Maybe I’ll read this on Thursday, for a change of pace. I wrote it in 2001 and haven’t got myself to keep going with it. Anyway:

An Autobiography of the Author
(to the age of eight); written after
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s
Aurora Leigh

Of writing many books there is no end —
nor of discoursing on them deep into the night
in dingy bars and crampéd living rooms
where books pile into towers like limestone
strata, and keep on piling up,
and while we are alive we want to read
them all, and write still more –
on subjects bright and puzzling, each book
a gesture in its right that falls upon
a heap of gestures, each with its desired effect –
and still we write on — more, write more, and more!
though we distrust the language, having learned
the pleasure of disjunction and the thrill
of battling to be ever newer. ‘Tis from
a world so tormented we write, our pens
do hope to save it – if in vain — but still
we wish upon them some utility. Try we
must, and do, as each new fevered movement
spawns new followers, like baby spiders
spinning through the air – in legions –
each convinced of its efficiency. I don’t deny
it – no manifesto this – but in this world
of irony and torque I want to write
— tho’ not as well – as Elizabeth
did –– just for a spell, and use
the writing for this selfish end:
to tell my story. Yes, I, who’ve written
much in verse in various manners,
will write now of myself, will write the
tale of its construction – as when you scan
a portrait of yourself for a friend, who keeps
it on his desktop to click on now and then
when he’s obsessing, to hold together
what you were to him and he to you.
I, writing this, am still what men call young,
and women premenopausal – neither thrashing
in nubility nor drying like a crust, rather
”on the cusp” of ages, and willing to tell all
that might be of interest. I’m not so old
I can’t travel inward; I still can hear
the murmur of the outer infinite
which unweaned babies smile at in sleep
when wondered at for smiling; not so old
that I’ve forgot the feel of crib bars, or sound
Of rumbling voices in the other room, where
light was, or the giddy spin of mobile o’er
my hairless head. Quite round I was, and bald,
with eyes almost Chinese, and always laughing –
‘twas not till later that “the melancholy” set in –
and as I sat inside my bassinet they took
my photo with a guide to birth control,
for no sooner had I been conceived than
they’d made plans t’abort me. Not sure
what made them change their minds, but here
I am – I lived to tell this tale! My mother
had a full-time job – at Lawrence Radiation.
Her water broke while yet she worked –
I showed up two weeks early – just two weeks
after the Fab Four made number one
on US charts, when JFK was
freshly killed. She likes to tell
of how she’d bring me, when a babe,
to the UC campus (near our Berkeley
cottage), to watch the scaling
of the walls by “pigs” – it was a time, oh yes,
it was a time – of fervent demonstrations –
they were like mother’s milk to me.
Her hair, I do recall, was straightened
and pulled up in a fall like Marlo Thomas.
She’d been a student at the campus, for love
of Emily and Blake, when she conceived me.
My father was a warehouseman,
or so it read, at least, on my certificate
of birth. In fact, he was a poet –
barely nineteen, unshaven — heavy
of brow and step, and careful with
his words – tho’ not so careful that
he didn’t make a too-rash promise
to support me. His feet were plagued
with wanderlust — and soon went off
to see the world. My mom and I moved
to Chicago (where she was raised) – and
Father tried to join us for a while before
the lure of going elsewhere grew compelling
once again. There was so much to distract
me. I had a guinea pig, name of
Guiseppe, and a parakeet or two. There
was an ant farm, and Leggo blocks, and giant
balloons in th’ shape of birds. There were art lessons
in summer, and green linden trees whose leaves
the fuzzy caterpillars loved as I loved my art teacher:
”I have a secret,” I told him, and as he bent down to.
my dwarfish height I whispered to him, “I love you.”
In the class there was a girl named Joy
who wrote her name all o’er the blackboard.
The leaves in summer smelled like summer. There were
mulberry bushes with real mulberries. There was a
vacant lot. There was “The Icky Lady”, a local
alcoholic who cackled and hiked up her skirt;
she wore, I think, nylon thigh-highs. There were
clown costumes and folk songs and Little Golden
Books (The Poky Little Puppy) and Dr Seuss.
There were birthday parties with miniature
hamburgers, and trips to the zoo where for
a while my father worked. There was a record
”Hooked on Phonics” that so addicted me –
by three and a half I well could read the novel
Charlotte’s Web. My dear nurse Terry helped
me while my mother taught in ghetto schools –
still she talks of how the food would fly
through the dismal cafeterias. One day
she took me to her class – so thrilled was I
that I threw up all over my ruffly dress with
apple pockets! And as I stood before her class
I said, “Now you do this, and you do that,
and Marilyn (my mother’s name) do this.”
A born pedagogue! with copious curls
upon my head and such precocity of manner
that all adored me, I am told. “You used to say
the cutest things,” my mother tells me still,
”like ‘meganoun’ (for merry-go-round) and
‘cigabutt’ (for cigarette)” I remember wondering
about the family, that is, who was the oldest
living relative. Once, at table, my mother accused
Great –grandpa Joe of being a bigot. “Ahh!” I
exclaimed, “he’s the biggest! I was wondering!”
and all the family laughed. Of those Chicago days
most memories are pleasant, tho’ I do remember
some concern with whether I could control
my bowels – so that at nursery school I kept
my hand inside my tights in back, “just in case”
and I remember the Down’s classmate who barfed
on the picture of the candle we were meant to
color in (now as certified vomitophobe no wonder
it’s the puking that stays so vividly with me. The last
time I truly chucked it up was on a Greyhound bus
when I was fourteen. I’d been up all night
drinking screwdrivers in the city – but that’s
another story. Pardon the digression). I loved,
even then, the zeitgeist. There was my mother’s
big black floppy hat, and necklaces of shells and
beads, and Jackie O sunglasses. There were
these little statuettes in shops, with popping eyes
and bobbing heads and little catchy slogans – perhaps
some connoisseur of kitsch would know what I refer to. There
were on Laugh-in little doors from whence strange heads
would peek – “Very interesting, but stupid”– and the
Smothers brothers and Rowan and Martin. And there
were demonstrations. We lived across the street
from Rennie Davis, one of the Chicago Seven that
so famously disrupted the Democrats’ convention.
His daughter was a friend of mine, and my mother
shared joints with him, I think, sometimes. The year
was 1969. The force of those beguiling times grew ever
stronger. And, turning on, tuning in, and dropping out,
my mother quit her arduous job, and moved us back
to San Francisco.

