Listened to the Lion

Lion, what roar remains inside your love?
We shall not be contained by the cages
Built around our souls, as if they’d define
Meaning inside the love we were bound.

No longer over the falls falling the tears
I hear the lion roar inside of me: “Love!”
So our souls build around us definition
Binding us to meaning, life still to live.

My voice:

Once upon a time, a version of me would have told you my favorite song was Into the Mystic by Van Morrison, and then my life began to change in ways unanticipated and a new song emerged that spoke to a deeper part of my soul needing to find its way into the world. I think the words above express something from that part of me. Song of the Week: Listen to the Lion, Van Morrison.

Artwork: Funky Lion Roar by Sarajevo2707
Funky lion roar

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Begins Its Beat

So the chorus sings together, I hear them:
This is me, this is me, and this is me, no apologies.
And all of a sudden my chest opens up
To the flood it had held back like risk.

These words, too simple to be accepted
Now break down all of the barriers built
And all of a sudden my chest opens up
My heart brave, begins to more than throb.

It glows and drowns the darkness
This is me, this is me and I deserve your love.
And all of a sudden my chest opens up
My heart absorbs the flood and begins its beat.

My Voice:

The past month, I have been healing with my children and some amazing friends. I thank a one very good friend in particular for introducing me to The Greatest Showman one evening that provided a needed rudder shift. This week’s song of the week, the majestic and entrancing anthem, This Is Me, inspires and tonight I felt something change for good inside me. I am not sure this poem puts a finger on it, perhaps it does, perhaps it doesn’t, but something new now begins its beat.

The Song:

The Lyrics:

This Is Me
Keala Settle, The Greatest Showman Ensemble
Songwriters: Justin Paul / Benj Pasek

I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are

But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh

Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades and
Reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that’s what we’ve become (yeah, that’s what we’ve become)

I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh
This is me

and I know that I deserve your love
(Oh-oh-oh-oh) ’cause there’s nothing I’m not worthy of
(Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh)
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
This is brave, this is proof
This is who I’m meant to be, this is me

Look out ’cause here I come (look out ’cause here I come)
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum (marching on, marching, marching on)
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I’m gonna send a flood
Gonna drown them out
Oh
This is me

This Is Me lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Song of the week and a response: I Need My Girl – The National; Cannonball With Me

Inspired by justruminating and others, here is my song of the week and my response poem.

If this post becomes a regular song of the week, we will learn something about my love of the band The National. This song tells a love story that is more real than “pop” and reflects the melancholic and romantic moods of this marvelously creative band. I am sure we will be talking about them more here.

But first, a response:

Cannonball With Me

I need my girl, and girl cannonball with me
See who can make a bigger splash
See who can make a harder crash
We are good at looking taller, we are grounded,
So tell them to talk about what this clown did.

I need my girl, and girl come and dance with me
We will spin and spin and spin
We will drink like Hank and Boleyn
I promise to keep your head, though, in mind
Really, to take it from you I am disinclined.

I need my girl, girl need me too, need me to
Love you more than 45 percent, expect interest
Compounding as we count our splashes and spins
Making life small enough to get my head around it:
The divine, the apology, the shit I lost.
I need my girl, I need my girl, I need…

Take this gun out of my hand, Davy.

I Need My Girl – The National
Written by: Matt Berninger, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Bryan Devendorf, Scott Devendorf

I am good, I am grounded
Davy says that I look taller
But I can’t get my head around it
I keep feeling smaller and smaller
I need my girl
I need my girl

Remember when you lost your shit and
Drove the car into the garden
You got out and said I’m sorry
To the vines and no one saw it
I need my girl
I need my girl

I’m under the gun again
I know I was a 45-percenter then
I know I was a lot of things
But I am good, I am grounded
Davy says that I look taller
But I can’t get my head around it
I keep feeling smaller and smaller
I need my girl
I need my girl

There’s some things that I should never
Laugh about in front of family
I tried to call you from the party
It’s full of punks and cannonballers
I need my girl
I need my girl

I’m under the gun again
I know I was a 45-percenter then
I know I was a lot of things
But I am good, I am grounded
Davy says that I look taller
I can’t get my head around it
I keep feeling smaller and smaller
I keep feeling smaller and smaller
I keep feeling smaller and smaller

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

Song of the Week – The National “The Geese of Beverly Road” and a Response “Tea With Tumnus”

This week Alligator has played in my ears more times than I can count with this beautiful song, “The Geese of Beverly Road,” playing on repeat for nearly the entire flight from Singapore to Hong Kong. When deciding which song to write a response to this week, I knew I wanted to move away from the cathartic after last week’s Porcelain Doll-man. As this song grew in my mind it brought me to a tiny, specific memory from my childhood. One of those minuscule moments that stick completely outside any context but with the weight of the inescapable. Honestly, I wanted to pluck lines straight from this song, lines like “we’re the heirs to the glimmering world” and “We’ll run like we’re awesome, totally genius” and the best closing line yet “Oh, come, come be my waitress and serve me tonight/ Serve me the sky with a big slice of lemon.” However, I chose to write a poem that draws a little bit from Yeats’ Love Song translated from Gaelic and a lot from my favorite childhood book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe all to somehow capture the essence of that minuscule moment from my childhood of walking in the snow on a snow day in New Hampshire with my neighbors. This went through 3 or 4 versions, and I fear it fails more than succeeds, but sometimes we just need to get something out on paper and see what happens when it gets into the heads of the readers. Maybe this will be one I revisit in time after it sits inside my brain stew and maybe I will just pluck those lines after all.

