Saturday Night in Lunca, Dinner, and Road to the Truffle Restaurant

Satruday Night in Porec
A cell tower sits bored against the low sun’s chill
Cowbells clang like toddlers learning to play the xylophone
See his blue coat against the dark plaster wall
Before the longing pattern of light and shadow like live leather
Reminding him tonight is a glass, maybe two, of plum brandy
Rush hour before the Sabbath, watch where you step

(Scroll down to see Dinner and Road to the Truffle Restaurant)

Please attend the Opening of Beyond the Iron Curtain, paintings by Peggy McGivern and verse by Peter Stravlo, with music based on eastern European folk tunes by Mark Dudrow and Chipper Thompson. March 20th, 5-8pm, at Abend Gallery, Colfax and York, Denver CO

Dinner

No hurry, the wine is either red or white. A simple luxury, this fairytale home-restaurant tangled in the roots of cedars like truffles. Leftover tablecloths red checked clean faded stained and beautifully threadbare. The waiter has his own agenda, the menu indecipherable; we do not yet speak the language. Sip and wait, wait and sip. Until, silver headed and winking, as if we always knew it was worth the wait, dinner arrives.

RoadToTruffleRestaurant11-22-14

Imagine a two-seater
Fenders like sumptuous thighs
Playing nostalgically over cobblestones
Top down falling
Left into dark pine scents
Engine purring right
Up lush gear pattern
Worn smooth from shifting
Breezes overpowering
Straightaways nonexistent

Our own truffle Sommelier
Sniffed out of roots
By hounds barking through mists
Like souvenir volcanic rocks
Black and rarer White
In the birthplace of Mario Andretti

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Writing a Painting

Below are examples of when I first began to think about how to write a painting. These are from early drafts of my first novel The Age Of Certainty (Unpublished.)

2009
Hesus gathered his notebooks and carried them to his car. The day was heating up pleasantly. The dew hiding in the warm breeze caressed his arm and face. He held the wheel around a wide curve and crossed over narrow gauge tracks, sped up to the crest of a hill where he could look down onto the village. Behind each house plots of irregular rectangles were carved out of the forest, shaggily defined by slanting grey plank fences or low stone walls, filled with cabbage and potatoes and onions, straight laced corn and sleepy sunflowers. Occasionally a few solemn cows grazed in a plot, balancing awkwardly up the steep hillside. It was as if the entire village was a static landscape limited to his current point of view, like a painting that so catches the essence of its subject that the viewer forgets it’s only a representation playing on his unconscious assumptions.

2011
Hesus gathered his notebooks. The warming air was pleasant, though dew still hid in the breeze, caressing his arms and face.
Hesus held the steering wheel around a wide curve, bounced again over narrow gauge tracks, stopped on the crest of a hill. He looked down to see the road split the village roughly in two. Low stone walls behind each house held back the forest in irregular plots tilled and filled with gardens, rough grey sheds, listing corrals, and the occasional solemn cow grazing awkwardly up the hillside. Farms wrapped over the undulating horizon, small orchards and rows of vines alternating with wide expanses of corn, wheat, and golden breasts of hay scattered dazzling under the sun. It was as if the village was a static landscape limited to his current point of view, like a painting that so catches the essence of its subject that the viewer forgets it is one representation stuck in time, playing on his unconscious assumptions.

And later in the novel:

2010
He was driven into that catalytic space between day and night where your perception is mutable and it’s all too counter to your experience to quite believe, like a painting that catches the truth of a sunset yet is so unique and poignant that no one would believe it was real unless it was a photograph, but you know that there is no way a photograph of what you are witnessing would ever evoke the feelings you are having and then you realize the experience might depend on being who your are at that moment in your life so it would be impossible to adequately describe to anyone anyhow when they passed through the second checkpoint and he was handed over to Sadiq. He was deep in Taliban country now

2011
His handlers drove him into the dusk, into a position so counter to his experience that it was hard to believe, like a painting that catches the truth of a sunset yet is so poignant that no one would believe it was real unless it was a photograph, but you know a photograph could never evoke these feelings, and then you realize the experience might depend on being who you are at that moment, so it would be impossible to adequately describe to anyone else anyway, when they passed through the second checkpoint and he was handed over to Sadiq. He was deep in Taliban country now.

