Day 78

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  Facing the Liberty Bell Museum  Independence Mall, Philadelphia,  Friday, November 4, 2016  The Last 100 Days of the Presidency of Barack Obama  Is there an autumn Goddess in the house? Or out here in the park? The  dark figure there who sheds colors out of the depths of the darkest bell, each peel a dash of yellow,  yellow-green, rust brown or bright orange. As if in prayer before her, stationary or not, even if cracked on the inside from any history, public or private, to go into that darkness; what wells, what rises, a freedom so spacious; to find the body at its deepest dance, song. To die and go there; until one’s end, to come back alive, again and again. 

Facing the Liberty Bell Museum

Independence Mall, Philadelphia,

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Last 100 Days of the Presidency of Barack Obama

Is there an autumn Goddess in the house? Or out here in the park? The

dark figure there who sheds colors out of the depths of the darkest bell, each peel a dash of yellow,  yellow-green, rust brown or bright orange. As if in prayer before her, stationary or not, even if cracked on the inside from any history, public or private, to go into that darkness; what wells, what rises, a freedom so spacious; to find the body at its deepest dance, song. To die and go there; until one’s end, to come back alive, again and again. 

Day 79

 

 

Evening Train from Harrisburg to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  8:30 - 10:30, Wednesday, October 31, 2016  The Last 100 Days of the Presidency of Barack Obama  The tracks are on unstable beds; the shaking train, block by block, taps out its own drawing. The lightly held pens are irrepressible. At mid-day in Gettysburg I was guided through what can only be called  killing fields . Up, down and across one field or hill after another my park guide layers up one story on top of another. The dead young bodies are unevenly stacked, criss crossed like the angled stake fences that occasionally border the local lands. To this day the park rangers and archeologists continue to dig up bones and rebury whoever it is with some military dignity. There are those who insist on the presence of ghosts. They want to lead nocturnal tours. The Park Service will not recognize them as professionals and refuses to them license. The Park Service will only honor the verifiable. The guide continues. It is a three-day battle. I learn of the deadly perils of bad strategy, vanity and occasional exception of an act compassion. Taking a hill is advantage. With a good cannon an 8-pound ball can travel up to a mile. When there are too many canons the air is so thick with smoke no one can see a target. Taking hills makes for hand-to-hand combat, the clang of bayonets, more shrieks and dead bodies. Hill to hill, there are statues commemorating, specific battles, one State brigade after another. The defeated south was slow to raise money to create memorials. In 1938 the Cemetery had an event to reconcile both sides. Thousands of the now elderly veterans attended. In the war there were some heroic generals and some not. A northern commander disobeyed; he did not hold his hill and made stupid decisions. Many of his men were slaughtered. He took a cannon ball to the knee, He took home his amputated leg; he skinned and pickled it in whiskey. He carried it forever in a special case as a kind of trophy. The troops that survived his command hated him. When the battle was over, it took months for the remaining locals to bury the bodies. The stench from the rotting dead could be smelled for long distances.  Occasionally a statue of Clio, the goddess of history, her white stone pen and tablet in hand, rises up over one of the memorials. I am not quite sure why she is always made to look pretty. My guide was not that version of Clio. As far as I can tell, in less than two hours, with robotic intensity she has told me America’s deepest and most irredeemable story of its first Hell.

Evening Train from Harrisburg to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

