Thursday, March 31, 2022

Lilith Meets a Russian Woman

Lilith and I were walking down Haunani when we saw a woman gardening; I've seen her there for years, trying to tame a large area of land that had been overrun with vegetation. "You've got a lot of work ahead of you," I said. Oh yes, she said in a thick Russian accent (which I wish I could mimic here). She stood underneath a hapu`u fern as we talked. She had a scarf around her head, a faded flowery blouse, black loose trousers and black rubber boots. The shadows of the hapu`u fell on her. "My umbrella," she said. "May I take your photograph?" I asked, mentioning my photography class and our current project, portraiture. Her look was daunting, and she asked why. She didn't have her cup, she noted. Look at her, she demanded rhetorically. She reached down to pet Lilith with her dirt-covered gardening gloves. I decided not to take the photo. I really wanted that photo.
Two walkers I'd met a couple weeks ago came toward us. One was the woman with a southern or eastern shore accent and an English husband. The other was a blonde woman who said her parents were Lithuanian and whose dog resembles Lilith, but thicker. The first woman asked my interlocutor where she from, and she said Russia. She stepped forward quickly, saying "don't be angry with me, it's all politics. It's not the people. Those poor kids, 10,000 of them." Dead. Half her family was from Ukraine. "We're all family," she said. The soldiers usually spend their time gardening for higher-ups in the military.
I suggested everyone watch Navalny's documentary on Putin's billion dollar palace. "Oh, Navalny's terrible," she said. Worse than Putin. He's deep state. One of the other walkers asked what deep state was, and I said "Qanon stuff." She recoiled a bit. The Russian woman hates cnn and fox; it's all propaganda! She hurried off, asking that we wait for three minutes. When she came back, she was carrying a nursery catalogue, open to hydrangeas. She wants hydrangeas! But not blue ones. Her name is Marina.
The two walkers and I wandered a way, one more slowly than the other of us, as she was locked in conversation with the Russian woman. We walked up Kalani Honua Road together. The first woman wanted to know what was with the lovely piece of land for sale. "I think it sold," I said, and then we all noticed that the realtor's signed had been turned around. It was as blank as a sun-washed sign I'd taken a photo of earlier in the walk, before we ran into the Russian woman.

Genre issues in war-time


31 March 2022

This screen of apapane song: are we talking depth or surface? The bulldozer’s a lousy tuba for this orchestra. A flat screen offers false depth. The depth I hear is only surface because it fades like a slow shutter speed in bright light. We sense the leg without seeing it. Its surface is mist, not sturdy enough to walk on, though she’s lighting across campus on her “good” leg. More students are ghosts now. One teacher talked for 50 minutes to a student who was only sometimes over speech’s threshold. The portal caught, like a tube filling with lava. No one to surf the molten rock; no one to mold syllable bits into word shapes.

Humanitarian convoy stopped by Russian troops outside of Mariupol. The only way to survive is to leave and to leave is to lose your (sense of) place. Death as surplus loss, a horrible economy of less is more, inflation of shattered things. One side kills civilians, the other POWs. We call both unethical. A new orchid fell in the rain last night and broke near the top. Don't worry, it’ll bloom again in another year, Bryant said.

Idealism as the mist that sticks around for a while after its own destruction. To accept its loss as wisdom, embracing halves like rust’s accidental bounty. All of it accidental. She keeps working to keep the war at bay. I am given contemplation to catch her words like small birds. When I went into the kitchen this morning, a small brown bird looked in, then flickered away in early light. Omao?

The poem is ideal, while a diary simply records. The seven hour gap is a given, not a crime, in this practice. We’ve abandoned forms, the philosopher writes, as we’ve abandoned ritual. Atomized, we wander toward death without acknowledging its power. If we look away, it isn’t there. Keep sending us emails about stolen mopeds; they’re less disturbing than hearing of a student’s death by suicide.

Above all, do not disturb us. And do not disturb us when we’re being entertained. Will Smith’s slap resounds more loudly than missile strikes in Kyiv. It shocks us to our bones, that someone would mix genres in that way. It’s the death of form by another form, imported from a film. Change channels: at least the war is a consistent de-formation. Our correspondent in Ukraine wants a normal life of coffee and a view out of the window of her drab apartment block.

But back to idealism. It’s a fixture like a faucet or a drain, fixed, yet witnessing water’s creases and songs. The faucet envies water its reality principle, one that remains only in its coming and going. That paragraph doesn’t flow, a student might say, without knowing what words open flow, and which shut it down. But the faucet can do nothing but feel anger, opening and closing its valves with a violence that changes only the rate of flow. There’s nothing the faucet can do with the nature of water itself. A spider knows to make its web from faucet to handle, not from faucet to drain.

