welcome to the newest “works in progress” series. these songs are the early recordings for a full-length solo record called, “Spark Meet Gasoline.” some may change before they’re done. some may be disappeared. all are distributed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license, meaning you’re free (encouraged!) to share, remix, and rework all songs as long as you credit my stuff and share your work under the same terms. Strange Angels will find a link to an additional song, every month, in an email sent on the day of this post.
lyrics and essays
i called shotgun
our car submerged
your breakneck speed slowed to a float
out on a thalidomide limb
stiff as a board
but delinquent no more
can’t see the fog for the trees
i lost my way on reject beach
lost my heart
you can’t live until you die
you can’t see unless you’re blind
i called shotgun
our car submerged
your breakneck speed slowed
“A little something for the stoners,” Rizzo always says when we add a production detail nobody’ll ever hear. Nobody, that is, except the slowed-down, the close listeners, the resonance hunters. And they’re my favorite ’cause I envy their focus.
Sunshine people, still people, watching people people-watching. Offering something up when you have something to offer is cool, but even cooler are the bodies that park themselves like lizards on leaves, paying attention. They have the wherewithal to step aside when they come across puddles of drama, oncoming traffic and traumas about to pounce. Their stories are braver than mine because with nothing to hide from, they have only to engage. Their lives will never be long enough.
This is the last demo from “Spark Meet Gasoline.” Thank you for close-listening for a whole goddamn year. Thank you for having 24 brand-new songs worth of patience. Thank you for being resonance hunters. And thank you for your bravery. Y’all are my inspiration and my heroes.
inspired weakness under sleepy sun
and one cloud is a meltdown
there’s no tomorrow
bang a left
a bubble net waits over the next threshold
wearing tear stains
hovering over your shame
syringes scatter below
your body freight
baptize your weight
let it go past the next plateau
there’s no tomorrow
a wide open sea. just about everything is a wide open sea if you look closely enough or hover far enough over your landscape/soundscape, bruised and scraped. but only ever really hurt by love bites, which, if you think about it, shouldn’t hurt much more than scarification.
and when you feel trapped, you could try turning around and pushing at the edges, which turn out not to be solid after all. not so solid, anyway. to be reckoned with maybe, or recognized as the birth canal that all entrapment is, but not solid. i mean, we’re not even solid, so how could we be stuck unless stuckness just got stuck in our heads somehow and fucked with our perception? tear stains in the mirror’ll show you that that just happened.
push your fingers into the net, bubbles scatter. and they’re beautiful.
gold rush whores pelted with rain
you get what’s coming, understand?
this short story feels too long
hair of the dog
tell me a lie
spoken like a true close call
i know i shouldn’t have been there at all
that’s no system
your eyes gone cold
your lips feel the burn
tell me you’re lonely
your couch is how the moon slips through
mark me with your thumbprint
under skies that crash in sun-kissed
rubber bullets sing past
teacup bravery is all the chivalry i ask for
as rubber bullets sing past
your hand is glam gone softer
haul me down through burn and crash
under skies that crash in thunder
rubber bullets sing past
Some lies are best kept under wraps, some lies are best told under blankets. You take a picture of a hero and check out the negative, hold it up to the light and squint, you’ll see the gray and brown of black and white. The gleamingest of white teeth turn black when held up to the sun, but the parts of the skull you can’t see hold bizarre, unexpected treasures and violence, always shifting back and forth, dancing or boxing, depending.
