Good morning Terry,
sunny here on our mountain for the first time in days. And a quiet Sun-day morning to read your book. I read it front to back and then again back to front.
As you mentioned on facebook, our lives have followed some similar paths, most obviously those years growing up in Farmington. As I read I found other interesting parallels, most notably the mind/body problems instilled and hightened and exacerbated by our respective religions.
Your poems are rich with the beatitudes of darts and back seats and Hollywood sexpots and Victorian women and mixed-blood heavens and even V-shaped Dharma—and all that in the context of the anti-beatitudes that would destroy them.
The poems feel good to me with their surprise enjambements (. . . who wants him / to see her . . .) and repetitive explorations (those progressive Calvin poems) and experiences from selling shoes to embalming to full-throated cars to systematic theology (I once had a class from one of Paul Tillich’s students who loved to repeat his words in his accent . . . Zee ground und abyss of beingk) to preaching (reminded me of Jim Casey in The Grapes of Wrath who could call up the Sperit and then the women would want to fuck him) to (not) playing in the dance band and to love (In the Shape of a Woman ripped my heart out and replaced it with a better model).
I too write about religion and lust, breasts and Sunday School, desire and faith, Navajo accounts of Shiprock, work (in my case as a roughneck), morticians (first chapter called Autopsy), religious education (BYU), love and lost love, and even Dharma, at least that Dharma bum Gary Snyder.
I’ll end here with a heartfelt thanks for the precision and passion of your poems and with the beginning of the Snyder chapter.
11 November 2012
I went into the LDS Third Ward in Farmington, New Mexico. I could not tuck my long hair up under a cap as poet and environmental activist Gary Snyder did when he “went into the Maverick Bar / In Farmington, New Mexico.” I had no earring to leave in the car. I didn’t drink double shots of bourbon backed with beer (although my traveling bag held a flask of lowland single-malt in case of emergency). Unlike Snyder, I had an escort, an old friend who explained where I was from. Instead of “We don’t smoke Marijuana in Muskokie,” the organist played “For the Beauty of the Earth.” There was no dancing. Otherwise my experience was exactly like Snyder’s.
Snyder was in the Four-Corners area to protest the rape of Black Mesa, holy to Hopis and Navajos, black with coal. The corporations prevailed and the coal was strip-mined and slurried away with precious desert water. Coal smoke from various power plants, including the one in whose warehouse I worked the summer after high school, so thoroughly fouls the air of these high, wild, open spaces that on Thursday, driving from Cortez to Shiprock, the dramatic volcanic core that lends the town its name was more clearly visible in memory than in actual fact. I had returned home to revisit my past, John’s past, both of our histories veiled by time and distorted by intent.
Nearly four decades since I last attended church in my hometown, more than a decade since I left the Mormon Church, twenty years since I began writing after John’s death, a week after Barack Obama was elected to a second term, I went into the LDS Third Ward in Farmington, New Mexico.