“We need a new paradigm.” Need a world without politicians or leaders or followers or weapons or those who grow rich on their use (which is mandated to avoid warehousing your profits). To die would be one such shift, to turn one’s face away. But barring that, you look out your window at the small brown bird looking in, catch your breath at an enormous web woven between tropical leaves. Even the bulldozer has its place in this lessening. You can’t invent a ritual to make it all go away, but you can imagine inventing one. Project that on your window screen, lingering at its surface before catching on a brown hapu`u frond bowing in front of you.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Photo without Person


30 March 2022

The cave of the heart is mist-full this morning. Wistful in an underexposed way. There’s more information in a dark photograph than in a bright one, so I make clouds dim, ocean dim, and spinner dolphins spin out of focus. What was intended as cross-species portrait is a blurry splash of sea water beyond a crabbed tree, clinging to a lava rock. Mustard gold lichen, cleft in the black rock, as to the right a woman throws a ball into the water for her one dog, and then the other. The first dog drops the ball before getting to the slippers she points to; the ball starts to roll back toward the water. Dog picks up ball, deposits it on her two brown sandals. Another throw. “We are thrown” into what were causes and effects, now chance operations without the synchronicities. She tells us to put our dominant hand below our navel, the non-dominant on top of that. So I alternate, like any Libra-handed soul.

The Russians are pulling back, or the Russians are simply regrouping. Their supplies are exhausted, or the heroic Ukrainian army pushes them back. You are given two choices for every instant of the narrative, and neither one ends the war. From above, Mariupol appears completely destroyed. That’s the only angle we’re given in this news cycle. Trump calls for Putin to help him destroy Biden. Again. A canary’s weak outcry gets buried in a coal mine.

I know hypocrisy when I see it in others. I play the scales of my own hypocrisy, awaiting a diminished seventh to finish it off. The spectrum of our self-salvaging is wide. A. Navalny sits on a prison bench. His suicide is survival, a living martyr to facticity.

In the city of fact, there we feel free, or at least stable, even when the earth occasionally shakes, or the ocean trembles afterward. The defender has the advantage in street fighting, and a ruined building’s as good as a new one, when your role is to sit in the crotch of a window frame and fire your weapon onto the street. Can you imagine, many soldiers don’t even consult their scopes? They just fire wildly at buildings, because buildings signify human beings, each one framed by an absent window. If glass is transparency, then broken glass is not, is our confidence shattered, shuddering. One street fight led to a sniper who proved to be a young girl. Her accuracy was no surprise, but her smooth face was. The mother hen wears a skirt of chicks that ebbs and flows as she—stiller point in a moving universe—walks.

The empty window frame is also a screen. You can shine nothing on it that stays, as if you were to keep your aperture open so long that arms and torsos and legs melted in air and you were left only with shoes hitting an approximate concrete, the only fixable images. The photograph, however contrived, doesn’t lie. We are our own ghosts on this walk; one photograph stuns time with its shutter, while the other lets it go. Time is the not-image of a woman walking down the street in a bombed out city. Three weeks ago the sun shone on a public square where people walked slowly through their lives’ still frames. A man runs with his suitcase toward a train, heading west. Inside the still coherent window, a girl smiles at him. End of photograph.

Intro to Digital Photography


I'm taking a hybrid photography class. Let's just say I'm the oldest student; most are "traditionally" young. Our first project, to take photos of objects in different places yielded (to me) a surprising number of photographs that included bodies, some of them topless. The bodies were all woman's bodies, so I wrote the instructor, who said this is always what happens. The men take photos of their partners, and the women take pictures of other women. I suggested he show the class Mapplethorpe. He did, and mentioned our conversation to the class. 
So our next project has been portraits. One young man took photos of a friend in a huge, dark hooded jacket. The photos were spookiest when you couldn't see his face at all. And then there were the photos of women's bodies. This time a lot of nudity, full frontal kind, by one female student, and some other suggestive photos of women. The photos of men were discreet, to put it mildly. The woman who took photos of her nude friend also made portraits of a male friend. His skin was dark, his t-shirt a very bright white. So students recommended that he change into a darker t-shirt. The instructor said, "why not take the shirt off? Have him pose nude?" 
Meantime, my project is to take zoom portraits, so I've now resorted to taking photos of Bryant, shirtless, looking at himself on a zoom screen. Such is my grand feminist intervention in Digital Photography 101.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Theater of War


28 March 2022

A old man and an old woman walk through a destroyed town in the Ukraine. They say Ukrainians destroyed it to pretend Russians had. A Russian theater, or the one bombed in Mariupol. War as put-on, every act the last act of a tragedy. You believe it, even if you see it.

When between slivers of a conversation about kindness, you sense a different politics from your own. What you see as incoherence, or the line between feeling and thought. A rational kindness once seemed possible, but now it shakes you, like a scene in an Alzheimer's “home.” Not that any of us is demented, but we can't live in the same rooms any more. Some of us are locked behind doors to save them; others don’t know how to save ourselves. We see the last photo as a last photo, knowing what came after, but that hardly helps us to make meaning of it. “I love poetry, not my own words,” he wrote to his daughter, who wrote him back.

We resent the rational actor behind the iPhone, because he appeals to our emotions. We don’t want such appeals, because they might result in WW3. We think maybe the irrational actor had his reasons, though he can’t express his feelings except in analogies as broken as tanks by the road. He is JK Rowling to someone else's cancel culture. Bombs don't cancel; people do.

So much depends on a red dirt devil against a blue wall in a rain forest. So much destroyed by a vacuum bomb of no color but what it leaves ruined. No red devil can clean that up.

