(Gabriele’s journal – May 8, 1992)
(Nick’s narrative – May 26, 2022)
Then it hit me and everything became crystal clear in my mind. A couple yards away Tortuga was in the pond. His spirit graced me with an epiphany, a vision that melded past and future into a timeless present.
For my morning walk and stalk, Tortuga had been directing me most days toward the library and research where I had learned that the turtle was sacred to the Chinese, symbolizing longevity, power, and tenacity. The turtle was also sacred to all three of the Indian tribes I now held in my gaze and in my mind. The creation stories for the Lenape, Lakota, and Mohawk were all unique, but in each of them, earth, and the life upon it, was created on the back of the great turtle.
I was standing not just on the island of Manahatta. I was standing on the Turtle Island of the creation story. I was standing on sacred Earth.
I needed to mark the site of the epiphany with a ritual to preserve it in my memory. I pulled out the AT&T knife from my left pocket, opened the larger blade, and scraped the dirt around the exact spot where Tito had miraculously discovered it. I dug up an oval area about the size of Tortuga and then went into the tipi for my medicine bag.
I had earlier intuited that the geographical and metaphysical center of the Hill, the “Mouth of the Dragon,” was located somewhere within the Trinity of the turtle pond, the tipi, and Mister Lee’s House of the United Nations. Now, through the discovery of Tito’s knife and the epiphany, I knew its exact location. The ritual would fixate the site in my consciousness.
I emptied the contents of the medicine bag onto the bedding and began arranging it into three piles. I set the various tarot decks, the Polaroid, the AIM button, and the Eagle tobacco to the left with the two ghost shirts; I stacked the xeroxed pages, collected from my research into historical synchronicity, into the middle; and to the right of it, I stacked the xeroxed copies of my concrete poems.
I leafed through the research to find a particular page. It was one of the earliest documented accounts of a native creation story as told to a Dutchman by a Lenape elder. I had saved it as an exemplar of all the other similar origin stories of North American tribes that tell of a turtle that holds the world on its back.
Rereading the story now, it proved itself to be the talisman I had hoped it to be. I needed to sanctify the site, and this story was the artifact that possessed the prescient knowledge that could guide me in the performance of that ritual.
I then examined the stack of twelve sheets of paper on the right, each with a single concrete poem, looking for the right word artifact to complement the creation story.
I had titled this collection of writing rituals the “Moby Dictionary.” As Ahab had once sought his great white whale, as a writer, I had once sought just as obsessively the great white Page with its elusive Logos. “In the beginning was the one who is called the Word. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
The writing rituals practiced with the concrete poems had initiated me into the Rosicrucian mysteries. Each of the twelve poems was complete in itself and detailed one of the steps in an alchemical transformation –– the transubstantiation of the lead in the pencil scrawls into the golden Word on the Page –– the hieroglyph within the sight/sound of the word(s).
I took off my jacket and shirt, walked over to the fire pit and pulled out a partially burnt stick from the embers and ash. I put the charcoal end of the stick in my mouth to wet it, then inscribed the element N on my chest. I had honed the small blade of Tito’s knife to razor sharpness, so it easily opened the skin on my chest. Element N now became the black and red element M. The blood of the tree and sprout in the Lenape elder’s creation story now tattooed on my flesh.
I put on the gifted ghost shirt and walked out to the site to complete the ritual. Smoothing over the circle of dug-up dirt to create a canvas, I drew the feet, head, and tail of Tortuga with the charcoal stick pencil, then stuck it into the center of the sketch with an under-the-breath chant and incantation, “O AD O AD O AD O AD.”
The site sanctified, I went back into the tipi for a complementary ritual. The concrete poems were xeroxes, not the originals, but being in the medicine bag had endowed them with a power specific to the tipi and the Hill. I set the poems of the Moby Dictionary, one by one, in a small overlapping array in the fire pit. I watched as the still-live embers from the morning fire turned the white pages brown from the heat and then alight them. The rising smoke from the Moby Dictionary christened the tipi the “Living Museum of the NOMAD MONAD.”
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