Week 340 // A True Thing

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Oh lips that kiss at my cheeks
Oh hands that grasp at my hands
Oh heart that’s beating in time
Oh mind with key to my mind

What is impossible?
What is impossible?
Words like “impossible” scattering
Scattering

Oh queen and king of the Earth
Light at the end of the day
Simple unstoppable notion
She with the way of the ocean

What is impossible?
What is impossible?
Words like “impossible” scattering
Scattering

Notes
It has been a little while since I authored a straightforward love song. This one is simple, quiet, and reflective. I spend a lot of energy tripping over topics a whole lot less weighty than this. Early in my career as a songwriter, I developed a way of thinking that casts love songs as trivial. I’ve grown to understand that notion to be a misunderstanding born of an unfamiliarity with love, which I have since remedied with the help of my wife. At worst, love songs are commonplace, a fact which still buoys my impulse to shy away from them. Truthfully, this type of song intimidates me. Because they are so common, love songs are the hardest thing to write with any originality or distinctiveness. Sincerity is one’s only reliable tool. I’ve done my best to wield it here. This writeup seems a bit dry and academic, but the song is not. I have written a true thing.

~M.E.

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Week 339 // Something Pretty

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In the wind
In the dark
Beyond the trees
Beyond the artifice
In the open air
At the whim of the elements
At the end of it all
At the start of it all

Notes
This weekend I returned to my native New England. I zigzagged around the states most familiar to me, as the region tried to shrug off a fairly gross noreaster. Between Friday and Sunday I occupied every New England state except for Maine. Several occasions required my attendance; a funeral, a graduation party, and Mother’s Day. They each carried their own unique profundity. In the middle of the whole excursion, I had my 32nd birthday. Cycle upon cycle. Beginnings and endings.

The weather was awful. Hearts were present and steadfast in their empathy and fellowship. Nature was both seductive and callous at once. The land from which I come reminded me why New Englanders are deep in character. They see snow on Mother’s Day and call it pretty.

~M.E.

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Week 338 // One Foot at a Time

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Ain’t no path of righteousness
There’s only one foot at a time
But when the wind is blowing at your back
It gets you thinking that you’re right

There ain’t no feeling like coming home
And it don’t matter where you live
To light the old fire another hundred times
There is nothing you wouldn’t give

Notes
When you’re putting one foot ahead of the other, some steps are long, and some steps go only as far as they must. This week’s song is a small step, and that’s what it was meant to be.

I had the time and space for a small meditation, so I turned to one of the great meditative artists, and I borrowed a chord change or two from Leonard Cohen. I doubt he would mind. He is usually praised for his lyrics, but his structural instincts were good too. There’s so much to learn from him.

The lyrics are brief and simple enough that I’ll leave their interpretation to you. I’ll give you only this: small steps can still lead someplace.

~M.E.

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Week 337 // With Apologies to Plato

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Dance little shadow
Enter into my eyes
What form described?
What form described?
Cast the shape of knowledge

I have no need
For music written after 2006
Twenty aught six
Was the end of music

In the cave we were unaware
In the cave we were unaware

Still every morning
Rub the potions into my unblemished skin
Oh my skin has all the facts worth knowing

In the cave we were unaware
In the cave we were unaware

Notes
This week I have taken a shallow stab at appropriating Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Far be it from me to have anything new or original to say about this ancient work. The chorus came to me fully formed, and I loved the harmonies, so I found myself forced to throw my hat in the ring with the classics scholars, and my college freshman seminar syllabus.

Still, there is something nice going on here. I’m tugging at awakening and loss of innocence. I feel like I know when I saw the form casting the shadow for the first time. I image most people have a sense of that moment in their lives. Afterwords comes some kind of artifice; an epiphany followed by a retreat. This might seem vague, but I can’t always spell it all out. If I had specifics, I’d give them to you.

~M.E.

