CJanuary 17, 1969
Highland Plantation, Maine
Here is a quiz for you: a list of islands and ports in the Pacific that you might’ve seen during the war. Please circle places you’ve been and add those I missed and send it back to me. I then will take the list and learn as much as I can about the places you saw. I have a friend who is a sailor who may be able to give me current information. You never talked about your experiences during the war, and I don’t expect you will, but I want to fill in the blanks. Knowing that I’m more interested in geography and people than fighting hopefully will make participating easier for you. I now find myself with time on my hands.
1. Mariana Islands
II. Solomon Islands
1. Shortland Island
III. New Guinea
1. Port Moresby
IV. The Philippines
V. Other Places
3. Batavia (Jakarta)
Note: My friend has written to me about Singapore, Malacca, Batavia (Jakarta), and Bengkulu, which is why I included them. .
I don’t expect you to know all these places: the list is only a starting point. I don’t know much about the war, so I pulled out an old Atlas and took it from there. Your help is deeply appreciated. Your son, Tom
January 17, 1969
Highland Plantation, Maine
I feel ambitious tonight. Hence this letter. I surprised myself yesterday and snow-shoed all morning. I’m amazed at my endurance. Sarah wanted to take out our snow machine, but I didn’t trust it. I mean I don’t trust myself. I could see us breaking down… I trust Sarah, but I don’t trust myself, so I chose to snowshoe instead. From this you need not suppose that I’m insensitive to Sarah (or her mother); they have been my rock, and I continually rely on them. I’m not blessed with self-assurance that you and dad have, and what everyone should have, and hopefully my offspring won’t be like me (if we’re fortunate to have children). Why I’m not mechanical like dad remains a mystery. It bothers me, and I often think about it. It’s unfair, but I know I shouldn’t fret over it. I can hear you lecturing me, “son, there are many talents, and the world would be a mess if we all had the same ones.” I wonder if you and dad will ever accept me as I am. I’m not handy with my hands, and I’m … not handy with my hands. Fixing a snow machine is out of the question for me and is but one example that I’m faced with everyday here. Yes, I’m afraid to try, afraid I’ll screw up and won’t be able to put the darn machine back together again, whereas for dad it wouldn’t be a big deal. He can fix anything. I thought maybe working at a gas station…a gas station other than Dad’s…would cure it, or fix me. But no! Enough! I’ve worn my self out. Your son, Tom
January 18, 1969
Mom, forgive me for rambling. It may sound like I’ve sorted things out, and I have to an extent. However I’m still struggling. It’s not clear to me why it’s so difficult for me to get my head straight; but there must be answers somewhere, however I’ve never been able to wait. I know what you’d say. You’d have me pray about it. Meanwhile life goes on. Do you know that you and dad amaze me? It’s true.
I regret how I’ve mistreated you and dad over the past couple of years; and I think about it from time to time, especially now. I’m glad you like Sarah. I can’t tell you what a change it is for me. I’m blessed. May God bless our union, and may we have a happy, long life together. I send you both my love … all my love except what I keep for Sarah. Your son, Tom
Yes, Sam was a shadowy figure. He was a member of a secret world, and the extent of this network in Asia was amazing. Not to know what he did was par for the course; officially it was like he didn’t exist, and Sam might not be his real name. It was around this time that Tom lost track of Sam and never knew what happened.
During the many years of this war, many people on both sides lost their lives while the deaths of people like Sam were never acknowledged. Deaths, indeed, were numerous during this critical time, and all of them didn’t take place on the battlefield. So Sam played a deadly game and may have lost.
January 20, 1969
Highland Plantation, Maine
My mood is not what it should be. After experiencing a high over the holidays, I’ve hit bottom … bottom … and I haven’t been able to climb out of the hole. I don’t know what’s wrong. Sarah has noticed it and has tried to cheer me up. And her mother these last few days has insisted that I drink St. John’s Wort tea, while she stresses that it’ll take time for it to work. But I’m determined to beat this on my own. To tell you the truth I’m not sure how long I can stay here. I’ve been thinking, and since we’re best friends, I believe I can trust you with my thoughts. I don’t want to unnecessarily worry anyone, and telling people about my wanderlust would do it. I’m most afraid that I’ll lose what spontaneity I have; and I don’t know what else. Or maybe I do. There is something inside me, in my blood perhaps, that bugs me yet it seems essential and that is I’m never satisfied.
