my own man, globally and locally. I have lost humor, too, the humor women share when they do not dive to save imaginary men from drowning.

(April 26, 1996)

The Semicolon

Grammar from Lesson 14C.

Do not use a semicolon between parts of unequal grammatical rank, such as a clause and a phrase or a main clause and a subordinate clause.

NOT: Lucy has three topics of conversation; her courses, her career, and her travels.

BUT: Lucy has three topics of conversation: her courses, her career, and her travels.


Lucy has three topics of conversation; her courses, her career, and her travels, not, but: Lucy has three topics of career conversation, her truck needs a valve job, Harvey, the dormitory clown, and the bridge under construction. The bridge was under construction, not that it needed a valve job; it needed career and travel plans; it needed a hot tank with gasoline in it. Harvey needed a valve job; along came Harvey; we heard about the final decision to take a detour to the dormitory. Along came Harvey and Lucy, who needed lab jobs; they went jogging one afternoon, never returning, and are numbered among the tens of thousands who disappear every year. "The educational TV channel is never boring," said the missing Lucy. The report is true; Lucy is traveling.

(ca. 1985-86)

Red wheelbarrow

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Seven Things (a writing exercise)

The Minnetonka Historical Society Burwell House Ice Cream Social, Minnetonka Mills, Hopkins Westwind Concert Band under the direction of Don Bates (June 23, 2007).

Seven things people may not know about me:

1. I saw and heard read James Baldwin and Jorge Luis Borges at Memorial Union Theater in Madison in the 1980s.

2. I played clarinet seriously, studying with Robert Haugen and the chair of music at U of Minnesota while still in high school. Don Bates was our conductor and led an astonishing number of musicians to the professional level.

3. On the MN driver's license: I have hazel green eyes; I am 45 years old; I am just over 5'10" tall and weigh 135 pounds.

4. My father taught us our love for outdoor camping and fishing. We went to Y summer camps. I used to have a small tackle box and knew how to spin out a fly.

5. I get up at 4 a.m. I nap at 4 p.m.

6. I have no deep desire to publish books, or else it is so deep, I forget it.

7. I come from a line of British aristocrats and Swedish farmers. And, yes, I have a brother!

Friday, June 22, 2007


Centranthus (a semi-tropical); Coleus; Viola; and Gerbera Daisy.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Onion family

Excerpt from "Initial Signs of Mercy," (or "The Sitzer"), short story, 1997:

Welsh Onion
"Fred went agreeably to weekly jam sessions at The Bar of the Common People. Her own interest in flight was beginning to show and expressed itself in solo dancing.

While Jimmy was on stage, Fred talked with the bartender, a sound poet from Missoula. It was difficult to hear what he was saying so she wrote notes to him across the bar. She wrote about the weather. She wrote about trade winds. He wrote that he had not known that she was going to be crazy.

One night cops arrived -- someone in the neighborhood had complained about the noise. The cops repeatedly asked to see the liquor license and repeatedly stated that the piece of paper pinned to the wall above the cash register was merely a receipt for a license, not a license.

Fred grew impatient with their circular remarks. 'I know they have a beer and wine license,' she said.

'Where is it then?' one of the cops said.

The sound poet had told her the week before that he had sent off for a license but that it had never come in the mail.

'You tell us,' she said.

That was on a Wednesday. On Monday, the police closed the joint, right down to the basil growing fragrantly in the back, the rose bushes, the chive, the Wisconsin."


Summer Solstice: Happy 40th birthday, Beth-Soeur!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dream about the W.A.S.P.s

I dreamt that we were at a party. I was squatting in the living room at the party handling foreign currency. Two W.A.S.P. men in dark grey suits -- we were partygoers new to each other -- told us to keep the money. We removed the bills from a black leather album. Later, one of the W.A.S.P.s stopped me in the hallway. He seemed intent on going to one of the bedrooms, but I had no interest, and my eyes dropped. He said, "You were raped," and I said, "sorry." Then the other W.A.S.P. man appeared in the hall. The two of them lifted me up and carried me into a bedroom while I fought them. One of the men withdrew a needle from a pack and inserted it into my leg at the ankle. I was screaming but my screams were muffled by their hands. I was calling to all coasts, "Michael!" in a low growl. I had never once had a needle in me besides at a doctor's office. What is going to happen to me? Is it a virus? A drug? Then I woke up, glad to be safe but alarmed.

(Annandale Dream Gazette, ed. Lynn Behrendt, June 20, 2007)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Rose from Lake Nokomis

Photo taken June 6. June 11: Happy birthday, Bonnie June and K. Lorraine!