Compare to more recent passages from my novel in progress, Reuel, where the main character is more painterly to begin with:

2013
Through a more or less closed door Reuel discovered a piano and a futon couch. He could see Mrs. Justice’s prints on the ivory keys and foot petals, some jilted to the left, some to the right, as if her elbows and knees stuck straight out whenever she made a sound. Reuel tapped one of the middle keys.
“Me me me,” he sang into a mirror on the far wall. It was out of tune, as if he lived in another world. “So so so.” In the mirror he looked through a window, saw the eagle gently deposit Mr. Justice into a Pena-purple bed of forget-me-nots in the backyard. He decided to explore the mysteries and romances behind the other doors.
Mrs. Justice’s closet smelled of mothballs and cedar. When Reuel stuck his head in each dress bristled, each pair of sheer gold stockings winked daintily along a stair step of horizontal rods. Virginal, never-buttoned buttons on her blouses smiled expectantly, and skirts lifted at the slightest touch. Inside a shoebox was a jumble of delicate red straps and spikes like poison darts. Another box contained elegant black pumps stuffed with tissue paper and out of another tumbled sandy rubber sandals that smelled like fish. Reuel closed his eyes and dreamed of soaring like a seagull over a beach, salty wind sweeping his sepia locks across the frothy ocean.

Later:

The man swung his legs over the far side of the futon and pulled on his underwear, then a pair of slacks dark and blue as shadows turning slightly cooler just before dawn. Salt and pepper hair formed a tornado from the top of his head down his back. Anabel slipped into a pair of bright green flats. Reuel remembered the green triangles perched on a wooden ledge like parrots staring at him from the canopy of a tree while he read her diary. He could feel the wet jungle air, see her gathering her brushes, folding her easel, failing to completely reveal herself on the canvas. When he opened his eyes the futon was a couch again and no one was in the room.

And:

He started reading the first story in the book, about two lonely people who dreamed of finding true love.
The lonely woman and lonely man lived very close to each other in the same city. They both loved animals, classical music, reading, were shy, and used proper etiquette even when only with their pets. The words were crafted into sentences and paragraphs that fit together in poetic harmonious purple-slate rhythms. Reuel ran his eyes over the pages like reverent fingertips over an intricately patterned melancholy-blue lined buttery marble surface polished to a smooth slippery sheen. Every time he was sure the two lonely people were about to come together some higher purpose made one turn a half a block too soon, the other look away just at the moment of truth.
Reuel decided where he wanted to be was to believe in miracles. One day the lonely man went to the art museum to see a large exhibition of his favorite artist. He walked for hours amidst the largest crowd he had ever seen at the museum. Finally the lonely man realized he had been standing in front of one painting for so long he wasn’t sure what time was. The author described the painting with such acumen Reuel saw it on the page, felt the woman’s eyes staring out tall windows in her wedding dress, felt the tension in the leg muscles of the man she was watching. He blushed, embarrassed that other patrons had been looking over his shoulder and maneuvering around him to see the masterpiece so as not to disturb him. For a moment the lonely man felt claustrophobic, he could feel someone’s breath on his ear, a tingle down that side of his body. It’s mesmerizing, the breath whispered. He turned to see the chamomile voice. Yes, he said as the lonely woman’s hazel gaze fell deeply and without qualm into his. Her skin was that melancholy-blue lined buttery marble surface, his face the perfect intricate pattern of her dreams, and his reverent fingertips ran over the love of his life for ever after.
The creative force of his paintings, Reuel decided, is greater than him yet contained within him, and can be shared by anyone, if only they realize dreams are more than mere wishes.

The tension is between abstraction, like a dream you are trying to remember, and coherent narrative. A well crafted painting does a good job of balancing the tension. My goal is to achieve this balance in a narrative form without slipping into poetry.

Bucket List, Eigth Wonder of the World, Lipica Pastures

From Peggy McGivern’s solo show ‘Beyond the Iron Curtain,’ verse by Peter Stravlo, Opening Reception March 20, 6-9pm, Abend Gallery, Colfax and York, Denver, CO. Eastern European Folk inspired music by Mark Dudrow and Chipper Thompson
http://abendgallery.com/html_shows/15-peggy-mcgivern-solo/

Bucket List
The day arrived, dawn white as her hair
Split-rail corrals, giddy soaring spirit
Manure loving
Strict anticipation
Training massive
Lipizzaner stable
Muscles stretching intimidate
Trot to cantor and walk and rein hold up not that much!
Buck and fall
Get back in the saddle wobbly legs
Post and knees and power and majesty
Exhausted smile checked off the Bucket List

Eighth Wonder of the World
As if a herd of mythic white horses gallop by, their little babies black so they cannot be missed. It can only be a child’s fantasy of the divine, their manes riding air that cannot keep up, wild eyes gazing out majestically from some heroic epic. They hug each other at full speed, not deigning to touch the earth, flanks flexing beyond any power of muscle, delicate legs that cannot possibly support such lofty expectations in perfect balance, hooves swirling with unearthly grace in a fog of childish conjuring.
The delightful image rests calmly on the eye. It must be impossible, these Lipizzans, royal steeds born black skinned turned magically white for such a vision. The Eighth Wonder of the World.

