Love poem to the infinite

I know you
you are in the rivulets
cascading down the side of the mountain:
adjoining in the streams under the patterned clouds
where filtered light falls upon the rushing waters
yes you are in the whispering stream
in it’s little pools teeming with life
and in the groaning river which finds it way to the sea
which falls into the deeps
where currents sway the strangely colored life
where mysteries lie in the darkness
where flash of scale and fin are barely seen
you rise up in the flickering beams of light
which penetrate the surface;
you are the torrent of sunlight
which falls upon the sea
you are the eyes within the sun
and the fiery angels leaping in it’s corona
and spangling stars in the darkness of space
I know, oh yes, if I could only say.


ORTEGA mystic trees

I like the trees at the mountain camp too. 
 the live oaks 
gracious givers of shade and acorns. 
in the grove beyond the camp, 

I couldn’t sleep for two nights
it’s hard to sleep in the mountain camp
it’s very cold and dusty
laid awake all night annoyed,
before the dawn,
wakefulness pulled aside the layers
I forgot how close to the inferno I am
it’s been covered over lightly
the starry vortex.
My god, I’m full of stars
a comet emerges and
passes invisibly behind my head
with a whooshing sound. 

WILDMAN, POET, Lew Gardner part two

ImagePicture, PARISE and Lew Gardner, Casey, at camp 
Parise is a friend of Lew’s. Let me rephrase that. Parise is Lew’s goddess. She also lived at Ortega Campground. Although Lew praises her untiringly, he also warned me against meeting her while she was pregnant. With good reason, I soon learned. 
She and her husband Casey and their toddler daughter Maya lived in a big comfortable family tent next to Lew, sharing the same plot. Parise is a rather
pale fair woman of thirty with fine and limp brown hair, deceptively quiet and introverted, a little rounded from pregnancy. Her husband Casey is a wonderful looking part Indian man, seven years younger than her, who passed his large dark eyes on to their daughter.


I was visiting Lew when Parise arrived home at the camp. “Stay out of her way now,”he advised. Parise took one look at me, glared, pulled Lew aside hissing something at him. “Uh, well, I have some chores to do,” he told me. He baby-sits long hours, does most of the chores, and apparently is not allowed to chose his own friends, and pays half the lot rent as well.
Parise is quietly bright, nature oriented, and a bit of a shaman I think. She controls the whole bunch of them – except Casey’s tough-minded mother.
I was trying to make headway with Parise by washing the camps morning dishes. When she came home she snapped at Lew and scowled at me. “You have to put a towel over the dish rack or flies land on them,” Lew reported to me. He and Parise have known each other for years. She more or less owns him. I came to call her Empress Parise.


I just don’t know anyone kinder or meeker than Lew. Since I am mild mannered myself we spend all day doing an after you Alphonse routine. I mean, we can hardly get through a door because we can’t decide who goes first and he won’t take a cracker from my kitchen without asking for elaborate permission.


1914 – Rasputin was a free man until he met Empress Alexandra of Russia in the early 1900’s. He captivated her by saving her hemophiliac sons’ life and she captivated him. He moved into the palace over objections of the Emperor and his ministers, but the Empress overruled them. Rasputin, a braying jackass, according to some, a master magician with piercing eyes, smelled like a jackass too, altemately healing or seducing with his considerable hypnotic powers. Until death do us part. There was no way to separate Rasputin and his Empress short of murder and murdered were they all.


Lew certainly intimidated people with his weird costumes and bellowing voice. You could hear him laugh a block away. If you went out in public with him he was sure to embarrass you at least three times. However he was well washed…


Meanwhile up at the camp the new managers were making all the tent people move into trailers and pouring truckloads of gravel over the loose dust. Parise and Casey bought a large trailer, which was like a small home inside, very comfortable. Lew bought an old ramshackle trailer, deserted and full of junk, all he could afford, but he and I cleaned it out fastidiously and he moved in. It had two small rooms and a tiny bathroom. Nothing worked. Not the plumbing or electricity, or even the front door. It was difficult to open or close and didn’t lock. He left it hanging open, it didn’t matter. He moved in his bookshelves, sleeping bag, and a long electric cord from outside, a little heater, a lamp to read by, and the coffee maker was all he needed. He was living in luxury, in his opinion. 


