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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Week 330 // The Stillness of the Earth

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At the foot of the highest climb
is there part of you that’s clinging to the ground?

Who needs to peer into far off lands?
Who needs to know the way the sky is wrapped around?

On the gust of a springtime breeze is a snowflake
And there’s plenty more to come

But I’ll be climbing for a long long way
Until the Earth and air have opened into one

Waiting for the storm to call
The stillness of the Earth

Waiting for the storm to call
The stillness of the Earth

I’ve seen the moon, It’s a shining thing
And so is love, and the clouds don’t cover that

I’ve seen the sky, it’s a wide wide world
I’m saying so is my love when I see her smiling back

And in a season we’ll break this curse
With an artifact uncovered from the Earth

So for a season we’ll look far and wide
Uncover everything before us as we search

Waiting for the storm to call
The stillness of the Earth

Waiting for the storm to call
The stillness of the Earth

Notes
This song rolled off the tip of my tongue just the way it is. I opened my mouth, and out it came. I regarded it for a few moments, and I put it into the computer for all of you to listen to. Songs like that are a little tricky for me to write about. It’s kind of like writing about a song you’ve only heard once. Can you be sure of what you heard? We’ve got themes of struggle and forces greater than ourselves. We’ve got nature and love. We’ve got storms and stillness. We’ve got searching, and we’ve got the future. What does that all add up to? Listen, and let me know what you hear.

~M.E.

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Week 329 // Grownups

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Oh neighbors hold the earth together with the strength of prayer
Mighty one unsheathe your sword to brandish in the open air
Oh you’re missing something big
Oh you’re missing something big

Oh kindness quiet your mouth
Adults are busy talking now
Oh compassion stow your urge
The grownups come to handle this
Oh you’re missing something big
Oh you’re missing something big

Notes
Liberalism is the folly of the young. Conservatism comes with the acquisition of age and wisdom. Something like that. It’s garbage. The notion that conservatism is a product of maturity is pernicious. I didn’t need to write a song to make this point. There is a man child in office tweeting the proof every day. Still, is is mature to base policy off of superstitions instead of science? Not really. Is it a sign of wisdom to insist on brandishing weapons in public because you feel inadequate, are scared of foreigners, or just watched too many westerns? Not so much. Don’t we teach children to share? So how is it more adult to undermine the social safety net, and condemn those with less? Similarly, isolationism is a product of childlike fear. No, conservatism is not the fruit ripening on the vine. It is the rot setting in.

~M.E.

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Week 328 // After

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How do you go where you want to go?
And be who you want to be?
How do you do what you need to do?
And be who you need to be?

Notes
An astute listener with an ear for patterns will note that my evident unrest throughout the recent overarching narrative of these songs reaches beyond the angst-at-large of our collective geopolitical tumult. New York is a subject of derision from time to time in these songs, but it’s also a subject of inspiration. That’s why I have mixed feelings about beginning the likely long process of crafting an exit strategy with my wife. But we have to. We’re getting spent on this burg.

Leaving here is a daunting notion. The whole place is designed to keep you in, and for a while you don’t mind. You can’t sense the edges of it. Who knows if the edges are even out there?

This song is about pondering how to get to the time after this. This song is about wondering who we’ll need to become to get there.

~M.E.

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Week 327 // False Spring

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Don’t be fooled when the false spring comes
You’ll be breaking your fall on the walk again
You can calm your nerves on a kinder wind
But never drop your guard in the state we’re in

Oh you could be like the bird in the winter
Who sings just to fall quiet again

I’ll get lost in the meaning of life
Out in the grass with my naked toes
Even if it’s a beautiful lie
Take what you can get, that’s the way it goes

Oh you could be like the bird in the winter
Who sings just to fall quiet again

Oh you could be like the bird in the winter
Who sings just to fall quiet again

Notes
When the world seems to big and wild, write a song about the weather. We had an unseasonably warm weekend here in New York, and it had everyone feeling great. Leave it to me to tell everyone to pump their breaks. It isn’t March yet. It isn’t time for this. This isn’t real. It’s a dirty trick.

But hold on a second. It matters that it’s beautiful. It matters that we exhale even if we must hold our breath again after. It matters that the world builds reprieve into its cycles so we don’t forget what we’re waiting for. It matters.

This song is about the weather, but maybe it’s got something meatier in the subtext. Draw that out for yourself if you can. If not, no matter. If you’re with us here in New York, or anywhere else they got a bit of spring in the winter, I hope you found it a pleasant interlude.

~M.E.

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Week 326 // Impostor Syndrome

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Everyone is like me
Everyone is a bit like everyone else
Nobody gets away with anything
Nobody pulls it off

Oh the fear of tipping it over
Oh the fear of tipping it over
Oh the dread of a balancing act

Everyone is frightened
What makes you think that you have got it so bad?
Everyone tries to laugh like they’re in on the joke
Everyone loves to laugh

Oh the fear of tipping it over
Oh the fear of tipping it over
Oh the dread of a balancing act

Notes
Impostor Syndrome has been one of my favorite buzz psychological maladies of the past few years because I diagnosed myself the instant I heard about it. I’m pretty sure a lot of people did. I’ve written about it before in one of these songs, although I’m not sure which one, on account of how many songs I’ve posted here that deal with a similar kind of existential angst under any number of different names.

Impostor Syndrome is the feeling that you’re faking it, and that you’re in danger of being exposed as a fraud at any moment. I experienced it acutely in graduate school, and I’ve come back around to it since then in my professional life. What’s to be done about this? I really don’t know. Honestly, I’m open to suggestions. It’s an exhausting sensation.

This song uses the familiar songwriting conceit of saying what “everyone” is feeling or doing. Leonard Cohen used to do this a lot. I’m not sure what he was going for, but for me it is a mechanism of self-delusion. I normalize my own experience by superimposing it on everyone in the world. It’s sort of the opposite of the usual songwriting technique of mirroring a relatable emotion by using personal anecdote to draw a listener in. I’m telling you how you feel in order to mirror my own pathos, serving as a balm for what ails me, and drawing myself out. I apologize for being so presumptuous about your emotional state. Nevertheless, I promise to do it again and again on a regular basis.

~M.E.

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