Lipica Pastures
A most unexpected pleasure
The Slovenian countryside

Invigorating a path to springtime
With imagical odors of decaying soil

Grain-gold humid and
Black as a fresh colt

Leading like a labyrinth to her bucket list
In Lipica pastures

Field Workers Cabins, Those Silly Trees, Bird Watching

From Peggy McGivern’s solo show ‘Beyond the Iron Curtain,’ verse by Peter Stravlo, Opening Reception March 20, 6-9pm, Abend Gallery, Colfax and York, Denver, CO. Eastern European Folk inspired music by Mark Dudrow and Chipper Thompson
http://abendgallery.com/html_shows/15-peggy-mcgivern-solo/

Field Workers Cabins
The field workers cabins appeared around a façade of forest, ambled in the clear-cut, curving up up and away over a denuded landscape. Gray wood planks like chicken coops, troughs sloshing with river water. Maybe there had been a fire. Only two faces revealed themselves through the windows, lined and ashen, fearful, shirtless despite the chill. We imagined a sickness, a reason to be there, to look like that. We backed up, turned around, exited the muddy ruts we came in on. Or was it our own reflection we did not want to recognize, a sickness, a reason to be there, to look like that.

Those Silly Trees
Unusual shapes are disconcerting
Tones slightly different than your comfort zone

Walking under thin branches makes you skittish
Brittle sticks swaying wide and leafless over your head

So open your eyes, your ears, let the foreign air seep into your pores
Step by step, a few blocks, pause to take in the view, reminiscent of a childhood memory

You think the dining room walls would look great in those colors
Now you are in stride

A breeze plays with the branches
Their song stuck in your head

Those Silly Trees will flourish in your backyard

Bird Watching
Why, when we learned to fly, were feathers not part of the equation?
No flapping quick quick quick or one graceful slow manipulation of air soaring the miracle of feathers into wings.
All those elongated foreheads so soft and innocent like a child you want to reach out and run your fingers.
Beaks smelling and pecking and part-time feet hopping and jumping, but not a plane bouncing rubbery to a stop.
Primary colors much deeper than that.
In awe. A-gape. Agape.
The hair on my arms stand up but I do not leave terra firma.
Birds are not communists or capitalists nor do they share our religions.
Though it is impossible to imagine them without spirit.
My balding head white calves extra chin the curve of my paunch I insist on paving the ground and still wear shoes and the miracle is; we too are the same everywhere.

Gypsy Camp, Potato Diggers, and Muddy Fields

From Peggy McGivern’s solo show ‘Beyond the Iron Curtain,’ verse by Peter Stravlo, Opening Reception March 20, 6-9pm, Abend Gallery, Colfax and York, Denver, CO. Eastern Folk inspired music by Mark Dudrow and Chipper Thompson
http://abendgallery.com/html_shows/15-peggy-mcgivern-solo/

Gypsy Camp
There is a man who thinks he knows everything, because he has everything. Gypsies clean the man’s stables and cook his meals for a pittance. Poor gypsies, he thinks, what were their lives before I came along? The man eats bland food and never indulges in wine, afraid if the gypsies realize the extent of his riches they will demand more for their labor. He convinces himself they cannot see him when, while in their camp a short distance away, singing and dancing and playing their music, bouncing their grandchildren on their knees, gorging on spicy food, drinking wine and making love, the man sneaks away to dig up his lock-box and pray over his money. But the gypsies could have stolen his money a thousand times; in fact they have taken some of it, but only what they need to eat and drink and laugh and sing and play and make love.