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Week 336 // The High Ground

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I turn the gear at morning
And I scrape against the island
And any eye cast toward the cracks
Shall be snatched out for denying what we’re told

Hold to your reason
To seek the horizon line

Hold to conviction
And hold to each other
The cracks fill with water
The high ground will raise you up

Hold the world above you
For you are your mother’s daughter
The Earth aloft and in your hands
Run your fingers through the water and hold

I was a goner
Until I was lifted up

I was a goner
A thought cast adrift
Across the cracks in the sidewalk
You reached down to lift me up

Features start to change
Many miles in the distance
Whatever force it takes
The very edges of existence will give way

Hold to the moment
You burst through the closing gate

Hold to the kindness
The cracks couldn’t breach
You must hold to the convictions
That the chaos couldn’t reach
And you will hold tight to the lesson
That a crucible can teach
And we will hold tight to each other
With the other ever reaching up

Notes
Last week’s entry, “The Absence of Light”, was pretty bleak. My dad, who contributes weekly comments on the website under the nom de plume “oldman”, remarked, “Sounds grim. Is it time for an upbeat song?” I’m not sure anyone would accuse this week’s song of being upbeat; you probably couldn’t dance to it. However, it does achieve a serenity and optimism that has been lacking in my recent work.

This song starts from the shallows of defeat and frustration evident in some recent entries, and seeks higher ground. It’s a love song, and it’s a future song. I’ve written before of entropy, the powerful gravity afflicting New Yorkers, and the inability to sense the edges of the place. This song is about working together to achieve escape velocity. We’re building up a head of steam.

~M.E.

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Week 335 // The Absence of Light

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I’m taking the long way around
Impossible scent on the breeze
Envisioning lines on the Earth
Reaching clear across the sea
And the hostile inventions we’ve wrought

And I find myself still in the night
In a forest of trees
And the absence of light
Is the world that I see
And I think it’s enough

My god is a gun at my hip
My faith is a felled enemy
My love is a wolf, and it strikes
And there’s blood on my teeth
And my hunger is more than I can feed

And I find myself still in the night
In a forest of trees
And the absence of light
Is the world that I see
And I think it’s enough

Notes
It’s hard to keep the notion at bay that most of the people in the world seem to have become violent zealots, warriors for god, vigilant protectors of the faith, bloodthirsty maniacs, or some combination of all of these things. Modernity is a state of feeling boxed in by predators, by the machinations of extreme righteousness, by the never-yielding churn of things. We’re like the tree in this picture; we’re surrounded by our antithesis, or so it seems.

In large part we sometimes feel this way because we’re told to feel this way every day. Repetition is how it sinks in. We’re divided, and will remain divided because we’re reminded how divided we’ve become on the hour, every hour. Somehow being cognizant of this fact doesn’t ease the sense that someone somewhere is wishing us harm. I’m a lefty, so in my imagination this person has a bible in one hand and a gun in the other. Perhaps I’m merely on edge because it seems like Donald Trump has finally fully realized that he’s in control of the military. Troubled times make me want to run for the woods.

~M.E.

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Week 334 // New Skin

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My new skin grows
In the places it’s worn away
Tissue paper
In a fresh glowing shade

The war on the edges
Finds its way to the center
Our new skin tears
Like tissue paper

Where goes our innocence?
Hide me down below

God fearing people
With a taste for revenge
Rise in the spring time
Bless the damned and ascend

And I’m just like them
Catch a thought in a lie
Our new skin tears
In the blink of an eye

Where goes our innocence?
Hide me down below

Notes
I’ve got a hell of a scrape on my knee from a recent tumble. Pardon me if this is a bit graphic, but I’ve been fascinated watching it try to repair itself. Little by little, fresh skin is working its way in from the edges, but it’s still fragile and tender.

Perhaps my metaphor is blunt, and once again pardon my imagery here, but our discourse is a something like my wound. It’s angry and raw, and any little aggravation tears it open anew. What’s worse is that we take some delight in picking at it. We can’t help it.

