December 31, 2017


She was old now. Which means she was younger then. Of all the people who passed through her life, there were two who brought her the most joy and damage. A man and a woman. Joy and damage often come hand in hand, sometimes alone. He was a big man, everything about him was big, his hands his feet , everything. What she told her was she was a woman. She was not big, never big as she grew and now. What he told her was that she was not a man.

January 1, 2017

To Her

She was exquisite, beautiful, tall, slender, thin-boned, with shadowed grey-blue eyes, sensuously pale skin and young, long hair that was nearly white. She was 74 years old and alone. Her husband was gone and her only daughter died many years ago. She lived in a small place with her plants and a cat and her music. Most of the time, she walked and talked to herself and anyone else who listened. On a few occasions, I was "anyone else" on the street listening as she talked about her dreams, her visions, her understanding. Like many mystics and my beloved mad Aunt, this delicate, articulate woman believed that 2001 (the rightfully first year of the new millennium) marked the awakening and reappearance of the treasured and patiently lost city of Atlantis. It rose, she said, invisibly at first, high into the sky and spread like a mist across the face of this blue planet. As it slowly appeared, she said, like an apparition over moonlit water, it brought with it a display of universal life in universal clarity. All religious ideas will dissolve, all temporal laws and mores will fade. There was no past year or decade or century, she said, just one long period from the time the crystal of Atlantis slipped into the sea until now, the next time.She said this to me on more than one occasion and led me to believe her. She is my Sisyphus. What happened last year and the year before that is all part of the heisenberg rock that engulfs her and everyone else... simply to be pushed to the top of the hill and then allowed to roll down again. What intrigued Camus about his Sisyphus was the time spent walking down the hill, free-spirited, knowing what will happen, free in that knowing. So did I become intrigued with this woman who lived in the present and was free of the past and the future. The string-pullers of her life, of her being, vanished. Her sentience came from within and her consciousness clothed her from the outside. Like Camus, I concluded... she was happy.

November 7, 2015

Time In Tuscany

He: No! Listen to me... you are very beautiful... you make me very beautiful... and what we have done is invent ourselves, carve ourselves out of soft stone. Nothing will ever change that. The rules don't matter, the beliefs don't matter... it's like stepping off the edge of the planet into space. All there is... is you... and me. No more ending and starting over. But don't you see, whatever it is or was, it floated us together in the same place at the same time. We have to disconnect ourselves now. We can't go off with all of the threads unraveling behind us.
She: I don't care. I want distance... and time with you. I see me, in your eyes. And then I see you. We have the eyes, remember? From one eye to the other.
He: It's raining.
She: It's quiet out there. That big rolling Hudson River, all blue-gray and quiet. Look how it refuses to let the fog come in. It's strong. And I want to be strong, I don't want to be afraid.
He: Then we won't be.
She: No, we won't be.
He: Like magic?
She: Like magic! Please, my lover, protect us!
He: Please, my lover, protect us!

March 9, 2015


He said in echo...
I am a stranger in a strange land.
Everything here is theirs.
The sky, the water, the air, blue
Blue like my world
They can not see me
Blue like my mind
They can not hear me
To be blue in a blue world
Is to be invisible
And I am blue and invisible.
The echo never ends.

October 5, 2014

Time In Tuscany

She: Don't make it a nightmare again. You came in with the rain last night and flooded me with images I almost forgot. You stick your fingers into my brain and explode it. Now that the pieces are melting together again, you look like you want to run and hide, as if there's a crowd watching you.
He: What should I do?
She: I loved you!
He: I think we never grew up.
She: I think you've changed.
He: It's the old stinko.
She: And today it's dripping out of every crack in the wall. It oozes under the door.
Do you think I didn't let it rip at me, tear my guts out? Do you think sometimes I didn't feel ugly, deformed? These past few years, all of the people I've been with, lying on their skin, feeling them touch me, touching them, trying to be wet and alive. I thought.: I'll pay... almost forever. I can't have what I wasn't supposed to taste. If I bite through my tongue and my lips, the blood will pass, and the new blood will be fresh and clean. Because it wasn't true. Because you were you and I was you and they were just... all of the men in my life.
He: All of the women in my life. Remember the marvelous stories you used to read to me about courtly love. The knight and his lady. Each was married... to someone else. But what passed between them was considered pure, a pure passion. Because there were no other motives. They could never marry. Even if they ran off together. All they had was the touch between them.
She: Like us?
He: I don't know!
She: Is that us?
Or has it all come back in an ugly way... to make us sick... and twisted.
He: I don't know what we are. I don't ever want to hurt you again. I know I loved you, and you're alive, and I need to be alive with you. I don't care about the past or what's right or what's wrong. I don't care about other people and the miserable way they live with each other and the way they force us to chew on their misery. There's so little time, so little time.
She: I never left you...on that beach.
He: It was a poor place... so many stones, and all the duckweed.
She: The sun got very hot, almost too hot to swim.
He: There were little bright blue dragonflies.
She: Dragonflies.
HE: And you were naked.
SHE: And so were you.
HE: They want us to fall down and bow our heads. They want us to fall backwards and cluck our tongues, be part of their fear.
She: But we have a chance, don't we? We can run... inside each other, roll up inside and run... down all the dark alleys. Clear away all the shadows.
He: I'm really very afraid... frozen.
She: Inside of me you are my lover.
He: Inside of you I am your lover.

