Diane di Prima continues

The Seven Joys of Mary (1480), Hans Memling (c.1433-1495)

Diane di  Prima – continuing from yesterday

DD: Okay, part five of this poem [ “Loba‘]  was going to be –  [(it) makes me nervous when people take notes] – part five was going to be kind of.. was going to be a study of the Mary legend, you know. based on… partly started of from a Hans Memling painting – The Seven Joys of The Virgin – But before Mary showed up all these other ladies showed up first and I did a whole lot of other parts. One of them is a Huntress and one of them is Persephone and one of them is Helen. I won’t read you all them. One of them is Iseult, when she’s on the ship to go back to Tristan, Tristan’s dying and Iseult has been summoned, and the other Iseult, who is with Tristan at that point, reports that the ship is empty and doesn’t have Iseult on it, and Tristan turns his face to the wall and dies. Then she gets there and gets down next to him and dies also. So, very neat! But the drawing “Iseult on the Ship” that William Morris did is of this incredibly weighty situation, where the woman is really leaning the man on the mast and, like, pushing the whole thing forward. It’s heavy with draperies and it’s really heavy with sorrow, and it was from that drawing that this poem came – “Iseult on the Ship”

Iseult on The Ship (c.1857) – William Morris (1834-1896)

“Is there other time/ than too late/ when we wake/ enough to recognize Time/ is it not always then/too late?/ Does the beloved’s breath/still mist the mirror?/ What balances/at the turn of sundial?/ Dream within dream within dream./ exquisite as milk opal/ smeared w/blood/ (yrs & his)’ while the worms work in the/hollows of yr face/while the clouds fly/ across the wailing moon/ How sails strain/ mast creaks/. this rain/ cold as his kisses  my thin wrists strain/to tie me to this ship/which arrives/does it arrive?/in time that is/ too late/ we recognize/ this ship, his fierce arm/ carries me across/thresholds of water/. he does not wait, too late we recognize/Sin: that we live msguided, we die/alone it might be/ The waves/ reach salty, well, they will not have me/unless they have us both,/ we engage/oarless in one more race/ we beach/breathless/ this wind will tangle our hair/graveside/this shore/ rocks, more than ocean>”

– Then Heloise and Saint Brigid showed up and Julianna (sic) of Norwich, and then finally Mary showed up. I’m not going to do much of Mary, just a part or two, I haven’t finished all seven of these, only done one, two, three, four, of them completely, of the actual joys, and some other things snuck in, like the flight into Egypt, but, I assume, basically, we know the Mary legend, right? – Let me read the “Annunciation”, which is kind of…just a narrative poem – “The tall man, towering,/ it seemed to me/ in anger/ I was fifteen only/& his urgency/(murderous rage) an assault I/bent under. I saw the lilies bend/ also. I had been spinning/flax: violet for the themple veil. I had just/gone to the well for water & when I returned/he was there. A flat stone. Towering/. Murderous rage/like the Law. They call it/love. His voice/was harsh, I bent, I tried to/evade./ Sound trembled in my gut, my/bowels/spoke w/ fear – ;/ the red tiles/shifted beneath me; a light/flashed from his eyes, his hand,the blue stone/in his ring & my bowels caught/W? fear. He said/ “HAIl, FULL OF GRACE” , I remember/my hand/found a psalter, something real, the smooth vellum/sunwarmed/under my fingers/ the wind had stilled, the lilies/bent of themselves, my body/bent under weight of robes/white muslin gleamed in my tears/in the sunlight/like a gold brocade/& my head too bent/under weight of hair. I fell/to my knees, I salted/the ground before me./   He sid not move, his voice/had turned to thunder, there was/ no word to remember.. but Womb/ He  spoke of my womb/The fruit of my womb/ Sunlight / thunder. I had not/heard thunder before/in such blinding light/  the rose, the thorn. the thistle/the rose the thorn, the myrtle/ the lily, the thorn, the thistle/ the lily & the myrtle/the lily, the rose, the thistle,/the lily, the thistle,the myrtle / The wind /bent the palm trees again/ the room was empty/ I  stood again, as one stands after earthquake/ my young girl’s hands/began to spin the scarlet thread/for the temple.”