8:30 - 10:30, Wednesday, October 31, 2016

The Last 100 Days of the Presidency of Barack Obama

The tracks are on unstable beds; the shaking train, block by block, taps out its own drawing. The lightly held pens are irrepressible. At mid-day in Gettysburg I was guided through what can only be called killing fields. Up, down and across one field or hill after another my park guide layers up one story on top of another. The dead young bodies are unevenly stacked, criss crossed like the angled stake fences that occasionally border the local lands. To this day the park rangers and archeologists continue to dig up bones and rebury whoever it is with some military dignity. There are those who insist on the presence of ghosts. They want to lead nocturnal tours. The Park Service will not recognize them as professionals and refuses to them license. The Park Service will only honor the verifiable. The guide continues. It is a three-day battle. I learn of the deadly perils of bad strategy, vanity and occasional exception of an act compassion. Taking a hill is advantage. With a good cannon an 8-pound ball can travel up to a mile. When there are too many canons the air is so thick with smoke no one can see a target. Taking hills makes for hand-to-hand combat, the clang of bayonets, more shrieks and dead bodies. Hill to hill, there are statues commemorating, specific battles, one State brigade after another. The defeated south was slow to raise money to create memorials. In 1938 the Cemetery had an event to reconcile both sides. Thousands of the now elderly veterans attended. In the war there were some heroic generals and some not. A northern commander disobeyed; he did not hold his hill and made stupid decisions. Many of his men were slaughtered. He took a cannon ball to the knee, He took home his amputated leg; he skinned and pickled it in whiskey. He carried it forever in a special case as a kind of trophy. The troops that survived his command hated him. When the battle was over, it took months for the remaining locals to bury the bodies. The stench from the rotting dead could be smelled for long distances.

Occasionally a statue of Clio, the goddess of history, her white stone pen and tablet in hand, rises up over one of the memorials. I am not quite sure why she is always made to look pretty. My guide was not that version of Clio. As far as I can tell, in less than two hours, with robotic intensity she has told me America’s deepest and most irredeemable story of its first Hell.

DAY 80

 

 

     
  
 
  
    
  
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       Gettysburg National Military Park  Gettysburg, Pennsylvania   4 - 6, Wednesday afternoon, October 31, 2016  The Last 100 Days of the Presidency of Barack Obama      The Gettysburg College Cross Country teams use the hilly battlegrounds for practice. As I walk by this exhausted but still "bubbly"  group I hear one of the women dis some a woman from an opposing team, "She's from the south and she was spouting all this sexist crap." Terrific young, vibrant bodies, I sense, their memories are still cradled by the persistent resonance of the Civil War, the one that forever continues. No different in age from the slaughtered youth of the 1860's, over dead bones, north and south, they practice  their runs, cheering each other on, "Keep your head down Luke!".     To think that barely in the country's wings, these days in full view the KKK and Donald Trump are ready to re-shine their own armor, with the vengeful desire to kill and win for whatever racist views they spout. Yet today such a beautiful landscape here, the leaves changing color, rich crimsons and yellow, this landscape of so many already dead.

 

 

Gettysburg National Military Park

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania 

4 - 6, Wednesday afternoon, October 31, 2016

The Last 100 Days of the Presidency of Barack Obama

The Gettysburg College Cross Country teams use the hilly battlegrounds for practice. As I walk by this exhausted but still "bubbly"  group I hear one of the women dis some a woman from an opposing team, "She's from the south and she was spouting all this sexist crap." Terrific young, vibrant bodies, I sense, their memories are still cradled by the persistent resonance of the Civil War, the one that forever continues. No different in age from the slaughtered youth of the 1860's, over dead bones, north and south, they practice  their runs, cheering each other on, "Keep your head down Luke!".

To think that barely in the country's wings, these days in full view the KKK and Donald Trump are ready to re-shine their own armor, with the vengeful desire to kill and win for whatever racist views they spout. Yet today such a beautiful landscape here, the leaves changing color, rich crimsons and yellow, this landscape of so many already dead.

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Day 81

 

 

 

Nico Vassilakis, poet, gives me a private low voice reading of the entirety of his new book, Alphabet Noir; we sit and I draw at a table in the Performing Arts Library,  Lincoln Center, New York

Tuesday, 4 – 6 o’clock, October 31, 2016

Performances come in all sizes, volumes, shapes and places. Nico chose Lincoln Center and the site of the Performing Arts Library. The site – a beautiful plaza with a pool – is next to the Juliard School of Music. It takes me awhile to realize – consciously or not – Nico has chosen to perform his whole new book, Alphabet Noir, at one of New York’s crowning points for the study and making of stellar performance.  For poets and artists like ourselves, who live and work at the margins, and will never appear in performance at Lincoln Center, we have found it also true that we can still intervene in these environments to create a sibling-like performance of our own. 

We are not obnoxious, however. Nico reads from his book in a low voice; the various tones, rhythms and twists and turns, as well as his reflective diversions, continue to infect the pattern, shapes and colors of my marks on the drawing paper that I have  taped down on my plastic computer easel.

