207.1: Andy Stallings:: Exercises for the recovery of childhood 207

My father is sick. In the last year, his health has rapidly degenerated. Several days ago, I went to his small apartment that smelled of tobacco and stale urine to intervene. His feet swollen, I forced socks up his calves. I opened the laces of the only shoes that would fit and pushed his feet into them. I stood him up, had him lean into my chest as I worked a t-shirt over his arms and head, like a child. We then drove to the VA, where he was taken into care. This week, I also attended the wake of Offending Adam editor Cody Todd who we lost earlier this year, tragically and too early.

Lately I have desperately wanted to nothing more than to return to my childhood, a time where imagination guided every decision, those decisions as simple as lying in the grass, building a tree fort, spinning in place, or renaming a common item something absurd and fantastic. A place where death was vague impossibility and not the reality it is today. I knew there was a time where I could sleep anywhere—a restaurant, a baseball game, a movie—because my father would throw me over his shoulder and carry me home.

I have been a long time admirer of Andy Stallings' work, and, as a friend of his on Facebook, I’ve watched him develop these Exercises for the recovery of childhood as he posts them as status updates. There is that Picasso line, that all children are artists and the difficulty is in remaining so. Here Stallings reminds us that all children are also poets in their naming. That their language shapes and reconfigures the world according to their wonderful whim. It is enough to say something is and it will be. Stallings shows us the pathway back. Stallings lets me be a child again. Nik De Dominic
Exercise #40 for the recovery of childhood

Close your eyes. Now, you’re invisible.

Exercise #38 for the recovery of childhood

Lick the bowl, lick the mixing spoon, stick your finger in the
frosting. Eat the cookie dough but not the cookie. Roll the
scraps of pie crust up and pop them in your mouth. Eat
loose candy found beneath tables and chairs, or found on
the sidewalk. Eat butter straight from the butter dish,
whipped cream straight from the canister. Lick milk, as it
spills, from the top of the table or the edge of a chair. Chew
the gum you find stuck under desktops. If, however, you are
offered a food you’ve never eaten before, no matter how
carefully presented, no matter how diligently prepared,
refuse to take a bite. Do not even take one. Not without a

Exercise #56 for the recovery of childhood

Practice belief. When a friend, relative, or stranger offers
information to you, believe that they are telling you only
the facts. No matter how incredulous it makes you feel to
hear that the moon is a planet, or that there is a mirror
world underneath the surface of the ocean, or that the man
teaching you to skip rocks is a six-time national champion
in rock skipping, believe them. Furthermore, incorporate
this information into your working concept of the world.
For practice in said incorporation, repeat the new
information to anyone you talk with for days, for weeks.

Exercise #30 for the recovery of childhood

Let the free and discarded items of the world become your
treasure. Amass it wherever you go. At the doctor’s office,
ask for toys. At the insurance agency and the bank, take
stickers and suckers and cards. At any office or store in the
world, you’ll find plentiful handbills and fliers. Take them
all. Pick up rubber bands, hair bands, pins. Gather bottle
caps, playing cards, balls. Bus transfers, balloons, milk
carton tops, twist ties; pebbles, shells, seedpods and petals of
flowers. Take ketchup packets, take salt. What the rest of
the world abandons shall be your treasure. It shall fill your
pockets, pile up in bowls, rest on tables and shelves. It shall
serve as decorative beauty. Cherish it. There is little that
does not deserve the celebration of your gathering hands,
the validation of touch.

Exercise #59 for the recovery of childhood

Sit and stare, for a long time and with apparent disinterest,
out an available window. A car window, perhaps. A
bedroom window or a picture window, if not. Or else, the
little window on the landing halfway down the staircase. Do
you see anything out there? Do you see anything in there?