Monday, April 30, 2007

Miraculously, we did find each other. She's tiny--about four feet ten--a strikingly beautiful seventy-year-old with enough energy and drive to launch an independent theatre company when everyone said she couldn't, raise four children, act, direct, produce, and keep going long past midnight. As my friend Bob used to say about this type of petite woman, "a pocket rocket."

So as of tonight I've been here 24 hours and I got to sleep in all morning, and then spent the day hanging out in the well-appointed gym of the Jewish Community Center where the Jewish Ensemble Theatre (JET) is housed. Evelyn Orbach wrangled an executive pass for me, in her pocket rocket way, which meant access to the posh dressing room, with the sauna, schvitz, and what the Russian attendant called the "veelple" (whirlpool).

"Vould you like to use de veelple?"

Yes, I would. I would like to do forty lazy lengths of the Olympic sized pool, which is heated to a perfect temperature, and where I have a lane all to myself, and then enjoy the veelple afterwards, and then slather my body with free moisturizing lotion and spend the rest of the afternoon drinking coffee and reading a year-old "O" Magazine about loving your body as is (where I learn that carrying a little excess weight might actually delay menopause, so maybe I shouldn't be in too big a rush to re-lose these extra ten pounds.)

I change into my good jeans, and the nice black shirt with the fancy embroidery I bought at the Community Thrift Store in San Francisco for nine dollars and low heels and even a little make-up. And then Masankho shows up, looking exhausted but smiling broadly, and we are in West Bloomfield, Michigan, where the economy is seriously depressed because of the death thrashings of the American auto industry, and Saying Kaddish has its first of two staged readings and it goes great! The audience laughs and sighs and makes all those satisfying audience noises in the right places. The cast is very good. The actress playing Oprah looks like a bigger Anna Deavere Smith--same heart-shaped face and intelligent radiant presence.

It's interesting to hear the dialogue spit out passionately with an overlay of mid-Western accent. Somehow, it works very well, grounds the family in the heartland. This Lydia is a red-haired spitfire, very funny, strong presence. I love her. Rahel has a soulful quality, especially in the scene where she fights with God, and pitch-perfect Hebrew.

The scene where the mother and father kiss for the first time as teenagers is especially tender. I don't remember that kiss being so powerful in any of the other readings. Later, the actor who plays the father, tells me he re-lived his first kiss in that scene, a kiss that happened more than fifty years ago when he was a teenage waitor summering in the Catskills.

The second act drags a bit. I can hear places that need editing, and some awkward transitions. The ending is poignant and brings tears to my eyes.

Afterwards, Masankho, Evelyn, and I sit around her kitchen table and drink tea and talk. There's footage on TV about the freeway collapse in Oakland. It looks bad--twisted smoking metal and construction worker guys with masks over their grim faces. I'm afraid of how this may mess up Bay Area commuting, which is already a major hassle, and even hurt the economy back home. It makes me aware of how fragile everything is, our circumstances, luck and smoke.

We sit around Evelyn's kitchen table, in the house with Chagall paintings on the walls, talking about theatre, about writing, diversity, drumming, improvisation, friendship, persistance, and plane schedules. Evelyn has told me about a Federation of Jewish theatres which I should join. I will. My play belongs in that world, with the other verbose, melancholy, questioning, arguing Jewish writers and actors and directors, the overly-intense, overly-sensitive, funny-sad theatre folk. I don't mind the prospect of more editing, another rewrite. I want this play to work as well as it can.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Oh my God, I am tired. Oh good Christ, I am tired.

I was so happy yesterday to be over being sick that I overdid it. Took my computer to the fix-it shop. Went shopping. Walked all around the lake with G. in the beautiful balmy late dusk talking about Condoleeza Rice being indicted and who the hell the Democrats are going to run in 08. Watched another episode of the Sopranos with him while eating popcorn.

Slept with C, blood-red towels on the bed, two bodies falling into each other more deeply. Deeply and softly, soft landings, sleep and dream.

Morning coffee and eggs and then BART into the city. The long necessary rigmarole of graduation, the students' tearful speeches and shining readings, the awkward standing around with paper plates of Brie and crackers afterwards.

It was hot.

I gave Storm the introduction he deserved,he's been a teacher to me as well as a student, my first advisee, it was from him that I learned how to be an advisor.

I shouldn't have had the champagne.

Now it's the night before Detroit and my nose is running again and I am so tired I want to cry. C is coming over for dinner and I have to let him see me like this. I have to let him see me when I'm feeling like I'm in seventh grade again, dorky and uncool, with all the wrong clothes and no one to sit with at lunch.