It’s an excuse to be gentle, a reason to be patient. A season later, you catch the sun’s raisining effect on a face and study those teeth within the lying mouth and wonder at the raunchy warmth of it all.
inside the winter palace
crummy summer haze
the whole place yellow
trouble and disappointment have come to me
our lady guadelupe
running away is a shining chrome edged with rust: a blinding escape, its underbelly eaten away. parked on a musty quilt on a mustier futon on an even mustier attic floor, the only light a mexican candle, everything cracked and fragile and about to give way, the saint painted across the flicker appears to be gazing wildly about her.
as nervous as she looks, people run to guadelupe in times of trouble, maybe because she seems troubled herself. or maybe the opposite is true, it’s hard to read a candle by candlelight, as it turns out. the word “disappointment” leaps out anyway, in all its camaraderie and sick depth.
and everything so jaundiced, even clean snow won’t wash away the stain.
slink past the stoned rasta painters on baronne
blink and the walmart of the dead blurs
look around you
wild parrots and gin in the air
don’t know where to go
don’t know where to go from here
don’t know where to go to disappear
tangerine and seasick green
us in pieces
like when wolverine
big red’s king
caught us hiding
we just drove away into the day in stitches
Wolverine, our bus driver on Big Red (my children’s favorite ever tour bus, coolest of all possible buses) leaned against the sink asking questions while he washed the dishes, which I could barely bear. Not the questions, the dish washing. As a polite southern girl, I found it very difficult to watch someone else do the dishes, but he swore he enjoyed it, wouldn’t let me wrestle the sponge from his hands. He said as a polite Englishman, it would have been impossible for him to watch me do the dishes, so we were sort of at a politeness impasse.
Which we tried to make more comfortable by interviewing each other for months on end. “Why kittens?” I asked him over the sudsy splashing, gazing around me at the walls of the back lounge. These walls were covered in kitten posters and calendars, framed photos of kittens he had known and snapshots of wild ones he’d never known, only viewed through Big Red’s windshield.
“A man must be a king,” he answered slowly. “King of his domain, no matter how insignificant in the eyes of others. I am king of my bus and with that comes great responsibility. First, of my passengers’ safety and then of their comfort. What makes a kingdom or a house or a bus most comfortable? Cats. Cats know comfort. And what’s better than cats? Nothing. Except kittens.”
That made sense. I looked up and a gray angora with swimmy blue eyes stared down at me from the ceiling. That didn’t make me feel comfortable, exactly, but I wasn’t king of this place, Wolverine was. He must know best.
“My turn,” he announced, scratching a tattooed arm with his soapy sponge. Bubbles slid down his bicep, nestling into the crook of his elbow. “Why do you have so many kids? Why didn’t you stop at one?”
I shrugged. “‘Cause kids’re awesome. I’m greedy, wanted as much awesome as I could get.”
“So much work, though,” he shook his head sadly.
“Not work: biological imperative.”
He looked at me to see if I was kidding. “They keep you from living life, though, don’t they?”
“Well, they are life.” I took a minute to think about this, cuz Wolverine had a point. He put the last teacup on the rack and grabbed a flowery, yellow dish towel. “Can I dry?” I asked him.
Shaking his head, he muttered, “Answer the question.”
“Uh…” the kitten stared down balefully. “I guess the life I don’t get to live because of the kids…I never really wanted in the first place.”
He smirked at me over a dinner plate. “You’re hiding.”
I grinned, lost in the weepy eyes of Wolverine’s angora kitten. “Duh-uh.”
melting into slo-mo
an inevitable slowing
weak in the knees and in the fists
all signs waiting patiently for you to spot them pointing and your esp is on the fritz
christen this city with the sound you grew up wanting jangle trauma in the light
bus stop junkies looking pretty as the morning
jungle hot after a rainy night
and by dawn we’re floating
and by dawn we’re neurons firing
The year we lived in Portland, Oregon, summer came in fits and starts. I figured this was cuz a Portland summer was iffy, diffident: a timid season, barely a season at all, like it’d been in Seattle. Figured we’d check the weather every day by pulling back the curtains and watching the junkies at the bus stop, see how dewy they were.
But when the city finally succumbed to summer, it was to a raging, arid heat wave that came crashing in at midnight and never left. The kind of heat that makes you hate everybody: 100 degrees of solitude, we called it. By the second day, we were sleepless and spent, the world slipping into slo-mo.
