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Saturday, 29 January 2011

In Bill's Backyard, Bolinas



Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock, 1951): publicity photo depicting amusement park scene (image by Harrington Smith, 2010)

Now light streams through the trees of the dream.
Dead friends idly amble through the arches
The green bower makes over our heads;
In Bill's backyard -- framed for this flashback
To the days before, or perhaps during, the Flood --
Things are, as in a kind of moonlit masque
Lit up at night like the carnival scene
In Strangers on a Train; yet strangers
There are none, only friends; summer fog coming in
On the marine layer clockwork shuttle
Over the populous village in the dream;
Sea, hill, wood, numberless goings on;
Off in the distance beyond Elm somewhere,
Off beyond Ocean Parkway in the mists,
A whistle buoy intermittent; blue reedy
Spiritual openness of Eric
Dolphy floating from inside the humble shack
Taking shape as words, a cool
Geometrical language; then cloudy faces
Tossed up on the cresting waves
Beyond the reef, in the dream: ghosts
Waving, not drowning. So let's make this stroll
Through the underworld last.

File:Strangers on a Train - Bruno on boat.png

Into the gloom of the Tunnel of Love on a boat named after Pluto, god of the underworld: screen shot from dvd trailer for Strangers on a Train (image by Yworo 2010)


Julia said...

Hello, Tom, nice to see you again!

I love this film, but who doesn't?

TC said...

Hola Julia! Por favor, perdóname por el período de silencio. El problema médico de la lesión persiste, es muy molesto. Y entonces nuestro viejo Mac "entregó el espíritu", como en señal de despedida, sayonara, kaputt.

Tal vez estas son lecciones no tomar las cosas por sentado - ser capaces de caminar, ser capaz de comunicarse. (Pero, por supuesto, siempre hay algunas lecciones que nunca se aprende.)

I too love Strangers on a Train... though it gives me the chills, a bit.



Nice, and yes --

". . . fog coming in
On the marine layer. . .
. . .

Off in the distance behind Elm somewhere,
Off beyond Ocean Parkway in the mists. . ."


grey whiteness of clouds above shadowed
top of ridge, motionless leaf on branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

visible in the way it opens
something, way itself

visual, a “finished” moment,
picture element in it

grey-white clouds to the left of point,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

Julia said...

No hay nada que perdonar ni de qué disculparte, Tom. Sólo me alegro de saber que estás bien.
Las máquinas nos dominan y se apoderaron de nuestras vidas, pero por otro lado, sin ellas no sólo no nos estaríamos escribiendo ahora sino que ni siquiera nos conoceríamos.

TC said...


Hay mucho de verdad y no un poco de ironía en esto.


Time vanishes and the decades seem but a closing day, awaiting its

“finished” moment,

perhaps to be found in
[the]picture element in it

ACravan said...

I love this dream poem. It's funny to read your comment that Strangers On A Train gives you "the chills, a bit". A good bit, I'd say. Those Robert Walker photos are terrific. Curtis

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Very fine, Tom ... the dream quality is all the more precise in its naturalness of language.

A strange association for me - in the midst of this dream, "yet strangers / there are none" triggered instantly the thought of one of Issa's finest poems:

Beneath cherry blossoms,
there are no strangers.

--- Kobayashi Issa


TC said...

We left Bolinas for good an awfully long time ago, but until just lately dreams of the place frequently haunted my sleep (that stopped when I stopped sleeping).

This fairly realistic dream, which I had several years ago, was "set" in the backyard of Bill Berkson's house on Fern Road, c. 1970.

The procedure of the poem is in conscious emulation of the "conversation poems" of Coleridge, reflecting, perhaps, a desire to build my own lime tree bower, and forever be immured in it... er, no.

Coincidentally, Robert Walker died at 32 of an allergic reaction to a drug provided him by his shrink. So Pluto seems to have secured his cargo a bit prematurely. Walker had been married to, and then divorced from, Jennifer Jones, the film star. They had two sons, both of whom were attending Lawrenceville School in the mid-50s -- when Bill Berkson, as I have just now learned, arrived there to enroll.



Such nice echoes -- "sea and hill and wood . . . with all the numberless goings on"; those photos as an echo of the film (which give me the chill more than just "a bit"); "the populous village in the dream" (is still somewhere out there in the fog, golden-crowned sparrow calling "oh dear me". . . .


grey-white rain cloud against invisible
ridge, silver of drop falling from leaf
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

follows points of continuum,
which system parallel

to itself, surface a sphere,
given observable fact

grey-white clouds against top of ridge,
circular green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...

Steve, funny how time slips away when personal history

follows points of continuum,
which system parallel

extending out into a present, when
the population of the dream village

dwindles currently to two
(Steve, Johnny), and

from there to here in a steady band falls
the winter rain.

Curtis Faville said...

Robert Walker could be said to have been playing himself in that role.

Which probably accounts for the power of the film, aside from Hitchcock's usual clever effects.

I only visited BB at his house in Bolinas once, and didn't see the back yard.

What I do remember was the flies--their number and their stubbornness. At one point, watching me flick and twitch in discomfort, Bill said "That's one argument you're not going to win, man."

Which may account for something. Perhaps the septic tank effect. Ah, rural living. Back to nature.

TC said...

Curtis F.,

From the biography as we have it, it does appear your suggestion about RW "playing himself" is spot-on.

About the summer flies, stinking septic tanks, flooded muddy roads ... well, what can one say.

Dreams I think tend to select-out only those sections of past experience which rise out of the routine and the ordinary. They are in that sense idealizations, if in some cases merely idealizations of negatives (i.e. nightmares).

What I mean, obviously, is pretty much what you say: the actual historical reality is increasingly belied by the reconstructions.

One person's Paradise is another's Dogtown, & c.

(Indeed Dogtown was Bolinas' historic moniker, employed if I recall correctly as the title of a long Olsonic work by the one resident bard of the town in the days of our arrival, John Thorpe.)

Curtis Faville said...

Thorpe's Cargo Cult was a real blast--or at least I thought so.

You post the best photographs of anyone on the internet, Tom.

Robb said...


This is absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much for writing it. A gift to us all.



Ellen said...

Tom. Tom. I'm so glad to find you. Please get in touch.
Ellen Sander

ellensander dot com

Ellen said...

Tom. Tom.
So so good to find you.
And revisit Bill's Backyard, Bolinas

Ellen Sander