I want New College to hire me back again and again, and I know that they like me, and that some of the students really like me, but I also know that my syllabi are kind of informal and raggedy, and I only have one book and no Master's Degree. And I barely know what post-Modernism is, although I probably shouldn't admit that in a public blog like this, but I am too tired to care.

Tim said when I got the New College job I should just go around saying deconstructing hetero-normativity whenever I felt insecure about my lack of hip credentials. There is something about academia and how sincere and over-articulated and eager and hyper-sensitive it all is, and how sincere and insecure and eager and needy and bright and beautiful all the students and all the faculty and everyone is that can press all my seventh grade buttons.

I think that's it. I think that's why I feel like crying now.

No wonder I successfully resisted it for twenty years.

I treasure the electricity, and in truth I somewhat envy the students for getting to crawl back inside an intellectual uterus in which to grow new work. I know the courage and tenderness word-shaping requires--(and now I think perhaps I wasn't always the tenderest of critics with student work, expecially because abstraction frustrates me--)

One of my advisees from the first year was there, looking fabulous, and her book--which was her thesis--just got accepted at a small press! I was so happy and excited for her! (Her work was abstract, but I loved it--it was about the Jewish concept of God as an abstraction, the refusal of form--I understood that, and when she left the program last year she wrote a note thanking me.)

(And I remember when I first met her, how freaked she was and so was I, both finding our way around the program and we talked about swimming in our advising sessions, about how important it was to find a regular place to swim.)

This morning I showed C some of the photos from my life--Haiti, working with Haitians, and the time I hitchhiked across country with Maxim. He said I was brave, but I'm not, it's just that the wrong things have always scared me. Outhouses in third world countries and possibly contaminated drinking water and propeller jet prop planes and men carrying guns don't freak me out but school makes me feel like I'm twelve all over again, twelve and gangly and awkward and don't know how to dance and I look stupid holding a cigarette while everyone else smokes (while one of the other adjunct teachers lit up a cigarette and asked me my other paying gigs, and I see while she is way more hip than I am (and taller!) and has a class that is popular with the students with a truly impressive syllabus and has more books published, she is just as lost and terrified and insecure as me. Adjunct faculty do not get health insurance. Adjunct faculty live by their wits.)

Right this moment I am a very tired and emotional twelve year old who has had too much richness to process in this past week and who needs to cook and pack and eat and sleep and maybe weep a little before catching an airplane tomorrow to a strange city where I have never been before to meet a strange woman at the airport, Evelyn from Jewish Ensemble Theatre.

"What do you look like?" she asked.

"I'm tall and I have curly hair and I look like the poster child of an Ashkenazi Jewish woman. What do you look like?"

"I'm short and I look like the poster child for an Ashkenazi Jewish woman. I drive a dark green car but at 10:30 at night you won't be able to see the color. I'll pick you up outside of baggage claim. I'm sure we'll recognize each other."

Friday, April 27, 2007

I am learning a little bit about grace through this whole experience of having the flu and having a week packed with engagements. First, grace starts out in gracelessness and whining. On the phone to Marci: "I'm s-i-i-i-c-c-k-k-!" Hack, hack, cough, cough. To my Dad. To C. To my housemates. Pity me, pity me, I feel like crap. My head hurts, my body hurts, I'm burning up. Hack hack hack, spew spew, sweat, sweat. Sleep.

Then: get up. A half an hour before the assigned time. Wash up. Take some daytime formula Wal-Phed. C comes over, looking concerned. Put on a nice shirt. A little lip gloss. Go to his house, eat dinner, lie down until the last minute. Walk into Black Oak and see the people and the flu is gone. So happy to see everyone, when they ask "How are you?" I don't say "Sick," but answer truthfully, "Great!"

I don't even cough through the whole reading, which is delivered in a voice half an octave deeper than usual. I can feel myself sweating profusely up there--fever or hot flash--I don't know and it doesn't really matter. I just focus on the goodness of the people who showed up, this reading series that Joyce Jenkins and Richard Seilberg worked so valiantly to put together, my gratitude at being able to share the crop of new poems--and the poems themselves, that want to live in the world.

Later, lots of hugs. I don't hold back. I'm not coughing or sneezing, I don't feel contagious. My co-reader, Robin Becker, feels instantly familiar, like an old friend. Short, pugnacious, Jewish, butch: I recognize her. I like her poems.

C is there for me the whole time and drives me home afterwards: Driving Miss Ali, I joke, but I feel funny taking so much from him because he works full time at a demanding job and he gets tired himself. But it's so good to have his hand in mine throughout this week. "I feel fine," I say. "It might hit you later," he says. I lie down in bed and the hacking starts again. Get up, slug some Ny-Quil, pass out.

