Song of the Week: The National “Mistaken for Strangers” and a response: Porcelain Doll-man

This week I have spent all the time I have for music listening to The National’s Boxer, getting to know that album in a way I hadn’t. Much like taking the time to read through the “back catalogs” of other writers has enriched my life with a deeper understanding of their writing and stories, so has this process of really listening to music again like I used to when, as a kid, one album would often be on repeat and the details emerged and inspired. Out of this experience, writing emerged in my life. I wanted to put together my own words to help me say the things I didn’t know how or have the confidence to speak, feeling only courage to construct poetry out of this human I felt inside who defied expectations and demands from the world around me. This journey, figuring out the place this person fits and allowing him the stage I usually reserve for the quick-witted costumed version of me whose schtick has worn as thin as the garb he grabs from the green room of life to don for an audience forced to listen to the words he pulls from a script he knows so well he doesn’t realize they were never his words to begin with. That version of me feels like a stranger, but the version who now emerges is the one mistaken for a stranger by friends. A response poem to “Mistaken by Strangers”

Porcelain Doll-Man

I see myself in a picture,
Looking far away, looking removed,
And I want to run away from everything
They asked me to do,

or just sledge-
hammer the flawed porcelain doll-man
standing on the stage singing words
so well he doesn’t realize, like Monkee’s,
they are genuine words of other people who
need me in make-up to don the costume hung
in the closet of life’s green room
and speak for them.

I see myself in a picture,
Looking far away, looking removed,
And I begin to make up something to believe
I pin something on my sleeve to seem genuine

a medal, a badge,
some rank indicator of success that pins
me to a thing greater than me, sitting behind
in the green room showered, un-costumed,
flipping two quarters, one for each eye,
while the porcelain cracks
expose a seam the spirit can
slip through and haunt the crowd.

I see myself in a picture,
Looking far away, removed,
And I mistake myself for a stranger
Under these stage lights

fading the doll’s clothes,
I strip.
I strip the old man’s blindfold
so he can see where he walked,
ambling casually among strangers with gin
and tonic in hand, numbing them
with his meaningless wit
protected, protecting, protect.

I see myself in a picture,
far away, removed
And pick up the frame and feel its weight in
my throwing hand

hearing the voice,
that Monkee voice echo back
from the audience, laughing
and jump out naked on stage
mistaken for a stranger
by my own friends
hoping that my angel didn’t
give up watching over me

I see myself in a picture
I look far away, I am removed.
It falls to the stage as fast
As the porcelain doll, shattering.

Written by: Matt Berninger, Scott Devendorf
[Verse]
You have to do it running
But you do everything that they ask you to
Cause you don’t mind seeing yourself in a picture
As long as you look far away
As long as you look removed

[Bridge]
Showered and blue-blazered
Fill yourself with quarters
Showered and blue-blazered
Fill yourself with quarters

[Chorus]
You get mistaken for strangers by your own friends
When you pass them at night
Under the silvery, silvery Citibank lights
Arm in arm in arm and eyes and eyes glazing under

Oh, you wouldn’t want an angel watching over
Surprise, surprise, they wouldn’t wanna watch
Another un-innocent, elegant fall
Into the un-magnificent lives of adults

[Verse]
Make up something to believe in your heart of hearts
So you have something to wear on your sleeve of sleeves
So you swear you just saw a feathery woman
Carry a blindfolded man through the streets

[Bridge]
Showered and blue-blazered
Fill yourself with quarters
Showered and blue-blazered
Fill yourself with quarters

[Chorus]
You get mistaken for strangers by your own friends
When you pass them at night
Under the silvery, silvery Citibank lights
Arm in arm in arm and eyes and eyes glazing under

You get mistaken for strangers by your own friends
When you pass them at night
Under the silvery, silvery Citibank lights
Arm in arm in arm and eyes and eyes glazing under

26 thoughts on “Song of the Week: The National “Mistaken for Strangers” and a response: Porcelain Doll-man

  1. S Francis says:

    Their music is often called a “grower” but it is passionate, marvelously melancholy, and really quite beautiful. If you get a chance look up them performing live and really evoke their passion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Davy D says:

    Wonderful piece Mr. S. I am in total agreement about the space where music and poetry emanate. Music carries the emotions of the time when we first heard it. Thanks for the intro to The National. I have never heard them before and think I’m going to like them.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. S Francis says:

    Thanks David, I started out thinking of the character grown up and looking back on the moment he was showered and blue blazered but there is a ton of me in this poem. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. David K says:

    I love The National. Boxer is a wonderful album, ‘Brainy’ is particularly dark and sublime. And this song has been a long time favourite, I liked your response to it. You captured the similar feelings well.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. S Francis says:

    Thank you, this is one of the most honest pieces I have written in a long time. Something I would have put in a folder and come back to in a few years to say… “i wrote that?” But now, this community, these new stranger/friends are giving me the confidence to not only say these things needing said but also sharing them, more importantly, sharing them.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. braveandrecklessblog says:

    I think often about the Hidden Language that some poets– those who write because they HAVE to from the deepest parts of their souls- communicate in. This is one of these pieces written in our hidden language. You are learned, revealed to those share it. You have the ability and the willingness to see you. You write: “mistaken for a stranger/by my own friends” but perhaps made known to strangers who are becoming/will become friends.

    Liked by 3 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s