[The tape shifts for a moment here and then resettles – in mid-sentence] – … (the) zodiac because there’s a correspondence between the twelve signs of the zodiac and the twelve steps of the alchemical process (but that’s not happening yet),  Meanwhile, she’s just loping about, getting ready . The first section of this happened quite a while ago, a preface kind of thing for it.. “This wolf is black..”  (suddenly, she’s a wolf again, right?)  -“This wolf is black. She does not/ stand among columns./ She does not hand/ the/white rose/or the red to/the two gentlemen/who flank her./ Look at her, she is about/to run a race./ She is about to run circles around the sun../ She sits demure/telling the stars/like silver neads/ they glide/thru her motionless paws/they twist/little ebony chaplets/enclosing/golden secrets/ She is sleek/ & perfect like the falcon/she stands/angular as a maiden/in a silk dress/coiled tight as the spiriling/labyrinth/w/ bloody/lamb at its heart./  She is poised, quivers slightly, prepares/to run in circles around the sun.”

Okay there’s a few sections of this and they’re more, or….

Here’s some I’d like to read. I wrote it recently, this last month, I guess. It’s called “The Loba Recovers The Memory of A Mare” – I don’t know why it has that title. A lot of stuff you don’t know why .It comes by dictation. A lot of strange stuff happened when I wrote this but I won’t go into that either – (“small hooves/, the ankles fragile/ unsteady/ not rooted here/ the eyes/anxious/eyes of a doe/who has been hunted/but not w/in recent/memory/ who walked across America behind gaunt violent yogis/ & died o-d’ing in methadone jail/scarfing the evidence/ or destitute in Fiji wiring home for comfort/ destroyed among oil lamps Morrocco seekiing dead fingers/old man in Afghan jail/ pregnant barefoot & whoring/ who did we pray/ who did we pray to then/ laid out flowerless in abandoned basement/blue stiff & salt injection/just out of reach/wrote lipstick “save yourself: on the rail of furnished/room ned/ eloped w/ white slaver & died Indiana of unmentioned griefs/or in love again peaceful scrawled candle smoke “there is/salvation” triumphant on borrowed ceiling/ewhile friends coughed in the kitchen/ who left tapestries, evidence, baby bottle behind in Vancouver/& hitched to Seattle for the mushroom season/ trailing welfare checks & stolen money orders/Chicago gangster in earrings who minded the baby/ who gathered reed-grass for the wicker-up, eating/ horsemeat steaks in Colorado dusk/ the painted hills bucking & neighing, it was her ankles/ were slender/it was her eyes./were tired/  oatmeal & grits while the old man/naked in bed /read Bibble/ jerked off/ & who was the whore of Babylon in the/kerosene lamp of yr childhood?/ it was her skirt/was greasy/it was her skirt/was graceful/it was her skirt/you cling to, till she fell/you fell/  & who now remembers her hands/working dye into cotton/ slant of her green eyes/ Sagamore cafeteria/who has tears for girls now on Route One,the babies/ wrapped in a scarf/ the green/ always further north/further than you can walk/ her ankles fragile/ unrooted, she walks/into the Wind.”

That’s one of the recent parts of the hunt thing.

…..”(I) will make you flesh again/ have you slipped away?  think you to elude become past and black and white as photographs?/ O I will lure you into being/ till you stand  flesh solid against my own/ will spread my hair over your feet,/ my tongue shall give shape/I will make you flesh and carry you away,/ O bright black Lord you, are and I /your sister and magic carpet/ will you ride?”  -2 – “O, I tumbled here for you/ I  put on flesh/ drew down this skull over my flaming light/ slipped on the shaggy pelt/ to make it easy for your spirit to speak/ to mine /and in that bright unclouded ocean where the stars are not yet born/ where you & I slid/tumbling like dolphins/ we could not speak each others’ names/ O you leapt into the worlds and I followed, did I not?/ falling and shrieking, I solidified/ merely to look . my Lord, /once more into your great sad beast eyes/ share this sorrow”

Now Loba doesn’t get into little domestic homey poems about men and women, I guess.