We want our weapons slow. The rifles, the tanks, the transport vehicles, these make us feel, if not safe, then as if war has a protocol, an ethics even. The quicker ones, those that fall from the sky, or those whose agency is separate, like drones or missiles, those make us queasy. It’s not that they kill, but how they kill and how quickly. Yet, in war as entertainment, we crave the opposite. Not the lingering pan of bodies on the street, their red blossoming through cloth, but quick edits, the warp of software. Cris’s images resemble Hollywood’s, while unmasking them, and that's what makes them hurt. The loveliness of words can't be slapped away. An investigation has been launched.

On my way back to my computer, I seek out distractions. On twitter someone writes that the war is a distraction from climate change and COVID. The president was an actor, therefore the war entertains us. Sentences can make anything make sense; it’s not the best thing about them, just the scariest. Line up those nouns and verbs like artillery pieces and let fly. A no fly zone might help, but we wouldn't find the response entertaining because it would be directed against us. Shoo fly don’t go away, we need your noun transgendered to verb.

Is war the ultimate form of not-knowing, or the opposite? We’re Kantians, Carla tells me, though I hardly know what that means. Perhaps it's that we crave consistency: thought and feeling, the deer and the dachsund. We want suffering to make us think better, and thinking to help us feel. The chain gang commences to sing.

Note: the first anecdote related by Yevgenia Belarusets in her "War Diary"

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Stop Time


27 March 2022

Strategy woman, the one who lives next door to Snoring Man, tweets today’s photo of her window. We see through it, too often without seeing it. Not the frame, which enforces order, but the panes. Does a person exist other than as her identity? I asked a student once, and she said no. Cardboard cut-out at a store, filling in for a celebrity, flat fixer, seller of merchandise, mute singer. The blues are not narrative, but lyric, the professor tells us. Time, says the philosopher, no longer coheres. There are my bird songs and her bird songs, but all we can claim in common is our coffee.

I wake up to her evening. She’s had her coffee, looks forward to more. I grip my mug, drink mine down. Losing It was the symposium; Losing My Grip was something else, a book about arthritis by a former athlete. If an athlete does not die young, she’s still precocious at grieving. Mark had grieved for his mother for a year before she died, not so much after. It was her time.

This morning, dementia comes up over and again. The world is crazy, my correspondent says. It’s only apt, this repetition of the process of losing, mind and body, identity and mass. If we are not our identities, we change less when we lose our minds. She resembled my mother, which meant that she was. There’s some use for images in this life.

Photo is marker, not anchor, like us. We wander the length of our tape measure and then we’re gone. The tape measure ripped to shreds, we lose our place in our own time. It ceases to matter how much we’ve lived, because we can’t remember the thread. A life not of seasons but of gun shots, not of gentle repetition, but of ends that mean nothing.

Russia calls for the surrender of Mariupol, which they’ve destroyed. What a trophy, that, the rubble in the streets, the bombed out theater, the burned cars, the bodies. You break it, it’s yours, our general said. At least seven of theirs have been killed. A colonel run over by his own tank. “I want to get the fuck out,” a Russian soldier says to his grandmother on the phone.

The nightmare is double, like eyes that don’t see straight, or see two things straight that blur together, as if we’d put on the wrong glasses, the ones that refused to acknowledge astigmatism, and instead went for the direct correction of. She changed her meds, remembers her dreams now. Most of them are nightmares. Another friend dreamed over and over of having to flee. “This really happened,” Ginsberg wrote, as do a million people in the Ukraine.

The cadence of his speech. He talks to us through phone, across space, in his time, and ours, which are not the same. Our time pretends to ribbon itself on, day to follow day to follow some notion of there being a history to be recorded. His shatters, though the lens of his phone still coheres. He still speaks in sentences, those that echo and repeat, laud and chastise. We know the sorrow of sentences destroyed. We grieve for them each time we set them down.

There is too much loss, the Black dharma teacher said, for us to have the time to grieve. We start, and we start, and we start, but we cannot come to the end of it before another man is shot dead by police, another Ukrainian woman finds her son dead on the street. If time accelerates, grieving cannot. Stubborn of time and place, it fixes us. You might call this unresolved grieving, as if it’s we who can’t complete our task, but it’s time shutting us down, stopping us. Time, like a fossil fuel, runs out. We need clean time. Next time.

The Return of _Dementia Blog_


FB posts:

1) I had a good lunch yesterday with the writer Mark Panek (look him up) at the Kurtistown Cafe. We talked about our mothers, about grieving for them before they died. Then today, Jordan Davis put this up on twitter (for which thanks). There's also a second volume, _"She's Welcome to Her Disease: DB, Vol. 2_, also from Singing Horse. I found the books necessary to write, more difficult in the end to read.
2) The cover, and the later cover, were by Gaye Chan.
3) Since this was posted, oh 15 minutes ago, I've received a poem by Aryanil Mukherjee in response to volume two and then a request for information by Katie Stewart about the symposium Losing It at the U of Chicago that we were in in 2011. It's coming up dementia this morning.

Friday, March 25, 2022

The New Normal


25 March 2022

Possessives. Your war is not my war, but I share it somehow. Possessives where there are none. I write in parallel, though my side of the tracks remains fixed, for now. Your time shattered, my time still a thread, if a bit bare. “Who would read this?” she asked. Resistance in the micro-narrative to the macro. Economics as prophesy, where prophesy is a dismal science.

