Last Friday I was interviewed by Fionn Davenport, a travel and culture writer for RTÉ Radio 1 from Dublin. I had been told that Fionn wanted to ask me how working in the Marion Davies Guest House had influenced my work. In thinking about this question, my first thought was of the ocean, which has been my constant companion from the beginning. In the first week, I must have taken snapshots of the riotous sunset every single day from the upstairs veranda, and I am still working on a poem called "The Ocean Next Door," which is how it feels to have the sea as my neighbor.
When thinking about this question more broadly, however, I was drawn to consider the history of the house and site itself and how it feels to work here—how the entire property was originally built by William Randolph Hearst, the adventurous publishing magnate, for his beloved Marion Davies, the beautiful young actress, and how the couple made this place into a site of love and play. Is it mere coincidence that I am writing a chapbook of love poems and that poetry itself emerges out of the "will to play" as Octavio Paz once put it? It all fits.
As the radio interview came to a close, I decided to read aloud the following poem, which mentions both the house and the ocean. It's a poem that reminds me not to count my remaining days here as fleeting but rather as precious, and to know that I will always have them by virtue of what I have seen, felt, and written here.
We’ve been apart for two months now,with one month and two days to go,But you told me not to count, so here I amnot counting the skinny palm treesOn my way to the beach house—a short trip,not counting stoplights.I am not counting the steps on the staircaseor squares in the gray tartan carpet—Not counting the choppy waves slamminginto the sand, which I could count all day.I am surely not counting the size of the crowdat the president’s inauguration orHow many more of us marched against himin next day’s demonstration.Not counting on the dollars in my wallet,dollars in the bank, gallons of gas in my gas tank.Count on me not to count syllables in this lineor this one, or lines on the page,Or the 2,461 miles between us at this stage.I am relying on the revolution of the planetto bring us that long-anticipated sunriseWhen the whole length of your bodyis stretched out next to mine—But who’s counting? Certainly not I.