An Interview With Dan Wakefield
The key is to clear yourself in order to become a conduit for creativity. In my book Expect a Miracle, Ann Nadel, a San Francisco painter and sculptor, said that when the work is really coming, there’s something flowing through you that’s not you. To me, that feeling is tangible proof of the existence of spirit: something we can tap into that’s beyond ourselves and our senses. The highest goal we can aspire to is to become transmitters of that.
I took the bus from Iowa down to Memphis, a funny pressure in my chest, a nervous futility, an unaccountable fatigue. I walked along the railroad tracks and the streets of white clapboard houses, the air smelling of soap and tar.
He’s been so sad for so long now. Whenever we talk I have to confront his ocean of grief. I plant my feet sturdily in the ridiculous beauty of this world and offer him my hand, but he seems only to get sucked in deeper and deeper by the undertow. And the truth is, my own footing is none too secure.
A few days after my father, poet William Stafford, died, I was sleeping alone at my parents’ house when something woke me at around 4 A.M. My mother, who was away, had told me that she, too, had been wakened since his death at this, my father’s customary writing time.
The lump slowly vaporizes, the chamber tumbles with smoke, and I breathe it in and hit the vault of heaven. I pass the pipe around and watch their expressions change. They lean down like winged monkeys ladling up love from a boiling glass ball.
In the spring, during long twilit evenings lengthening slowly into night, we watch our mothers change. The pink on the filters of their cigarettes matches the pink on their rounded fingernails. We think somehow this color signals s-e-x, but we don’t understand, and it makes us want to hate them.
In Russia, my great-grandmother Bubby Tsippi gave birth to eleven children, eight of whom lived. The three who died were fair-haired — which was no surprise, according to my mother, who told me Tsippi believed that dark-haired Jews were sturdy, the descendants of those who had survived the hardships of wandering in the desert during the Exodus.