dear moth's powder,
i have only partially been honest or, at the very least, have not been entirely forthcoming. i have been rather obsessed with New Dawns music lately, listening to cassette tapes and video recordings of us, though we only performed for a little over two years. and i have of course been listening to it lately because our anniversary is quickly approaching - not of our coming together but of our breaking apart - and i wanted to know if there was something in your gestures, in your face, in your smile that i could know and seize, on which i could think and meditate. to say i miss you would be the most vulgar of misstatements and half-truths ever. it is not merely that i miss you, it is that i am no longer me, that i no longer play the same musics, that i do not inhabit the social-sonic space that made me we. you know i don't necessarily believe in soul mates but something certainly happened that first day we went to the diner. the shy eyes, the reticent gestures, the bashful but ongoing pleasure of jumping headlong from one conversation to the next. who knew that that sorta calm conversation and knowing comfort were possible between strangers? who knew that that sorta wordplay and game, inflection and voice were attainable for some such folks not even yet acquaintances? and of course, you told me you trusted me. and of course, that made no sense if we were bound and restricted to some such linear time progression. our meeting, i think, at least for me, was the disruption of such linearity. it's as if i'd known you many moons ago, some half-life agone, that our communion and conversation could be traced back to some such agora.
anyway. what was most weird and cool and most interesting was that that non-date - whatever it was - was the first time you asked me, right before you left, if we could pray together and it made me quite afraid. i was not one prone to pray. (and still am not, truth be told; because if prayer will fix it every time, and i've prayed ceaselessly for you, for you to come back to me, for me to be able to smell and taste and touch you just one more time? just one more time? well? well prayer must not work.) of course, i grew up saying grace and going to prayer and bible band on tuesday nights and wednesday night prayer meetings (Mingus was entirely too correct), so i knew and know how to pray. i just didn't. and don't. i did not then because i felt it inefficacious, a joke, folly that tried to escape this life. prayer was infelicitous at best, some such performative utterance that did not do what it purported. then i met you and our communion, at the very least, introduced me to the notion of focus. of course, other traditions privilege meditation as a means to focus thought and breath but i had never conceived of those loud prayers from my mother and father along this wise.
you showed me and whispered to me and spoke in tongues to me and demonstrated for me how wrong i was. just because we're loud doesn't mean we're not focused or not contemplative is what you said to me. focused thought and breath is not only found in the quietude of buddhist meditational practice, in the soft hum or brush of yoga chaturanga poses and the like. it is found when my mother would be in the microphone and i'd be on the organ backing her up satan! the lord rebuke you! wherein she'd punctuate words with the letter t and the sound tuh! along with the intentional singularity of such words that were plural (think of rebuke rather than rebukes) for dramatic purpose and pause. satan'tuh! the lord rebuke'tayuh! as some sorta melismatic break of word and augment with new sound. what do you think prayers are? you'd ask me, then making me listen to my mother a bit differently because, well, she did not say satan'tuh when she was speaking, only when she was praying. so, and of course, you forced me to think about the intentionality of such breath and vocablic rupture and suspension.
well. we stood outside the diner, and you asked can we pray right quick? i mean, before we leave? and there was no way i could say no to you. you were insistent while asking but once. you were energetic by some sorta withdrawal. it was in your face. you became gravely serious as we stood out there, not knowing how to say goodbye, whether we should shake hands or hug or kiss, right there, in the lot, outside, for all to see. i wanted to do all those things but i did not yet really even know you, i just knew that i felt things that were either dormant or dead or demonic, all concurrently, all for you. so much boldness displayed by your query. so much strength. and conviction, i suppose. i just sorta stood there and you just continued by standing right in front of me, looking me clear into my eyes - i almost began to have tears forming right there, in the bottom of my heart - grabbing my hands with your hands, you lowered your voice a bit and said, ever so gently, we should...we should pray. i know this may a bit strange but i'd like to pray with you. for me? please? i did not say anything. i sorta stood there stunned by what was happening. loss of control. then a tear, before you began any such prayer, a tear formed and it dropped and, i suppose because you did not want me to feel embarrassed, you bowed your head and closed your eyes. the dropped tear, you felt and were correct to know, was assent and ascent. i bowed, closed eyes. then we stood there. and the wind blew a bit. and the street lamp overhead in the parking light buzzed a bit, almost backgrounded to the edge of nothingness. faint, ever so faint. you began to moan a bit, really quickly. then father, i'm thankful for the two of us having met today. keep him and me as we leave here. i would certainly like to see him again. in jesus's name. amen.
well. of course, all i heard was i would certainly like to see him again. and you hugged me. then: i hate to sound all James Baldwin-y but, bye-bye baby, so long, and flashed a smile, and got in your car. i never told you but i stood in that parking lot for nearly ten minutes after you drove off. i could not figure out what had just occurred with me, with you, with us. i just knew that i'd see you again. and so, i was very, very happy.
these thoughts of that first experience and prayer came to me today as i listened to the first song our group sang at that first concert some years ago, the one i'd written prayer for zelophehad's children. to say that mount zion church of god in christ knew not what to make of this motley crew of singers, musicians and songs is no misstatement. i don't think most of them had heard of zelophehad so they were confused about who we were singing to or for. this mattered less when i descended the scales on the b-3 but, still, most of the congregation remained wary of us throughout the two songs we rendered. (render, of course, is the best word for what we did because we had decided - you, i, Salim, Jaylah, Jalisa and Bobby - that we would literally improvise our way through the entire song; we made it up on the fly, though we practiced the structure of the song and knew the keys, we would allow you to lead us from tonal center to tonal center, and the harmonic progressions were up to us to provide as you gave some such melody; and, of course, i refused to sing and only sang that one time because i always hated singing in front of people; but i did what i could do on the b-3 in order to cut and augment the sounds you all made. zelophehad, and his daughters i suspect, would have been proud.)
breathing into our microphones and using the atonal sound of our breath as much as the harmonies, Bobby's percussive operations and the sonic architectonics provided by your melody and my response? well. we gave the meaning to zelophehad's daughters going to moses, telling him that he should be open to the spirit, to giving them what rightfully belonged to them, even if the laws and customs of their age dictated that women were not able to inherit land. our song was all about contesting conventional notions of the sacred, of the gospel, of the love of christ and the power of community. so we breathed a bit on and off, before and after the beat. we sang harmonies that clashed. and we hummed and buzzed. well. the congregation wasn't ready but neither was moses. but we kept singing, kept insisting, kept pushing through with improvisation and caprice. threw in a couple of jesus's for good measure. well. i suppose it worked. i miss that sorta blending and disagreement, that kinda sound and sociality, that prayer, that praise.
i do not pray often. but pray for you i do.