Frankie completes a 14″ x 20” drawing in marker and crayon. I tape it up on a wall in the living room. Sitting with it brings me joy.
The Greek word phantázein means “to make visible” or “present to the mind.” Art is the outward manifestation of this process, this power of forming mental representations of things not present to the senses.
Frankie has been a consistent source of light amid this darkness. Upon waking from her nap yesterday, she asked to go to “Dada’s House,” with “house” sounding a bit like “horse.” Why have I been inattentive to her here in these trance-scripts? She likes Dada’s House. She requests that we go there, cries if we don’t. Cats; playgrounds. Beautiful tall houses ‘round a bend. What’s not to like? Perhaps tomorrow we can embark on a stroller ride ‘round town. Time to stop ruminating. “Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy,” sing The Tams.
By nightfall, my sentiments align with a line from Chance the Rapper’s “Blessings”: “When the praises go up,” he sings, “the blessings come down.” Blessings make us feel, make us like as they land in our lap. Let us ready ourselves with praise.
Time to communicate lovingly, share the love out on the streets, hang with neighbors, chat with artists, bond through shared love of Buffalo Poetics and Black Mountain College. I feel like a lightning bug: if not a social butterfly, still a giver of gifts. 2022 will be a Lovers Year. Right now, though, I feel a bit crushed. Hurt. Heartbroken. Awaiting something beyond silence — some new adventure. For tonight I feel apart from the life I imagined. The narrative coordinates that have held are about to change, thinks the Time Traveler, scalp pricked and hands stigmata’d by impetigo. The hope is that love will prevail. And it does, it does, as soon as I listen to the record of the year: Moor Mother’s Black Encyclopedia of the Air.
Adjusting to the work regime, hours clocked responding to emails, the subject muses upon what it means to be “COLLEGE RULED,” the phrase atop his notebook. One would rather dwell among gyres, vortices / brightly drawn in chalk. Gazing into one, I dream of fugitive study: texts read and discussed in the secret gatherings of an Undercommons. I read poems and hear them as they speak to me, their voices flitting about, “quick-winged / with women’s faces” (4), as in poet Alice Oswald’s Nobody. “It’s not all about you, Dad,” they say with a touch of vocal-fry (as do the rich college girls in Mike White’s HBO miniseries The White Lotus). “It’s time to recenter the narrative.”
Grieving as I wander in sadness amid old records in my basement, or, while kneeling, I collect Crayola crayons and plastic mixers off the dining room floor. Frankie enjoys tossing these from boxes and jars. She also likes to make us pick up after her with her sippy cups. These she chucks from her high chair, big grin on her face, squealing with delight. I listen to Charlie Parker’s The Verve Years (1950-51) in the basement after she falls asleep. This has been my pattern of late. While listening, I read statements by a group called The Unseen Hand. On their website, the group offers retreats for those in need of its care. “The Songs of Creation,” they write, “are to humans what migration pathways are to monarchs or whales, warblers or the continents. They return us to true: true sound, true north, the position of prayer.” The group seems to be the work of alchemist-acupuncturist Laura Clarke Stelmok. Her words appear on the liner notes to Battle Trance’s Blade of Love, an album of tenor saxophones as opposed to Parker’s alto. Searching the stacks, I happen upon Jan Hammer’s The First Seven Days. I awaken to the album’s mid-1970s synthesizer wizardry by about Day 3, amid a track called “Oceans and Continents.”
Bored by what follows, though, I wander off into the stacks and peek at Kenneth Burke’s Language as Symbolic Action, interest piqued by the latter’s chapter on “Kubla Khan.”
Toward evening I retire to the yard and sit beside a fire. The fire brightens as the sky darkens. Crickets and cicadas trade rhythms. Beside them ride the sonic traces of cars along the nearby autobahn. From the sky above comes and goes the sound of a helicopter. Sarah and I burn dry branches of rosemary. As night falls, I pull my chair closer to the fire and admire its warmth. The heat relaxes me. Afterwards I sit beside Frankie as she plays at her music table in the living room, awake a bit past her bedtime.
She’s growing quickly. She’s active, inquisitive, communicative, discerning. We hang out. We go for walks. We return home to home cooking and mother’s breast. The household looms large around the edges of each day. I come home from walks eyes heavy with pollen. Allergy season. I’m interested to see what students do with this week’s readings: texts by Abbie Hoffman and John Sinclair. I dig in and learn about Abbie’s friendship with Allen Ginsberg. The two writers admired each other’s work. Ginsberg influenced Yippie politics and Hoffman’s brand of revolutionary political theater through a piece he wrote called “Demonstration or Spectacle as Example, As Communication.” (Abbie’s archives are available, by the way, at University of Texas at Austin.)
A geodesic dome hangs from the double arched ceiling of the vibrant village. A child reaches up and grabs it, takes hold. The arches of the ceiling bounce gently each time she pulls. That was a few days ago. Today it’s azaleas, cottonwoods, dogwoods out and about, about to open up, baby laughing, all of us laughing: “She’s a beauty!” Spring is everywhere, profuse. Dandelions, clovers. Thick green moss. Amazing diffuse diverse sprouts of life.
Out of dictated necessity one opens portals into alternative realms of possibility. The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu calls out to me, appears to me a book worth reading — though I await a translation that speaks to me as do birds with their songs. F. is now three months old and the world, the totality — it “adjusts” and we adjust with it, hoping through acts of care to re-establish right relations with others.
We bounce, you and I, you draped Sphinx-like across my chest, beside books like The Streams of Consciousness and Expanding Dimensions of Consciousness. I think about the career of Ray “Raghunath” Cappo: from lead singer of NY straightedge hardcore band Youth of Today to yoga teacher, jiu-jitsu fighter, and Hare Krishna monk. Ray’s lyrics for Youth of Today connected with me for a time as a teen. Some projection, I suppose, of a path I sought. Tough-guy jock masculinity refashioned via Eastern spirituality. Whereas nowadays I prefer to listen to “Hallogallo” by NEU!