Tea with Tumnus
With great appreciation to Yeats and Berninger

My love we will go, we will go, you and I
Away into the dismantled cedar woods,
The reconstructed closet where the Mother
Of the House boxes and stores memory.
We can push through the hanging coats hiding
The best secret, my love, let’s go, let’s go.

Some didn’t believe in Lucy when she returned
The same moment she left, even with Tumnus’
Tea stain on her collar, but broken windows
Build solidarity in the quickest way, Innocents.
We can push through moth-eaten coats hiding
The best secret, my love, let’s go, let’s go.

I believe enough to craft a memory of snow
Whisper so feint I do not know from where we came
Nor know to where we will go, only a quiet so clear
We hear a solitary bird sing, longing for his love, we
Discover warmth that melts coldness in our hearts
Uncovering the best secrets, my love, let’s go, let’s go.

You and I, we’ll set out into the shimmering world
Blood flushing our cheeks, red like roses
Our footsteps a new Kingdom’s first definition
Snow a down coat softening all life’s sharp edges
Tonight, come be my Tumnus, serve me
The best secret, my love, let’s go, let’s go.

The Geese of Beverly Road
Matt Berninger, Aaron Dessner & Scott Devendorf

[Verse 1]
We’ll take ourselves out in the street
And wear the blood in our cheeks
Like red roses
We’ll go from car to sleeping car
And whisper in their sleeping ears
We were here, we were here
We’ll set off the geese of Beverly Road

[Chorus]
Hey, love, we’ll get away with it
We’ll run like we’re awesome, totally genius
Hey, love, we’ll get away with it
We’ll run like we’re awesome

[Verse 2]
We won’t be disappointed
We’ll fight like girls for our place at the table
Our room on the floor
We’ll set off the geese of Beverly Road

[Chorus]
Hey, love, we’ll get away with it
We’ll run like we’re awesome, totally genius
Hey, love, we’ll get away with it
We’ll run like we’re awesome

[Bridge]
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world

[Verse 3]
We’re drunk and sparking, our legs are open
Our hands are covered in cake
But I swear we didn’t have any
I swear we didn’t have any

[Chorus]
Hey, love, we’ll get away with it
We’ll run like we’re awesome, totally genius
Hey, love, we’ll get away with it
We’ll run like we’re awesome

[Bridge]
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world

[Outro]
Oh, come, come be my waitress and serve me tonight
Serve me the sky tonight
Oh, come, come be my waitress and serve me tonight
Serve me the sky with a big slice of lemon

[Bridge]
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world

[Outro]
Oh, come, come be my waitress and serve me tonight
Serve me the sky tonight
Oh, come, come be my waitress and serve me tonight
Serve me the sky with a big slice of lemon

So Close to Losing You

Today, thought I just about made it
When the sand felt so soft under foot.
Surf as gentle as she has ever been
Kind, she tasted my toes, an offering.
The Bay as still as she has ever been
Called my heart ready, an offering.

So I swam, free style, each stroke
Reaching as far as it could, elbows high,
Until there was nothing left to reach for.
Stories tell of the peace felt the moment
Water rushes inside remaining voids
Releasing oxygen others need more.

Today, just about made it across the bay
When the bottom, littered with rocks
Called me its offering, gentle and kind.
So I swam until there was nothing left
Water rushed in like a baby yet born,
I closed my eyes, close enough to losing.

“Son,
Are you awake?
I’m right here.
Hey,
Are you awake?
I’ll watch you.

Today, swim with me,
Son, so close…
Your
Eyes:
I am not losing you
Not today.“

My voice:

This week’s song of the week finishes The National back-catalog with a response to the stunning melancholy of “About Today” formally released on the EP Cherry Tree, made more powerful in its live version on the Virginia EP. A conventional reading of the lyrics tell of a man next to his wife realizing he is losing her. An unconventional reading of the lyrics is more self-reflective, a man looking at himself so close to losing everything. Today, the 25th of May, both readings speak to me. My response, however, ends with the hopeful, yet pained voice of a Father, perhaps The Father, who watches over his Son, not yet ready to lose him. This cathartic poem has been brewing for some time, now, and at last finds its voice.