The next day I try to go to work. Four classes at the high school. Midway through the first one I realize I'm not going to make it. I have very little voice. I feel like I'm going to pass out. I tell the teacher and she begs me to stay through the second class--I'm supposed to be covering all four of her classes that day--so that she can figure out something to do for the last two. I barely make it through the second class--coughing, hacking and sitting down to keep from falling over. The car drives itself back to my house. I fall into a sweaty coma on the bed.

Wake up hours later. C had bought tickets to see Marion McPartland ages ago, had planned this special double date with two of his best friends. I get up, take a shower, put on a nice shirt and make-up. I loook good. Meet him and his friends in Jack London Square, go to dinner. His friends are great. We talk about food, houses, kids, education, music, and theatre. Not about being sick. I feel slightly outside of my own body, but I keep squeezing C's hand and he keeps me anchored.

Marion McP is a revelation. Eighty-nine years old, stooped and artritic in one leg, ("Don't look," she says,) her voice is ageless, dry, elegant, cool, just like on the radio. She has such an easy, laid-back personality, no fuss, just adjusts the mic a little on top of the piano and starts playing. Her music is young, fresh, unforced. Nothing about her is forced. That is the essence of grace. Not to force the work, just to do it. Not to "try" to do it, twisting and teeth-clenching, but just to do it.

I drove myself home and fell into bed. This morning I almost thought I could go to work and teach first graders. I wanted to. Calling in sick means I have to pay for it down the line. But I realize the only way I can get through this flu thing is to just pick one thing I'm going to do each day and do it. Today it's taking the computer in to get fixed and going to the bank and this blog. (Okay, I know, that's three things. I can count.) Enough.

It took me all morning to get out of the house, one step at a time, pausing to pull some dandelions that had grown to be as tall as I am (I don't think they are officially called "dandelions" anymore at that height.) And--I realize this is indelicate to mention in a public blog, but since it's mostly close friends and family who read this I'll say my period started in the middle of the McPartland concert. So here's the glamorous life of the playwright; flu-ridden, bleeding, getting on a plane to Detroit (after tomorrow's MFA graduation at New College which I wouldn't miss, I am so excited for my advisee Storm!)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I have death flu and my computer blew up. Those are the two things of note after I just posted on my blog that I'd like to turn inward. God decided to give me a little down time. The only problem is, I can't take it now!! I have to read my poetry tonight at Black Oak!! Then teach!! And teacg some more!!! Then get on a plane to Detroit.

Sorry, says God. You've been running sround like an idiot for the last three months. Lie down. So I lay down.

I've been flat on my back for the better part of two days, reading March by Geraldine Brooks, a fantastic book, about Bronson Alcott and the Civil War, one of the best things I've read, and dozing off and SWEATING. I awoke in the middle of the night last night soaked in sweat, worse than that Bikram yoga class. Sore throat, aches, pains, scratchy voice, waves of fever...nice...

It might not be helping to be reading about the unbelievable sufferings of the Civil War just now. The hero, the father in Little Women, gets very sick and almost dies, although in conditions considerably less cushy than my own, and without C coming over with packs of kleenex and chicken soup and The National Enquirer.

Meanwhile Jasch sent a big box og awesome organic food--thank you!! and a DVD for this Big Mind process he's excited about and which I will watch as soon as I can wrench my consciousness away from escaping slaves and stops along the Undergroud Railroad and dinner with the Thoreaus and the Ralph Waldo Emersons.

My friend Carla has offered to be my workaholic coach this week and just remind me to surrender--I surrender, I surrender--I was already trying to cut back...but I feel just about as bad walking around as I do lying around, Camille-like on the couch, with my arm over my forehead, sweating out this fever, so in some ways I think I might as well walk around...

Okay, enough emailing at the local Laurel Cafe. Back to bed for another nap/sweat before the reading tonight--hope you can come!!!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Woke up this morning from a dream where my friend the poet Ruth Schwartz, told me the title for my next book would be "Beware the Inner World." Because I place absolute faith in dream messages, I scrawled it immediately in my notebook which I sleep with, went to the bathroom, and did three morning pages of a rough poem on that topic. I didn't feel like it got deep enough, but it's a start.

This weekend I was mostly tired, with a sweet little burst of energy after breakfast yesterday, when I played basketball with G. (I still sucked, but the good news is I sucked less, that is, I actually got some baskets in.) And sweated a bunch, which must be good.

I know that the dream was telling me, in a teasing way, that I need to turn my attention inward, into the inner world, even with so much happening on the outer plane. (I just don't feel like doing sitting still meditation these days, although my friend Jasch is excited about a new technique called Big Mind, which I'd like to investigate.) My dead mother was in the dream too; I was angry at her because she hadn't read my book, and because in a dispute between Allen Ginsberg and some other people (authorities?) she sided against Ginsberg.