Singing Nights Into Silent Days - Quartets

As they have come, their time has come
Time in the past and the Time after and now
All Time is now
That's how he knew they were here

Singing Nights Into Silent Days - Quartets

power only serves power
torture is for the torturer
conquest is for the conqueror
wealth only serves wealth

Singing Nights Into Silent Days - Quartets

She could deliver a song that was so initimately torched
so privately burnt that it lingered long after the music stopped.
She sang with her inner life wide open.
She delivered in a way that her listeners could "see" as well hear.

July 5, 2014

Singing Nights Into Silent Days - Quartets

Images on a dark night sky... bright
They come from where?
Memory, memories, muse?
Coffee and croissants
Wine and strawberries
Warm water and skin
Guitar and whispers

July 4, 2014

Etruscan Nights

There is a sadness that floats on the sea in the afternoon. It has always seemed that way to me. No matter how bright and warm, as the sun tires and drifts downward, a lingering stillness, quiet, a hesitation before the long fall into darkness. Even the horizon no longer shimmers; the dance of blue and yellow becomes a slow glide along the water's edge. Sounds blend. The salt-smells hang without any apparent change. Every thing is poised. A sadness... perhaps it's me... a loneliness as I sit on the cliff-rim rocks almost breathless. I feel... transparent. I feel... invisible.

September 30, 2013

Where Silence Has Lease

Along the land, the coastal land, as the summer ends, a new summer begins. The nights are colder, the sun is weaker, the sea is still warm. In the warmth of the afternoon, I walk along the grass-to-sand edge of the house, circling it, painting a fence around it with my body, protecting it. She is asleep inside, I am awake.

I remember this memory, this song I sang to her:
I called you, again and again, you didn't answer. I sent you one of those goddamned text messages, three of them, you didn't answer. I went to your door, rang the bell, banged on the door... you should have been there, if you were there you didn't answer, if you weren't, if you weren't where were you, where were you at 3am in the morning. Are you treating me to the torture you once scratched on my face the torture you said I rendered you with, silence in the face of emotion, no talk, no look, no response. Is that it, are you empowering yourself to render me.
Later, she came to my room and without a word went, sat in the shower. I sat with her. It never happened again.

I remember this memory, this song she sang to me:
Why when I shout at you, you look down. Why when I cry, your eyes are wet yet you don't cry. What I need, you need. When I need, you walk away. I've let you into my dark places, you say nothing. You let me into your dark places, I call out to you, you say nothing. Is it fear. Is it loss of self. Is it panic.
I offered to touch, to kiss, she refused it. Later I began to speak. The words poured like wine through a broken cork. She listened for hours. We were free.

For ten years we were lovers... an affair of the heart, I called it. No, you are a thief of hearts, she would say. And what are you, I would say, my victim? No, she would whisper, your loot.

For ten years we touched each other's skin, we slept together and bathed together. We stared into each other's eyes until our eyes went dark. We whispered our names in a thousand different phrases, in a hundred gestures, in echoes that flooded the memory with music. We went to places, walked along streets, lonely together because we couldn't share with other people. Afraid to share, afraid to lose a moment, because above all, our passion for each other glowed... green like sea fire, glimmering like a delicate, thin glass, floating on our fingertips, buoyant from our breath, waiting to shatter if either of us so much as looked away. We believed, I believed, that one day we would fall asleep together and never wake up. We would cross from white to black... no shades or colors in between... the most dangerous expense of life, this.

Then it came. Now she is asleep, falling deeper and deeper into dark sleep... and I am awake.

Grief, mourning, remorse, regret, the breath of pain... all of these are fences around a vast shadow of silence. Memory will fade. It lives only until I am no longer awake. The expense has been paid.