I took photographs of flowers this morning, not the usual rust or chance absurdities. To be “in memory” is to be only there. It lets us know there is no more memory to be made. Like fossil fuels, they pool, and we can make energy from them. The climate of our memories gets overwhelming. He said he was a climate refugee from Sydney. Fires and floods kind of cover the elements, don’t they? The flowers, as photographs, are now memories of being “in memory of” my friends. Loss leaders. Accumulations of lack leave what he would call “residue.” There’s an area for mud-making at Putin’s palace. And a pole for dancing.

One woman says there is no normal; to say “normal” is to actively forget those for whom such a thing never exists. Another wants normal life inside her war, makes coffee in the morning and evening, looks out her window, counts the internal refugees.

Putin so hates the west he buys his furniture from Italy. Apartment blocks in Mariupol stand as burned skeletons. The larger structures remain as memorials to what they’d held inside. Empty eye sockets, like the machines that fire vacuum bombs. Speed balls: the flash comes first, then air rushes away like water before a tsunami. “He must have been in pain.” No one has named a cause of death. I ask a friend; he says he refuses to ask because he doesn’t want to know. To care how someone died is different from caring for them, though entanglements exist.

Tony’s student asks if I simply write my sentences, or if I take weeks to put them together. I tell his class that, while I’m hardly Emerson, I believe the poems are all out there, and we simply need to walk into them, take them down not in the sense of taking down a building but in that of penciling them into speech. If you want to tell a story later, you can’t afford to judge.

Seven Russian generals dead, a battalion commander killed by his own troops. A tank ran over him. You are in a foreign place, though you have a common language. You’ve been sent there to depopulate it, degrade it, set up a Commissioner of Despair. But it turns out you’ve been had. He’d known some dark mothers. And you are they.

This is my war by proxy. Rather, I am your proxy, permitted the space to think on it. I’ve had my morning #warcoffee, walked Lilith, thought of you and your son in your small village outside Kyiv. We haven’t lost normal so much as discovered how to make it, memory by memory, until the battle shifts and we must pass it on.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

See Me, Feel Me


24 March 2022

Symbolism comes of helplessness: Sydney’s opera house in blue and yellow; a mast in Hilo harbor, equally blue and yellow; a cup of #warcoffee; a “like” on Zelensky’s feed. What you do when you can’t touch. The mask between mouth and supermarket air. That’s what mediates your breath, present as a barrier to what you’d otherwise breathe in.

What is most ordinary gains power because we can hope to touch it. The harsh texture of made paper, neat flex of a pocket knife, soft remnant wasp nest, a green newsboy cap. The tool puts you back together as it takes a machine apart. Paper can’t accommodate writing, except recycled words trapped inside it.

She writes through her twitter mask, from her twitter handle, posting a photograph from her window each morning. Perfect for an “uninteresting photographs” site, except we know it’s in Ukraine. There are no shelled apartment blocks, no burned cars, no sheeted bodies. The scene, while dull, is oddly, miraculously alive. Except our air is not hers. Her air is symbolic, while ours is just the wind that shook our cottage last night, brought trees into speech. Memory is another word for it.

The loss of the poet is real, though I only met him once. The loss of a girl in the Ukraine is only image, or news report. Transpose the grief you can touch onto the grief that feels more abstract. That might end a war or two, no?

Sun rises through the wind and the interrupting trees. Birds syncopate within the wind’s brusque legato. The crater resounded with falling rock, echoing off its walls. The sun came down Mauna Loa, until it joined the fire in the pit. Behind me, a man talked into his device. He’d done some cardio and now he was watching the eruption. A woman held onto his shoulders. The new fireside chat is a man in the square, anaphora I can’t understand, but know the beat to. Like the man in a train compartment entering Yugoslavia who told good stories, though I didn’t know where they went.

A church sign down Highway 11 reads: “When the world is cray cray / Jesus is the way way.” Underneath, signs for therapy and food. Half of all college students suffer the lack of a basic need, and this new 3-year plan will address that lack with food and new administrators. The strategic plan stands in for care; it’s the absence of touch that promises touch.

The screen reflects, but it also divides, like a wall. We will keep you out by looking at you. Witness promises some kind of touch, but watching does not. I will sit with it. I will live with the poem inside my head for years. I will make of my skull space a haven, bomb shelter, community center. There is nothing private about our heads; it’s the gallery of our public imagining, and you can go there to look at it.

My meditations are as abstract as they want not to be. What I touch is keyboard, and the cool wind brushes my shoulders. The window in front of me frames ferns, living and dead, through which the morning sun travels. A spider’s thread glints between leaf and wiry trunk. Bryant said a small bird was hanging upside down from the gutter looking for spiders. Yes, the film was very slow, but when I woke up the next day, I had been in it.