[Diane reads a series of tarot-based poems not included in the published edition of Loba]

Okay, well “The Fool” I already explained – “The Fool” – the first card of the Tarot major aracana – (“The ox of air draws power down to power/, drunken clarity, he is thirst assuaging himself. /Where else should he go? /from power to unbridled power”) –   I won’t read all of them – “The Lovers” – (“It is the sword makes Gemini two/seperate what is forever one/ the lover under the gaze of the black pearl/ taste iron as sword which they both lick/ honey/They tumble through branches of the tree/They flee from her to lie beside Adonis / return again, hide in her robes/ It is the sword/ it is beginning of the journey.”

You want me to explain it? Well, the path of the lovers has the letter zayin which is the letter of the sword (the Hebrew correspondence for it is the sword). It moves from the yin pole of the tree, there’s this crown and there’s these two…  It moves from the yin pole which is called “The Sorrowful Mother” because, just as the yang pole is pure energy, the yin pole is pure form or limitation, so it’s the first time that that energy.. (actually, the Tree of Life is a diagram of how the most not-conceivable, un-material, energy kind of precipitates out, like in a chemical solution to the material universe, you know, and goes through these changes on the way ). So it moves from “The Mother”  to the center of the Tree which is called Tiferet which means Beauty and is the correspondence of the Sun and is also the place on the Tree of all the dying gods, the redeemers, the kings of that sort, like Adonis, Christ, all those that rejuvinate. So when I say “They flee from her to lie beside Adonis”,  that’s the path of that card on The Tree of Life. (and the black pearl is the jewel for the Mother place, the totally yin – Each of the pieces of the tree have a corresponding stone as well as other things.). Sort of..  It’s the Kabbalah, sort of adapted by people working in the nineteenth-century, a lot.

So, anyway, this whole thing’s a poem that …I don’t know if I’m going to read anymore.. This whole poem is a thing that got reworked a whole lot ( well, some sections – that’ one I just read you, “The Lovers” didn’t get reworked, but maybe a word or two, but some of them got reworked a whole lot).  Let me see if I can find one that did.

The Wheel of Fortune on the tarot deck has the correspondence of Jupiter. Jupiter’s stone is any blue stone, like sapphire or lapis. On the tree, the place of it is from … if I can remember… the place of it is from the place of .. a place called “Love”..which is a second yang  thing down, which is represented as, like, the tent of Abraham, with all four doors open so that everyone could come and go freely and take what they needed. So I call that “The Great Hall”. It goes down to Netzach which is Victory which is the place of  Venus, which is the place of all vegetable life and tides and cycles. So The Wheel of Fortune is Jupiter’s, right? and it’s..the letter is kaph  (which is the palm of the hand, the cupped palm) – “Jupiter dreamer, god of lapis and wheeling night sky/ open hand, cupped hand/as much of the water as you can carry back from The Great Hall/ to the green pulse of tide, of seasons/ turning dream of vegetable life/ abundant one” – And that’s just called “The Wheel of Fortune” and that got rewrit(ten) some to cut it down. and reworked.

The Sun.. Okay, the letter for The Tower is Pei  (which is called the mouth), it’s the same sign as the cupped hand except it has a tongue in the middle (it’s like a curve with a little…) and it’s the sign of Mars, okay? . It goes from Netzach, Victory, which is this Venus place I just described as the vegetable, instinctive life, sexual life, place, to Hod, which is called Splendour, which is a place of the intellect and Hermes (it belongs to Hermes). So you have Victory to Splendour, or Instinctive Life to Intellectual Life or The Love Goddess to The Magician is the path of The Tower. And The Tower card, of course you all know, I guess, is the card that symbolizes, like, the destruction of things (as you know it..it’s usually called “The Ruined Tower” and it’s a tower struck by lightning and falling down – So it’s… and it’s Mars, okay?) – “This is the..” – ok,  “The Tower” – (“This is the war we know, the other Mars that is everywhere/devouring mouth/ as in Kali or Krishna/Love God revelaed in his true form/This is the passion noone has spoken /Aphrodite and Hermes/blessed lightning striking the well-built tower/ making an end of awkward first beginnings/ Now the work.”)

