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 “Afraid of Everyone” and a response “Whisper to the Ground”

This week’s song once again comes from The National, as I work my way backwards through their albums in anticipation of a release of a new album later this year. One can hope. This song feels very poignant to me, a song about media, alienation, and fear. Increasingly, feelings that grow inside my own soul, soul, soul, soul…. As the song reaches its passionate climax and Matt falls into a trance singing soul over and over again, it reaches inside me. See you next week.

I Whisper to the Ground

My son on my shoulders, I walk
Through the crowd at the carnival
I lift him wishing he could lift me
So we could ascend under Mary’s umbrella
When the winds shift from left to right
Together jump into a chalk paint dream
I will defend my family from the venom
I will defend my family from the hurt
I will defend my family from the drugs
Needed to sort through this red and blue
Mess. We will purple them together,
A much happier color for the new shoes
I walk in with my son on shoulders.

I whisper to the ground:

I, too, am afraid of everyone.

I, too, feel them swallowing my soul.

by Berninger, A. Dessner
[Verse 1]
Venom radio and
Venom television
I’m afraid of everyone
I’m afraid of everyone
Lay the young blue bodies
With the old red bodies
I’m afraid of everyone
I’m afraid of everyone

[Hook]
With my kid on my shoulders I try
Not to hurt anybody I like
But I don’t have the drugs to sort
I don’t have the drugs to sort it out
Sort it out

[Verse 2]
I defend my family
With my orange umbrella
I’m afraid of everyone
I’m afraid of everyone
With my shining new star
Spangled tennis shoes on
I’m afraid of everyone
I’m afraid of everyone

[Hook]
With my kid on my shoulders I try
Not to hurt anybody I like
But I don’t have the drugs to sort
I don’t have the drugs to sort it out
Sort it out
I don’t have the drugs to sort
I don’t have the drugs to sort it out
Sort it out

[Outro]
Your voice is swallowing my soul, soul, soul
Your voice is swallowing my soul, soul, soul
Your voice is swallowing my soul, soul, soul
Your voice is swallowing my soul, soul, soul
Your voice is swallowing my soul, soul, soul
Your voice is swallowing my soul, soul, soul
Your voice is swallowing my soul, soul, soul, soul, soul, soul, soul, soul, soul, soul, soul, soul, soul, soul

Your voice is swallowing my soul, soul, soul, soul
Your voice is swallowing my soul, soul, soul, soul
Your voice is swallowing my soul, soul, soul, soul, soul, soul, soul, soul, soul, soul, soul

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

Porcelain Doll-man

Tonight, I write about how sometimes we have to shatter everything to find the pieces that matter most.

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.

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