Friday night, after listening to readings all day and into the evening, we sat in a motel room sipping on some outstanding tequila and bourbon, depending on taste, and talked about what we had heard, about the role of the writer or poet, about how a person can learn he can do more than one thought possible while serving in an airborne unit, why a person from eastern Oklahoma has difficulty writing iambic pentameter when she spent her childhood speaking in trochees, about how the 1 percent has always been at war with democracy, how they are perfectly willing to destroy the world in order to own it, about the flaws in democracy—stupid people can vote. It’s just there, and keeping them from voting is not the answer. Somehow we have to overcome stupid.
I’ve always loved Mrs. Dalloway, Drew said while talking about who he likes to read. But the list is really too long to remember. I do read my friends, he added. Mostly read my friends when I’m not teaching.
—about the difference between hung and hanged. Get it right most of the time. I hung the picture. We hanged the bastard—one uses a rope.
I have a pile of new books on the table bought at Scissortail.
Saturday morning. My car is covered with ice. I sit at the motel breakfast table with John talking about how we write mostly love poems—the numerous times we have been in love, the sheer luck of finding someone who loves you back. But being loved back isn’t really the point. He and I both know it. How do you explain in words when Trump is president of the United States, when there is a constant war on words and beauty. We sip our coffee and promise each other we will keep the faith without really saying we will.
Nathan says we have to continue to stand and speak against those who would rip the world from us. We owe it to everyone we have ever loved, to our children and grandchildren who follow us, to our grandparents who came before. The narrative is crucial.
I don’t have a basement, I told him. Or an attic. But if the time comes, when the time comes—when we have to offer sanctuary, to hide people being hunted down—we have to help. Assuming we are not the ones hunted. Did you think we would ever be saying that here. Yes, I told him. My answer surprised me, but then I realized I have always known.
We talked about fathers and step fathers who beat their children, who break their wives’ jaws. The poet seeks the beautiful, yearns for the beautiful, but also has to see through the bullshit enough to know things, to admit to things, and even to embrace what is not beautiful. The demons are always there, ready to take you unaware.
I sip my coffee. You do know that polymyalgia rheumatica is an auto-immune disease, she says. I’m beginning to think everything is an auto-immure disease. Do you meditate. I write love letters. Can’t make the forty minute morning ritual work for me though. I breathe. I can’t either. Can’t stop the noise in my head.
We once talked about meeting in Santa Fe and talking about poetry one afternoon, but life interceded. That was a little over four years ago, when I was living in Las Vegas—not Nevada.
The Buffalo puts his arm around me between meetings. Everything is right between the two of us, he asks. I sure as hell hope so, I want to tell him. You are one of the important people I love.
It’s important to spend time with people who know more than you know, the poet says. To realize you aren’t even close to the boundaries. To feel your capacity to love all this is still in tact.
P. S. Dorothy Alexander, though real flesh and blood, has become the metaphor for almost everything I admire. She told me, she is really the one writing these letters, and I believe her.