Newport Beach in Hindsight

“Here I am again, in this next memory,” says the Narrator. “On the beach. Only this time, it’s a new one: Newport Beach, site of my brother’s bachelor party. Imagine me in dialogue, in a sense, with the one who was there.”

Spacetime shifts here as the character reenters the memory.

***

“Well, what’ll it be?” wonders the Traveler. “If spacetime is reducible to a game of multidimensional correspondence chess, then what’s our next move?”

Rising in the sky above him there at the beach house, the new moon in Leo provides the Traveler a chance to ask questions. He communes with the moon, engaging it in silent dialogue, and sets his intentions for the months ahead.

A ghostly third figure joins him in the course of the evening. It shimmers into being like a hazy wonder there amid the rocks and the waves, and in so doing, intervenes in the Traveler’s thoughts. “Let us be careful what we wish for,” warns the Ghost, “as this is a powerful, wish-granting lunar cycle.”

***

“Warning taken, it was with great care that I made that wish,” interjects the Narrator from the future. “And in retrospect, I regret nothing.”

“Come sunrise, in fact,” remembers the Narrator, “and a commune of sorts assembled itself down near the shore. Members set out mats and, posing silently amid squawking seabirds, practiced yoga on the beach as I wrote.”

The Structure of the Device

It’s an odd thing, this device, is it not? With its levers, it’s like a clock or a timepiece. Spun or turned, the levers grant the Traveler safe passage through forthcoming years as counted by Western calendars. The future is reified, captured in a count by an imaginal technology that converts time into a measurable dimension.

Wells’s Traveler assumes in the very structure of his time machine an imperial temporality: the Western linear temporal orientation, with its obedience to “the Master’s Clock.”

But for more recent Travelers, especially people of color, travel is undertaken not so much in obedience to the clock as in exodus from its dictates. Travelers consult stars and return to sidereal time. Or they create music. They keep time with drums rather than clocks. As Moor Mother notes, “Music created by Black people has been used throughout time and across space as an agent of time and memory” (Black Quantum Futurism: Theory & Practice, p. 9). She and the other members of the Black Quantum Futurism Collective take this longstanding practice a step further, their self-professed goal being “to collapse space-time into a desired future.” Tracks of theirs are self-creating, self-causing sound-events from the future made to happen in the minds and bodies of those who listen.

“Like the flapping of a black wing”

I record a voice memo, pleased as I am with the wordless sounds of cicadas and a niece playing with water in a toy sink in my in-laws’ backyard. Mood alters, though; weight returns the moment I consult Facebook. The latter brings upon its users an atmosphere of bad feeling. “Glunk” goes the sense-board. My father-in-law cooks up delicious pastrami sandwiches (red onions, pickles, provolone stacked on kummelweck rolls, the latter a regional specialty here in Western New York). Mood enhanced, I utter thanks to the chef. Eyes closed, I open them again onto Wells’s The Time Machine. The Time Traveler sees the Dreamachine flicker of day’s interchange with night “like the flapping of a black wing” (18). Days flicker past in much the same way here, as one scrolls through these Trance-Scripts. Take comfort, though, reader: for as the Traveler explains to those caught up in his journey, this unpleasantness of moving “solstice to solstice” merges at last into “a kind of hysterical exhilaration” (Wells 19).

Pickings

I’ve been purchasing books, expanding the library with pickings from used bookstores. I step away midday and peruse the shelves at Small World Books in Rochester. 30% off everything in the store, so I come away with quite a stack. Christian Bök’s ‘Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science, Henri Michaux’s Miserable Miracle, Ishmael Reed’s Chattanooga, William S. Burroughs’s The Western Lands. Robin Wall Kimmerer reads to me “A Mother’s Work” from her book Braiding Sweetgrass as I drive. Ponds and lakes can be made swimmable again in our lifetimes if we attend to them. Let circles of care widen to take in all.

The Bird Song

I receive the gift of a solitary afternoon at Durant-Eastman Beach in Rochester, NY on the south shore of Lake Ontario. The stretch of beach across from where I park is closed, so I walk to the right toward an anchored sailboat. Along the way, I discover a seagull lying dead in the sand. I hesitate for a moment upon sight of it, and in this act of hesitation offer it my condolences. Giving it wide berth, I continue on my way. A dune buggy crawls past and retrieves the bird soon thereafter. Setting myself down into a beach chair, I stare out toward the horizon and long and pine for an unknown unknown. Desire’s many-tendrilled, dendritic — stopped only by awkwardness on account of fear. Speaking of fear: pitbulls on leashes get in scuffles mere feet from my feet. Female owners yank at the leashes until, calmed of whatever caused them to behave as they did, the dogs are allowed to lay together again in peace. Waves crashing I give listen to Muhal Richard Abrams’s Levels and Degrees of Light (1968).

There it is, as if in answer to my ministrations: “The Bird Song.” Lauren Berlant & Kathleen Stewart recommend it in their book The Hundreds. The authors collaborate through “hundred-word units or units of hundred multiples” (ix). The form of their book emerged through obedience to this capacious, generative constraint. Words set toward description of affect-events through scanning of object-worlds for vibrant tableaux. I feel adjacency to this form. “Everyone has their own version,” they write, “of the glimpse of a long-forgotten realm of possibility suddenly intruding into the real like a splice of light captured in a photograph” (9).

