Ode to John Darnielle

Poetry / Alain Ginsberg

:: Ode to John Darnielle, Ending In My Mom-mom Curing The Titan Cronus of Hiccups In Three Parts ::

	After Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

Yeah I can’t tell you why / the universe doesn’t love us back / anymore, something about 
coming home too / late with the smell of another/’s blood with it / something about a
cacophony of children but none to carry your / name except through the mud / pulling a 
child out of the earth only to leave it’s throat in the webbing of my trembling hands / 

Cronus eats a stone swaddled in cloth and cannot tell
the difference between the dried mud on it and the dried blood on his
hands and for this we are blessed. To have a mother strong enough
to tell us which parts of our father’s to slit open, a sharp thing plunged into
the dirt after the rain, loose soil to sow into, Cronus reaps the seeds
from the Universe and I tell my father that there is no difference
between how loudly he can conjure pain to crawl out of his throat and into mine,
the difference between dried blood and a harvest of beets. He says I would be better
if I was more like him, to grow up not knowing the difference between shades of red, 
and I tell my father he would be better planted
in the ground
an immobile
flowers blooming on the land / that I will never pick.

To get rid of hiccups she places a knife in a glass of water,
says “it cuts through the demons” like we are full of such evil,
a parade of demons or a couple of Sunday sinners that don’t kneel anymore,
much less see the inside of a church except when the funeral suit gets
just dusty enough that one of us won’t be coming home again.
How my grandfather would hiccup after every meal and need
to fight these things back down, a scorched earth of lungs begging to breathe again,
but it weren’t like he was saving us from anything but the devil/’s greatest tricks,
as if we too would use them, but then again anything useful is something
and we’re just trying to find our breath again too,
and we just didn’t question those kinds of things as kids, the way you didn’t notice
how badly you flinch until years after the impact, the ghost of a hand
or switch, how loud the volume of a throat can be
and still not drown out the nightmares and I cannot swim without feeling
the electricity or that time I locked myself in the bathroom ‘cause no one is going to yell
at you at your weakest and most vulnerable, but that still isn’t safe. 
That ain’t any reason to stop trying to get sharper so the closest throat
can be red, no rid, of my demons and live not inside that wet thing
and why does a good father just sound like a hiccup to me, 
and my grandfather is hiccupping again
and like routine my mom-mom backs into the kitchen an old habit,
grabs a knife and plunges it into the first wet thing her hand can wrap around
and eventually the hiccups stop but she is still breathing slow, on edge, 
ready to fight the demons if they come out of his mouth again,
say her name like he married it, and I ask my grandfather
if he believes her when she says the demons need to be cut through,

he shrugs, says,
“I do.”


From the writer

:: Account ::

The piece represents a lot of things for myself; it is inevitably choral in nature, is a song I need to sing and is a reminder to myself and the communities I hold dear. The influence of the work of Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib helped the piece come to fruition and the ways in which he commands a mastery of talking through the memory of a song or the history of a museum, and I hoped to use the medium in a similar vessel. In “Ode to John Darnielle…” I am writing from a place of reflection, examining the familial trauma I’ve gone through, my mother had, and her mother before her did with the patriarchal figures in our lives, and the ways in which that toxic, volatile, violent men still having lasting-phantom power over us even after their death. John Darnielle is an artist whose work in regards to dealing with domestic abuse from a family member really resonated with me, and the ways in which he speaks of this trauma after its perpetrator has passed are both inspiring and moving. In an interview he was once asked whether he had forgiven his father after he had died and replied that he had not or could not (I cannot find the interview now), and this struck me down because it’s true. You, as a human, do not have to forgive anyone who has tried to strike you down in some capacity. No one deserves forgiveness, which makes it that much more important when it is granted to you.


Alain Ginsberg is an agender writer and performer from Baltimore City whose work focuses on narratives of gender, sexuality, and mental health and the ways in which trauma informs, or skews them. Their work has been featured or is forthcoming on Shabby Doll House, Rogue Agent, decomP, and elsewhere. Outside of writing they tour the country performing in concerts, slams, living rooms, and caverns. They are a Taurus.