The Song:

Original version, a powerful part of the film The Warrior:

This live version, however, rips my heart out every time:

The Lyrics:

About Today
Songwriters: Aaron Dessner / Matthew Berninger

Today
You were far away
And I
Didn’t ask you why
What could I say
I was far away
You just walked away
And I just watched you
What could I say

How close am I
To losing you

Tonight
You just close your eyes
And I just watch you
Slip away

How close am I
To losing you

Hey, are you awake
Yeah I’m right here
Well can I ask you
About today

How close am I
To losing you

How close am I
To losing

About Today lyrics © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

220px-cherry_tree_28ep29 220px-the_virginia_ep_cover

Song of the Week: Bjork “Army of Me” and a response poem: “An Army of Me Met Met at the Door”

An Army of Me Met Met at the Door

An army of me met me at the door
and kicked me in the balls
so hard they rolled off my tongue
like ben wa and dropped
like a teenager’s waking up one morning
with a sticky surprise

An army of me met me at the door
and laughed in my face
until i had to laugh right along with me
ha ha ha, roll on the floor, jackass
and look at the teenager you became
30 years after it was hip

An army of me met me at the door
and came in for a scotch
he had it neat, i had it messy
with ice that melted
into a puddle deep enough
to go and drown a little sorrow

An army of me met me at the door
and we decided to hang out a bit
turns out he was good company
and so we decided to become one
and just get on with it:
the rescue squad was exhausted.

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Drunk Carlton

You own me, Carlton, lucky you,
But, who was bought and who sold?
Every night you fall asleep a drunk’s
Dream inside your head, nightmares
Sun lit up in your bed, unaware
Of the test you weren’t too smart to flunk.

You won me, Carlton, lucky you,
But who bought you and what was sold?
Every drunk night you fall outside safety
Zones where you try to hide me
Ridden home, I will never be the bet
You took in a moment’s sanity.

You owe me, Carlton, lucky me.
What you broke, the made bed
A big mistake, nothing to do
But clean up the empty space inside.
Ahead, what I will never try to see
Letters scattered on my turn, drunk.

Last week, I resumed my National Song of the Week project, so this week, I will revisit the past poems and move back forward through their catalog to arrive at their latest release. When I wrote this poem, I was reading a book by Jane Mayer called Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. Not the typical book to prompt poetry, but there it is, partly inspired by The National, partly inspired by an advertising character named Carlton sited in DM as the “eco-hypocrite” who was paraded out to alter public perceptions on global warming and the environmental movement to support sustained power of un-accountable wealth in America. More powerful than alternative facts and fake news: false mythology. I fight back with my art.

So, this became a sort of political poem in the form of a sort of personal poem.

The song:

Lucky You written by The National

[Verse 1]
Every time you get a drink
And every time you go to sleep
Are those dreams inside your head?
Is that sunlight on your bed?

[Verse 2]
Every time you’re driving home
Way outside your safety zone
Wherever you will ever be
You’re never getting rid of me

[Chorus]
You own me
There’s nothing you can do
You own me

[Verse 3]
You could’ve made a safer bet
But what you break is what you get
You wake up in the bed you make
I think you made a big mistake

[Chorus]
You own me
There’s nothing you can do
You own me
You own me
Lucky you
You own me
There’s nothing you can do

[Bridge]
You clean yourself to meet
A man who isn’t me
You’re putting on a shirt
A shirt I’ll never see
With letters in your coat
And no ones in your head
‘Cause you’re too smart to remember
You’re too smart

Lucky you
Lucky you
Lucky you

To the Swan Who Pointed Home

I didn’t know him, but I wanted him.
All the words that fell through, spoke in a voice
He would not listen to long enough to believe.
A game he played, at war with himself.

One day, the swan rose up from the lake,
Her body like an arrow pointing home.
His heart painted black like doors unopened
As he walked the street, people turning away.

So he sank his boat
Into the puddle he dripped.

I did know him, the man I wanted to be.
All the words that fell through spoke
To the swan who sung along pointing home
As if to say, “Go, enough is enough.”

The war over erased the black exposing
The tender red door only courage could open.
I fell into eyes that knew me as if beginning
Still time to turn away and walk this street.

I raised his boat,
Pointed it home and followed the swan.

My voice:

This week, a poem that explains the new title of this poetry blog written in response to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s beautiful “Falling Slowly” from the Soundtrack to the movie, Once. (and with a nod to the Stones’ classic, Paint it Black).

The song:

The lyrics:

Falling Slowly
Songwriters: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

I don’t know you
But I want you
All the more for that
Words fall through me
And always fool me
And I can’t react
And games that never amount
To more than they’re meant
Will play themselves out

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You’ll make it now

Falling slowly, eyes that know me
And I can’t go back
Moods that take me and erase me
And I’m painted black
You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It’s time that you won

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You’ll make it now
Falling slowly sing your melody
I’ll sing along

Falling Slowly lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc