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Notes From The Pandemic

I’ve begun buying farmer’s market flowers again; a month of sunflowers and lilies. Sweeping the air with sugar. Speaking: the aloe plant growing in my living room turns out to be Agave Americana Marginata that, indeed, thrives in neglect. This being the first plant in my lifetime that dares grow and produce pups after being denied water for a straight month. After it denying my attention, then I looked up its name and realized it wasn’t an aloe and I’d mis-species’d it. We’re close but don’t call my cousins name. There’s a 2020 zen koan in those sentences above, somewhere. It was an unplanted succulent offered at the steps of our building and I planted it and realized overtime it preferred not getting water. It got bigger when left in the window to dry out week after week until a full month went by and I looked up and it produced a baby. I wanted to water it, but the most I dare was brush its leaves of dust with a paintbrush.

Having read 15 books during this time feels like a personal record, but there it is. A task I gave myself to — at bare minimum — read a chapter of something a day, then return to the bed, the clouds, memory. This morning finished Far Tortuga by Peter Mathiessen. I kept this book a long time, at first puzzled by its shape, its silences– scared by them– and I couldn’t open it. But mostly it was a gift given by my former boss, Brian — of whom I’m morbidly relieved he didn’t live to see this year. Brian was a good friend and I can’t love them enough when they’re in my face offering me their heart. I can only love and see them in reflection. He shared a Saturday with his teenaged son, us at the bookstore then the beach then at their preferred neighborhood diner. I should have thanked him for the beach, the bookstore. But, stubbornly , I felt like this was work because we see each other every day, don’t we? That job wouldn’t last forever, neither that company nor many of my coworkers lives. But the day Brian gave me Far Tortuga, he was thinning his collection of stuff. DVD’s and books, mostly. He had a lifelong affinity for the sea and was amused by my stories of working an Alaska fishery for a month. He gave me this book because it was both poetry– which he knew I practiced, and a great ocean adventure, which he lived for. This was a keepsake for a long time, glowing watery on my shelf. A wonderfully dreamy and dreary book. Brian was the man in the blue boat, I see that now. Goodbye.

October was crazy busy. Editing projects were a welcome exercise for my brain and they lasted through the month. There were several readings. I watched one dedicated to Bob Kaufman. That reading had been scheduled earlier this year then re-invented and streamed during the pandemic. A month before I recorded my poem and emailed it. Seeing the variety of videos was fun. Once I appeared on screen, I was dismayed to still be wearing the same shirt.

Among events this year was being interviewed on Mutiny Radio. I hadn’t talked about –or thought about– my story in a while and in truth, to chew over it during the isolation of this time didn’t thrill me. The interview was scheduled months in advance, then rescheduled due to COVID. So it was finally going to happen… on the only day I was to randomly have company. I was lucky to have one friend to periodically hang out and watch movies with. No set schedule, whenever he happened to be around with an open afternoon. That last time was the day of the interview. He arrived late and wild eyed having just seen a riot and blood shed at a march downtown SF over racism and entitlement and the election. He showed me a Virgin Mary pendant necklace he’d been given and I didn’t think much more about it, until after he’d left and I felt myself a bit cleansed. He sat behind me on the only chair in the kitchen during the interview and listened, but mostly he grounded me or exorcised whatever stray demons were growing iike dust bunnies in the dark.

Flowers and pastries from the farmer’s market have sustained me. Sunflowers and lilies are brooms for what grows stale in my corners. I’ve written poems. I’ve gotten published. I have soap. I drink Green tea by the gallon. Haven’t tasted coffee in 8 months. I think of it longingly as I do the sandwich places I once depended upon. Where are they now? I shouldn’t enjoy butter but rather run away from it like those sprinting up and down my street alongside the traffic. Damn Damn Damn.

I have communed deeply with memory. My father has been dead 25 years but over the last month or so, he has given me a stunning gift. Stunning over how specific his voice was, how directly it led me to him, how much love there remained. My father turns out to be the man in the blue boat. Thank you. You don’t need to wave.

Books Read: Stephen Florida (Gabe Habash), Sing, Unburied, Sing (Jesymen Ward), Love (Roddy Doyle), Freaky Deaky (Elmore Leonard), Slouching Towards Bethlehem (Joan Didion), Nigger (Dick Gregory), The Nickel Boys (Colson Whitehead), Fledgling (Octavia Butler), The Gem of the Ocean (August Wilson), Motel Chronicles (Sam Shepherd)

Poetry Rx: Fantasia For The Man In Blue (Tommye Blount), Unearth The Flowers (Thea Matthews), Here is the Sweet Hand (francine j. harris), Wicked Enchantment (Wanda Coleman), Califa’s Daughter (devorah major), Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry (John Murillo)

Movies Screened With The Homie Earlier This Spring: Bukowski: Born Into This (2003), All That Jazz (1979), Wild At Heart  (1990), Sexy Beast (2000)

Most Recent Triple Bill: Carrie (1976), House (1977), The Holy Mountain (1973)

Triple Bill I’d LIke To Try That Might Test or End Our Friendship: Enter the Void (2009), Dogtooth (2009), I Saw The Devil (2010)

Movies I Screened Just For Me: Short Cuts (1993), Claudine (1974), After Hours (1985), Michael Clayton (2007), Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

this agave plant could grow 6 ft. wide. it can’t pay rent. at least its edible

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