1996.01

from a letter to MR, 20-31 January:

Today we have a steady fine rain, so fine that the only way I can actually see it is to look at something dark, like the bay tree, and concentrate: and there it is, in thin rapid needles, a steady soaking rain, a healing rain. And today I found the poppy seeds I never planted in December. I wonder if it is absolutely too late.

This evening we plan to attend a candlelight march, in memory of yet another gay man who was murdered here in Houston, stabbed by two neo-Nazi boys who admit they were “looking to get a fag.” I try to imagine being in the same room with these boys. I can’t fathom what must be in their minds; I simply do not understand that kind of hate.

And Barbara Jordan has died this week, and suddenly I can’t think of a single living leader whom I believe in.

Tuesday on his way home from work, Randy saw the following bumper sticker: IF YOU DON’T GO RIGHT, YOU’LL BE LEFT.

Reading Adam Zagajewski. Drinking mint tea. Watching the rain.

[Tuesday night] I went to a reading at the MFA (museum): Patiann Rogers, who was the first graduate of the UH Creative Writing Program, and Ellen Currie, who is a visiting writer at UH this year. The most memorable part of the evening was connecting with three people I haven’t seen in months: Ben Grossberg, a poet friend; Mike Lieberman, who was in my original Tuesday night writers’ group; and Cynthia Macdonald, who when she saw me gave me a hug and said “I feel so guilty about not having called you; I’ve thought about you and wondered how you were doing all these months.” Cynthia and I agreed to have lunch in a week or two; I am bringing my copies of her books to be signed. Mike asked if I wanted to get the group started again, and I hedged, and we left it unsettled . . . I slipped Ben a copy of my newest poem, “Story,” which I finished yesterday, and after the reading we talked about it.

. . . Last night Michael asked if I were relieved to not have workshop assignments any more, and I told him the truth was that I missed them, especially Cynthia’s, because they were always challenging and so often a good poem came out an assignment. Ben agreed that he loves weekly assignments. The only substitute I have found–and it is good that I have found it– is silence: living with silence, moving into it. This is what Rilke says in Letters to a Young Poet; this is what you have been encouraging me to do: to go deep, to wait, be patient. Because I had been writing so much, so furiously, before David died, I was unable to accommodate the silence that followed. I tried to work against it, push myself above, around it, when the only answer is to enter it, the same way I have always known that one must enter pain, step into it and go through it to another side (not the other side, because we don’t know what is there until we arrive). When David died, I had poems sent out to fourteen journals– I liked to think that if they didn’t find homes, at least someone else was reading them. When they started trickling back in (most did not find homes, though some did), I hesitated sending them out again. What I was reaching for (and I had a brief glimpse of this idea last summer) was a kind of silence: that the poems would all come home, or that the few that were to be published would appear and be put away on shelves. That there would be a period of calm where all the words would just stop. And that eventually I would be ready to start again.

None of this is clear except in hindsight (how could anyone in their right mind, knowing they were in the middle of this process, decide to take up an MFA program?), but it is beginning to make sense.