Joanne Kyger, Novato, 1976 – 2

Joanne Kyger, Kyoto-Japan Sea visit with Gary Snyder, 1963 Summer. Photo by Allen Ginsberg

continuing from yesterday..

JK: ..almost five years ago tonight … someone that Bobbie Louise Hawkins introduced me to, who is a monkey-studier from Harvard,  they (he – Peter Warshall) came to Bolinas, and soon afterwards got word that this little island, desert island, off Puerto Rico, where they had during… let me see…before the war, they had put a bunch of rhesus monkeys from India on this little desert island, and then, during the war…, for breeding purposes, experimental purposes (like for Salk vaccines, things like that), and during the war they had forgotten about these monkeys, and these monkeys had adapted to a desert Caribbean island situation, with no water on the island, and had multiplied, and since then had become an object of study from some Harvard University students, who then banded them, tattoed them.  And,,

So I was invited to go to this island. And, after a great deal of consideration, I did. And it ended up with, finally, as many as eleven Harvard students and myself. They were watching monkeys. And this is (an excerpt from) a little notebook of my trip on this island.

Student; Excuse me, one question, monkeys with no water on the island?

JK: Yeah, how did they do it?  Well, it did rain, and they… pools would collect, so they could drink, they learned how to drink out of the crotch of a tree. Oh, I forgot this other part.. and.. They adapted, incredibly – they made little drinking straws..

Student: Were they unable to get to the water around the island? 

JK: It was only three.. three (square).. it was one-and-a-half miles long and one mile wide,, and so they were surrounded by salt water, and the fresh water only came, like, with tropical storms, but there was no, like, source of water on the island. And these monkeys,  in adapting, therefore, threatened another indigineous population of the boobies, And the boobies are this great… Have you ever seen a boobie?  a red-footed boobie? blue-footed boobies? – they’re great kind of Queen Victoria-type birds… and the monkeys.. and when they lay their nests on the beach  (I mean, you don’t even notice, and you’re walking on the beach, and then you bump over a couple of twigs, and then there are these eggs sitting up here, and so the monkeys make great fun of having egg cocktails. So they were threatening the life of that species, and so that was part of the plot that was going on, to see if these monkeys really were going to eat up all the (boobies)..   “Travel broadens (the mind)…”

“A Little Reverie” – John Thorpe – (who was a fellow-poet in Bolinas, and when I left Bolinas, all my dreams, when I left for this little island, were all about Bolinas, all my friends there, so I had this inside-life that was all about the town. So my town-life just got sort of plopped on this desert island-life, the kind that was my… oh, let me see…) – “John Thorpe and I are in this room and I am sewing. Wherever he is in this room his presence is known to me. The piece of paper-napkin, actually a yellow paper-towel upon which Peter (whom I’m traveling with) has the number and name of the boat man, our only transportation to the island,  is thrown in the wastebasket by my desk in Bolinas, and then out of the trash downstairs, and into my purse, where it still is. In San Juan, the only location of information, besides a front cover of the Creeleys’ phone-book in Bolinas – (that’s Friday) –

Tuesday (I stay  there a month)  – What living on an islnd is all about – Housing for hermit crabs – (I would take all the little hermit crab shells and line them up at night, and then they’d go and  busily and change all their shells!  – a mini housing-project!) – the eel, ray – and cats  (there were a couple of wild cats – oh, and when we got there, the trip wasn’t very well arranged,  so there’s all these guys who had forgotten the key to the only storage house, where the food was, so we camped in front of the storage house and were really primitive for a few days, it was fun – although I thought it was very badly arranged) – “The dishwater,  food (for the eel ray), bamboo spoons, I’m in a foul temper. Inside I have this (compensating) world, those I’m intimate with I allow to share. Elizabeth arrives – (one other lady came for a few days) – What goes on in the mind-imagination? Writing, speech and conversation – the story

Wednesday –   I am alone. Everything is tidy. At the swimming pool, a cool breeze – (the swimming pool was this coral reef) – Writing – (and I had lots of time to sit and write) – I am a writer, a talker. I get hungry too. I just plucked my eyebrows, in order to alleviate a sternness, especially around my eyes, which shows my age. I reminded myself not to smile or grimace as these are unpleasant faces and ugly. I wish to have a smooth countenance. I want to be behind this face and be proud of it. Drifting thoughts.

Monday – Stern-ness – an essay on. Well, as far as I know, down the beach, Bill Sergeant, Stuart, and one other (is it) Micky, Sam, or Jerry?,  hammer sternly. That’s silly. They’re in the shade. With my determination ,I wanted to talk in the abstract. Okay, now I’m down to business, dictating this tone, This tone is right now, Good Lord, I think I may have buried some Tampax over there. There’s the son of the Governor of Massachusetts turning over a rock and looking sternly down. Gracious, we won’t mention it.  I’ll just have to accept it as my kismet on this desert island, stumbling around on rocks, looking for the ultimate lady-like way for the perfection of toilet.