The Potato Diggers
It is not a burden
Rising with the sun
Digging forks into the dirt
The glances cousin Aleksandr throws our way

It is not a burden
Hoisting endlessly filled sacks
Old Mare baring her teeth each time we approach the wagon
Sister Mika being promised to the butcher

It is not a burden
Clumps the size of river pebbles clinging to our boots
Whispering where is handsome young Achilles today?
Papa watching us crossly

It is not a burden
Giggling like little girls
Old Mare testing her traces against her burden
Carrying more sacks because Mika was not in her bed this morning

It is not a burden
Grandpa snoring over the last morsel of goulash
Mending socks and sacks
Dreaming we could be so brave

Muddy Fields
He photographs a young boy and his father unhooking their wagon and harnessing a single metal plowshare to their stallion. Their women harvest earth’s precious bounty and the plow turns the soil row after row, season after season. A teenage girl in a thick skirt, her legs warm in wool and rubber boots, heaves a bulging bag onto her back, high-steps over the soft clodded earth, and pieces it into the puzzle of the wagon.
He wonders if she will stay or go. It is one thing to romanticize a way of life, to allow old timers to feel better about the way they’ve lived. But what happens when someone tears a knee ligament? Where does a parent turn when a child is born with a deformity? He struggles to remember seeing anyone in the village with a handicap.
The horse and plowman turn at the end of the row. The sun fails to shine through the clouds. He is certain; this simple, self-sustaining life will soon not be possible. They are all in this together, one big village.
The family re-harnesses the horse and somehow gets the plowshare and everyone onto the wagon. He takes another photo, checks it on the digital screen. In an attempt to capture everything he has zoomed so far away he does not recognize what he is witnessing. Maybe it is one of those scenes that needs to be a painting.
(From Peter’s novel The Age of Certainty)

Crossing the Danube, West Coast of the Black Sea, River Runs Through Onesti, Rovinj

From Peggy McGivern’s solo show at Abend Gallery, March 20, 6-9pm, Colfax and York, Denver. Verse by Peter Stravlo, Eastern European inspired folk music by Mark Dudrow and Chipper Thompson. Dracula’s Blood wine.

Crossing the Danube
Each border guard said the other would let us in, but not out.
You cannot drive here, Croatia says.
You cannot park here, Serbia says.
We thought they had settled all this with a war.

Three hours in no-man’s-land before heading to Belgrade, where scattered lights twinkle like failed constellations, a million falling star headlights racing past. We are lost.

Dawn reveals a merry-go-round of smokestacks, exhaust, oppression, overlapping signs like washed out frescoes on concrete walls. For hours it seems no stars are possible.

Exit and return, exit and return; Belgrade means roundabout in a language we do not fathom. Surely it will be no mistake, to cross the Danube into Transylvania. Can we not at least read each other’s palms?

West Coast of the Black Sea
Feel every angle of the world
Catapulted like languages
Shadows and rooflines
Between Asia and Europe

Taste salty wind
Stinging
A vulnerable cheek
Of indeterminate color

Hear waves of thought
Mingling together
Through straits
Of millennia

See Greek-marbled blue-green
Slavic-jeweled red
Gold Persian myths
Mosaic as Byzantium

Witness galleons, cruise ships, and dreadnoughts
Crashing into dachas
Tourists and religions
On the West Coast of the Black Sea

River Runs Through Onesti
Find a little boat and let us take a fairytale trip
We’ll fall out of the Cuic mountains
Down the Trotus River
Float by exotic oases of history and imagination
Open your eyes
Shhh… the beauty of places so hidden
No one but us will know

Rectangles, triangles, rhombus ribbons and almost perfect circles
Turkish and Gypsy and Greek and Magyar and Serb and Slav
Not quite white, or red or green or yellow
But blue and sienna and ochre and browns of all flavors
Shaped like the people of Ottoman bridges and Greek statues
Welcoming our flotilla of one
With plates of mittitei and pârjoale and you must have a cup of tuica
And another before we flow tipsy into the Siret and start all over again

Rovinj
We like our boundaries, right angles snapped together in overlapping simplicity along an artificial shoreline
Raw sienna and yellow-clay Legos with blue-squares and shadowy reliable passages

Solid little rooms vetted by generations
Miniature green savannahs and forests, contained in comfortable garden beds
Things we can stand on, lean against, grasp, walk around

But be careful, waves form and foam and dissipate
Like reflections in a mirror threatening to swallow, distort, reveal, wash away our beach head
We listen to rhythmic crashing, and imagine standing, leaning, grasping, walking around
As if abstract form meant permanence

Park in Zagreb, Red Bags, Motovun Wedding

From Peggy McGivern’s Beyond the Iron Curtain, verse by Peter Stravlo, Opening Reception March 20, 6-9pm, Abend Gallery, Colfax and York, Denver, CO. Eastern Folk inspired music by Mark Dudrow and Chipper Thompson