Things are sweet on the home front, C and I simple and gentle with each other. Breakfast in bed, toast, omelets, hot coffee. My Dad is ecstatic because the Red Sox beat the Yankees. I have to read fifty pages of student work by two this afternoon, so I'd better get going on it.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Ouf! I just got back from taking my Little Sister to see Disturbia, which is a surprisingly well-written, well-acted horror film that scared the living pants off of me. I NEVER go see these kinds of scary movies, but she really wanted to and it had been weeks since we had a date, so I acquiesced. (The really scary part: $19.00 for a movie, $8.00 for a nitrate-laden hot dog and medum Sprite that was mostly ice, $2.00 for some lame candy called Sour Babies.) But she loved it and that's all that counts. It was a great time.

Last Wednesday I sat in on a rehearsal of Oasis, a short play I wrote back in November at the playwriting boot camp that I took through Playwright's Horizons. Oasis is a strange psycho-mytho-poetic-political one-act thing that I basically wrote in four days under intense pressure. Therefore it squeezed up a lot of my more troubling psychic material from the bottom of the the toothpaste tube. The director--Stuart Bousel, the founder of No Nude Men Theatre Company--is brilliant, the cast is great, rehearsal was rich, stimulating, deep.

I just googled Stuart and pulled up his resume and despite being 20 years younger than me, he's directed, acted in and written dozens and dozens of plays. So I'm in the weird/wonderful position of learning from my youngers, which is a good thing. He loaned me a play by John Guare called Four Baboons Adoring the Sun, which employs some of the same allegorical structures I do (although much more skillfully, and over a longer stretch of material.)

It feeds me intellectually and spiritually to sit in circles where people feel the same urgency about myth and character and depth psychology and metaphor as I do. Plus, it's just fun. One of the actors looks like a young Meg Ryan. The young man who plays Harold was great--soft and then fierce, sarcastic and reckless and heartbroken. I feel good about the production but uncomfortable at the thought of taking my dad and sister--and possibly step-sister--to see it. It's dispatches from the underbelly, unmediated by my usual defenses.

This is a good time for me, this season, but a stressful one. Saying Kaddish With My Sister gets a workshop production by Jewish Ensemble Theatre on April 30 and May 1--I fly into Detroit April 29 and the head of JET "thinks" someone can "probaqbly" meet my plane. I'd prefer a confident, "Yes, so and so will be there, meet her by the baggage claim," but I haven't got that yet--consequently last night I had a nightmare about being stranded in Copenhagen without luggage or a passport or even a credit card.

Then May 4, 5, and May 11, and 12 both Oasis and See How We Almost Fly go up. Oasis is at the Exit Theatre on Ellis St. in San Franscisco, and See How We Almost Fly will be at St. Gregory of Nyssa's Church on Deharo St. in San Francisco ( Both shows start at 8:00.

The relationship with C, who is amazingly patient and supportive in the midst of the madness is good, G is still my dear friend and all I have to do really is make the crucial phone calls, write comments on 120 student poems a week, critique fifty pages of my advisees MFA thesis, drink a lot of water and try to maintain health and sanity through all of it.

I just keep feeling like I'm falling down and disorganized in key areas of my life--like I never get birthday presents to my family sent out on time, and I missed a rehearsal of See How We Almost Fly today because I was taking a nap, and my room is still littered with unpaid bills and miscellaneous mysterious paperwork. But last night I went out to a faux lesbian bar with one of my housemates (a real lesbian,) and drank wine and talked about poetry, and now C is coming over, so I better try and straighten the room into something approximating the cave of a normal person.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It's a gorgeous day outside, windy, wild, sunny. The irises are up. Jasmine is blooming. Figs getting fat and sweet on my tree.

Thirty-three students and teachers were gunned down at Virginiaq Tech yesterday (and where did that kid get his gun? Where did he get his fucking gun???) and I'm inside at my desk slogging through the poetry manuscript of See How We Almost Fly, re-copying individual poems by hand into the files of my still-new-to-me computer, finding the slack spots that can be trimmed, the words that are off-key, revising and reviewing and reworking.

This kid, the gunman, was apparantly an English major, who wrote rambling, disturbing plays. Oh, God. When someone does something crazy in the world these days, first thing I hope is that they are not Jewish, then I hope they're not Black, then that they're not Arab (I know, it's sick, but there you have it.) I never think about them being an English major! I think of his professors, who are probably tearing their hair out now. No one can predict which student is just writing weird stuff and which student is going to explode. The only thing we can do is get rid of the guns, get rid of the guns, get rid of the guns, godamnit.