I purposely did myself in. I feel sorry for Sarah. I led her along, and I alternate between showing her affection and totally ignoring her. I can be brutally cynical and indifferent, and yesterday I didn’t leave the attic except to go to the bathroom. I can’t blame Sarah or her mother. They’re kind to me. I can’t blame anyone but myself. I know depression. I know depression can be dangerous, especially with hopelessness. I suffer from cabin fever; it hasn’t gotten above zero in weeks, and we can have snow through May. And Sarah doesn’t complain. But I do a great deal, and I know it upsets her. I think it would help if I got out more (I enjoy snowshoeing), but it’s so damn cold. It’s too damn cold. Where is the Indian summer everyone talks about? Perhaps if I were to walk out, Sarah and her mother would be better off, I suppose, yet I’m not sure. So much for that idea. Let’s hope St. John’s Wort tea works.
It makes sense that you would go back to San Francisco. Sam and I…pardon me, have I written to you about Sam? You’ll have to meet him … except I haven’t heard from Sam recently. “I’m never satisfied.” Two weeks in San Francisco couldn’t cure me, and with someone I loved to be with … Okay, I admit I fell for Sam, as much as I’ve fallen for anyone … crying out as a hurt child, I admit that I was attracted to him, and it was beautiful. He was gentle and kind and funny. I see, the attraction is just as strong now as it was then, and by golly, I feel the same way when I think of you. God! I know that I shouldn’t admit it. Now you’ll think that I’m … I’m terrible. I miss Sam.
I was struck as much as you were with the openness of San Francisco … in some ways it was shocking. I recommend the Cliff house and the sunsets from there. Share it with someone, if you can.
I wasn’t going to spend the rest of the day here in the attic vegetating. I don’t think St. John’s Wort works. I’m glad I can be honest with you. I know my own depression better than anyone else; it’s not fatal, I’m sure of it. Yet if I could only see you, I believe I could be myself again. It’s not like I haven’t reached out because I have. I write letters almost constantly, but I’m rarely honest. Consider yourself lucky, and thank you for your letters. I know you have a lot on your mind. I hope something hasn’t happened to Sam. But please stay in touch. Your affectionate friend, Shakes Spear
The effect of reading your letter on me was better than St. John’s Wort tea. Though your letter made me happy and peaceful, it also left me sad; but I can live with such sadness.
Sarah sends her love.
By then Tom had told Sarah about Eddie.
Eddy left Crater Lake in January while he still enjoyed snow. He took in the red wood trees along the coast before he returned to San Francisco.
In January 1969, Richard Nixon became the President of the United States vowing to bring an honorable peace to Vietnam. “An honorable peace,” indeed, was still far off. Chemistry for it wasn’t yet right, as the Paris Peace Conference opened with the U.S., South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the Viet Cong in attendance.
And the cause they were sacrificing for? There was no obvious starting point or ending to the war. And there was a great deal more to it than men and women who fought in it ever knew; it was rather a mess, during which the Americans compared the spread of communism to the spread of a contagious disease. All right then: why should the boys care when their lives were on the line?
January 20, 1969 … cabin cuckoo … woods-nutty…
January 21, 1969
Highland Plantation, Maine
Mr. Dear Sam,
I’m stuck up here in Maine, where it feels very cold again. Sarah doesn’t seem to mind it, but I’m not so sure. I sadly don’t know how she feels. How do you ever know? It seems to me that she thrives on winter; the darker and colder it gets the more she likes it. She now gets out of bed before the sun is up; she acts like she’s going on a great adventure, but of course she’s not. Kingfield is as far as I go these days, and my idea of excitement is a cozy evening spent by the fire. Yesterday Sarah brought home a carton of Carrabassett Winter Ale and some Carrabassett Winter soap, and ran me a nice warm bath. The bath with Ceadarwood and Siberian Fir scented soap and strong English ale lasted until the water started getting cold, and then Sarah brought me my warm winter robe. You can see how well I’m taken care of. So where does this leave me? You tell me. I certainly don’t know. But meanwhile I need to be civil, civil above all to my wife to whom I’ve made a commitment … forever more. So I now concentrate on one thing and that’s how to keep my socks dry and my feet from freezing, which isn’t easy; but I know not to go outside without felt liners in my boots, except then my feet sweat. So you see the problem, and without dry socks I’m miserable. I’m waiting, meanwhile, for the January thaw that they say will come. We’ll see.
I haven’t heard from you in a while; but then I didn’t expect you to write me every day. The last I heard you were in Thailand, where it seems like you go quite often. You don’t seem to hate it, or as if you’re playing it safe, but I only know what you’ve written to me.
