Thursday, April 27, 2023

Lilith learns ancient Greek

My brief essay on my experience taking ancient Greek from the Catherine Project has been published in their first issue of Commonplace. I'm forgetting the Greek alphabet, yes, but I'd also forgotten that my encounter with Greek was also a Lilith story.

Thanks especially to Alex Baro, who is a marvelous teacher. And to a wonderful group of fellow students.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Lilith talks baseball


"How're the Dodgers doing?" I ask my walking friend, he who worked on Air Force One for Reagan; he's wearing his usual tank top with a small cross hanging around his neck. "Oh, they're under .500. I know it's juvenile, but I take it personally when they lose." So I tell him about my very Catholic former colleague who revered the Notre Dame football team. In a conversation in our faculty lounge (back when we talked to each other in the lounge), he remarked that he cared less than he used to when they lost. Another colleague, a former nun, turned and said, in her formal English, "I should think that was a sign of maturity."
Dan of tank top and cross tells me the following story in return: he was at Fenway Park. It was after 9/11 when they got stuck in Boston and the military sent them to the park to see a game. Behind him a woman was screaming; she was cursed loudly, uttered racial epitaphs [sic], abusing the first baseman, who was just up from Pawtucket. Dan was embarrassed to turn and look at her. When he did--finally--he saw that the woman was wearing a habit, a big cross around her neck. "She was a NUN."

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Buber 21

Farewell, Eucalyptus! Not as substance, but as idea. I want to gravitate toward fact, but my eco-meditations wander off with me in their thrall, sentences that stick to other sentences, sappy, insubordinate ones. The tree distinguishes between form and format, between hard wood and the soft pulp where words go when they leave my screen. Think of them as seeds, or screeds. The double ee’s leave trees for thoughts. More than ought, I think. Imagination turns us to a You, Buber says, but isn’t it It that we need to save? Is there a You after the coming storms, driven mad by climate change? Without It, there’s no You, or do You, too, ascend to heaven, Eucalyptus? Or stay as the gray wash of ash beside a new grave? Today, the dog and I found coffee cups in the cemetery. One had been purchased by Lisa, another bore only its kind, and the third read “thank you for composting me.” I’m glad the punchline came last; an out of order joke never ends well. The graves are about lines: grandfather, mother, sister, son. A baby named Cadance, etched bear on her stone. You too are composed of lines, sticky ones and straight ones, brown marks between sheets of black. White print on black costs more, I remember, and the pages tend to smudge. We find fake paper money sometimes, good only for burning. Transmission through ash and smoke, a white kite blown over the green wheeled incinerator. I’ve wanted to transmit something of you, Eucalyptus, but I fear the wandering is mostly mine. My camera proves we’ve come to know each other, but not what has been said between us. Saying is not surface. Surfaces suggest, but there’s no recording them as sound, except as insubstantial palm leaves like those outside my window. My friend tells me that “thinprose” is better than a mistake. Let this thinprose resemble the thintree, so nearly thing. The You we say to [them] sticks to the threshold of language which is sometimes black tar, sometimes brown sap. Threshed and held, such a thin harvest.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Buber 20

There must be days Eucalyptus would slam the door and stay inside, like a scared child. Bark curtains half-cover portholes of lighter wood; three layers deep, it’s still surface. To take a photograph is to trust in surface; sometimes this takes time, returning to the same storefront year after year as its wooden structure yellows, pipes rust. Character is what gets shaken off, though we refer to our wrinkles as add-ons. The places that scare us, increasingly, exist outside, as if raw emotion manufactured guns in 3D. Print out your fears. Tree appears not to feel terror, though clearly it inhabits its losses, the narrow girdle of black bark strewn on the ground around it. Not self-loss, which we can manage, but loss by ax, by termination notice, by accident. Tree is self that becomes shelves, through no artistry of its own. But island Eucalyptus are too expensive to mill, just cheap enough to burn. There’s power in loss of self or shelf, a bulb burning late at night, gathering image in, then dropping it, like a match.