Oh city of the undulating hills and rents no longer cheap,
of golden bridge not golden but rust-red, O home
to aberrations and eccentrics, how innocent we were then!
I then believed that life would always be the carnival
that you were – where adults wore tie-dye velvet
and didn’t go to alienating jobs, but listened to wild music
on their Victorian stoops, and overcooked brown rice
for their communal meals. We lived in the Castro,
on Seventeenth Street, with Nancy and her poodle, Grok.
and Hank who’d been in Vietnam (”cooking”, he told me,
when and asked). Nancy, says my mother, was neurotic,
blonde and wan, with Twiggy hair. She’d fondle Grok’s
gray canine balls. Her drawings, I remember, looked just like
Peter Max., with rainbows hearts and stars – like Yellow Submarine.
So dearly did I love that film that in my class at school
(where study was unheard of) I did a puppet show, all on
popsicle sticks, of that cartoon. And from a giant refrigerator
box (which students painted yellow) we fashioned our own
great submarine in which to play. So we sailed onto the sun
till we found the sea of green, and my Beatlemania grew
ever more intense into a singular identification, ‘til I wanted
not to marry John Lennon but to be him. My friends and
I played not house but Beatles, wherein which game we’d
go on tour, have fights and sex, and talk in accents. We were
mischievious youngsters. For fun, we’d shred our mothers’
diaphragms with scissors, and once I stole a comic book
from the bodega. The owner chased me up the block
but didn’t catch me – and the upshot? Did I ever go
into that store again, for bubblegum or Heath bars?
Did I return the stolen Archie? I don’t remember.
I do recall however the child lovers Greg and Carisa,
having “ sex “, it was whispered, in the tree fort,
and Audrey, whose mother was a witch (‘twas said;
a bottle of witch hazel had betrayed her thus)
and whose father played electric fiddle
in a psychedelic band. ‘Twas at this time
I first composed some poems, with Mother
As my scribe. Soon after she became entwined,
if only for a night, with the drummer for Hot Tuna,
on that very houseboat whose tie-dye velvet curtains
she had made, while I slept out on the couch
and felt the rocking of the waves.

Dear roommate Hank bought a health food store
Across the russet bridge , in Sausalito, where Mother
And I soon moved, to a tiny pad among acacias. The glass door
Of our cottage opened out to rockroses , and happy I
Received a puppy, fluffy, white and wiggling,
With a charcoal patch across one eye . “Govinda, “
I named the bouncy pup, and in the pretty yard we’d play
With Bonnie of the strange narcissus breath and her gray kitten, Lotus,
While Roscoe, later Gabriel, hung out at our pad..
A kind neighbor had all the Oz books, in original
Editions, and these she lent to me. I read my fill
Of Ozma, Dorothy, Jack pumpkin head, and the patchwork
Girl. I read the books of Narnia too, and the Secret Garden,
And Alice, and little Women, O ! , over and over again.
Govinda ran away, we lost our voices calling him.
Mother donned a head scarf, and went to work
Packaging organic nuts and seeds for Hank. I loved
The little store, and would sit by mom, blowing up bags
Of air and stapling on a label, whereon I’d write,
“ organic air, 25 cents . “

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