Loss of Long-Term Memory
Seeds in Townes Van Zandt’s Hand
The seeds in Townes Van Zandt’s hand are ground. As this phrase comes to mind, I’m just outside Poetry, Texas, and NOW, as I’m writing the sentence “The seeds in Townes Van Zandt’s hand are ground,” we both look at the lifelines in our palms.
So, Townes, this is a drilling rig. Townes? You stay right here now. Publicity means keeping your hands still. And your feet too, stand still, Townes, stand still and listen. That’s the way the dynasty works. That’s the solution. Stasis, you see? The oil gushes out of the ground, the oil never stands still, but you, my son, you do. Halt! Stop! Put that down right now! Stop touching everything all the time! That’s crude oil, Townes. You can’t drink that. Even for a six-year-old, you’re really quite dumb. Oil’s not just oil, oil is a generic term! The peanut is something else entirely. Okay, Townes, imagine... Well, all right, analogy: Let’s say you want to make a salad dressing, a vinaigrette, Texan-style with peanut oil and vinegar. First, you have to know that a sauce like that doesn’t make itself. You have to stir to get a sauce like that, Townes, a sauce like that means effort. Oil and vinegar repel each other, and you, my son, you need to see to it that they don’t. You take the whisk. No, Townes, that’s a scoop. You need a whisk like with meringue. Beaten egg whites, get it? Or a fork. Just use a fork. And with the... That’s right, you stir until the vinegar and oil are one. It’s called emulsion. But we, my son, we’re called something else. We call ourselves a solution. With us, nothing repels, with us, the hard-earned money dissolves in the oil. We are liquid like...
Van Zandt County is not a wet county. Alcohol is banned in Van Zandt County. Instead, mechanical mosquitoes sit in the sand. In the dry county, fracking is permitted. Water turns into wine, wine becomes vinegar. 91 people live in Van Zandt County, 96 percent white. That’s a figure from the 2000 census.
In 2000, the Honda Accord that I am NOW sitting in was registered in New York City. I’m parking in Poetry. The dust in the window cracks is old. The year 2000 is also old. But each man is his own calendar. In the census of the year 6 A.D., Jesus Christ was not yet born.
In the year 33, Townes Van Zandt grows morning glories in the garden. In front of the cottage lives the world. Townes Van Zandt wants to remember it, but dreams his lyrics:
Her skin fits her tightly
And her lips do not lie
Townes Van Zandt draws Bacardi Cola into a syringe. Townes Van Zandt injects Bacardi into the inside of his elbow. This is nothing compared to the insulin he was injected with to fight the mental illness of puberty, in the year 20, until he fell into a coma:
And her hair turns to splinters
And her flesh turns to brine
She leaps across the room, she stands in the window
And screams that my firstborn
Will surely be blind
There, in a coma, Townes Van Zandt lost his memory. That’s where the year 0 is. And so, that’s where he’s returning to now, as the seeds begin to take effect in him.
This article was commissioned by and created in collaboration with Das Wetter – Magazin für Text und Musik.