Park in Zagreb
We only had a few hours
To complete our feelings
Paint and canvas packed away
Pen and spiral temporarily satisfied

A sidewalk café
A glass of white wine
Watching a rendezvous
A cigarette smoking

The best time
To walk away from shopping
A statue of someone we have never heard of
With a pigeon on his head

Unfamiliar leaves
A bench
A bag-lady feeding pigeons
Cobblestones

Our final memory
Park in Zagreb
Where errands lose their purpose
And a cloud plays hide-and-seek with the light

Red Bags

She never minds walking
With a few friendly gestures

It is not that far
Across the cobbles

Up the hill
Dodging lorries

Waving at uniformed children
The occasional cup of tea

And conversation
Better than television

Wedding in Motovun
Ancient stone walls brittle and worn
Tender new buds on every tree
Dancing heels echo in the carefree village
To music so traditional it cannot possibly sound the same
Her virgin face demurs behind the veil
Following steps of countless ancestors
To a Wedding in Motovun

Milk Delivery, Chicken Feed, and New Laying Hen

From Peggy McGivern’s Beyond the Iron Curtain, verse by Peter Stravlo, Opening Reception March 20, 6-9pm, Abend Gallery, Colfax and York, Denver, CO. Eastern Folk inspired music by Mark Dudrow and Chipper Thompson

Milk Delivery
Wagon rolling on truck tires
Traces of nostalgia
Mother’s milk at your doorstep
The oldest profession

Personalized service
Hand hewn more collectible
Stonewalling for generations
Offspring replenishing

Hands are a unit of measurement
Distance a measurement of time
Progress a unit of distance
Time a measurement of progress

‘If I were a rich man,’ from Fiddler on the Roof

Peggy recently re-worked Milk Delivery. The image is essentially the same, but she was never happy with the tone of the colors, and I believe she now feels the pallet is truer to her vision. I always loved this piece, it was hanging in our Taos house. I hope it doesn’t sell.

Chicken Feed
It does not cost much to make a game of it, this serious business of feeding
Skip like chicks playing Follow the Leader
Sing the rhythmic pecking of Ring-Around-the-Rosie
Fling Chicken Feed from cockscombed fingers like a magician conjuring money out of thin air
Simon Says cockle-doodle-doo
We all fall down

New Laying Hen
More than a distant cousin having a new baby I love it when Mama has that wrinkled grin. Make sure the coop is warm, it says, and I will bake you a loaf of bread, one that tickles your nose before you open the door. My favorite is fresh yokes sitting high and rounder than a haystack, the whites like a clear skinned girl sizzling in the pan. Maybe in a few weeks Mama will surprise me with a new pair of shoes bought with money from the eggs.

Coming Into Transylvania; Those Silly Trees; Romanian Haystacks

From Peggy McGivern’s Beyond the Iron Curtain, verse by Peter Stravlo, Opening Reception March 20, 5-8pm, Abend Gallery, Colfax and York, Denver, CO. Eastern Folk inspired music by Mark Dudrow and Chipper Thomps

Coming into Transylvania
Tulip heads mounted on trunks of trees
Like vampires in a wagon of novel
Ideas darkening the road
For tourists seeking an infamous castle
In the depths of titillating fears
Where three seductive sister brides drink the blood
Of our gypsy imagination
24 x 48“, Oil

Those Silly Trees
Unusual shapes are disconcerting
Tones slightly different than your comfort zone
Walking under thin branches makes you skittish
Brittle sticks swaying wide and leafless over your head
So open your eyes, your ears, let the foreign air seep into your pores
Step by step, a few blocks, pause to take in the view, reminiscent of a childhood memory
You think the dining room walls would look great in those colors
Now you are in stride
A breeze plays with the branches
Their song stuck in your head
Those Silly Trees will flourish in your backyard

Romanian Haystacks
I want to lose myself in the billowing white clouds, how easy it should be they call to me so.
Scramble up haystacks like a child- surely I do not weigh too much in my imagination- into fairytale
golden-straw towers hosting dreamy trampoline slumber parties overlooking the promised land-scape
so perfect it must be real, with gingerbread houses and sugar-tree cookies and sailboats swimming in
the sky, roller-coaster buggies drawn by merry-go-round horses through almond tasting wind laughing
a meringue patchwork never daring to go gray.