Monday, March 21, 2022

The Mastiff in the White Truck


A large dog, and I mean a really large dog, was hanging out of the passenger window of a white truck, outside the Volcano Store. I stopped to take a photograph, noticing a long mala hanging from the mirror, when a wiry man with a white goatee and white twisted pony tail emerged from the store, carrying an armful of anthuriums, and got into the truck. He had another mala on his wrist. He hailed Brent Clough, Beth Yahp and me, launching into immediate conversation. His mastiff was one of 15; she was five months old and nibbled on Beth's hand. He has 150 acres, with cattle, nearby and when there's an intruder, he doesn't shoot them with a rifle, but sends his dog out. Just last night he drove his four wheeler and found this dog sitting on a man in the field. "You can leave now," he told the man, "or you can stay and have the dog eat you." Intruder gone. Other intruders over the years had left with broken arms and legs, his dogs were so heavy.
He had another few thousand acres near Waimea, he said, and two houses in England, one in London and the other in Surrey, to go with his two places here. "Where are you from?" he asked. Sydney, my friends said. He used to own a house in Vaucluse, but he started to find the people there dull, so moved to Palm Beach, also near Sydney. One son is still there. He's 75, he said twice, and has 29 grandchildren.(Brent doesn't believe he was 75, but believes everything else; I believe he was 75, but nothing else.) Something about an ambassador to Australia in the 60s or 70s. Brent told him our names, and asked for his. "Dr. Ward," he said.
We left to buy beer and eggs in the store. He drove away. I said I didn't believe a word of what he said. Brent said he was sure the guy was real; he knew Sydney really well, after all, and had the trace of an English accent. I started googling. We found a cattle ranch on the Big Island called Ward Castle, which looks amazing and weird. Then we looked up ambassadors to Australia and found one James Ward Hargrove, who served in the Gerald Ford administration. His obituary indicated that he was a wildly successful businessman from Houston, very religious, and that among his descendants was one James Ward Hargrove, Jr. Dr. Ward, I presume?

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Dog names


After we paused to talk to the young guys on the other side of the Loop who said they went to Ireland to attend an international red-hair festival and we talked a bit about how red-heads are dying out because they're a recessive gene Lilith and I walked up Haunani Road, pausing in front of the house with amazing gardens and bottles stuck in a rock wall, a round red door built in. A man and a woman sat on the lanai; two dogs came to the gate to bark at us. "Are you the guy who names his dogs after anti-depressants?" I asked. "Yes, that's Dox," he answered, naming the large black hound closest dog to us. I asked what other names he'd given his dogs. "Paxil, Prozac" (I've been on those, I said), "Ritty" (for ritalin, a bit off-category), "Zoloft." "What was the name of my little dog?" he asked the woman beside him. "Oh, Prozac!" He buries the dogs in the front yard. Prozac's down there now. I always intended to dedicate a book to Amitriptylene, but never got around to it. We also saw this:


Wednesday, March 16, 2022

All the News that's Fit to Break


16 March 2022

The news of the world is misnomer. Like atrocity, it’s cliché, just more deadly. “What are cliches?” students asked, when I advised them against. What we have thought before. What we have destroyed before. Theme and variations. A theater in Mariupol, hundreds of people inside, destroyed today. Apartment blocks altered, reduced. Why do birds run into windows, someone asks. Here are only frames, but still death, not in the rebound off glass but from the inside of skeletons.

Zelensky shows a video. The past is in color, the present in black-and-white. It’s beautiful propaganda, with music, but it’s true. We’ve seen these images already; we know them as fact. But why the music? 


Emotion arises from sound, not image, or the peculiar overlay of each on each, like a palimpsest of loves; you want only the last layer to survive. When she saw she was losing a board game, she lifted it up and all the pieces fell off. Their beating hearts were plastic.

A chamber concert on a roof in Kiev, the city spread out, bright as a sunflower. I find Ukrainian flags: dead end sign against blue sky; blue tape and yellow tape embracing; lemons hanging in front of a blue house. When Sangha was young, he spoke in long strings of d’s, as if he were trying out Russian. Doosh doosh deva meant salmon and rice. My head fills with such syllables. The protagonist in MIRROR is from Ukraine. He stutters, and a woman performs magic on him, til he talks. Straight.

The stutter in history comes of a missing front tooth in the skull of a goat I see nailed to a fence post. Goats laugh; they fall in love. They become skulls, as if life turned to sculpture only when it died. They worry about their families, not themselves. In our mirror: they get a shot to go to the movies, but not to eat with their families. We are looking in the fun house mirror, except it’s the one that’s true, and uncorrupted. We need a new paradigm, she writes on twitter. Progressive lenses also distort.

From distortion to detachment is it. The street signs have been altered to confuse you, the invading party, invading your own narrative so as to destroy it. She kept her secrets until she died of the very disease that told the truth about her addiction. To detach from the signs is to risk bombardment, but to follow them leads also to mistaken places, whether they are inside or out, up or down. To walk up and down is still to traverse the world horizontally. Where the vertical disappears (there are no saints, no satans) there is still this phrase to describe our movement. Restless, with deficit of attention. I write up and down in my room. The orchid maze down Highway 11 is closed post-COVID.

“Find and replace” is a command my computer offers me. I cancel the very choice. Can we replace what we cannot find? Find what cannot be replaced? Where is the plant language for that? Morning glories bear their pale purple blooms in long threads of vine, burying small koa trees in their greed to expand. An empire of vines. We pull and pull, but often the vine snaps before we get to the root. I cheered when I freed a small tree. For now.

