Travelled so long, I know what it is to be alone
Joshua Clark Orkin
Percy Wakes Me (Fourteen)
Percy wakes me and I am not ready.
He has slept all night under the covers.
Now he’s eager for action: a walk, then breakfast.
So I hasten up. He is sitting on the kitchen counter
__where he is not supposed to be.
How wonderful you are, I say. How clever, if you
____to wake me.
He thought he would hear a lecture and deeply
__his eyes begin to shine.
He tumbles onto the couch for more compliments.
He squirms and squeals: he has done something
__that he needed
____and now he hears that it is okay.
I scratch his ears. I turn him over
__and touch him everywhere. He is
wild with the okayness of it. Then we walk, then
__he has breakfast, and he is happy.
This is a poem about Percy.
This is a poem about more than Percy.
Think about it.
–Mary Oliver, Swan
“A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drownded, for he will go out on a day when he shouldn’t. But we do be afraid of the sea, and we do only be drownded now and again.”
-John Millington Synge (1871-1909)
Joshua Clark Orkin
There was a decade when I only saw
the dawn (that livid blue sky those
pastel pinks and yellows that searing
fresh white sunlight) when I had
been a bad boy; when the drugs
had run their course and anxiety
had spread her wings to rise in full,
to whip and rule the comedown. Those
were bad nights, bad mornings, bad
signs in the maze of my wreckage.
Born blue-eyed squinting in the sun,
I’d always been by nature
a sunset colors kind of boy —
a moon and stars, a fading out,
a darkening down to crispness,
starry night relief kind of boy.
Now that I’m sober I’m not quite
the night owl I was but neither
am I getting up early. It’s hard to tell
when exactly it is that I live. I know
it’s better; that I live without excuses
and without hangovers, with less guilt,
less waste, without comedowns —
But for all its saddening sickness, all
its anxiety and loathing,
I never see the sunrise anymore.
And guilty now I miss coming sick
out of the darkness on some empty
rooftop, fear on my mind, confusion
on my lips, opening my skinny arms
(fingers shaking in the spreading light)
in pain and rage and sudden stillness,
to embrace the fact of my life.
“His mind was freshly inclined toward sorrow; toward the fact that the world was full of sorrow; that everyone labored under some burden of sorrow; that all were suffering; that whatever one took in this world, one must try to remember that all were suffering (none content; all wronged, neglected, overlooked, misunderstood), and therefore one must do what one could to lighten the load of those with whom one came into contact; that his current state of sorrow was not uniquely his, not at all, but, rather, its like had been felt, would yet be felt, by scores of others, in all times, in every time, and must not be prolonged or exaggerated, because, in this state, he could be no help to anyone and, given that his position in the world situated him to be either of great help or great harm, it would not do to stay low, if he could help it.
All were in sorrow, or had been, or would be.
It was the nature of things.
Though on the surface it seemed every person was different, this was not true.
At the core of each lay our suffering; our eventual end, the many losses we must experience on the way to that end.
We must try to see one another in this way.
As suffering, limited beings —
Perennially outmatched by circumstance, inadequately endowed with compensatory graces.
His sympathy extended to all in this instant, blundering, in its strict logic, across all divides.”
–George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo
a Townes Van Zandt song
That tone. Sweet salty Jesus, that guitar tone.
Blake Mills is very quietly
one of my absolute favorite players.
God damn, man.
Ever wondered where LCD Soundsystem got their… sound… system?
Alan Vega: sculptor, painter, musician — artist.
Have yourself a little Suicide:
“From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back.
That is the point that must be reached.”
–Franz Kafka, The Zürau Aphorisms
Vulfpeck could very easily have been promoted as an Antwaun Stanley vehicle, pitched as the background faces in his travelling band. That’s where the studio execs would say the money is, and honestly he’s that god damn good. Watch Jack’s face (he’s the one playing pancakes) after that little improvised vocal riff at 4:02. It’s perfect — Antwaun really is the truth. I’m sure there’s a conference room full of suits somewhere that has suggested he be the face, repeatedly, and as far as packaging for profit potential, well, they wouldn’t be wrong.
BUT, Vulfpeck is decidedly NOT just an Antwaun vehicle. Instead, he remains one of a number of continually-invited guests, and the stars of the show remain the four kids who created it at music school. And really, as composer and ringleader, Vulfpeck is Jack Stratton’s baby, despite being by far the least virtuosic of all the players. It’s about his compositions, and Joe’s bass, and Woody’s keys, and Theo’s vocals, guitar, and drums. Unlike so many of their contemporaries, this world-famous band’s sound and image are in no way the brainchild of a PR team. It’s the result of a bunch of music nerds in Ann Arbor who were studying music, then making music, just for the joy of it. The product is pure and sweet and potent: kids who have retained their smiles while attaining master-status skill in their art. Hell, just look at the people who want to play with them. Their giggling enthusiasm is infectious.
In this day and age of making art to make money to have power to make money to have money to make power to have power to make money, Vulfpeck is a magic portal into pure music nerd wet dreams. They’re already becoming a legend in the making in their own time. So many artists compromise the purity of their vision in an attempt to cultivate appeal, and there is nothing sadder than someone who has done that and still failed. If you compromise for the wrong reasons you’re lost, even if you win, because what you’ve won isn’t what you actually wanted.
What gives me heart as an artist in the venal wasteland that is our current corporate century is that selling yourself bald isn’t the only way to win. Once in while an artist makes a pile of money doing only and exactly what they wanted to do, and for Vulfpeck that’s sit around the basement and make music with their friends. That’s literally what all of their music videos look like. Everything they produce is handled with care, curated for maximum irreverent beauty, and executed with an auteur’s flourish. Even the comment sections on their videos are bright and warm and delightful. How refreshing is that? They knew who they were, and what they wanted, and now they are who they wanted to be.
Learning the hard way
To be true…”
When I think back on Tanzania
(on us and you and me and that)
it grips me again the old feeling;
all my ribs crush inward, I feel
the pain squeeze tight and biting.
But I don’t live in that feeling
anymore I learned I had to pry
myself away or die of disfunction
and I’ve grown so far and fast
it’s been a reincarnation; I don’t live
in that feeling, not anymore,
but I can — all it takes is reaching
back for it, because it’s there.
I know it’s a myth, I know that;
and the pain was so fucking hard
to let go, it was everything
I had left. Now most days
are calm struggles, peaceful
strain, you know? Familiar.
Most days are good days;
yet the pain is always there,
when and if I reach for it,
and I do — Because, because,
Because although this love thing
is a myth it’s only actually a myth
in the specific in that now it’s gone
and gripping it was gripping death.
But love? Sweet sentimental love
is not at all a myth itself — once
it was not even a myth for me;
it was once a self-evident truth, real
as the soil is real as real as anything
has ever been real altering everything
it touched and passed through.
If I take the pain out now and then
you’ll have to forgive me, because
though I and everything have changed,
though you and everything are dust,
though our myth itself became death,
before that death it was joy and after
joy it was love and after that love
itself had faded to myth it became
this sweet old bite of pain again.
And I suppose I’m sentimental
(and more than a little self-destructive)
but every once in a while I take it out
and set it on the floor of my mind
and stretch my hand out towards it —
— and when it bites me how I smile,
through the grimace how I glory
in the knowledge that it lives.