Friday, November 13, 2009



After September I stopped killing the soft moths that fluttered silently through the house. They could have my sweaters, they could lay their eggs in my wool shirts, even the blue sweater John liked best. There were brown smears on the wall from moths I’d crushed on their way to the light that dazzled and drew them. I left the stains to remind myself that they had lived once like me, were hungry and fed at the light, seeking warmth.

This morning I find one dead in my cup, wings folded shut as if in prayer. I don’t know where they come from, these moths. At night as I read their soft shadows move across the sour yellow light of a dim lamp, a crooked lampshade, a pile of mail torn open and forgotten.

I remember stagnant August, a hot tent and ants. We’d camped near Timothy Meadows in the Chiwaukum Mountains under a sky heavy with rain to fall, the ponderosa pines scarcely breathing. The grass held still like grass in a painting. We pitched our tents in a hurry to beat the rain – we could smell it coming. It smelled like an old road, it felt like something was going to happen.

We finished as the first quarter-sized drops of rain fell, as the trees shuddered like dancers raising their arms. We ran to our tents and I discovered I’d pitched the tent on an ant hill. Hundreds of ants were going about their business on the orange fabric of the Eureka – big, fat black ants with red heads, following the unwritten code of their genetic memory, onward in a blind path that did not deviate for such a minor obstacle as a wedge of orange fabric in the grass but simply crossed over it in their stubborn faith they would find what they sought, what pulled them through the grass but I did not think of that as I crushed them, killing as many as I could until my hands were covered with their substance like a thick jam, until I was sickened at this mindless genocide and I stopped as violently as I started, gently brushed the rest of them into the grass and crawled inside the tent, wanting to weep for the sudden sharp grief that made my throat ache with unshed tears as I lie in the tent waiting for rain.

(From a creative writing class, early 1990s)


Stephan (A work in progress)

My whole life has been a rushing, a hurrying, a sort of careening. Friends stand by, astonished and perplexed. When I stop careening, it’s as if a bell had stopped clanging that had been ringing for a long time, the silence huge and strange.

Stephan once dreamed of me as a truck out of control without brakes on a downhill grade, careless, crashing into smaller vehicles on the way, damaging, hurting, blind, never looking back at the damage I caused.

It would seem I attach too much importance to my very existence; on the contrary I do not believe I am important at all, perhaps that is why I have floundered and flailed about the way I have done. I knew I was no one and that kind of knowledge is unbearable. I clawed at the eyes of the universe, I raged against obstacles of any kind, I begged other people to define me, to give me eyes and a name.

(Journals, early 1980s)


Stephan (A work in progress)

Our favorite journey was to the mountains, to a place called Mount Pilchuck State Park, not far from a ghost town called Monte Cristo. We tried to get to Monte Cristo more than once but the road would either be closed or the weather forbidding.

Stephan died unexpectedly in a car wreck on the West Seattle bridge and when I finally got to Monte Cristo I was driven by someone else. Twice I went to Monte Cristo with other lovers and once with a woman friend, a grizzled philosopher of a woman named Jean who drove a yellow truck and looked for precious stones.

Each time I went to Monte Cristo I tried to find Stephan again, as if he’d be there waiting in the blue shadows of the foothills, waiting for me find him for he was always ahead of me, looking back over his shoulder, waiting for me to catch up.

Once I dreamed we were climbing a trail at twilight and that I couldn’t keep up; he had to stop and wait and this he did with infinite love and patience and that was the way we were in real life, Stephan way out ahead of me, knowing everything, me gasping, scrambling and falling over loose stones.

I’m still not sure where we were trying to get to – perhaps it wasn’t any place at all but I felt we were there when we flew kites or when we drank coffee from the old blue thermos in the mountains that day he pissed my name in the snow. Back in the city, back in the cars we backtracked, we forgot what we knew and fought and hurt each other well.

Now alone in this city Stephan’s kites fill my walls. I would be afraid to fly them now, I am afraid I would damage them. Only Stephan could repair them, know how to fix things when they were broken. Anything that can be broken can be repaired, he said once during the ravages of an argument. As we argued he quietly and efficiently repaired my broken key ring. When he handed me the key ring he handed it to me as if he were handing me peace but I couldn’t accept it. I wasn’t through destroying.

Stephan often gave me things I wasn’t ready for. He must have glimpsed a part of me that hadn’t yet emerged, that lay half-formed, undeveloped, blanketed by resentment and fear.

NOTE: This was written in the early 1980s after I had stopped drinking and found my way to the mountains.