Lilith’s eyes were scared last night. She flinched again and again, like hiccups. Fled under the couch. Followed me to the bathroom, heaving. No vomit, just evidence of discomfort. I took her outside for cool air, buried her under the blanket on my bed. When I turned on President Zelensky at 3 a.m., she was snoring.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Mirror Stage


15 March 2022

So much is about watching suffering you can’t touch. Where’s the virtual hand for touching the virtual head of a woman on a stretcher? Is prayer an artificial hand? Do I lift my mug of war coffee with a prayer, not a fist? We have to say our mantras, John High writes, but I don’t know which to say.

We divide ourselves into the watchers and the can’t-be-watchers. I feel so helpless, I keep the television off. It’s hard to stop watching, isn’t it? It’s an addiction either to rubber-necking on an international scale or to witnessing pain. Probably it’s both. Our neighbor, whom I’ve not met, had a son who died, beer can in hand. The memorial down Highway 11 is for a man killed by the neighbor when he crossed the two yellow lines in his fancy red car. He bought a replacement, color black. Still drives to work down the same highway. It’s the only one.

Dear Y, we both drink morning coffee, take morning walks. We both want to be safe. I don’t want a manicure, but you do; I’d prefer a massage. You take pictures out your window in the morning, as do I. If my window could see your window, we might catch each other’s eyes. They’re good eyes. But twitter is all the eye we have now. I find your noun verb issues incredibly moving.

Your leader talks to us through a screen, always in his drab green shirt, sometimes a drab green jacket over the drab green shirt. He’s a politician, someone says; don’t worship him. He has a history. But we’re now out of history in history, living as the present moment what turns to retrospective prose in an instant. I’m watching MIRROR, a film in stream of consciousness. Not my stream, not yours. Other people are method; we’re actors.

How the vatic happens. Always in response to: chaos, confusion, blur of trees beside Highway 11. I will pronounce words instead of manipulating them. All rhetoric is manipulation, she writes, but what happened to persuasion? If I’m persuaded to kill in order to stop killing, have I been manipulated?

No fly zone. Pidgin kine. No can. Peace through war. The trains still run (do trains run?), filled with women and children, everyone crying. A journalist is killed, but Russia says he was not a journalist. A Ukrainian calls this genocide, but even after we look the word up in a dictionary, we can’t assign it to circumstance. Having become a word, it’s only abstract. Abstract genocide is an empty mirror.

My friend bought a tall mirror at a garage sale for next to nothing. The wood frame came later, more expensively. Why are you so sad, the mysterious man asks the mysterious woman in a field, punctuated by a bush that determines each walker’s map. The man up the street names his dogs after anti-depressants. There have been many dogs. Dogs bark, I take my meds, the world burns.

“May all those who grieve be released of their sorrow.” Roshi Joan Halifax

Monday, March 14, 2022


14 March 2022

Watched Winter on Fire last night. History has an inside, like the cave of the heart, or spleen. “They are 

not human beings,” human beings kept saying about other human beings. Broken things: buildings, 

noses, eyes, the voices of witnesses. History broken, like a skull. Fast forward (is that it?) A wounded 

soldier holds up his phone in bed and Zelensky peers at it. Gives the man a medal.

Bird song, until the television comes on to sirens, explosions. Not better to be there, but better to feel a part of it, to have a hand to lend, to be a witness with benefits (as it were). The screen is a part in information’s skull. You can be arrested in Russia for trading information.

You don’t fuck with Ukrainians. Bodies against tanks. Bodies against trucks. Bodies against Darth Vaders with steel wands, their magic the fracturing of bodies. They want to be more like us. Decadent, corrupt, possessed of the courage not to wear a cloth mask.

Yesterday, Lilith escaped again. Across the road, inside dense rain forest foliage, I heard pheasants being flushed this way, then that. Punctuated by barks. She came toward me; when I called, she re-entered the forest. She came back when she got thirsty.

There’s drama without plot. An explosion kind of ends development, gets too quickly to denouement, kills the syllogism. Death is not a plot, nor is it an endpoint. The street-fighting continues, a young man telling his mother on the phone that he loves her (because he’s so prompted), as a body lies 10 feet away.

Cris puts his art up again. Bad feeling about art is not the same as bad faith in art. We cannot help Ukraine, nor can we take advantage by our witnessing. We are apart from. I want to take your portrait means I am relieving you of something about yourself, whatever trace of you there is in your image. That’s why some people say no to be photographed; they might lose themselves to spectators, as if they were actors, not persons.

How do I spend my creative time, a friend asks. Very poorly. What is to be made against the vision of so much unmaking? I don’t see babushkas screaming at Russian soldiers any more, just stretchers emerging from a hospital. The journalist says his colleague was shot and left behind. He says that from his cot.

There’s a Peace Park near here, devoted to providing a safe space for aliens to land. The once-naked woman is now covered with a concrete toga. Bryant suspects that concrete has about five more years in it. Evelyn finds a buried stop sign; a buried Raelian symbol; part of a buried bird. Blue peacocks stand guard on the patch of ground. It’s been mowed, but nothing else is well kept, except perhaps the vines around the statue’s head and hand.