Here in my house, this place of rumpled bed sheets and grapefruit in a bowl and sweet reminders of love's presence, I have a stack of poems and other writing to attend to. I was seriously disappointed when CSU Press rejected the manuscript for See How We Almost Fly for the umpteenth time and I am working to find the silver lining. I'd put heart and soul and more hours than I can count into these poems for seven years now. I feel like Jacob at the fucking well, laboring to win Rachel--was it Rachel he wanted? Or Leah? Anyway, I feel like that poor dupe, laboring away and then being told, "Sorry, you have to go back for more."

But the thing is, here's the lining: the poems are getting stronger. And stronger. And since I'm signed up for a lifetime of this writing business, it doesn't really matter when any particular book comes out (although it sure would be nice to have another one...right around NOW.) The poems need work, so I'll work them. As Lucille Clifton says, "because I am adam and his mother and these failures are my job."
It's a gorgeous day outside and I'm in here slogging through the poetry manuscript of See How We Almost Fly, re-copying individual poems by hand into the files of my still-new-to-me computer. Yes, I know, I could take the whole thing down to Kinko's and get it put on disk and then insert it. But here's the thing: the manual re-copying makes me pause and edit, pause and edit, and surprise! I find clumsy lines, places where the poems go off-key, fat to be trimmed, etc. So it becomes, not just an exercise in retrieval, but renewal.

I was seriously disappointed when CSU Press rejected the manuscript for See How We Almost Fly for the umpteenth time. I've put heart and soul and more hours than I can count into these poems for seven years now. I feel like Jacob at the fucking well, laboring to win Rachel--was it Rachel he wanted? or Leah? Anyway, I feel like that poor dupe, laboring away and then being told, "Sorry, you have to go back for more."

But the thing is, the poems are getting stronger. And stronger. And since I'm signed up for a lifetime of this, it doesn't really matter when any particular book comes out (although it sure would be nice to have another one...right around NOW.) The poems need work, so I'll work them. As Lucille Clifton says, "Because I am Adam and his mother and these failures are my job."

Monday, April 16, 2007

More about sacrifice: my friend Coke interviewed me for an art project in September. I talked about sacrifice and said that I hadn't made many. I was thinking of Muriel Rukeyser's quote about being an artist where she said that it is all a matter of choice. Don't second guess your choices and don't talk about sacrifices. Just make them and go on. (I'm paraphrasing badly here.)

Did I sacrifice having a family for the freedom to live and write the way that I do? Or would I have been badly cut out for domestic life anyway, and instinctively avoided it?

I don't know. The honest answer is, I don't know.

I guess the more important questions are: Is it too late to choose again? Do I try to get a second chance/second act, make enormous changes at the last minute, as Grace Paley wrote so presciently, or do I stick with what I have now, a full artist's life, bursting at the seams already?

Sacrifice means "to make sacred"--to give something, not just to give it up for the sake of being a martyr, but to give it to life. When dancers dance, they make a living sacrifice of their bodies, their energy. They spend themselves in the dance, holding nothing back. There must be a difference between sacrifice and self-denial, although the two often get blurred...

I had delicious times this weekend with C, lots of holding, laughing, teasing, eating, an epically sweaty Bikram yoga class, great reading ("Perfection" an amazing story by Mark Helprin from his collection The Pacific--read it!!!) and a mediocre movie ("Freedomland" with Samuel Jackson and Julianna Moore.)

And then C went off on his own musical adventures, and I went to the MOMA to see a photography exhibit with G. The featured photographer, whose name I can't remember, liked to photograph ordinary things, as G does--city buildings, bridges, lampposts.

For the past year, G has been making his own wonderful cityscapes of architectural details and then when I praise them, he typically responds, "Yeah, but is anyone going to want to look at a photo of a corner of a building?" So it was wonderful to be with him in an exhibit full of corners of buildings, parking lots, phone booths, telephone wires strung out on empty highways. Emptiness was a big part of this artist's theme--the emptiness of America, the vast spaces in the middle of the country, sagebrush and clipped anonymous lawns in front of shabby tract houses.

I could see the lightbulb go on in G's head; he got it--what he does is art, it counts, and here were people paying good money to stand and gaze at photos that were not unlike his own (and I know I'm biased, but the best of his work is as good as anything I saw in the museum.) It was like that great moment when students read W.C. Williams and understand that they can make poems out of paper bags and plums, and they don't have to speak in an elevated faux-Wordsworth or Shakespeare voice to make good art.

We also looked in at the Picasso exhibit that's up now, which wasn't as satisfying, partly because there were a million people wandering around with ipods stuck in their ears, diligently learning about Picasso from the audio tour, partly because there weren't that many actual Picassos, more artists whom he had influenced, and the ones there were seemed to be culled from his ugly period.