The human body is a marvelous mechanism, capable of knitting itself together under unbelievable circumstances. I wonder if the same can be said for our body politic. I’m not sure we’ve ever taken a tumble quite so bad.

~M.E.

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Week 333 // The Maze

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The maze I went to sleep in
And never got out
Was a dried up conversation
About the point of a phrase
Was a standoff with a monster
with a pen in its hand
Was a Monday morning meeting
That I couldn’t understand

Why would you hurt
To be like that?
What would you lose
To be that way?
Why would you give in?

I couldn’t be a bartender
I’d drink from the well
And if I was a police man
I’d let them all get away
And the younger man I once was
Kept his heart in his hand
But the younger man I once was
Wanted nothing from plans

Why would you hurt
To be like that?
What would you lose
To be that way?
Why would you give in?

Notes
I’ve been making big choices lately. It’s a loaded and fraught activity. Rebecca and I are calculating our path forward in life, making a plan for what we want our life to look life, and adjusting our trajectory to make that plan a reality. My latest choice accelerated the urgency of identifying that plan. That’s okay. That’s the way life is. Still, big choices make us confront the reality of self. Big choices change us. Some choices are necessary because we need the change they will necessitate. Circumstances make us anew. That’s an intimidating proposition, except for the fact that we have some agency over our circumstances. We must exercise that agency, or we have no say in who we become.

~M.E.

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Week 332 // The Way Out​/​The Way Home

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It’s lighting the way out
It’s lighting the way out
It’s lighting the way out
And soon we’ll see
Soon we’ll see what’s out there

You’re lighting the way home
You’re lighting the way home
You’re lighting the way home
And this I’ve known
I’ve always known that you’d be there

Notes
You may remember that last week’s song was sung through the “hot knives and broken glass” of a cold with which I had found myself suddenly afflicted. I had hoped for a quick turnaround on that particular ailment, but apparently that was never the virus’ intention. I’m still fighting off the dregs, and as such I only allowed myself one vocal take this week. Actually, I recorded the whole song in one take, with only one microphone. Said microphone happened to be the one on my phone, because I was far too weak to turn on a computer.

Though this entry is perhaps earnestly off-key due to illness and haste, it has a sweetness and tenderness that cannot be feigned. To set out to find a home with your love means to arrive at home wherever you wind up. I think that’s what I meant to say here.

~M.E.

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Week 331 // Troubles

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Deep in the furnace mantle of earth
And home is a long way to go
Always upward

I was a child born of the springtime
Born of a moment like this
Fate would beg us
Seize this moment
Break this spell and run

Old fears carried away
Think on your troubles
Deep cuts, wounded again
Think on your troubles
Think on your troubles and laugh

Sleep in the quiet roar of the subway
Long was the season I’ve passed
No one woke me
Dreaming of kindness foreign to this place
Alien, an intrusion at best
Wait on the platform
Wait for a lifetime
All we do is wait

Old fears carried away
Think on your troubles
Deep cuts, wounded again
Think on your troubles
Think on your troubles and laugh

Notes
First, I feel compelled to disclaim that I sang this song afflicted with a sore throat and chest cold. From time to time it is impossible to avoid this fate, as it is my commitment to post original music to this website regardless of my personal circumstances. It’s a shame though, because I was looking forward to singing this melody for the past few days, and my falsetto would have benefitted from getting this performance in the bag before this affliction came down upon me. Recording this vocal was a bit like singing through hot knives or broken glass. Unpleasant is the word I would use to describe the sensation, and I’m glad it’s over. Truthfully, however, the results could have been a lot worse.

This song is a reflection on an emotionally taxing week that has left me weary, yet hopeful. I’ll leave the details of the experience vague for my own privacy, save to say that I am grateful for the wise council of my parents, my wife, and an indispensable friend of my mom’s who knew just what to say. Being a living and breathing grownup is a harrowing experience, and nobody should ever try to do it on their own.

~M.E.

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