When it gets cold, we go inside to take a table in the café section of the Library where I draw and Nico continues to the end of the book. It takes us ninety or so minutes to finish. At the end, I am grateful that Nico likes the drawing and reads the marks as a kind of compressed mirror of his performance. I read the piece as unique portrait of the work’s energy, presence and fullness of the work: A standup work of a living anatomy.

Oh, yes, of course we could have used a Lincoln stage and a larger audience! 

Day 82

 

 

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    Day 82   Jerusalem, Every People Under Heaven   The Metropolitan Museum, New York City  Monday, October 31, 2016  The Last 100 Days of the Presidency of Barack Obama        Gold Gold Gold   My eyes are filled, my eyelids are covered, my lips:  What is inside is outside. I shine from within the deepest parts!  I thought I knew Jerusalem. Did not.   My tools are so minimal, the expanse is so large.    The Lord’s Alphabet so tangled up in love.  The muscle of worship is a divine one.  It lifts pen and heart. Novitiate Christian, Jew or Muslim  It is best I shut up now. Cleave heart, soul and tissue  To the flow and presence of gold in our midst.  We are about to be taken.                             *     Sorry to be so “undevilish” on Halloween. When I went out from my hotel this morning, a few steps down the street the paparazzi, cameras in hand were waiting for Anthony Weiner – the sex scandal ridden former New York City Congressman -  to appear out of his local apartment. “He’s got some explaining to do,” says one. Ah, the media, the new version of the Grand Inquisitor! Can we get this Election over and get back to the labors of getting to real gold?? Enough of these negative folks. Like ecocide they are out to ruin everything that grows.         

Day 82

Jerusalem, Every People Under Heaven

The Metropolitan Museum, New York City

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Last 100 Days of the Presidency of Barack Obama

 

Gold Gold Gold

My eyes are filled, my eyelids are covered, my lips:

What is inside is outside. I shine from within the deepest parts!

I thought I knew Jerusalem. Did not.

My tools are so minimal, the expanse is so large.

The Lord’s Alphabet so tangled up in love.

The muscle of worship is a divine one.

It lifts pen and heart. Novitiate Christian, Jew or Muslim

It is best I shut up now. Cleave heart, soul and tissue

To the flow and presence of gold in our midst.

We are about to be taken.

 

                        *

 

Sorry to be so “undevilish” on Halloween. When I went out from my hotel this morning, a few steps down the street the paparazzi, cameras in hand were waiting for Anthony Weiner – the sex scandal ridden former New York City Congressman -  to appear out of his local apartment. “He’s got some explaining to do,” says one. Ah, the media, the new version of the Grand Inquisitor! Can we get this Election over and get back to the labors of getting to real gold?? Enough of these negative folks. Like ecocide they are out to ruin everything that grows.

 

 

 

Day 84

Julie Mehretu at the Mirian Goodman Gallery,  24 West 57th Street, New York, NY  Saturday, October 29, 2016  The Last 100 Days of the Presidency of Barack Obama      Saturday afternoon I went to Trump Tower up on Fifth Avenue in Midtown. Its front sidewalk, some will say, is the belly of the Trump beast. Indeed I arrive to walk into a thick motley crowd. Towards the edge of the curb, elderly seeming Chinese mostly dressed in red and black vested suits or red silk dresses raise their Trump signs as high as they can. A parked Trump pick-up Truck is painted all over with pro-Trump stencils. The driver in a black cowboy hat is being interviewed for T.V. He tries to sound reasonable. “We’ve got to stop immigration. My parents were both emigrants but they came in legal. We got to make it legal” The newsman pushes him with questions. “Look, that tape is thirty years old. We all say things we regret. He is not a sexist. A woman runs one of his companies. About those accusations; if I was raped by a billionaire, I would not have waited 30 years to   collect my money. It’s all made up.” Chants come up from different parts of the sidewalk. “Put her in prison now. Put her in prison now.” A woman in a smiling Hilary mask and prison stripes positions herself all over the place, chumming up to anyone, including myself for a “selfie” couple. “You make sure you get that in one in your newspapers.” Other women seem to favor the “Drain The Swamp” T-shirt. Incongruously a group of black men hold up the blue and white Trump signs while they chant, Trump, Trump, Trump. In this whole crowd I cannot help but begin to wonder who is getting paid or not to say what. Originally I thought I would ride the pro-Trump energy into a drawing on site. I can’t cope with the idea of doing that. I realize I despise Trump. I hustle over to Miriam Goodman’s Gallery on 57th Street to look closely at the abstract sumu ink works of Julie Mehretu. On some level the press release says they are about the destruction of Damascus. They are also energetic and beautiful. A redemption of sorts. I take out my pens and my Indian cotton rag paper. I sit down on a gallery bench and begin to draw madly.