Visiting in New York

The grass is greener in Minnesota, of course. My bout of depression is and is not clearing by way of travel to see (eight) important friends. I am and am not getting married any time soon as threatened or promised. We can and cannot live well together even for a weekend. It is as Dr. Abuzzahab said of poets -- they are eccentric. We are acting too lazy to take a shower. I am reading Louise Bogan's letters and poetry. Certainly, there is no sex. I've thought about whether sex matters and if so, how much. If it doesn't matter at all, I wasted my youth. If it matters normally, then I miss it. Does it matter compared to eating? I see sex and food as similar, sex as more like food than like drug.

We are drinking only very little. I celebrated my 10th anniversary since joining AA, the end of habitual drunkenness. I had stopped drinking on Father's Day. I liked tipsiness, not drunkenness. Those days of vodka alone are fortunately long past. I have taken care of alcoholics, though, when I might have hid from them in AA meetings or at the Church -- alcoholics don't go there!

I stopped going to AA seven years ago, but I didn't stop meeting members, who found me on internet dating websites (I took down my profiles). Or I met them in league with our past lives. Our real or past lives, now that we are aging and fearing poverty and infirmity, still matter more to us. Still, I loved my four internet power dates. Those didn't lead to relationships because I am too poor to attract a professional middle-class man my age or older (my height or taller). Plus, they are all divorced with children, and I'm searching for a role. This 4-year hope (NY) is of surviving disparities with one whose suffering is too noticeable -- he walks with a cane -- to let him recognize life. We both like service people, the paid courteous. He has a civil libertarian's fear of AA and rejects spiritual practice. I miss having a spiritual practice.

I need to start something. Look, this year four editors contacted me about poems. Yesterday, at lunch with BJ and TS, we saw Richard Howard. It was at Knickerbocker's. Hello, we said.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Why we blog

Here's a link to a recent issue of the cultural studies journal, Reconstruction, that addresses the theme, "Theories/Practices of Blogging":

Scott Howard
University of Denver

Monday, June 11, 2007

Depression & poetry

Today is a harsh day; yesterday was a better day. This month, this early summer has been hard, and I am struck by personal poverty, surrounded by other people's plenty, their sufficiency, the approval of their lifestyles by the main mass. I wrote a prose poem for my weblog and called it "Dying Not." It is about marrying for money -- his idea of my choice -- marrying someone who is not diagnosed with depression or other mental illness but who shows signs of those, and who gets by with it due to his wealth. I am depressed over it. I would rather earn a decent living. I know bipolars who married for love & get along inside good lines. I would rather be among them. So, depressed for the duration of a sunny day, I wrote poetically, because anything else, any other form would be more depressing. Creativity, whether the poem is good or not, is a reply.

. . .

Today I wrote at my weblog in a fever of depression. Yesterday I was without symptoms and didn't write but talked happily with myself. The clinical term for this is cyclothymia. Supposedly, it's a milder form of bipolar -- no definite pattern of mood swing, just ups and downs in no sustained rhythm. I think it's worse, frankly, but people accept depression more easily -- especially in women (as if it's desirable in us to be depressed) than they accept hypomania (rapid happiness).

Other friends were discussing "dumb luck." My dumb luck is that someone wants to rescue me from my own stupid poverty, but he is a suffering duck. Pushing toward the creative today, I fledged a sparrow, a Mia Farrow.

. . .

It's good to have a long experience with remission, bec. it creates a sort of inner "bank" of strength. I could create in that atmosphere of health as well if not better than out of it, i.e., as now. Creating poetry while in and out of depression may help the depression but is a sort of resorting to creativity when -- as everyone has suggested ... there is a lot of volunteerism here. I love the seasons, especially spring. They drive one away.

Dying Not

Marrying Time.

Your love is all tied up in a knot. You know what love is not. You know what love is silently for you. You heard love in the branches of the oak tree. It was a bird living in fear of the ground, where the cat walks. The songbird gets its seed from the feeder. The rose bush flares blooming after lying about dying winters ago. You read the poems of dead women. He gives you poems by living men. Dying is for animals. Living is for hens.

There was no tall man; there were only other men in their own skin. The walker attracted my inner eye; I would try like him. I would walk to his house. By the sea to his knee. I would crot.

Beginner's luck in looking well, fair.

Hell for disjointedness, for holing friends, golf.

In one instant, oil frees flowing, boot tears.