July 8, 2013

Hong Kong Nights - 4:30pm

The title comes from a remorseful Mekong whiskey-Beaujolais hangover-driven ditty written in a sweat-dripping room on The Peak. This is one of many notes, scibblings really, of many time-stopped moments.

In the world of Suzie Wong
Everything ends at 4:30pm
The sun always sits on the horizon
Balanced on the fingertips of a small hand
The water, like fabric, smooth at the edges
Small boats weave into the large ones
Her eyes are French
Her lips are Italian
Her body is... her body
4:30pm and she disappears
4:30pm the light fades and the harbor disappears

She was not a fantasy of Suzie Wong. Her name is Rossina, she's Eurasian... Italian-French and Chinese, very Chinese and very Italian. Like the movie, every time together, she disappeared, had to go at 4:30pm. Like the movie, the beauty of Hong Kong, its watercolor hills surrounding the blue bath harbor, its shuddering light that seems to come from below rather than above, its stir-fry of persona and traffic and winds, the laughter... all fade and disappear at 4:30pm.

At night, Hong Kong becomes a different movie, a video-game of dream-stained neon, of pulsing echoes, unrecognizable music, voices, sounds, the shrill laughter. To be alone at night in Hong Kong is to be in the deepest pit of loneliness on a cold, earthen floor. I try not to ever be alone at night in Hong Kong. I've had my share of abundant help to stay clear of that unforgiving pit.

4:30pm like the solstices everywhere is a mysterious time of convergence. Light comes down to eye level, sound drifts behind the ears, smells become muted into tastes, touch becomes electric and submissive. The blend sashays into twilight and fades. Night is another world on another planet in another galaxy.

Rossina would come back on some nights when the memory-feel of 4:30pm mercilessly lingered in the bottles, in the glasses, on the walls, on the skin. She knew. Women are wonderful aren't they? They have a sense by design, by natural cultivation, of the needed time of a lover. I'm sorry my gay male friends, if you haven't experienced the unpredictable, uncanny sensuality, sensuousness of a woman... you've missed an existential treasure. And you won't find it in the wonder of another man. The male by design is one wonder short.

Hong Kong in its region shines like a jewel above the morass of Bangkok and Kuala Lampur and Jakarta. It winks at Beijing and Tokyo. It laughs at Taipei. But it is not Paris or Rome or San Francisco... except on any day, in sun or rain or cold or typhoon... at 4:30pm.

November 21, 2011

Night Songs/Portrait: Her Eyes

glimmer, glisten. glow
Like the sea, they reflect no light
She does not see me
Deep in the water of her eyes
I see me
And I see her
As she is blind, so am I
Deep in the bright blue-green water of her eyes
Deep in the blinding glow of her bright wide eyes
Deep in her

Night Songs/Dance: naj at the Green Tree

I realize--this word for awake, for aware, for astonishment, for agony
realize, just the two of us, we could have made it
realize, that you could have made it
and I could have made it with you
realize, that I let your tears flow through you until they washed you away
washed me away in you
I hear--this word for listen, for remember, for dreaming
hear, you call
hear, you whisper
hear, you cry
your voice is my silence
my silence is breathless, silver on silver, glass on glass
I see--this word for feel, for pain, for remorse
see, the skin, the eyes, the touch
Why--this word for love, for longing, for loss
why, you said it would be in your heart forever
why did you let me throw your heart into the sea?

November 6, 2011

Tomorrow's Tiny Noises

Rune said: If you live in the past, you have no future. If you live in the future, you have no present. The present is all you have as it rolls and curves in space-time in all directions at once.

Yet, sometimes, at the edges, if there are edges, there are tiny, tiny noises, sounds, tiny pieces of melodies? of voices? of images that can be heard but not seen? When the sky is clear and dark, when the wind is steady and plain, when the memories are quiet and the breath is almost silent... tiny noises beckon, everywhere.

Rune knew.

September 7, 2011

Around Midnight

Midnight was the time when I slid into a deliciously dark, smokey jazz club in Chicago and was bewitched by a blend of music I hadn't heard before. It was distinctly Bossa Nova topped with a layer of bop. They were beginning to call this style "fusion" as Latin jazz had resurged. But what I heard that night was decidedly more and rarified. The piano was exceptional, technically and emotionally. And there was another layer floating underneath--subtle, classical riffs that might answer the intriguing question of: What happens when Jobim meets Bach?
That's how I met Manfredo Fest, a worldly, classically trained pianist and composer who sautéed jazz and Brazilian rhythmic harmonies into a feast of musical entrées.
We met and talked that night in between Manfredo's sets as he maneuvered through the crowd, flirting with his fans, joking with his friends, and whispering a few modulations to his band. It was a delight to see, because, you see, Manfredo couldn't see--he was blind, though you'd barely notice it. It seldom affected the rich, full life he created and enjoyed. He was a high spirit that night and for as long as I knew him.

