The Book of Frank by CAConrad

As Gentleness Always Likes to Hide

reviewed by Saku Egon Evon

Your family sits around the table just in time for brunch even though the sun has finally gone to sleep. Mother cradles nine jars filled with her miscarriages swimming in formaldehyde while sister screams because of the wings trying to break free from her spine. Milk pours down from the sky into their teacups, unafraid of the pastries that have started to speak. You sit, beneath the lovely set table, listening to the sound of your family’s clanking boney knees. The crow hands haven’t stopped flapping, father is masturbating blank ink—your imagination is your only friend, but then again, “every March Frank / loses his circle of friends.”

This book is all about Frank. Frank the vulgar—Frank the gentle. The host of a fabulous tea party that even the Mad Hatter himself, with his head cocked to the side, would find rather curious. CA Conrad, self-proclaimed “son of white trash asphyxiation whose childhood included selling cut flowers along the highway for his mother and helping her shoplift,” is the author of a collection of poetry known as The Book of Frank. First published by Chax Press in 2009 and then sipped up sweetly by Wave Books in 2010 with a short afterwards by Eileen Myles. This book is what children’s books would be like if we allowed children to know what they know: intimate, elegant, explosive, contradictory, fucked-up and beautiful.

Walk the dirt path alongside lilies who sing loudly Frank’s wonder underground, but instead of a crescent moon cat, you find a him, a child who will be asking a pile of bones, “would you sign / my book Mr. Poe?” or hammering carrots into the dirt so the earth can’t leave us. As you progress in the book from Frank’s childhood, you begin to see him as your friend more than just a character. You develop feelings for his own well-being; worry about him, expect things of him, and soon never bat an eye at the things that he may say. All you want is for him is to try to grow up sane but you know that he will be anything but. He will be known as that romantic who “spoke / softly into envelopes / instead of / writing / letters” but will make snowflakes out of your panties if you're too careless to keep a watchful eye.

Can I say that I have learned to love Frank? Through all his faults, his clumsy nature, reluctance about his own well-being, his humanity, his dark corners and yet there is still that gentleness still deep inside. It’s what you have to search for seeing as gentleness always likes to hide.

“it will pass” he said

“it’s just the
condition
of my Soul

 it will pass.”

I have personally become very attached to this book, not only because I find the language to be simple but I also find that it takes risks. It stands out above the rest. There are words in this book that speak to those who always find beauty within the filth. It tells you to not be afraid, to go to that place inside your head that you may not ever want to tread. As a poet, it told me that I can be as obscure with my work as I possibly can. I have permission to write from a very traumatic place, let that spoonful of dark humor let the medicine go down.

bees fly from the
scalpel’s incision

Frank’s kidneys

liver

even
his heart
held in the doctor’s hands
thrum with honey

 Just sit there or a moment after reading, take a breath, and admire the beauty hidden within the words. The bees flying out of the body, into the air, every organ bathed in the sweetness of honey. How beautiful it must be to feel so warm inside. That buzzing, beating, of being alive. Building a home inside of yourself; a dark glistening place. From the minute you open the book, you will smell the honey, let your eyes water from the steam, and begin to devour every word in the matter of a single sitting.

-5/6/16