I think (unless you guys have any more questions about this),  I just brought it out as an example of that kind of thing where you really do work a poem

“I hope you go through Hell tonight for loving/ I hope you choke to death on lumps of stars/ and by your bed a window with frost/and moon on frost/ and you want to scream and can’t. because your woman is I hope/ right there asleep./ Baby, I hope you never shut your eyes/ so two of us can pick up on this dawn”  – (Now something like that I rewrite maybe thirty times, you know – and Jack (Jack Kerouac –sic) would say,  “What are you doing that for?”, you know. And his insistence on that, and his insistence on the fact that I’d just had to let go, in my life to remember.

One night –  there was a party  in Allen Ginsberg’s house on Second Street, and it came the time… oh, it was important because Philip Whalen had just come out from the West Coast and he didn’t get out to the East Coast very often. Everyone was rapping, and I was, hanging out . I guess I’m only ten years younger than those guys, but it was enough so that it was different. And I was just hanging out. listening. you know. And then I got up and said that I had to split for my baby-sitter (because I promised my baby-sitter I’d be back before midnight). And Jack, by this time, was pretty high or drunk on the floor, and (he) raised himself up on one elbow and said,. “Di Prima, until you forget your baby-sitter you’re never going to be a writer!” – He was right! You know, he was completely right!

[Next, Revolutionary Letters]

DD: Is there any particular Revolutionary Letter … What I meant really was there any part(icular).. special ones that you want to hear?

Audience: Number four.

DD: Number four – sure – [“Revolutionary Letter #4”]  – (“Left to themselves people/ grow their hair”……”our babes toddle barefoot thru the cities of the universe” ) –  (19)68, I started them – [“Revolutionary Letter#9”] –  (“Advocating/ the overthrow of government is a crime/ overthrowing it is something else/ altogether, it is sometimes called/ revolution…”… “ The day will come when we have to know the answers”) -[“Revolutionary Letter #22”] –  (“what do you want/ your kids to learn? do you care/if they know factoring, chemical formulae, theory …”… “..as if the plant were no more than a vehicle/ for carrying our plastic constructs around the sun”)

[“Revolutionary Letter #29″] – (“beware of those/ who say we are the beautiful losers/ who stand in their long hair and wait to be punished…”….””goodmorning, sister, let me work with you/. goodmorning, brother, let me/ fight by your side””)

[“Revolutionary Letter  #31”] -(“Not all the works of Mozart worth one human life…”…”till we learn to/ make our own music”.)  –   Any other that you want to hear?

Audience: Whatever

DD: Whatever.. I wrote this one during the… for the demonstrations when the Cambodian bombing was happening, which was ..what? (19)71?,  (19)70 or (19)71 – [Editorial note – it was 1969-1970]   It’s called “San Francisco Notes” – [“Revolutionary Letter #53″]  –  (“I think I’ll stay on this/ earthquake fault near this/ still-active volcano in this/ armed fortress/facing a/dying ocean &/covered w/ dirt..”………”..we all /have the same babies, dig it/ the woods are big”) . This one’s called “It Takes Courage to Say No” {‘Revolutionary Letter #55″]  –  (“No to canned corn & instant/ mashed potatoes. No to rice krispies”…”… “The people of America are controlled/ by the food they eat”)

A couple more..one more maybe,or two. – We should soon stop, huh? – Okay –[“Revolutionary Letter #62”] – (“Take a good look/ at history, (the American myth)./ check sell-out/ of revolution by the founding fathers…”…..”History repeats itself/ only if we let it”)

Okay I think I’ll stop these there. If anybody wants to ask for anything or ask me anything, or whatever more..what more?


I came out of that sort of…    I wrote it when the class was doing some writing assignment . So – [Revolutionary Letter #67] –  it’s called “Another Wyoming Song”. It really needs to be shouted and chanted (but I’m not up to it – (“Silk sari is famine/prayer is famine/stone idol washed by seaweed/also famine…”… “jackal, coyote, eagle/filling up/ a feast before they die/like we die/ on dying land”)

There’s, as I say, there’s others – “For Grandpa” [“April Fool Birthday Poem For Grandpa”} – (“Today is your/ birthday and I have tried/ writing these things before”…….”…we do it for the stars over the Bronx/ that they may look on earth/ and not be ashamed”)

Alrighty, shall we stop there?

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