Julie Mehretu at the Mirian Goodman Gallery,

24 West 57th Street, New York, NY

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Last 100 Days of the Presidency of Barack Obama

 

Saturday afternoon I went to Trump Tower up on Fifth Avenue in Midtown. Its front sidewalk, some will say, is the belly of the Trump beast. Indeed I arrive to walk into a thick motley crowd. Towards the edge of the curb, elderly seeming Chinese mostly dressed in red and black vested suits or red silk dresses raise their Trump signs as high as they can. A parked Trump pick-up Truck is painted all over with pro-Trump stencils. The driver in a black cowboy hat is being interviewed for T.V. He tries to sound reasonable. “We’ve got to stop immigration. My parents were both emigrants but they came in legal. We got to make it legal” The newsman pushes him with questions. “Look, that tape is thirty years old. We all say things we regret. He is not a sexist. A woman runs one of his companies. About those accusations; if I was raped by a billionaire, I would not have waited 30 years to   collect my money. It’s all made up.” Chants come up from different parts of the sidewalk. “Put her in prison now. Put her in prison now.” A woman in a smiling Hilary mask and prison stripes positions herself all over the place, chumming up to anyone, including myself for a “selfie” couple. “You make sure you get that in one in your newspapers.” Other women seem to favor the “Drain The Swamp” T-shirt. Incongruously a group of black men hold up the blue and white Trump signs while they chant, Trump, Trump, Trump. In this whole crowd I cannot help but begin to wonder who is getting paid or not to say what. Originally I thought I would ride the pro-Trump energy into a drawing on site. I can’t cope with the idea of doing that. I realize I despise Trump. I hustle over to Miriam Goodman’s Gallery on 57th Street to look closely at the abstract sumu ink works of Julie Mehretu. On some level the press release says they are about the destruction of Damascus. They are also energetic and beautiful. A redemption of sorts. I take out my pens and my Indian cotton rag paper. I sit down on a gallery bench and begin to draw madly.

Day 85

Nature, they say, abhors a straight line. Our good guide quotes the nineteenth century.

 

“ Land use” was the extraordinary preoccupation of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead.

 

The archive of his firm’s designs held in the Fairsted Park offices and studio are a cause for wonder. Out the window the margins of the grounds contour in and out of the green lawn’s base to celebrate the color and shapes of plant and tree. In photographs and drawings the careful archive documents the way Olmsted & Co. figured how to cut into and remove earth to raise and lower its depth while turning a flat space into a slight hill and slope so eye and body moves up, down and across accordingly. The park was a shrine without being a shrine. Secular to the core, the evidence was crucial preparation to each project and the preservation of its transformative history including the continued cultivation of its beauty and public use.

Yes, as the guide continues to reveal, in mid-nineteenth century United States, Olmstead’s vision of parks called for a way for the country to heal from the Civil War. Equally important was the desire for a community reprieve from the ravages of industrialization. Workers came home cheeked with sulphur, mercury, coal and ore. Dyed and cut, the whole panopoly of wood and iron residues coursing through every bone and muscle. Olmstead’s democratic park would invade and share the body with natural contours and the charms of trees, grass and plant. Escaped from the factory’s cutting room floor, adventuresome paths, human voices, music stages, political argumentand the play ofsports were the park’s gift to the life ofCity.

 

Yes, to bring democracy back into the body. To save the land as sacrament. To defeat those who would endlessly violate and exploit the ground to serve financial greed. To make the land a site of beauty and use. To make places that breathe instead of suffocate. That was Olmstead’s transforming vision. He so clearly wanted to save the country from ecological, if not spiritual devastation. Like Thoreau, Lincoln and Whitman, Olmsted’s work and vision is to be vigorously savored and honored. I do.