July 26, 2011

timendi causa est nescire

the cause of fear is ignorance

In the Ancient World, that time before Judeo-Christian morality and the steam engine, Art was not usually segregated from the days and nights of journeying through life. The vast sum of it was identified with the craft of the 'artisan' who created works out of fear, by threat, commission and the possibility of sale, often driven by the ignorance of religion. The artist as an impressionistic window into the where and why of life was uncommon and often ignored. Later, Art evolved into a primary activity of decoration, and then, for a brief time, became that impressionistic window, created for its own purpose. Eventually it morphed into the massive merchandising megalomania of today where everything is 'art' and everyone is an 'artist' and the impressionistic window of past, present and future is a disposable slide-show. The prevailing image can be summed up in the words of another Roman sage:
tempus edax rerum - time, the devourer of all things.

December 4, 2009

Juliet and Her Romeo

It was a remarkable production in Ventura, California (a not-remarkable place for the arts or anything else!). Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, directed by Tariz Shanil. The play was staged without scenery against black drapes, white lights with no gels but in a lighting design that was ingeniously beautiful in its simplicity and mood shifts, the vision of a still photographer working in black & white. There was also no costuming. The actors were dressed like dancers in simple blacks and grays... the only touch was the long, silken scarves used by the two lovers. And a few props, that was all.

It was the story... and the words, the poetry of Shakespeare that flooded the theatre space and overcame the audience... it was as if we were all sitting in the shadows off to one side and just happened to come across this poignant, heartbreaking tragedy as it was unfolding. The actors achieved a sense of reality, a flow of truth that is painfully rare in our theatre, especially with Shakespeare. There were just two performances, unadvertised, both sold out by word-of-mouth, and then they were traveling on across country. All of the actors are Russian as is Tariz (she not only directed but also played the Nurse). The performance was in English...they handled the language and the music of the verse almost without fault and with only a slight British accent. They moved as I've seen the best trained actors move.

It's been a long time since I sat with a tight throat in tears, witnessing and feeling the agony and grief of this early, awkward, raw, and powerful piece of Shakespeare's writing. They captured the heart of the play, tore it out, and drank its blood. The acting was that good! Especially Juliet, played by Elana Lemtov, a woman in her early 30's who captured the self-possessed passion and physicality of a 14-yr old. Self-possessed ... without the insight or experience of a mature woman but with the femininity and bleeding passion of a young girl walking along the edge of a cliff, feeling without knowing, sensing without seeing, alive for the moment without the tyranny of hope. Lemtov's young Juliet enveloped this play with a music I've never heard before. She was simply stunning.

Tariz and her actors have worked together for eight years and travel together all over the world. Their current work includes this Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and The Tempest. Why only Shakespeare? Because the writing is a theatrical essence, Tariz told me. Her company has no name. Why? Because each performance is "their name that evening".

I wish we had had more than the hour we spent afterwards in an excited conversation (mainly about the show). It was raining and they were in a hurry to load their vans and head East to... somewhere.

I have nothing else to report. No one has been able to fill in the details of how, why, who. Perhaps in a few days, a week, a month... we'll connect again. It's a fond wish. As I mentioned, it was a remarkable production... so if one day you get a call (as I did) about an unannounced performance by a troupe of Russian actors, cancel your plans, turn off the tube, and just happen to be there. You'll find yourself face-to-face with what it means to jump into the fire of acting, of theatre, of... anything! You'll find out what it means to "go for it", as if there is "no tomorrow"... and, dear voyagers, the heroic truth is... there isn't!


A few years later I met Tariz again, in Bangkok. Her company was in Singapore and she was up north at a festival of international artists. They had not returned to the U.S. since the time I saw them The company was intact except for the loss of one actress who was killed in a motorbike accident. Fittingly, her place was filled by a company designer who was also an actress and trained with the company.They were still rotating Shakespeare's plays, which Tariz thought would go on for at least four more years.

This time, we spent many hours talking about her work, about theatre, and particularly about audiences, while dodging the heat, the traffic, and the lack of breathable air in Bangkok. It was not an interview... rather a long, private conversation stretched over days. Some day, I may try to profile her but only if she agrees to it. I don't know why she would.

I hope to see the company's performances again, wherever they are. Maybe this time I'll get the call from her.