Song of the Week – TV on the Radio – Test Pilot and a Response Poem – You Call Me Test Pilot

TV on the Radio stands with The National as a band that has captured my adult imagination, writing unique and beautiful music that connects with both the melancholy and the romantic strains in my writing. This week’s song was not released as a single from their most recent album, Seeds, so finding a video has been a challenge, but the song itself captured my imagination on my walks to work. Test Pilot, the song, is about a relationship, the singer expressing the foolish actions he took to try and destroy his relationship. The question asked, are the two going to fight through as test pilots or is the subject of his desire going to be a test pilot on her own? I chose a different read, rather returning to the theme I touched on in The National series about the personal and internal conflict presented when the poet asserted himself in spite of the facade that had been the face of me for most of my adult life. To say this has felt disruptive is an understatement, and yet, I am swimming now, and feel like a child felt when he finally learned how to swim on his own.

(I will add that not responding to Happy Idiot from Seeds was hard… Karen Gillen being in the music video… I miss you, Pond).

You Call Me Test Pilot

I guess I have to accept this yet again
Another broken vase, another shredded sheet.
We stand and we stare at one another, both
Too stubborn to let go, to just disappear.
I have decided to swim. I have chosen this.
You cannot let go and call me Test Pilot.

I am not the first.

I guess I ought to accept this once again
It is broken, it cannot be repaired, smashed
Like you meant it this time, but, look at us
Here we are, gliding through these things, like…
Two stubborn children refusing to stand on shore
Safe from the undertow. You call me Test Pilot.

I am not the first.

I accept this once and for all: words matter,
My words. All melting from my heart into the sea
Rising along the shore of an island as the globe
Warms. Now we cannot touch the ground and fall
Into the stubborn waters refusing to recede.
I have the strength I need to be the Test Pilot.

I am not the first.

For a performance of the song a great cover and a re-mix:

Test Pilot by TV on the Radio
Songwriters: Babatunde Omoroga Adebimpe / David Andrew Sitek / David Kyp Joel Malone / Jaleel Bunton / Kyp Malone / Marcus Killian / Tunde Adebimpe
Test Pilot lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Reach Music Publishing

Hope it isn’t broken, try to keep it open
But I couldn’t hold it, smashed it down for all to see
And I tried to get repairs done, I couldn’t fix it
So I picked it up and smashed it down for all to see

But I remember when we were so cool
And you were the only one
And now I know that I was such a fool
Thinking you’re the only one

We are high and we are fine
(And now we are) And we are gliding through the things that tear us apart
(And now we are) We are high and we are fine
(And now we are) And we are going to need the strength
It takes to pave the way and be the first test pilot

Now we’re stumbling through the motions, criminal and careless
Thought you were my best friend, now I couldn’t care less, come to see
And you’re playing my emotions, way out of proportion
Damage and distortion, blasting through your fantasy

Oh, but I was such a fool
Thinking you’re the only one
It didn’t have to be so cruel
Thinking you’re the only one

I know that we get down
But we can’t touch the ground
Look up, fall into sky
Going at the speed of sound
One circle back around
Straight on, test pilot, fly

We are high and we are fine
(And now we are) And we are gliding through the things that tear us apart
(And now we are) We are high and we are fine
(And now we are) And we are going to need the strength it takes to pave the way

We are high and we are fine
(And now we are) And we are gliding through the things that tear us apart
(And now we are) We are high and we are fine
(And now we are) And we are going to need the strength
It takes to pave the way and be the first test pilot

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