The tree might have been the paper this will be printed on. That’s the place that scares Eucalyptus, or would me, this change of states from wood to word, from silence into a furnace mouth. Young people take photographs of each other on the tracks at Auschwitz. Picnics at Bull Run. Either we can’t foresee or we won't remember what ruins remind us of. Somewhere nearby a cardboard sign tells us we are in our last day. Don’t go to hell, it urges us in crude black marker. On the other side, $5 barbeque. $5 painted a careful red, the event partially erased. The sign opposite was scrawled in haste, last “days” crossed out, replaced with “hour.” We presume it to be a single hour, but it’s been days the sign has hung on this telephone pole.

Eucalyptus and I stand on the lawn beside the swimming pool, I taking its picture, it refusing to pose. There is no posing in this world. Every You in the world is doomed by its nature to become a thing, the return trip always different from the voyage out. Save this ticket as proof of your journey. A small brown veined leaf slips inside a gap in the bark, held tight by black sap. Its sell by date comes sooner than ours. The men in sandwich boards can’t be far behind, announcing our close-out sale, including remnants.

June 3 reading in Washington, DC


I have no idea of the location of this reading, though there's plenty of time to figue it out!

Saturday, April 15, 2023

From I and Eucalyptus in Trilobite, Paul Vogel, editor

with riffs on Martin Buber's _I and Thou_ and photographs of my favorite tree.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Buber 19


Does motive matter? Something such as a need or desire we wish not to share but to know, so it stops. Motive is repetition; its end is motiveless. That it is another person’s need or desire matters only insofar as it might be our own. Rage marries depression and they bear an ugly soul. Hatred marries an automatic weapon and enters the bloodstream, sheds it. That’s what gets blurred out of our images. We’re most disturbed by clips that contain no violence, only preamble. Preamble might be thought, or it might be a shallow intake of air. An officer is down; another hides behind a planter. If we didn’t hate the shooter beforehand, we do now, watching to see glass shatter. The moment of rage restrained by a bullet to the head, leaving waves that catch inside our bodies. Yet whoever hates directly is closer to a relation than those who are without love and hate.

The relation of woman to tree approaches love, as on a highway around a central wound. Rainbow sap extends its bouquet, as Eucalyptus also gives its scent. Perfumes are made of such, and decongestants. Eucalyptus is the strong silent type; the woman prefers words, but never uses them in his vicinity. (If you don’t talk about your relationship, I read, it might never change.) Bullets are syllabics, unalliterative. The tree is quiet, holds its silences together. We all want beauty, the photographer says, even the tract homes in morning light, when they luminesce in rows. To take the photo removes their ugliness. That is troublesome, says the critic, but not so the mirror. It takes light in and casts it out in equal measure. You catch it on the rebound, seeing yourself on the stage of a country store, standing before paper cups and bottles of Coke. Outside, a machine makes a “fried chicken” balloon dance, and a dog barks behind a boarded up window. The old sign hangs sideways; painted letters in an old font next to a banner that shows us what we’re famous for, not so much who we are. Bright blue ocean, held to the storefront by a rusted screw. I leave with chicken, sushi, and photographs.

Relation is less intensity than extension. Extension is compassion, not vitriol. I hate the shooter but I know them as someone very like myself. Arriving at a hostel after a night on the train, I detested those who ate their bread and jam, knowing I had eight hours of walking ahead of me. I did not have a gun.

Lilith talks non-fiction


"Professor Schultz!" a young woman exclaimed, as she came out of a nearby townhouse. Moment of panic: clearly a UH student, I could not place her, or find her name in my jumbled brain files. "I'm in the non-fiction class you visited," she said, which got me off the hook a bit. I'd talked about my Lilith walks, and yes there was a student who said her mother lived in the area. We chatted about the class, about the white Infiniti parked at the curb whose back end was demolished, doubtless by another car going too fast. She got in her blue Honda and drove off. Then it occurred to me that her neighbor (numbah 5 on the Kealoha jury) had been my student 20 years ago. Lineages don't often fall in lines, but they do fall everywhere.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Lilith and a history of violence in Hawai`i

"I keep thinking it's Saturday," I say to the young man at the cemetery gatehouse. He's bearded, wears a knit cap, leans on the desk, iPhone in hand. As usual. He smiles, says he wishes it were. On our way out of the cemetery, I say it's closer to Saturday now, but we're not there yet; he smiles. On second thought, I say Lilith and I found the grave of the young guy who was killed by police a couple years ago. Way back toward the edge of the cemetery, near where Lilith likes to find mongooses. Iremamber Sykap. "Remember him?" 
The tall white guy in the back says, "oh there are so many young guys here, stabbings...lots of Micronesians." "There's a large group of graves over there," I point up hill. "Was that covid?" "It happened during covid, but lots of different stuff. A tough group; they used to come here at night and we couldn't get them out. Drug dealers. Even sold drugs while they were over there." The young man whose back is to the older man (they're both facing me) raises his eyebrows.
[There is a lot of backstory to this story. Micronesians came to HI as nuclear refugees. See this article for more: ]

