Week 342 // Dazzled by Thoughts of Infinity

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Oh the moon is the eye of a goddess
Watching everything
Walking the Earth one might stop to regard her
Always in moonlight we understand

Hear your name
From the lips of your lover
In the cadence of summer

Come to me
Oh the moonlight is with us
The goddess permits us

Oh the Earth is the goddess’ garden
What must she think of us?
Here on the Earth with my hand in my pocket
Dazzled by thoughts of infinity

Hear your name
From the lips of your lover
In the cadence of summer

Come to me
Oh the moonlight is with us
The goddess permits us

Notes
This is a love song and a nature song. I don’t feel that these words demand a lot of explanation. The world’s lovers dance a bit lighter, tugged ever so gently from the Earth by the gravity of the moon. When it hits your eye like a big pizza pie. I’m not the first songwriter to notice that the moon is a love goddess. I hope this song makes you think of somebody who has a tidal pull on you.

I really went for it with a few of these harmonies, and I can’t remember playing my guitar in quite this way before. It has been a little while since I tried to push my boundaries. This one felt really good.

~M.E.

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Week 341 // Belief

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The keys to the kingdom
The lock on an open gate
Oh my lord I’ve seen it all

The rain washing over
Voices from the window came
Oh dear god I’ve heard them all

And it’s strange believing
Oh dear lord believe in me

Or it’s unbelieving
Oh dear lord believe in
Oh dear lord believe in me

Notes
I’m not sure what brought about this meditation on belief. I didn’t know what I was writing until it was written. I suppose this song is a prayer. It directly addresses the deity, so there you have it.

Nobody has posed the question to me recently of whether or not I hold a personal belief in a god, so I’m a bit befuddled that I brought it up. I used to believe in god. I’m interested in believing in god. It’s still compelling to me in the dark of the night when life looms large. That’s about as far as I can take it right now. I guess this song is a plea to a god I used to talk to. I think I’m asking that god not to forget about me in the mean time.

~M.E.

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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 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 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 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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Week 321 // Contact

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Like the fear of an open flame
It’s like the Bible was a book about nothing

A far off moon and the pearly gates
Lining up with our spacesuits pumping

All good earthlings look the same
They look like Jesus in a renaissance painting

I stab my palms and revere the pain
To paint my brothers and my sisters faces

So we’re on the way up
The Earth dies a little bit sooner

In the crater at the center of this
A weed is growing like an angry witness

In the blast of the emperor’s kiss
A seed is planted and we won’t dismiss it

In the hole at the center of me
A green thing circles toward the light of something

Around my center all the vines can squeeze
A careful meter bound to get me pumping

So we’re on the way up
The Earth cries a little bit louder

Notes
This song is trying to juggle the requisite disenchantment and resolve that I’m experiencing as time marches ever toward inauguration day, and inevitably past it. There’s something here about resentment of the shallow faith of others, and its petty power over all of us. There’s something here about the heat death of the world. There’s something here about the resilience of life, and its power to reawaken dead places. There’s something here about revering nature more than God. There’s something here to build upon, but it’s still pretty elusive. I’m going to have to keep at this for a while. Vagueness suits me best right now because nobody knows a damn thing about what’s going on, me least of all. I’m working on a plan that has no shape and no name. Perhaps you have some suggestions.

~M.E.

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Week 313 // Mourning in America

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It’s morning in America
Anyway, can’t we all sleep in today?
‘Cause all the safety pins and words we say
Aren’t even nearly making up for this mistake
And I wonder, are we strong enough
To stop the coming war?
Is there love enough in our righteousness
To fathom what it’s for?

We’re in mourning on the subway train
Heading back and forth forgetting from which way we came
And our silence is a bitter frost
Its crystals spreading over every love we’ve lost
And I wonder, have we lost enough
To stand for what we’ve got?
Is there love enough in indignity
To move us from this spot?

It’s sunset and I break my stride
And ponder all the fighters who have lived to die
And if anger seeks revenge
I’ve said let love proclaim that justice must be done instead
And I wonder, have we heart enough
To brave the coming storm?
We must love enough
And in loving so decipher what it’s for

Notes
We have a winner and now we must make sense of the new future ahead of us. This is a mopey song, and a self-indulgent song, because I wrote it as much for therapy as to make any kind of commentary. At face value, this song says, “all we need is love” but I’m not naive enough to believe that’s true. What we need is to do a whole lot of hard fucking work. The question at hand is what the emotional source of our work ethic will be.