I know this will make me sound like a total yahoo and I don't even care, but I couldn't help comparing him with the Impressionists whom I liked so much better. When E and I went to see the Monets at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, we were both transfixed. We could have stayed there all day, eyeball to eyeball with the luscious glowing canvasses. And when I saw the Van Goghs at the Met last year I wanted to put my nose into the paintings and just inhale them. But these particular Picassos--jumbled abstracts in repellent colors--left me cold.

"Call me old-fashioned, "I whispered to G, "but I like beauty."

I don't know what elevated the photos of cityscapes and empty freeways into beauty for me, or why the paintings in mustardy yellows and snot-greens refused to rise, but there you have it. The mystery of art.

After G left to have dinner with his ex-wife, I stayed in the museum bookstore and picked up a small book of selected erotic paintings and drawings by Picasso. Here were the pictures I wanted to see--warm, alive, kicking. Given the weekend's activities I could relate to them strongly--feel the weight of the women's thighs, the feeling of the bodies rolling against each other. There was one which depicted a man going down on a woman that gave me shudders of pleasure.

Then I went on to New College, did some last final edits on a student paper, then met Olga for flamenco. We shared a glass of red wine and a great appreciation for one of the dancers whom she dubbed "snake woman," for her writhing upper body. The dance is imperious, even a little bit SM or dominatrix-like. Proud, fierce, angry. Olga said it has gypsy origins and recounted how she was almost stolen by gypsies when she was a child in her grandmother's village in Russia. No joke.

Now to work on entries for the Nimrod prize...

Friday, April 13, 2007

First graders: twinkling stars with missing teeth, Hallowe'en grins. "I like your pink shirt." "Why do you wear glasses?" I want to take them all home with me. The hard part is squatting beside their little desks and then standing up again; several times a morning it sends me into head rushes so severe I have to hold onto the walls to keep steady. It's like doing squat thrusts all morning. And then the junk food in the teacher's room...

Last night G and I went out to dinner in the course of which we talked about Don Imus. G maintains that while Imus' comments were stupid and racist, they are no worse than what hip hoppers say about women every day, and that that kind of internalized racism and misogyny hurts the black community even more because it comes from within.

Fired up from the experience of reading Lisa Jones' memoir about Native American concepts of sacrifice--contrasted with Native American life on the reservation, which is rife with alcoholism, violence, and degradation, I talked about sacrifice. It seems that in earlier generations, the concept of sacrificing one's individual pleasure for the greater good of the community was a cherished value (she said, digging into her chicken pesto risotto). Now, not so much.

We've all suffered from this cultural shift in values to me me me but perhaps communities of color, marginilized poorer communities have suffered most of all, because they most need each others' help in order to survive and thrive. Maybe rampant individualism works better for middle class and upper middle class people (except of course for the fact that it doesn't work, witness: epidemic levels of depression.)

This newfound sweetness and growing sense of trust with C have inspired a weird backlash in me; I should be glowing with gratitude and I am, but I'm also feeling pissed off at former lovers who just couldn't or wouldn't be faithful. "See, it's not so hard!" I want to shout at them. "You dig in, you go deep, you discover there's more depth and sweetness and richness here than you can explore in one lifetime--more pain, more beauty, more learning--and you stay with it. Is that so fucking impossible???"

I say this because I've watched myself taking quiet little potshots at polyamory in this blog--when in fact, several of my friends are in open relationships with great integrity. I know it is possible to practice ethical non-monogamy, I just so didn't want it, and for years of my dating life it felt like that was all that was on offer. Any man of interest that I met seemed to want only a non-monogamous connection, and many of my women friends (certainly not all,) were also willing to take on that challenge.

I felt lonely and frustrated and also doubted myself: if only I could get over my petty jealousies I too could be experiencing the bliss of limitless love and affection instead of sleeping alone night after night because of my ridiculous and selfish need for sexual exclusivity. (This was my trip, not that of my polyamorous friends who were sympathetic and understanding about my particular "kink" for monogamy.)

One intriguing question is why was the sex often better with the faithless men than with the faithful ones? (C being a notable and happy exception.) Was it because the non-monogamists were more "into" sex and had more practice? Because they were more alternative and thus more flexible in their sexuality? All I know is that I am so happy not to be having that conversation any more--you know, the one about how men's biological imperative compels them to want to spread their seed to as many different wombs as possible--it may be true, God knows if it is or not, but I'm so tired of hearing about it.