I’ve started reading The Memory Police again, though I hardly ever re-read. It’s about forgetting the plot, the objects that populate it. It’s about erasure. If we are mandated to forget, we also forget to care for. A stray bird means nothing. The narrator’s mother has kept some forgotten objects, like perfume, in her furniture. After their death, they are magical in resurrection. The ordinary is what becomes sacred after its objects are forgotten. A manicure in war-time is act of resistance. Let’s drink more war coffee across our twitter feeds.

Note: The Memory Police is a novel by Yoko Ogawa.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Tweeting woman


11 March 2022

Erased yesterday’s entry and changed the date. A Ukrainian woman on twitter can't find a manicure. “Do you not know people are dying?” is one man's response. Does he not know the value of nails neatly trimmed, of the clothes we work in and those we sleep in? (Sometimes they’re the same.) Each nail marks a boundary between air and skin, a mobile defense system to keep us in our chairs. She hasn’t left her home, sends photos of coffee cups, steaming.

I join her for coffee, laughing at her previously-annoying neighbors, Snoring Man and Sneezing Man. I used to live next to Laughing Man.

I am copying her words, because that is how I receive this war. I drink coffee, too, so we have that in common. Cris pulls back his project based on war images, photographs he transforms to brazen metallic near abstractions. He's reached the boundary of art and horror, wonders which side to stand on. Art is Poland, war Ukraine. You can eat in Poland, but you feel guilty about it. Trains are passing through the night, some returning to Ukraine. There are people on them.

Atrocity as cliché. Russian soldiers talk to their wives. One is bringing back a large TV, another a kitchen appliance his wife requested. Another says they shot two civilians who saw them. There’s less bluster in opposing war, sticking a hole in your gas tank and walking away. Four soldiers confront an elderly couple. She shoos them away like stray geese.

Dear Y: It’s a cool, crisp morning in Volcano, Hawai`i. I’m in a rain forest, listening to birds, tracing the course of shadows through the large leaves and the hapu`u fronds. My dog Lilith got loose yesterday and ran through the forest chasing pheasants. When I came around a corner and saw her at the end of the loop, I called her name. She turned, rain the other way with an absolute joy I can’t deny her. When she returned, it was for water. This story escapes allegory; it’s so much more simple than that. Imagine everyone else who feels this feeling: the grief, the anger, the frustration. The dog in my former student’s film was beautiful in this way, walking an old man toward his death, tail up, nose out for the ghost of the old man’s wife under the tree outside.

Who’s to say who or what leads us out of such helplessness. The tedious horror of maternity hospitals and apartment blocks destroyed. The antic humor of a tractor pulling a stolen tank. Helen was the original meme, and she also emerged from war. One of my students lost her father, a veteran of a US war, to suicide; another’s father merely threatened suicide; and the father of a third died of a heart attack in Ewa.

Our suffering over your suffering hardly matters. My writing to your writing is trivial. Cris’s art from the bombed out city square is one poet’s click-bait. Our despair kills only us. The man’s grief over his wife’s miscarriage isn't sentiment; it’s analogue. Witness doesn’t abide scale. I’m writing words as if to protect you from bullets and bombs. A comedian speaks for us all.

From my morning walk:


Thursday, March 10, 2022

St. Vlad of Kyiv

Sitting at the start of the trail at Kipukapuaulu, waiting for my morning glory eradication group, I talked to a woman with white hair and glasses with clear frames. She was wearing a skirt, but had changed into walking shoes, and was about to go up the trail. She told me that Putin's father was an atheist, but his mother was convinced that he would be a great leader, and that his Rome would be Kyiv. When I asked what her source was, she laughed, then said she got an email each month with the words of Count St. Germain; he was explaining the world to us. She had earbuds in, and a cord around her neck and torso. I suggested she take them out to hear the birds. She said she heard them, but there was someone who needed her and she needed to be in touch. Her brother, dying of cancer in Texas. Another brother (or was it the same?) had answered his phone in Denver by saying he did not work for doctors, lawyers, or ? because they never paid. So, for your further edification and mine:

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

War diary

8 March 2022

A woman on twitter invites you to share “war coffee” with her in Kyiv. She’s abandoned make-up, but still drinks coffee each morning, sharing occasional selfies, without the selfie smile. The soccer player who died by suicide smiled for hers up to the end, for which her parents said there was no warning. It’s our obligatory happiness. Her mother wears a sweatshirt that smells of her daughter. Smell is presence, not pretense.

I took pictures of a black & white photo of my father. When I turned the photo around and put it at the window, I could still see him, along with the name of the studio in Alexandria, Virginia. There’s no sentiment to the image; it was a head shot for work, I suspect. Mid to late 1960s? He’s not smiling, and he’s wearing a suit and tie. But as I carry him from window to tree and from tree to blue bowl and from bowl to the orange-speckled chair on the porch, I talk to him about war. On the Washington Mall, a plane flew over, low, and he imagined how it would feel were the plane shooting at us.

I placed him on the reflective silver ball in the crook of a hapu`u fern, and pushed the shutter. His image appears to melt into ferns, taffied by memory.