Birthplace of the Iroquois Confederacy

Syracuse is a place with a rich and storied past. The Iroquois Confederacy was founded here at Onondaga “some time about the middle of the fifteenth century,” as Paul Wallace tells us in White Roots of Peace: The Iroquois Book of Life. I find Wallace’s book on a shelf in the city’s four-story Antiques Exchange: one of innumerable structures and forms by which the city retains its history.

Driving a car is already a form of time travel — but ’tis especially so in Syracuse. Multiple eras coexist amid the beauty and dilapidation of major city thoroughfares like Salina Street. Sitting now on a sleeping bag in a tent, I read of the Five and Six Nations and the Constitution of the Haudenosaunee. Wallace recognizes the resulting Iroquois Confederacy as “a model for, and an incentive to, the transformation of the thirteen colonies into the United States of America” (19). Other scholars contest some of Wallace’s claims, suggesting that the ratification occurred further west (near what is today Victor, NY). These are stories told among Indigenous people, passed on to white anthropologists like Wallace: tales retold in the tongue of the settler. One understands that much is lost in translation. Time travel is an imaginal practice, not a science. The Great Peacemaker Deganawidah appears in Wallace’s account as a miraculous figure comparable to Christ and Buddha. “I come from the west and I go toward the sunrise,” he tells those he encounters. “I carry the Mind of the Master of Life, and my message will bring an end to the wars between east and west” (38-39).

Westcott Nation

The phrase “Lady and the Tramp,” like the title of the Disney film, sung to the tune of “Bennie & the Jets”: such is how I begin my morning. I wake to a lovely quiet hour in the tent, sun rising in front of me. There’s a conversation among crows in those trees there — the ones beside which I slept. It’s good to be back in Syracuse, camped in my sister-in-law’s backyard, listening to crickets and birds, music discernible from the park across the street here in Westcott Nation, a sister nation of sorts to the nearby Onondaga Territory. The Westcott’s persistence gives me comfort. To know better where we are, let us listen to Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. Kimmerer’s book has me wanting to enter into caring relation with the pecan trees in my yard — indeed, makes me want to honor all beings, including those crows parked in the branches above my tent. Geese, too — like those in the story of Skywoman. Kimmerer shares this tale: the great Potawatomi creation story. “Skywoman Falling” will pair well with texts I teach this fall, thinks the Traveler as he reads. We have been given this gift. Let us share it with others. Let us fit it in at semester’s end. Let it resonate with Silko’s Ceremony and Snyder’s Turtle Island and Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Kimmerer’s cosmology “places” all of the others. Skywoman transmits “original instructions,” tells us where we are, how we got here. It suggests as well what ought to be done. It sets us within cyclings of a vast cosmic gift economy: one that conceives and receives numberless generations of Skywoman’s daughters — for Skywoman is the Great Mother, bearing life despite the story of her fall.

Pyramids, Hideaways, and Hollows

It rains through the night, but we stay dry in our tent. I sleep comfortably and wake to a world of sound. Daddy long-legs spiders gather in the dry space between the breathable net of the tent’s roof and the tarp above. Breakfast is delicious: pancakes, sausage, Canadian bacon, maple syrup, bread made with cardamom and dates, purchased the morning prior by the author’s aunt and uncle from a farmer’s market in Bolton Landing. Tent goes tie-dye with the addition of a blue tarp. I reflect for a time on the pyramidal symbology of my surroundings: zippers, seams, poles all tending toward apex as we await windows of sunlight. Respite from the rain. Camping educates desire. In my case, it teaches me the value of nooks, coves, hideaways. My nephews lead me to a hollow formed beneath the roots of a tree, down near the edge of the lake. “Bookmark it, note it down, save it for later,” thinks the time traveler. “The image may be of use to us elsewhere in our journey.” News arrives soon thereafter: another inch or two of rain expected in the night ahead.

Under the Dome

Camping: a play starring mother, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephews, aunts and uncles, Sarah and Frankie. Air mattress craps out, so Sarah drives into town to purchase another. I stay behind at the camp, in a camp chair beside Frankie as she naps. Sister orders pizza; brother-in-law and uncle handle boat and jet-ski. Domed tents go up amid leafy profusion: Coleman, Ozark Trail. ‘Tis the universe of Sears-Roebuck, L.L. Bean, and Whole Earth Catalog: temporary tools and architectures. But beside each tent sits a car, where in earlier times would have stood a horse. Nothing here is as I wish. No wisdom, no gnosis. No silence, no solace. No love ’til I sit with trees. Is the time travel narrative’s hero the one who stays or the one who goes?

In, But Not Of

Seagull flies low, peruses the scene along the shore, horizon obscured by fog. Others follow, seeking edibles amid grains of sand. Beachgoers mill about until, fog passing, whistles blown, flags raised, lifeguards announce “Coast clear.” I boogie board, I body surf. In this place but not of it, I jut my tongue out and, as if prepping for a shot of tequila, lick salt from the edge of my mustache.