Anger has gotten the better of me since Trump announced his candidacy, because it was pretty obvious that win or lose, a whole lot of people were going to grok to his hideous message. We watched that happen in a way that eclipsed everyone’s expectations, apparently even the president-elect’s. Hillary campaigned on a slogan that said “Love Trumps Hate.” Trump understood that no press is bad press, at least where he is concerned, and that putting his name in one of her slogans only fed the ball back to his side of the court. The thing of it is this: love didn’t trump hate, because too many of us lefties were lashing out at our political opposites in anger, instead of building a movement on love.

Anger is good for seeking vengeance. Love is good for seeking justice. That’s why vengeance beat justice in this round. We tried to fight for justice with anger and indignation, and love would have worked better. So marshal your love and put it to work in your community. Put it to work by organizing. Put it to work by demonstrating. Put it to work by running for office. Put it to work by writing letters. Put it to work by opening your doors to your neighbors. Put it to work by listening. Put it to work.

And yes, I know my heart is bleeding through my shirt as I write that. That’s because it’s broken. I’ll tell you one thing, though. It’ll never mend through anger. Only love can mend a broken heart.

~M.E.

P.S. Rest in peace and thank you to Leonard Cohen, who was the greatest at writing songs that are poems and poems that are songs. You’re a ghost in everything I write from here on out. You already were.

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Week 311 // October Surprise

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Up late on a Saturday night
I’m stirring my thoughts
Except they’re made of stone
And I’m staring knives at the screen of my phone
Over politics

Then the very next afternoon
Holding my wife as the wind comes alive
We watch out the window
Does anything survive
A wind like that?

Oh, so I’ve got a nightmare
And I’ll tell you how it goes
It goes that only the old men vote

One time way before I was born
A moment to conjure
In an ugly red hat
A moment to die for
What could be better than that?
Believe in it

Oh, so I’ve got a nightmare
And I’ll tell you how it goes
It goes that only the white men vote

Notes
The election is careening into its final week and I can’t ignore it anymore on this blog. I’ve gestured toward it, but it is dominating my attention more than mere innuendo can adequately express. I spent much of the weekend distracted from my life by my computer phone, upon which I scrolled aimlessly hoping for a glimmer of good news to puncture the apocalyptic revelation that Hillary Clinton’s emails are once again the subject of federal inquiry, and that Donald Trump will definitely become the next and last President of the United States.

Old white men everywhere cheered! I’m an aspiring old white man, so I find their position on the subject devastating. Will I harden into a callous, bigoted ethno-political nationalist someday? What will my beloved think of me then?

My wife bought a wonderful new T-Shirt from the Internet. It reads “Nov. 8th Pussy Grabs Back.” Indeed. Let’s hope so.

~M.E.

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Week 308 // Moonshot

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Scream to the night sky
Like you’re all alone
Look around to see
A city block

Pray to your idol
That you crack the core
Pray to your lover
That the door’s unlocked

Up late
Will we ever climb so high?
Will we ever climb so high?
Will we ever climb so high?
Will we ever climb so high?
I’m sure we will
Of course we will

Driving the wrong way
Down an empty road
Pass the signpost
On the county line

Watch the moonshot
On a tiny screen
Fly through radio waves
Just to pass the time

Up late
Will we ever climb so high?
Will we ever climb so high?
Will we ever climb so high?
Will we ever climb so high?
I’m sure we will
Of course we will

See the bright lights
Count the tail lights

Will we ever climb so high?
I’m sure we will
Of course we will

Notes
Real life has to be a group effort. Last century the brightest minds joined together and put humans on the moon. Perhaps those ambitious doers stayed up there and started a moon colony that doesn’t want much to do with us earthlings anymore. Our ambitions must have been left behind up there on that rock, because all we seem to aspire towards these days is making increasingly distracting gadgets and hopefully not ending civilization in the immediate foreseeable future.

If this appraisal seems bleak, start a team and build something. It doesn’t have to be a rocket to the moon. This weekend my wife and I got together with our team — a family of likeminded philosopher queens and kings — and we built a rocket straight to our hearts. If our era is to be remembered as the end of cooperation as we know it, I refuse to be accused of going it alone.

~M.E.

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