Sam sent Tom postcards of the Emerald Buddha and the front of the temple housing it. Under the pretext of neutrality the Americans set up air and ground operations in Laos. They did it in order to counter the Communist, but the Geneva Convention Accords (signed by U.S) made this illegal. The CIA with Airforce Commandos got the job. Sam volunteered and would have to live with the consequences.
It got very confusing at times. Sam realized that he couldn’t be there in any “official” capacity; hence he could be shot as a spy. He always wore civilian clothing and carried a bogus passport. In a letter during this time, he said he was willing to be disowned by his country.
February 12, 1969
Highland Plantation, Maine
Dear Mr. Watson,
I hope, then, to hear from you. If not before spring, then sometime during the summer, and perhaps you’ll consider vacationing in Maine.
And now let me bring you up to speed. I’m no longer trying to be the next Whitman. LEAVES OF GRASS is however a wonderful work. “I love him though I don’t know him.” Chapter II for me has to be Thoreau. Yes, Henry David wandering around the Maine Woods. He came here three times, and I can follow in his footstep if I want to. Chapter III past and present here in Highland Plantation … a little Thoreau and a little Whitman … some of it is good but judge for yourself. I’ve enclosed a copy of my latest chapbook. Chapter IV. HOWL. “Who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy”…I’d hate for anyone to know how close to home this hits. Chapter V. It isn’t written yet. But I must not tell you what I’m thinking. I’m thinking it will be my first honest effort, but I know that getting completely away from Ginsberg, Thoreau, and Whitman will be hard for me. I also owe you a lot. And to Maine, where I live. And to Sarah my wife. You see I’ve started Chapter V. And if I like it, I’ll never look at the other chapters. I’ll have to rewrite it, because like you told me poems are not written, but are rewritten.
I’m clearly suffering from a disease called cabin cuckoo (or woods-nutty); that’s why I’ve thought about going back to school. If I do, which I probably won’t, maybe I won’t feel so trapped. Nice thought. There is an academy nearby, and I like their philosophy. They believe in developing equally the body, mind, and spirit. Body, mind, and spirit … no one should argue with that; even someone like me, who has basically lived all winter a sedentary life. It would mean I’d have to get up early and drive a fair distance, but right now we only own one vehicle.
I’ve never asked you what you think of HOWL. Since you teach high school, you might not be able to introduce Ginsberg to your students, teach high school in Texas; but believe me, your students may be more enlightened and sophisticated than you think. Glad you’re still teaching. The world needs more teachers like you. Yours truly, Tom
Cabin cuckoo (or woods-nutty) is specifically a Maine disease.
Mr. Watson appreciated Allen Ginsberg, and if he thought he could get away with it, he would introduce his students to the poet’s work. “Tom, you’re right about him,” he wrote. “But you don’t know complaints I got when I first introduced Whitman. The poets are similar in many ways. And I’m not just talking about their homosexuality.”
To address a few things. I didn’t mean to sound so despondent. I’m not. Sarah has told me I need to take responsibility for my moods. Isn’t she right? Tell me what you think. She says that I can talk myself out of a bad mood. And as for keeping my socks dry and my feet warm, it’s not as big a problem as I made it out to be. I love to complain, and I complain a lot. The biggest disasters I’ve experienced have been my most memorable times. This from someone who would do anything to avoid pain! I’ve had to wait all day in the rain for a ride that never came. And I nearly froze to death, and you know how much I hate freezing.
I want to thank you for your comments about my work. It was just what I wanted to hear. Writing without feedback is next to impossible. The thing I fear most is that my writing will not improve. How can I judge? How can I know? It’s impossible.
I hope you are well, and that you’re enjoying life. Have you decided where you’re going next? How’s your novel coming along? I would like to know, though I know I can’t influence you. I was sure you’d stay in San Francisco longer than you did, but what right do I have to say anything when … when I had a chance, I didn’t stay in San Francisco very long.
Several of the passages you objected to, I agree, were pretentious, and so I’ll cut them. And as for the two titles you don’t like, I don’t like them either. I’m now willing to trash whole poems when they’re dishonest. Words are no longer precious to me, though I know words can kill. Goodness, it’s taking a long time to learn to write. Shakes Spear
February 20, 1969
Winter is winter, the war is war, and besides that life goes on, sir.
The chickadees are still coming to our birdfeeder. I’m afraid they’ve become dependent on us.
Carrabassett Valley is beautiful this time of year, but you’d have to be here to appreciate it. Good Lord!
