Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Listen to This, Listen to That: First Encounters

by Dan Froid

What to burn, and what to curse? It was, yesterday, the last day of April, and Walpurgisnacht, or Witches’ Night. On that night, if I remember this correctly, witches gather at the tallest peak in Germany. I could, at this point, lead you to “Night on Bald Mountain”—which by the way, concerns a different night, a different sabbath, but, truer to my sensibilities I’d rather steer you toward Marianne Faithfull’s “Witches’ Song.” Faithfull is possibly a beautiful witch. “We will form the circle, hold our hands and chant / Let the great one know what it is we want,” she intones.  “Remember death is far away and life is sweet,” she sings.

What to burn, what to curse? A joke, of course, but that thought arises from another: “If you dig down deep, you lose good sleep / And it makes you heavy company,” Joni Mitchell sings in “Lesson in Survival.” This must be irony: what is her body of work if not an exercise in digging down deep? And yet this is something I’ve kept in mind for years: Don’t feel everything, don’t overthink. So what can I purge, at this moment in time?

Nikola Madzirov talks about surprises, in “First Encounters,” Air Schooner’s eighth episode. He says, “My first meeting with The Little Prince was crucial for flying into this literary world . . . I was wandering around many, many different cultures . . . I was listening to different music in that time, different movies, and at the end I tried to find this flower in my yard and that’s how I became more self-confident about writing about my life, my memory.” His sense of surprise, his thrill at discovering something new. It’s nice to be purged, but it’s better to be filled up, to partake of the world. He reads his poem, “Many Things Happened”:

Many things happened while the Earth was spinning on God’s finger. Wires released themselves from pylons and now they connect one love to another. Ocean drops deposited themselves eagerly onto caves’ walls. Flowers separated from minerals and set off following the scent. From the back pocket pieces of paper started flying all over our airy room: irrelevant things which we’d never do unless they were written down.

He’s talking about the same thing as Faithfull. She’s not singing about destruction, which is maybe why I like it; she’s singing about getting what she wants. Life is sweet, right? The point, I think, for Madzirov, is that he’s excited about all the things in this world. He advocates for a more passive way of enjoying them: observation. Faithfull’s a little more forthright: call the witches to the mountain and demand it. But for both, I guess, the goal is not to dig down deep, at least for a while, if they can help it. It’s to take pleasure in the world. I’m going to close with Meredith Monk’s “Memory Song,” which is—and this shouldn’t surprise you at this point—weird and wonderful, and which is sort of the song version of what this paragraph is trying to explain—the superior method of going about it. And for now I’m going to stop writing and I’m just going to listen.