I often slept in the little back room of the trailer when I was visiting camp. A heap of blankets and a small heater kept me cozy. It was terribly sweet room, big enough for the cot and the narrow bookshelf only. But in the glow of the little lamp at night, surrounded by dark oaks and starlight, rustle of little creatures and leaves, it was a little mini-vacation each time. 


Anywhere we were, Lew and I talked for hours and when we visited Nasser at his sandwich shop overlooking Dana Beach, with a wonderful panoramic view of the ocean, the three of us sat around a table during quiet times between meals and talked for hours, philosophy and religion, poetry and literature, we never ran out of material. Reluctantly Nasser would go back to work when the lunch crowd arrived. 


Lew had been a carpenter by profession. He built a wide platform porch outside his trailer to combat the dust and mud, with an old carpet and a couch on it; it became his morning yoga and meditation spot, as well as a visitor center. A tattered awning spread out over it, protecting it from sun and rain. A fire pit with a round stone wall by the platform completed the picture. He loved to build a fire everyday. Fragrant wood smoke rose, and several chairs appeared around it including the easy chair where he sat and wrote for hours a day. It was nonetheless a hard life there for the mothers with children and it was difficult for me, walking with a cane. The bathroom was located hundreds of yards away from the trailer in the visitor center, across weeds, gravel and dust. All cooking was done on a hot plate, but Lew didn’t bother to cook because as he ate every evening with Parise and Casey. I didn’t generally go with him because of tension with Parise … I can’t eat any normal food anyway because of my health diet and allergies. Parise never accepted me as a part of Lew’s life. It took me a while to realize she was very jealous of Lew’s time and attention.
Lew had his social security check to live on as well as occasional carpentry jobs. He is a very content human being. That is why I was so amazed when he chose to tell me where he was during those weeks that he was missing.
“In jail.” He told me simply.
“What!” I responded thunderstruck. “What on earth for?” “Oh, it’s a long story.” He answered.
“Well? ” I said, “What? Vagrancy?”
“Huh? No, but maybe that’s part of it.”
I finally managed to get it out of him … he was charged with burglary. “Well I know you didn’t do anything like that. What happened?”


He was in the habit of walking in a Laguna Hills neighborhood, carrying the baby, Maya, up to her grandmother’s house. One day he was walking alone and cops drove up and grabbed him, hauled him up to a local house and paraded him in front of the old lady there. It seems she called the police reporting that a man in a plaid shirt and black backpack had been in her house and stolen gold coins and jewelry. Then, she identified him in a lineup, AFTER the police brought him to her house and asked if that was him. That was it. Total and complete evidence against him. Her word, but no gold coins. Of course he had no such valuables in his possession. Poor Lew. He is such a helpless character. The police dragged him off to the local jail and there he stayed for three weeks, with an absurdly high bail, not wanting to bother family and friends, assuming nobody he knew would have that much money to spare. 


His worried family and friends finally tracked him down and an old family friend came up with the bail. One of Lew’s sons is a policeman, married to a lawyer, and they were outraged at the flimsy circumstances of his arrest. Everybody was outraged. A letter-writing campaign was started. The district attorney’s office reported they had never received such a blitz of glowing, positive letters in defense, 32 in all. It is my opinion that the lady’s charge against him was a complete fraud. She had probably seen the oddly dressed old man walking in the neighborhood and either decided he must have done it or she deliberately framed him, who knows, maybe she’s senile, or maybe she did it for the insurance on the valuables …


