Frank, an Ocean: a portrait by Vernon Jordan, III


I write letters to Frank Ocean every time
I bop my head to his work.
            he’s a silent one, in person —
            loudest on the page;
            and i love him for that.
            he never tells me where Christopher ends &
            Frank begins,
            but i know it’s somewhere on his lips
            when he laughs, “just listen.”
            he likes headphones,
            says that’s the only way you can really feel
            where he’s coming from,
So he lays on the floor,
wide brown back on cold wood,
            he saves a spot for me,
            and adorns the studio headphones
            like a crown:
            the black cord draping over his nipple,
            the jack plugged into a booming stereo
            — no bluetooth
            just cords & cord & switches & chords.
Frank is relaxed, dictating
            cadence & note choice with a number fingers.
            he is always playing,
            even when he’s not:
            the sound engineer,
            the sound of an engine,
Frank’s heart is an engine.
            So when he says, “you should listen to it how
            I made it — where i was in that space n time.
I know he’s really saying that once you’re riding in a car
you can’t switch the car you’re in;
but you can always change directions
follow directions
be direct
take as long as you want,
and be quick as fuck when you exit the truck.  

           how much of my life has happened inside of a car?
he posts on tumblr, from wherever he is now,
after leaving our secret place
cradled by Sunlight, mountain, & tree.
i can still see the orange beamer
speeding down the mountain,
ripping up root.
Frank is not the breeze.
            his arms don’t cheer & flail in the wind, no,
            this nigga steady.
            hard grip on the leather steering wheel cover,
            a stick-shift on the right hand — to stop the thinking —
Frank wants commitment,
the car
to taking him some place.
Frank is not the breeze.
Frank is the needle on the record,
            the popping, the pricking, the spinning, the melody.
            he says, “let it play in the center a lil more, you know?”

                        So, we let the record spin long after
                        the song is over, until it dies out.
                        like all things, sound too must go
                        and join the rest of the world.


Vernon Jordan, III (King V, on the mic) is a Philly-born ‘n raised writer, filmmaker, and poet, interested in stories about the interior lives of Black people and has a lifelong fascination with the supernatural and otherwise speculative/magical/funky shit. Recently graduated from Muhlenberg College (’16) with a BA in a self-designed major called Black Voice and Cultural Studies, Vernon has led creative writing and film workshops at colleges and universities, and his short film See My Dreams Come True has played at over five national and international festivals. Vernon is now in NYC as a Screenwriting MFA candidate at Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema (’19). Find more of his prose and poetry work on Huffington Post, The Establishment, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, and Catapult Community.



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