And the truth of my life is of course complex--in some ways I am having a love affair with all 25 members of Wing It--male and female, gay and straight. And my friendships with women, many of whom are lesbian, are sacred ground. And G and I have maintained our special connection through thick and thin, and I live with two men and two women housemates, sharing bathroom, refrigerator, and relaxing together in our pajamas making coffee on weekends, so I am certainly not half of a traditional nuclear-family couple in my daily life. I just want our intimate life to have a sacred energetic circle around it--and luckily for me, he wants the same thing.

I think the pain over infidelity goes back further than my current dating experiences, back to my childhood, the jealousy my mother and I felt about my father's affection, and the heartbreak of rough spots in my parents' marriage when fidelity was broken.

Now that I'm once again embarking on a serious relationship, all those issues are rising unbidden in my mind. I can go off on stories about this or that unfaithful lover--how he broke my heart, how callous, how cruel, how cowardly and immature, etc. But the real story is how enshrined this wound has become in my own heart, this worm-hole in the apple of my happiness, this poisoned tunnel of betrayal, this escape hatch, this reminder that nothing mortal can be perfect although we try.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Okay, I'm so tired my head is falling into my chest and I can barely see to type. C and I went up to Wilbur Hot Springs for a 24 hour getaway and cavorted in the smelly (think healing sulphur smell, a la Esalen) warm waters, relaxed and read on the comfy couches.

He played piano and sat in with some other wonderful musicians who were up there. We both sang. It was a beautiful time and we came back and I taught four classes today at the high school ("My brother, who is as gassy as Pluto,") and four more tomorrow in the first grade. In between more making and eating of big meals, and lots of strong coffee...

My body is crying out for a swim, but it may have to wait until next week when I get some time off because the high schoolers are having STAR testing, whatever that is.

I'm exhausted but content. Can't wait for real time, in which to clean my room, send poems and poetry mss. out, and work on some of the many fragments scribbled in my notebooks. There are the beginnings of a new play in there, more poems, ideas for new essays. (There's a tribe in the Amazon that have no words to describe abstract thoughts, no desires for more than they own, no Creation myth, no way to talk about the deep past or speculate about the future, (no apparant desire to do either, or the words would have been invented,) no numbers higher than three. I read about them in The New Yorker. A perfectly Zen culture.)

I got an idea the other night--in my Zen way-- that maybe I could raise money for Malawi by writing some erotica for Penthouse. Do they still pay for that? How much do they pay? Does it have to be real conventional boy-girl, rippling muscles and heaving bosoms and cocks going into all the expected openings, or have they gotten more interesting? I bet I could write something fun, 800 words, say, and sell it.

And I have to arrange with Masankho's friend to work in an orphanage in Malawi while I'm there. So much stuff...the important thing, though, is to be cradled and rock and swim and be held, to press all of my passionate energy up against another body and be fully wholly finally met, with no holding back. It's amazing to me that I don't have to diminish myself to be in this relationship--not my power, nor my real desire, which was to be in something sexually exclusive, primary, monogamous.

I get to be powerful and vulnerable and myself--amen! And Anna is doing better and spring is definitely here--the figs are purpling on my tree, and as soon as I learn how to squeeze an extra three hours into a day everything will be fine.

Monday, April 09, 2007

My little niece came through the operation with flying colors, and was sent home a day early because she was making such a good recovery. Thank you everyone who prayed for her, for her parents, for me, for all sick kids. I am so glad the operation is over, and from what my father says, she's doing well, although her parents could use a year in a resort to recover.

I've been reading a fantastic memoir by a woman named Lisa Jones about a Native American shaman who works with horses and people, helping beings find their center. It's quite remarkable and I should be done by tomorrow when I'll be able to post more.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Gray morning. Anna, my three-year-old niece, is in surgery right now. The surgeon is delicately untwisting and re-attaching her ureters. Her parents are pacing around the waiting room, exhausted. My brother probably is not saying much.

I couldn't say much last night. Went with some other Wing-ers to the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre in the city to see Michelle Jordan perform in Bricktop, a musical about a black woman, a contemporary and friend of Josephine Baker, who had a jazz club in Paris before the war. Michelle played Alberta Hunter. She was incredible. Her voice is so pure, so full, so exuberant, so holy, that it fills every sound molecule with God and leaves no room for anything else.

I am grateful to be on the planet with her, much less to share friendship and a stage with her in Wing It! But I was still irritable and preoccupied, brooding and tired. Too much sugar. Not enough exercise. Too many days between being held in love's arms. Too many hours sitting at my desk. Too much anxiety and holding other people's angst.

Ellen asked me, "Is there a way you can release other people's pain? Visualize it going back to the earth or give it to a tree or something?" That's a good idea. I wrote two good poems yesterday, but it's not the same thing as doing my inner work. I can't wait to get the phone call from my bro or my sister-in-law saying things went fine with the surgery.