Anyway, I drove him around for months to court dates and lawyer visits. It finally came to an end when the charges were dropped. It wasn’t too much later when Parise and Casey decided to move to a farm in Idaho and Lew went with them.Parise is an enigma – unfortunately I only saw her during an uncomfortable pregnancy, and in a tug-of-war over Lew’s time and attention. She is not a mean person. I have observed her many times meditatively tending to the potted garden around her home, affectionately caring for Maya and the new baby. She forms deep friendships with women – if they fit into her life. I met her parents on a couple of occasions – her attractive blonde mother and her father, a quiet little man with a white beard, and was amused to learn they were professional card dealers. Parise is deep and withdrawn. She has an intriguing aura of mystery and one expects her to start cooking up herbal brews at any moment. She speaks little. She has a natural aura of control and plays Empress Alexandra to Lew’s Rasputin. 




ImageLew Gardner 1996- Mission Viejo The tall old man came storming into the back area of the huge bookstore where rows of chairs were set up for the poetry reading. “Hey Nasser!” he roared at a slim young poet. “Glad you made it. Haw, Haw, didn’t think you would!” “My family’s in town but I got away for an evening,” the younger man answered quietly. The old man dropped a brackish backpack on the floor and sat in a front row, pulling off his shoes and extending his feet, with one black and one red sock. He had a chartreuse stocking cap on. With his long white hair and beard, he gave the impression of a skinny and very eccentric Santa Claus. People rolled their eyes at each other. I could hardly wait to hear him read.After the reading was over the strange old man was asking around for a ride home. People glanced nervously at each other. Finally a brave young couple offered him a ride. His poetry had been witty and intelligent and it occurred to me that he could be anything from a retired doctor to a homeless bum. He was still an unknown factor to me.
     At the end of the next reading I was sitting with a lady I knew in the coffee shop when Nasser and Lew joined us. Lew was being loud and amusing and I was beginning to like him. I admired Nasser, the youthful mystic poet, who refers to himself as Persian – the old name for Iran. He has a soft accent but is very much like an American hippie or perhaps a Sufi mystic. Lew for all his gusto is rather shy and I started plotting how to get him into my life. The poetry reading was only once a month at that time, so I exchanged addresses with Lew, and we made promises to correspond.It was poetry night at Borders again. When I arrived in the back room Lew and Nasser called me over to sit with them. Lew had written a couple of letters to me since last month. It turned out that correspondence was a big part of his life. He wrote regularly to dozens of people, usually four to seven pages handwritten. Everywhere he went he carried his backpack full of notebooks, letters and poems. Tonight there was a large crowd, about thirty people were there. That’s a lot for a poetry reading. I shuffled nervously through my short stack of poems, planning to read. Lew was in his usual top form, loud voice, loud laugh, one green, one white sock, old overwashed T-shirt and jeans. He read one poem, boisterous and amusing, but then switched to something very tender and thoughtful, another new side of this peculiar man. Its called Watching Leah Dance and it became my favorite poem of his. It’s about a young girl dancing..


.. …when her arm 
Goes over her head or she bows down 
Over her leg 
So do 1. 
Her face doesn’t change But I do see her eyes Watch her hands. Ah movement 
You’re certainly graced by her soul. And so we feel soul moving girl. There’s a stretch 
There’s a turn 
There’s a hand looking down at the floor Theres awareness everywhere 
There that she breathes …

Nasser was the next to get up and read. He is a slim and youthful person. At first I assumed he was a student, he has that boyish, curious nature. But I learned later that he was forty, divorced, has a daughter and owned a sandwich shop. That night he read,


…. Every hope weaves into sail 
every dream advocates the winds of destiny 
steering motion from eternal now through endlessness absolute … 
It isn’t hard to see a rainbow colored with dreams of luminous harmony 
it isn’t hard to see you and I in essence are one 
and in a thousand fragments of form subdivided.


Lew and I had been writing to each other, but he suddenly stopped and didn’t appear at readings for a couple of months. I was quite concerned and decided as soon as he reappeared I would invite him to my house for lunch, which I did after we had known each other for a little while. I learned that his absence had been caused by a disconcerting and disruptive event that had overtaken his otherwise simple life. 