There is a main street in this town – (it became a main street along the Bay there. As we sat on the beach, right, the monkeys..) – Hunchback whales, big white breakers out to sea, three. Peter has a tooth-ache and may leave the island. “Psychotherapy is not an application of method. The psyche is not a personal but a world existence.” – [The two books I had on this island were Jung and Gertrude Stein to.. (so) a few notes from there] – “The kernel of all jealousy is lack of love” – “Water into wine is”,  “Conceps promise protection from experience, the spirit does not dwell in concepts” – Oh Jung!

Peter said, yesterday, looking at his glasses in the pocket  of  his shirt, “I’m so glad I haven’t lost my glasses”. And then he lost them.

Pearly pearly pearly. The sound, the voice. Wednesday night, the sun is going down, the clouds are igloos in front. Big rays shoot above. “Evening, Madam”, says Sam, as he walks down the main path past my home. I am sitting on the front porch –  (of the tent) – “It will be nice when it gets red”, says Stuart, who is from Mill Valley, and measured breasts in New Guinea. “Oh goody”, says I.

I said, “Okay, I want to have a talk with my unconscious”, as I walk up and down the concrete helicopter-pad. This figure that will come up that I will commune with. Maybe the King of the Monkeys? – He will come right down, out of the hills, with all his noble group – (I was having a hard time seeing these monkeys, because they were in-land, you had to climb around the cactuses, so I was trying to arrange it so that they would walk right down to me) – He will come right down, out of the hills, with all his noble group, floating breast-bone shapes, exaggerated and dancing figures. I promenade the landing-field, enjoying my walks, springing up and down in  a street walk. I’ll tell everyone at dinner. Meanwhile under the God-bless-America sky is coming a twister, and out there – look! – a whale!  (two people offer Peter his glasses) – “Just hold these down, just keep track”, says Tom, rushing off in a high Whittemore strut

So many things happen in two spots. Tom says, “You got me”, Stuart says, “Silence speaks”. Being with this amazing life-form that is Peter, his strength underneath, is who he has found himself to be. Was I leaving? No love possible? – This feeling that I have not fully found in my life so far, this belief for my tangled roots, which left me only my own faith to decide. Is he in my mind?  This body says to take, and this spirit keeps a delicate thread spun so finely over and over, through the centuries, back, past, over the Greeks, delicate, for it is so long and finely spun, And this man speaks to me of  creation of life, the sun, the night, this earth with its finely-gathered garment. For I thought for a while, we were the new race being born. I was no longer in waiting as this world I called my own opened out.

You thought I said, “I want to go back, I want to get back out of this fairy-tale land”. Sure, I lie to you from what I want to hide and I am cold, so the high high voice is like an air. The crab kingdom, my cracking dome. The big blue carpet unfolds. My total belief was so great at the occasion of that moment, all directed outwards, the belief and the capacity of what I see – this – write often – (it’s kind of scatty, isn’t it?) –

He played the harp and I lay in the bath-tub chanting OM, forcing my way, only love’s hurried urgency.

Thursday – the quality of mind. Like I am keeping track of three or four people at one time. Bathing naked. A letter to Bobbie Creeley. No place to sit. All these men. I just want a place for myself.

Then, “O the fish of the sea die happily. O the sea comes in like the mighty bread and fish.Besides Tom and Peter, Samba is left on the island, (the others left Thursday when Tom came back from St.Kitts. Someone stole the head of NX – (that was a monkey’s skull) – the hermit’s crabs having cleaned her bones. An open address by Peter; “Who has stolen her head. I’m going to search their luggage” . To be left in a natural place. She rose up in white raiment, the feminine spirit escaped as the body began to lose its life. Some time ago, caught, rammed through with a spear, and still lies dying in a black plastic bucket, flopping over. The sign I sing. OM SHRI MAITREYA. What for the soul of a dying fish? – stick a knife into its brain – now it is meat – fish-meat – (I’m not… you can tell, I’m not much of a fisher, so this is the first time that someone before my eyes actually cut a fish. I had to go through a great saviour routine, praying, eat meat once again)

Close-up of a statue depicting Maitreya at the Thikse Monastery in Ladakh, India

I know I do not suffer any more than anyone in the whole world but this morning I had to have, first thing, two cigarettes, half a joint, a poached egg and corned beef hash, one piece (of) toast, two cups (of) tea, Jung, Williams, shells, stones, two slugs rum, depression, rest of joint, cigarette, seven o’clock, I mean, 7-Up , and it’s only ten o’clock!” – because I wanted to write a poem! – because I wanted something to come out of me! – you can’t try – I believe in life! – I’m living for now. For a moment the landscape becomes clear – a home, a house. I talked with Jack Kerouac last night. We were sitting under a rack of clothes as if it were a clothes-closet. “There goes Keith Lampe in a white coat with blue braid. He’s something, isn’t he?” – We agree (we’re discussing).