Monday, April 10, 2023

Buber 18

Each morning I read a walk poem before our walk, another patch of language full of verbs and prepositions, those that push us apart or pull us together, act in the poem or in us, like priming the pump to expel unnecessary air. I haven’t seen Eucalyptus yet today, but we’re old married folks by now, comfortable in our distances that are not distances, or are distances even when we’re close by. I sit, therefore I am not a tree. Camera blurs Eucalyptus's bark so it appears to move away from; the black bark and drops of yellow sap fizz into a tableau that is no longer tree. Get close enough to your object, and it reappears as something else. The back of the asphalt laying machine turns to fine grained wood, or a book whose pages might turn. The broken plastic off a car turns into a red flower, rhymes with another at the curb, though plastic seems more alive than the old flower. What appears is sometimes stronger than what is. Which is not to devalue what is, as is comes first, in advance of what cannot dissolve into narrative time. The landfills are full of busted images, as are the beaches, covered in shredded plastic, their lights bright like Christmas, but so out of place. Place in time, or place out of the time to which it rightly belongs. Fast food toy on sand. Plastic land shark. Its bite is on delay. Like all word problems, post doom is a mystery to be solved, at least theoretically. We’ll never change, but our plans will, not that we ever follow them because someone always coughs to make the silence sing another chord. Discord, c’est moi. I left my I and Thou downstairs; I’m writing upstairs, inside but with the outside air sounding of palm leaves and maintenance, rain again, which comes in patches. To come in patches is to live within a cycle; isn’t that odd? A motor starts, then moves away. The clock ticks, and I’ve forgotten to wind it. My microwave has beeped. The dog scratches herself against the dirty couch. It’s not comfort so much as habit that sets me here, laptop on my lap, to list whatever presents itself to stolid me. Claude has found a leaf to hunt and chew on. The dog’s ears are up behind her blanket. Calm outside the storm: another shooting, another legal case, another all caps tirade. Pull yourself within. I know you understand, Eucalyptus. It’s your bark that falls, not you. I find no alteration there.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Buber 17A

The tree stands scarred, like Bishop’s fish. Chunks of bark litter its base; those that haven’t yet dropped hang from the trunk, dipped in sap’s black ink. Our teacher calls off “medication” class, then repeats her typo. There was gunfire out there this morning, a frazzled man told us at the old sugar mill, and lots of cops, back where the junked cars were, the old sugar truck, its bed pointed in the air, netted with holes. The pictures I took were still, though they marked a history etched in rust. What is absent from these old machines tells us more than what remains. Ramp up the blacks, so what’s missing becomes more visible in its not being there. Or add shadows. It’s an odd form of creativity, editing, the pulling up or taking down of light. To crop is to take away, to harvest off the sides of an image. If I only took what was cropped off, I’d have another chronicle indeed. If the eye is what remains, then thou are what gets displaced. A gallery of empty frames, scraps of images on the walls between. The frames then do double duty, holding in the absence, pushing out the thing that lacks context. Becomes the context of an I and Thou seen from the other side, oneself in the mirror talking to oneself who drives the car. I am empty; Thou is a wisp of smoke inside of which an image grows, or fades. Her photographs came one hour apart. In the first, you could see nothing through the rain except a couple of dull roofs. In the second, apartment buildings, power lines, the whole urban apparatus. Eucalyptus resembles an old pole covered with resins: blue, yellow, white. It testifies to the rhyme between detritus and beauty, between what serves a purpose and what does not. It reminds us of the larger smoke stack, gold against blue sky, ornamental now that the sugar mill’s shut down. The context of history in what is missing: work. Or that work. Now men make surfboards in the old water tanks, and someone fixes a large boat beside the stack. There used to be a large source of silt across the road, a man in dreads tells us. Others deal drugs in the shadows, where the junked cars are. “I know you’re just taking pictures,” the man said, “but you should know.” We leave, you and I, both of us abstractions inside this sentence, most truly ourselves yesterday. The old photographer sits under an umbrella beside a “caravan.” Photographs introduced him to class consciousness; they got him a job at Harvard. In one photo, we see a man from behind: he stares at a brick wall. Closer to us, a pile of newspapers. He’s not recording history, he says, though he sure remembers what’s gone missing.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

