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

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

You’ll Never Be Alone (for Bobby)

Son
Today with oil, water and breath
I watched the priest
Open the soul of a boy
To God.

As
Mine
Was
A long time ago
And many sins past.

Now, let’s watch the gulls
Take flight from the bay
And ask them
What water tastes like in the rain
And ask them
What air feels like in the wind.

But until:
Your mother’s arms will hold you.
Strong arms.
They’ll support you wherever you fly.

I’ll be here watching the gulls
Listening to the sea’s song
Singing along with words made up
From scattered broken shells
And worn out stones
Awaiting you.

I will drip the oil
I will share my water
I will breathe for you
Until you fly back
Into my arms

And open
Up
My soul
Once again.
Son.

My reading:

Last year I ran a series of poems in response to songs by my favorite band, The National, never finishing their back-catalog. To rectify this situation, I turn to their under-rated self-titled album and perhaps their most beautiful song: “Son”. My response is dedicated to my oldest child and is titled after the line, “You’ll never be alone”.

Please enjoy.

The song:

The lyrics

Son
Songwriters: Aaron Dessner / Bryan Devendorf / Matthew Berninger / Scott Devendorf

And if you follow me, son
The wind’ll wrap around you
Carry you from the ground
You will never be alone

Your weight will turn to sunlight
That’s falling on a girl
You’re still inside the world

She’s reading books from empty women
They’re giving beauty tips from empty hips

[Chorus]
And how is the water of the rain
And how is the air of the wind
And how are the arms of your mother
She’s holding you in

Watch them as they try to fly their kites inside their bedrooms
That were only built for drinking
Your thoughts, they never lasted long when you were under the sky
Above it you can hold a thought forever

[Chorus] x2
She’s holding you in
She’s holding you in

Son lyrics © BMG Rights Management US, LLC