I know Anna is in the hands of the angels right now. I know everything is fine.

Yesterday I went and colored my hair again, which depressed me. I have become one of those women who deny their age by coloring their hair. I don't deny my age exactly. I like my age. I'll be the first person to say that my forties--especially my late forties-- have been the best years of my life so far. I'm ten times more productive and skillful than I was when I was younger. I understand people and life so much more clearly. Situations that used to baffle me are now obvious. I move on from relationships that don't work more quickly; I waste less time (even though I still waste too much time.) I laugh more and cry less and work more efficiently and love with more tenderness and compassion.

In 2007 alone, I've written three or four essays, a bunch of poems, a children's play, a children's book, taught a bunch of classes, and been loving and non-violent and clearly communicated with G, with C, even with the man I dated for a few weeks around the New Year, as well as with family and friends. Experience rocks!

Why the hair thing then? C likes my gray. He maintains (stoutly) that gray hair is sexy. My hairdresser, Jamie, a woman my age, disagrees. "People say gray hair is sexy but they lie. Gray hair is ugly. You don't want to be gray."

By the time I finally made the appointment it had been four months since my last touch-up. I had three inches of gray in some places. She had to use twice the amount of solution she usually does. I sat there, draped in plastic, with the toxic burning smell of the chemicals making my eyes sting. After she rinsed me out, my hair looked too brown, too perfect. I know the color will settle in. I know a few gray hairs will reassert themselves within a week or two. I know at some point I'll just let it go--when I'm fifty, I've said. In a year and a half.

Why am I waiting that long? Is it really so important to me to be hit on by young men in supermarket parking lots? Do I need people to think I am in my thirties forever? What color is my hair naturally now, anyway? How much gray do I have? I don't even know.

I'm going to go clean my room as a form of prayer.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Full moon in Libra, and Passover Seder last night went beautifully, although in a moment of insanity I prepared enough food for thirty people, when it ended up being about twelve. Consequently, the fridge is stuffed with leftovers, but as my mother used to say, "That should be your worst problem."

There was a lovely feeling of community and sharing stories that happened, and enough Jews present who knew the rituals--always the nerve-wracking part for me, because I don't feel like I can carry a tune well enough to teach the songs and prayers to non-Jews with any accuracy. Plus, three Jews, five opinions about any given tune or interpretation, so that was good. The best, most magical part was the community that arises out of doing ritual together--everyone felt it, I think--a sense of connection, however ephemeral, in this confusing business of making human culture.

I was a bit frayed and sad before the meal began, more because my sugar relapse has gotten so severe it's seguing into binging than anything else. It's not my weight that makes me sad--I'm okay with being a bit rounder, I like my body with the extra curviness. But the old familiar feelings of being out of control, spaced out and exhausted by sugar use are creeping back in.

I know what I have to do--get really vigilant about keeping a food journal, make fresh vegetables a priority, carry healthy food with me at all times so that I never get caught hungry with poor choices, drink lots of water, and forgive myself the past months of lapsing. And exercise. As soon as I finish dealing with the dregs of the party downstairs I'll go to the gym and swim. This next month is going to be intense, with out-of-town travel and out of town guests and three of my plays getting productions plus two poetry readings plus New College graduation, plus more teaching. I want to be in shape so I can enjoy it.

Monday, April 02, 2007

I don't know what my stars are doing overhead, but it's crazy! The little play I wrote in November, called Oasis, has been accepted as part of a group of short plays that will get a small production in May--May 4,5,11, and 12, the same exact dates as See How We Almost Fly. And Saying Kaddish with My Sister will have had its workshop production in Michigan the weekend before. So I'll have three plays up and running in the same three weeks. This is awesome. The only thing missing from this scenario is money. I have to trust that that will follow--someday.

Meanwhile, I've tumbled into an unexpectedly close and romantic connection with C and have spent more time with him in the last three days than I've spent with a lover in years--long years. Amazingly we didn't get sick of each other, although cats on both sides got a little miffed at the intruder.

We saw The Namesake which is the best film I've seen in a long time--my vote for Oscar next year. Too bad it's coming out so early in the spring by the time the Academy Awards roll around everyone will have forgotten about it. Go see it. It's a genuinely loving film about life, relationships, and fate.

A couple of Writing Salon classes just ended, and yesterday I taught my last class of Memoir and Testimony at New College with a bit of a pang. I don't know when I'll be teaching there next. It was a great class. And I'm waiting to hear on several essays that are pout and about. This next week with more time I'll try to write the next essay in the line-up--and retrieve my poetry ms. again. For tonight it's a multi-cultural Seder for twenty people, and I haven't cleaned the house, copied the Haggadah or bought matzahs. Aaarrrgghhh!!