My review of Anne Waldman's _Bard, Kinetic_

can be found at Ron Slate's _On the Seawall_ website. Here is the Waldman piece:  I also call attention to the work of poet, Selina Tusitala Marsh. For more on her, see here (and elsewhere!):


This morning (afternoon in Rhode Island) I spoke and read to a group on Block Island, off Rhode Island, about writing on dementia. Thank you to Susana Gardner for making this happen.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Lilith and the gilded mirror


As I lifted my phone to take a shot of an open door, framed by an orange cone and a hand truck bearing a broom, at `Ahuimanu Park, I noticed a woman in the back, looking my way. She walked out: "This is not a dog park," she said. "I don't want to get in with you, but." Her worker's uniform was gray; even her boots were gray, and her hair was tending that way, though her face was young. I told her I just wanted a photo of the door, and she warmed to me a bit. "You can come in the storage area," she said. 
She wasn't out doing things today because she had a headache. Inside the storage room I caught a glimpse of a mirror with an off-gilded carved frame. Took a photo. "You can't go in the back," she said, closing that door. "It's personal stuff." She wondered why I was taking the photos and what aperture I use. Taking a class at Leeward, I said. I live near here. "Oh, do you have that nice house over there"? I'd pointed vaguely in that direction. "Oh no, the townhouses." She perked up and said she goes there to find bulk pick up stuff. You know seniors die and there's nowhere to put things.
I asked if she know about the Free Store on Matson Point near the old Pineapple Hut. She shook her head. No, not interested in finding good furniture; she's in it for the hunt. Likes rusted shelves. "Funny," I say, "I love to take photos of rust. People think I take photos of beautiful flowers, but it's the rust I like." "For the patina?" she asked.


Sunday, April 2, 2023

Lilith celebrates QingMing at the cemetery

Yesterday morning, the woman who wants to die at 80 told us about a Chinese festival in the cemetery, starting at noon. Way in the back, up the hill, against the Koolau. So Lilith and I went back later on and hiked up the big hill. Lion dancers, their bright yellow lion in a heap by their side, lingered on the road; a bearded white man nearly burned himself trying to deal with incense, and had to be shown how to put the fire out after it's started. We walked to the side. Lilith took instantly to a man standing next to us. (I think he was standing next to some beatific stink, because she keep rolling around on her back between cuddles.) Another man approached in a brown cap, asking if I knew what was going on. Not really. The QingMing festival, he said, adding that he used to work here. And that man in an aloha shirt over there designed this area with perfect Feng Shui. A Mr. Lau. The man in a cap explained the elaborate Feng Shui to me, including the view of the ocean that was bounded by land, so wealth wouldn't run out to the open sea. "The next thing is a bit of a stretch," he started saying to each new item. But there was land, air, earth, wood, and ocean, indeed. And lots of young families. The dragon came into being, roaming around eating the dollar bills deposited in his mouth by children, by one woman who stood erect, appropriate for a formal event.
I told the men next to me that Lilith and I walk here nearly every day, adding something about having written a book about our walks. Really?! What's it called? Next thing I know, the man next to me holds up his phone and says, "Lilith Walks: amazon," and quickly shows me a picture of my book. Man in cap starts announcing the book to everyone he sees, mostly cemetery employees. "Well some of it is about getting mad at Uncle Bill and Scott," I say, and they laugh. 
Lilith and I leave, carefully stepping around the lit incense on the ground next to the road. I think she'd stung herself a bit earlier.

Reading with Fischer, Heuving, and Acosta in Seattle, May 9.


May 9 in Seattle, 119 First Ave S, free tickets on eventbrite. 7-9 p.m. Margin Shift Reading Series.

May be an image of text that says 'A NIGHT OF PHILOSOPHY (NOW TO) MUSIC poetry by: Norman Fischer Jeanne Heuving Susan M Schultz Eric Acosta MarginShift friends poetry May 09 7-9p Underbelly (119 1sAveS)'