The highways are plowed so we can get to town whenever we need to.
It’s overcast more days than not which leads to sun worshiping.
I’m told spring will come. Hallelujah.
We will all welcome you when you come. Sam, why don’t you write?
Sam, You’re witnessing my intellectual demise.
And Sport … Nothing’s left of me but a shell. Nothing! This at least shows I’m trying to express myself. It shows thought and sweat. Represents an hour or so of thought and sweat. I hate people who suggest that I have talent. Obviously there’s no such thing. Obviously there is no such thing as talent. Obviously, they are wrong.
Information about Carrabasset Valley comes to you from developers of the ski resort (or possibly the Chamber of Commerce of Kingfield).
Postcard to Eddie Newman
Postmark February 21, 1969
This allows you to see our beautiful valley without you having to come here. Fishing the Carrabassett Valley, Maine. This area is located near Rangely Lakes, Stratton, Eustis, and Kingfield, Maine. I look forward to seeing you. Tom Hayes
On February 20, Tom sent another one of his chapbooks to Ferlinghetti. It was one of a series with poems about Maine. Tom also thought about creating a series of postcards to show off the beauty of the Carrabassett Valley. If he did he would have to take up photography. The postcard he sent to Eddie didn’t really suit Tom.
Tom looked for a camera in Kingfield. He didn’t get very far because of a poor selection and because he didn’t know about cameras. Even back then, Kingfield was becoming commercialized. When Tom went to buy a camera there, he came out of Tranten’s General Store empty-handed. He still wasn’t disappointed, and it was a reflection of why people wanted to live in the small town. He explained: “Kingfield is prospering from an influx of people from far away. For the most part everyone is congenial, and if the trend continues, and I see no reason why it wont, the town will continue to be the ideal place to live.” In contrast, Tom seemed sadly weak, easily tired, and generally in a bad mood. Most evenings he sat in the attic in front of his typewriter. And Sarah usually didn’t see him after breakfast until the evening when he came down to dinner. He thought Sarah was very kind not to bother him and to have accepted that he wasn’t bringing in any money.
March 2, 1969
Highland Plantation, Maine
For the first time in life I know what I’m doing. I’ve finished a major work (for me), and more works are on the way, but for once I’m not sweating it. For the first time in my life I’m purely letting it happen. I sent Ferlinghetti a copy of my latest chapbook, but I don’t expect a response.
I know I won’t be totally happy here until I’ve embraced winter. You’ll be surprised to learn that I’ve bought a camera and a stack of magazines about photography. I intend to learn as much as I can on my own, but like anything else I know it will take time and lots of practice to be any good. The real test will come later when I’m bored with photography and haven’t sold any postcards (just as I haven’t sold any poems). I plan to illustrate my poetry with pictures I’ve taken, or vise versa- write poems that fit my pictures, and use pictures and poems to create a line of postcards, and somehow make money. Making money is a real challenge. Now that’s what I’m up to, damn it! A couple of postcards later and I’ve been pleased with the results (I’ve always been result oriented). The trouble is I don’t have a darkroom, which means trips to Kingfield and I have to rely on someone else- a photographer without a darkroom is like a writer without paper. But persistence will pay off.
Another day. And I’ve taken a break from writing and have been tramping around in snow with my camera. And Sarah approved, and her mother was totally surprised. It’s quite rewarding and fun. What I’m always looking for is the best shot. But what I never know is where I’ll find inspiration: from words or shots. For now I rely on instinct. I hope I’m not boring you.
Maine photos I’ve taken. New snow. Maine winter brook 1. Maine winter brook 2. A winter marsh. March snowy woods. Snow covered dirt road. Rock in the snowy woods. Maine winter brook. Pines in a frame. Culvert in March. Pool in the woods. New snow pond. New snow path. New snow marsh. Snow clear road. That’s all for now. How am I doing? My focus, as you can see, is on snow. If I can embrace snow and get use to cold, I’m almost home, and besides I don’t have a choice, do I? Not since Sam and you abandoned me. I haven’t heard from Sam, and any mention of him drives me mad. I hoped nothing has happened to him. Sam is beautiful Sport, just as you are special. Still a poem a day, and now my photography; and I’ll have to sell a few postcards to impress Sarah and her mother. Then they won’t be able to complain, though I suppose they will. It seems like I have a knack for photography. We’ll see. No sweat. Easy now. The only difficult thing is how to turn it into a profitable business. I don’t intend to get rich, but every little bit helps. I’m playing it by ear. Shake Spear Photographer par excellence