Now there are three large wire enclosures, one with a wire roof  (like they had been tennis-courts). A group of uninformed nature-people have decided to dump the whole zoo into these courts, getting the birds into the one with the top, but, oh, they are nipped. Animals can’t live together peacefully. All the jaguars, leopards and ocelots take out after a rabbit.How did I ever condone the action of these people?  Such naiveté   – (a sort of a feeling about  those Harvard naturalists)

The more I slow down the harder it is to move again. Smaller and smaller. Rock spirit, come out. Slowly a string of beautiful figures drift from the cave, High up on the rocks, riding through the mists, their diaphonous clothes flutter in the grey breeze. There was a time when I wanted to learn the knowledge, out there, possessed by the world. It helps on this island to do exercise. Thoughts stay in the mind close to the home camp.

(And then the adventure starts – So we’re sitting on the beach and it’s a calm day. There’s a blue sky and there’s no wind, and, all of a sudden, these great  breakers start coming up. And being used to the Pacific Coast, you know, you  get a sense of  (a) storm coming up and it’s angry and you can understand the tides. And we were all the time just camped on this little island, right on the shore (oh, (and),  interestingly enough, I realized the place that we were camped was all water-worn. .I should have suspected). Anyway these waves just came coming up all day – no wind, blue sky – bigger and bigger and bigger, and so pretty soon, towards evening, they gigantically waved and started wiping us out ) – “Main Street has been wiped out. Sea is pouring in – (Ooo! – oh, they were like rushing horses! – oh look at this!) – Balloons, bows of silver, bowels, You’re  sitting like the Stone Monkey. Lilies-of-the-Valley blue. What is beautiful, Joanne? What is beautiful? – Discipline – They’re short in supplies. I’ve already smoked one of tomorrow’s three cigarettes. Oh, this is incredible. Big pounding waves the beginning of my fourth week here. The gold light of late afternoon. A big heron stops. Fine milk foam rise up and pound. This was a flat sea.

“The Wave” (c.1940) – Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) oil on board – Worcester Art Museum

Tuesday – Boulders, breakers and the clear blue sky. Peter’s rucksack got swept away last night at dusk by thirty-feet dark silver monsters. It was life or death when they started to  rise. I grabbed Sam’s muffins from the table and put them in the blockhouse, “Calm down”, said Peter, as I started to laugh madly,, “Put away sensible things like these boots under the table”  – “Okay” – Peter pounds down the beach with great sounds like the last lap of a relay as the rest of Sam’s structure begins to tumble. A grating roar. The foam sucks back and Peter’s rucksack and all his papers rush out too, Margot Doss’ hiking-boot, waist-deep in foam, his papers I busily and tidily collect (the second sea-bath for his thesis), monkey-papers, golem, in two pieces. While the next tidal wave prepares to come in, Sam battles, neck-deep in foam, but loses possession of Peter’s rucksack, which also has Keith’s camera in it and the last of my cigarettes, besides everything else he owns, gone. “Now you will hate me”, says Peter. I strongly sense I will not leave this island alive.

And then there’s a note – Phoebe MacAdams had her baby tonight. And then I went back to Bolinas and she had.

And then the head was found. The head of NX was found in the deep underbrush. All that stood accused of head-theft are now innocent. The accuser stands revealed.

And then – Grey day at ten. Waiting for the coastguard cutter – (We had to get off by coastguard) – Waiting for the coastguard cutter – Packed up – Onions left over. An arrow in the form of an arrow -Landed by helicopter – I’m still alive – Smelling of the ocean  – News of Bolinas

Friday’s nature . Can a wild animal exist anymore? – Wilderness. Words. Spirit-guides. Further away into crammed people-land, New York – (so that ends up in New York)

Shall I end up with a quickie poem? –   “I thought I would never get out here again/ The months/have not been unkind, all the possibilities/of days leaving us open, to something I never got at/but talked about, the service of unity/ And no I don’t have no /pressure and certainly I don’t do anything. So/ much I want to drift, into story land, take life/a little easier.”

“Looking out into the garden fair/ Come comb my hair/  This is mere writing built on paper/The mysterious help from our friends/transcends this all. Thus whatever/You do best allows me more/ways takes/me into living’s glad hands/ Ah, but the day shifts so remorselessly/And things to do, the eternal things/to do traps/speculation, traps/our deepest bass drum, the heart.”

“I don’t want to repeat/ the same mistakes over again/or the mistakes somebody else made just so/I can have the experience of them. See fucked/up again. Live and learn. And off the excessive/fondness for one’s own self-knowledge, un-/.tested but reigning supreme. That leads me/more astray every day.What we commonly/ know in the air, in our dreams, what chooses/continually  & continually to grow, the obvious/under our noses, is this life. Yearning is blind-/ness. The weed has a name, is quite proud of it-/self builds a community with other  weeds, birds/hop through. The imported domestic is a labor/of love, but a labor, such a labor. At home here,/no single thought is my thought. It whispers/through the air in sweet misty fog/in bright sky blue,”

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