So marry, then.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Dr. Abuzzahab

My pdoc (as psychiatrists are called in the bipolar community), Dr. Faruk S. Abuzzahab, Sr., M.D., Ph.D. appeared on the cover of the New York Times last Sunday for accepting $50,000 over several years (1998-2005) from drug companies to promote their products or else it was for research of their products. I participated in some of that research -- the goal has been to make "safer" anti-psychotics, of which I am typically on a very low dose (in manic-depression those are used as "mood stabilizers"). Dr. Abuzzahab's clinical neighbor, Dr. John Simon, accepted $350,000 from manufacturers in the same period.

I know from personal experience that Dr. Abuzzahab meets with many, many patients who are on Medicare. His client base is his main source of income and activity. Medicare, it is known, underpays the doctors by a lot. Dr. Simon's office seems much less busy with patient care. Dr. Abuzzahab lost a patient and a $50,000 lawsuit some years ago, resulting in a temporary loss of his license. During that period, he became certified in alternative medicine.

I really like the old guy. He has moved to St. Louis Park from Minneapolis and seems to be seeing fewer patients(?). I need to get an appointment with him and perhaps finalize our relationship and my medication regimen. I shall miss him if this is the beginning of his retirement, one I had expected for some time as he is older in years and was probably trying to see too many patients. [My appointment on July 2 was one of our best; my med's are adjusted. We talked details. I told him about Icarus Project, and we looked up "icarus" together. He said nothing about retiring. Dr. Simon has gone into a hospital-only practice, as one of my former pdoc's has done. It is notoriously difficult to find a pdoc in the Twin Cities (but this is a different issue) as they mostly run waiting lists.]

Things I learned from Dr. Abuzzahab:

1. There is nothing to say you have to stay on medications for your whole life.
2. Cogentin is constipating.
3. The newer anti-psychotics are safer than the old ones. (After a little beta-testing on my part, I liked the old one, nicknamed try-laughing, better even than the best of the new ones, Abilify, and find it plenty "safe." The risk in those drugs is a condition called Tardive Dyskinesia. I have shown a few signs of TD, namely, stiff muscles, ergo I take Cogentin.)[6/22/07: Ignore these temporary pronouncements about medications; Cogentin may not be needed with Abilify.]
4. Present yourself, resume in hand, at the desk of colleges and universities.
5. If you dissertated and defended your dissertation and have the diploma in hand, you are a doctor (Ph.D.).
6. Try living with an older couple who have an empty nest.
7. Poets are known to be eccentric.
8. Three drinks: one before dinner, one during dinner, one after dinner.
9. Nat Shermans may be the best cigarette, but you are hooked. (Only Dr. Abuzzahab tried at every meeting to get me to quit or cut down on tobacco, using Wellbutrin (Zyban) and nicotine substitution.)
10. Respect your mother.
11. Your symptoms are simply worse than your sister's whose depression is milder.
12. Being late is human.
13. Your lateness upsets the other patients.
14. He is from Beirut, Lebanon and is a Muslim.
15. If you are in need of money, you go to a grocery store and put food in bags for people.
16. Your job is to write fiction and poetry.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Karma (def.)

[Sans. a deed, act.] 1. in Buddhism and Hinduism, the totality of a person's actions in one of the successive states of his existence, thought of as determining his fate in the next.
2. loosely, fate; destiny.

Jealous (def.)

(jel'), a. [ME, jelous, gelous; OFr. jalous, from LL zelosus, full of zeal, from L. zelus; Gr. zelos, zeal, emulation.]

1. suspicious; apprehensive of rivalry; as, her husband was jealous of the other man.
2. resulting from such a feeling; as, a jealous rage.
3. demanding exclusive loyalty; as, the Lord is a jealous God.
4. resentfully envious.
5. careful in protecting; watchful; solicitous; as, jealous of one's reputation.
6. doubtful [Obs.]
Syn. -- envious, covetous, invidious, suspicious.

-- from Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, deluxe 2nd ed.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The deer

The deer live amongst us. When I was young, my mother said there were more horses per capita in Minnetonka than anywhere else in the country. They used to clop down the street, plopping manure: Appaloosas, Pintos, Buckskins. Mostly, girls rode western-style, bareback or with a saddle. Gardeners disagree about the deer, who moved in after the horses left. Some say development at the creek forced the deer into the residential neighborhoods. There are many, many deer. They run in the defended marshlands and city parks. The deer eat roses and hostas. Gardeners shoo them; night snipers paid by the city shoot them. I vote for the deer. The deer come through the woods, into our yard, and up the driveway alone or in groups of two or more. Sudden sounds startle them and split them up loping through the woods. Young deer chatter to their mothers. Protective mothers -- the tawny ones not the gray-beige ones -- stand alone and grimace at you (who are also standing alone). Branches break underhoof in the night.