excerpts from "under the aegis of a winged mind"



when your father plays the piano for beers, your memories of him are thin and impressionistic. you call him mercurial and recall him mostly when other people mention him. it doesn’t help that he is infamous.


one day after a lifetime of self-exile, he came home clean and sober from paris with gifts. it wasn’t long before he broke the brake pedal again.

thirteen candles light the disappointment in a girl’s face. the young girl's eyes reading him her rights.


the next day, i saw this man stagger into my room, pull out my chester drawer, turn around, sit down, and urinate on my underclothes.


i know it's hard when you inhabit the lawless space between the laws of music and the laws of meaning, but every excuse can’t be that you are barely alive between performances.


the next day everything was blanketed with snow; he was admitted,

and what it sounded like was inextricably connected to how you feel

all alone with no heat and no money to pay the bill.

sometimes icicles, sometimes everything seems adrift.

this remorse was among the softest tenors in my father’s repertoire:
its florid fills and their minor colors sent me.

                        i am here,


i want to say bel suono but can only summon distant.


of course, he fit an insane number of notes in a half of a chorus, he was crazy, and sensitive on top of self-medicated, on top of no respecter of boundaries.


a heart instrument, his piano weighed a ton.

everybody and everything in the room,

even the walls, were mesmerized by his fingers.

they had their own personalities, unique qualities.

and his fingering had a distinct character, it wasn't just acuity or rapidity, it was how it got around to being its own voice for changes. 


o, the changes.

one day you get a fresh direction with each new day,

and it seems the more expansive your eye becomes the more agency you forfeit,

and it’s in this valence, deep in the tissue of your knowing that

a strange father you're estranged from fades out of garment and into breezeways.



wor studios, new york city, may 1, 1951


blue note's little chain smoker

just outside.      long ass ash's somewhere bereft of body.

who gonna call it in on the one

condition? a night air felt

between some roiling fingers. six sails of upper atmosphere

clouds with regards to not feeling the need to cop for a minute.

cleaner than a cop’s revolver

or his official record,

ready like freddy if he had just shot up.


over two hours late   

when he finally dashed into the studio dapper,

a decade early, and a concert piano


fast as it could go and still be contiguous.

so many little clusters

with contents that contain quivers

and their discontents.

the little clusters. to the tune gallery of

his curly hair on fire,               circle back

to a tormented country. it was impossible

to convince him no one was knocking


on a windowpane after crusade,

or that there wasn’t an eventual beacon

for portal instead of a microphone.

thanks to a dedicated bottom,

despite the tempests, he played through a

prescient gap-leggedness above

the overdubs. the sides got down,

bent the little improper platform till it

held all the space in everyone’s heart.


mnemonic fragments (ballad for crossing the unbridgeable chasm)

6. if you start in the middle of

the bridge nobody knows

which way you are going,


7. only the acolytes and believers know there is no god.


33.       everyone else tries to put you in restraints

because you crush and run through all provision.


18. in a sentimental mood

hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per

second pouring over

the falls

crushes you like attendants come running.


51 a. sofas, tables, couches moving,

occassionals, loveseats, chairs in the air

rings the nurses’ desk. the sun

gets loud in your eyes.

pick tears out of the air

1. magnetics are drivers such as. there is a

composition that goes.

then everything. do you understand why


2. you are here?


8. restless tapping

to distraction. either you have transmittal,

or you can't get out of the bag.


51 b.                            the lab coats say,

what choice have you

given them, but

to take your choices away.


20.                   fragrance of harsh

flower. define crazy.


27. something else is going

on here,


28. am i the only one that can hear subtlety

in choking?


5. that 'un' sound is coming

over the ramparts.

i don't think i'm acting strange.


19. does anybody have a cigarette? each manifests as a.


13. the chlorpromazine hollows

you out.

tiny, dark pupiled eyes

on the edge of

a counter.


25.                   become the bed without visitors for weeks .

a face divided, a clinic on fixation.


15. am i ever getting out of here?

skiff of instruments tuning in my frontal.


52. what if

the diagnosis is a brownstone  

without an instance of hustle?


26. tragedies are a minor fraction of.


53.       as a follow up

question: how to play

and delight your way through the diagnosis?


16.                               better to shit and cry than be happy.


4. these delayed windows in entreaty. hard

to keep my wings together. racking.


17. why do i keep forgetting you go to my head?

and who else am i hiding from?


29. distant piano playing (itself?)

Makalani Bandele is from Louisville, KY. He is an a Affrilachian poet. He has received fellowships from Kentucky Arts Council, Millay Colony for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, and the Cave Canem Foundation. His work has been published in several anthologies and widely in print and online journals. Most recently work from this current manuscript has appeared or is forthcoming in Duende, 32poems, and North American Review. hellfightin’, published by Willow Books, was his first full-length collection of poems.

Barzakh Mag