When I fIrst knew him he left the Laguna Niguel house and was living in a tent in a mountain camp up on Ortega Highway, by the famous candy store. Whenever he came to town for a reading, I put him up on the living room couch. I started visiting him in the camp, and conditions were hard there. In the summer there was ankle-deep dust, and later in the season, there was mud and icy chilly nights. 


When he visited, we had long hours of conversation. He is very literary and has seemingly read every intelligent novel in print. He would write letters for hours and we would read to each other from our favorite poets, and swap stories from the 60’s. 
I learned that he was in his mid-sixties, twelve years older than me. He has nine adult children in Northern California and an ex-wife that he’s not actually divorced from, possibly because of their Catholic background, (Not that Lew cares about that) but more likely he wants to maintain the link to his children, and he has no intention of remarrying anyway. 


He built a wooden cot and bookshelf in his dusty, ragged little tent and was perfectly content there. Of course there is no way to lock a tent. His solution was to own absolutely nothing worth stealing. I kind of envied him, he had perfect piece of mind about possessions, and could come and go freely with out the anxiety that ownership brings. 



ImageIV. Heat
Cool and dark in the living room.
I wonder what I could ever say about him that could ever make sense.
 Curtains drawn. T. V. rattles on in other room.
Then step outside.
a broiling sun drenches everything lush smells waft by, dust,
candy, purple flowering bush cheap aftershave, more flowers gentle reek of the garbage bin
heat stinging shoulders and cheeks gravel crunches its too too hot
go back inside, slam door, lock it.
“Why do women stay with a man like that?” T.Y. interviewer, therapist
the inevitable question.
“Love doesn’t come by very often, “I’d be alone … you know …
“He wasn’t like that when I met him of course. “
Raging fields.
a chemical history
mirth among attending monsters
Maiden alone, holding the sign of
the thin iron cross
in the lilac twilight.


ImageSouth of Big Sur, on the coast road
Driving though the green hills
I put some jazz on the player
A chorus of soft women’s voices rose
A gentle sax accompanies
It’s easy to imagine that
The velvet hills themselves are singing.
I drive alone on the California coast highway.
If I was not alone, would I hear the hills sing?
This is where the music’s kept
From Oxnard to Malibu.
I’ve heard the music of the ocean here before.
The invisible music
You must be still to hear.
There is a stony hill rising from the surf, 
Point Mugu rock
That is where the music is stored
In its rocky layers,
The secret music of the coast.
If I were not alone,
Would I hear the music?
If I were not alone, perhaps,
I would hear some different music.
the music referred o is Donald Byrd, Christo Redemptor

A 20th CENTURY WOMAN Part 2, the poet

The 80's

The 80’s

Outline for the autobiography to come

I moved back to Southern California because the marriage failed, got a job as a waitress in a nightclub, moved to a quiet Santa Ana neighborhood. Then I joined a religious group called Subud and got a job as a housekeeper with a lady from the group called Rasjida. Then I got a job with a doctor’s wife who sent me to work in her husband’s office as a secretary. Her husband was a crazy surgeon. I quit and joined the Krishna Temple.


I went back to San Francisco and had visions for 9 months. That’s a little hard to explain but I needed a little rest after that. I rejoined my parents who had moved to Sedona, Arizona. I lived in a trailer park there and met a guy called Saxophone Joe and we hitchhiked to Boulder Colorado, where I left Joe and got a job as a housekeeper for a school teacher.


The doctor told me I had a spinal tumor and I spent months in hospitals and wheelchairs. The next couple of years are a little blurry. I started going to poetry readings.


I moved to Mission Viejo. I’m living extremely quietly, almost reclusively, studying, reading and writing. I met an old poet from the mountains, Lew, and we became good friends for several years until he moved to Idaho. I’m mostly ill now but enjoy touring around in my little car. I took my first philosophy book to a printer.


I started to do featured readings at poetry groups – I’m getting my first book ok  of poetry published by a local poetry group, Laguna Poets.