When I took a photo of his photo, showing just one eye and the edge of his mouth, he looked like Eisenhower.

President Zelensky speaks to his phone in a square full of sand bags. He talks softly, so as not to alert his enemies. It’s the beginning of Spring in Kyiv, and he’s outdoors in his drab green shirt and jacket. He repeats words. This is how we know he’s rhetorically brilliant. And then he winks.

Is that a selfie? Or a war-time speech to one’s own device, held out for the benefit of Instagram, Facebook, our corporate warlords (a different war)? A grandmother falls by the train tracks and two soldiers pick her up.

We each have a war diary; it’s the new democracy of affect. A friend vomited in her sleep, she’s so troubled by her television. Another friend wants to volunteer with Sean Penn, doesn’t know that Penn left his film behind. To watch is to act, isn’t it? Saner to stop watching.

The man in gray pony tale said he laughs at tourists because they wear watches, and consult them frequently. My empty wrist assures him I’m not a tourist, to say nothing of my dog. Says vaccinations should be the individual’s choice, and besides don’t people still get covid?

My father’s on the coffee table now, staring up awkwardly in his suit and tie. I walk past him many times a day. My photo project’s done, and he was well received. May his memory be a blessing.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

How to Talk about Bad Stuff


4 March 2022

He sits at the end of a very long and narrow table. Men in suits sit at the other end, but we can’t see them pre-pan. Tibetan flags hang in a vacant but well-tended lot, wet, on strings; blue and yellow masks look out from ohia trees. One is wrapped in wire, its face a cipher. Another has a long ceramic chin, bent like a banana. A horse strides across one flag, through which I see light blur. From close-up, language turns to wires that hang between trees.

He wraps his girlfriend in newspaper after a shower. On her belly the headline about a man who killed his three year old and then himself. It’s not wet enough not to be legible. It’s not legible enough to grieve.

Lilith goes chin to chin with a pink flamingo beside a small tree. Label in front of flamingo reads “lime.”

The oligarch’s 600 million dollar yacht was not taken, but it’s not allowed to leave the harbor of Hamburg. Plus it has maintenance issues. Some sanctions are accidents.

I have a hard time reading the computer’s small print. I’m told I have a “good eye.”

Is that a civil defense test in Volcano or an air raid siren in Kyiv? Is the television on or off?

The affect of her reading perhaps out-weighs its content, which is not to say that the content isn’t embedded in our time, like a reporter in a tank in Iraq, or the man who tweets out each morning that he’s alive in the Ukraine. This is not a criticism: I can feel her words’ import, always in conjunction with the time. The screen on my DSLR reads “cleaning contacts” and shivers, at least when the digital screen works. Otherwise, look through the narrow tunnel of the view finder to compose what has already been composed. To compose in this case is perhaps to frame, and to frame is to turn time into space. He took photos that made the earth stop, sun moving across it.

Each camera has its own eye. I compose according to its eye, as much as my own. Bryant has cleared one camera’s eye; no more black blobs on blue sky. If you look at the sky past the yellow diamond “No exit” sign, you see Volcano as a Ukrainian flag.

Lens and eye rhyme. Layers of a mechanism points and shoots and comes back a bit altered each time. My father’s photograph on a steel ball set in the crook of a hapu`u fern blurs like taffy. Too easy to say it symbolizes time’s passage, or forgetting, or remembering. They’re all of the same piece. I took the prayer flags so I could bring them home, stare at them on a screen. Many of the prayers had dissolved, but I can’t say them anyway.

How to talk to your kids about Ukraine. How to talk to your kids about child sexual abuse. How to talk to your kids about gender identity. How to talk to your kids about being canceled. How to talk to your kids about bullying, and the toll it takes on their mental health. How to talk to your daughter about the soccer player who killed herself. She’s been on a suicide watch (not her own), so she knows.

“I hope I was not too forward.”

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Open Door Policy


2 March 2022

--We will keep the door open, says the diplomat.

--We will keep the door open, says the president.

--We will keep the door open, says the tyrant.

--We will keep the door open, says the border guard.

--We will keep the door open, says the chef.

Babushka holds anti-nuclear signs, almost as tall as she is, in her dark coat and cap. One darth vader stands at each of her elbows; they lean over, their helmets black. Each vader takes one of her elbows. She does not drop her signs. The camera lens is left behind.

He says he cannot post the video. It’s too horrible. So he describes it.

Old woman toe to toe with Russian soldier. She talks to him about sunflowers, but she does not put one inside the muzzle of his gun.

Column of Russian tanks meets column of unarmed Ukrainians. Traffic jam as resistance.

Bright lemons hang in front of a blue house. Bright yellow strip on telephone pole beneath blue sky. Blue wooden support beam meets yellow at the site of a torn spider web. (That photograph lost to digital hash.)

She sees balance in her being on 1) a Russian to-kill list, and 2) Ukrainian top 10 Bachelorette.

“Fuck you, Russian ship.”

What have I done to stop the war today? Eaten my cereal. Taken my walk. Sat down under ohia bird canopy to type. Years ago, I got a call at 3 a.m. to tell me that my mother had fallen down.

Her elbow was broken, but her bones were too fragile to set.

--We will keep the door open.

What says the door?