We spent our rent money on an air conditioner the landlady promised us we’d never need. Looked like R2D2, for some reason. It sat in the corner, puffing occasionally. Didn’t help much.
We had no idea where we were. This is the pacific northwest?? The melty junkies at the bus stop were beginning to mummify. Three days in, they were no longer moving. neither were we.
Day 3 of anything hard or heartbreaky is when the shock…well, not so much wears off as settles in for good. When the mummification stops you in your tracks. It’s when I find myself looking up the stages of grief to see how many I’ve made it through so far (what a dork). I’m familiar enough with how much the world enjoys crashing down while we forget to brace ourselves, but shock is like a portal to a future you never asked for.
You leave or you deal, of course. You have an animal skin that usually knows best, and neurons firing in exquisite patterns you know nothing about.
It’s just that…I had such a nice story written. One with no mummified junkie hearts.
just a parlor game in a kissing chair
anything to make me sigh
you never really changed
you never really tried to detox
a constellation of zits
and a snail trail of snot
i’m losing patience with this
hoping that you’re not an asshole
i owned those ugly streets and that ugly man
by walking all over them
by being other than
i never really tried to detox
a dire harbinger
fire engine red
what holds your cells together
will or just a killer’s fear of death?
that ugly mouth
a freakish holdout
thought you were used to it
forgot to choose this shit
a holy constellation and you abused it
a snowy haunted season shining up your shoes
bet that’s the only reason you don’t lose
just a parlor game in a kissing chair
anything to make me laugh
My youngest son, Bo, sat backwards in the kissing chair on our second story balcony, watching a thunderstorm terrorize some squirrels in the branches just beyond our reach. And we did try to reach them, the poor furry babies, buzzing and bitching the way squirrels do when they’re stressed out. A kissing chair makes one of the sit-ees sit backwards unless you sit even more backwards, which is what Bo was doing in order to see the rain and the sad, wild squirrels.
Our own pet squirrel, Baby, was curled up happily inside the house, in a down jacket full of carrot slices and sunflower seeds and tiny little sandwiches. We found her as a baby, lying in the street, took her home so she could die warm and safe and cared for; didn’t name her, since she seemed doomed. But then she lived, of all things, called only “Baby Squirrel” for her whole sweet life, which she spent teaching us how to make squirrels happy.
Which is what we were telling these damp squirrels in the rainstorm, who chattered at us accusingly. “We can make you happy!” crooned Bo. “We have carrots and seeds and peanut butter sandwiches, just your size!” He’d seen Baby race around in circles after baths to dry off and encouraged these squirrels to do the same. “Run in circles, little dudes! Circles!”
But the damp squirrels remained damp, sad and bitchy; uninterested in circumlocution or sandwiches. And when two cars crashed into each other in the street below, the sirens scared ‘em all into hiding. Bo and I watched the wet drivers buzz and bitch at each other, watched the fire engines pull up all red shininess and nothing for them to do or put out. For some reason, that street corner hosted about three car crashes per week–no fatalities yet, fingers crossed–so the wet squirrels were far more interesting to Bo than all this goofy humanity.
“Circles, dudes…” he murmured, resting his chin on the back of the chair.
“between piety and desire”
incense, strawberry candles and soap
way to butcher a street
there are spells, dizzying spells
you can smell them coming
a torture on the breeze
did you call me?
what did you call me?
trying to turn the other cheek
all clean junkies miss dirty secrets
we’re gonna die so what the fuck
we’re only here through sheer dumb luck
and we don’t like the shit between piety and desire
no we don’t like the shit
cuz we belong in it
living in the bywater neighborhood of new orleans, between piety street and desire street, my sons and i found ourselves bored and dust-encrusted. inside was a crinkly brown christmas tree, a goldfish named freddie mercury floating in the toilet cuz we couldn’t bear to flush him and some walls we’d been looking at the whole salty winter. we figured outside was the way to go.
grabbing our dogs and bikes, we scooted over to the empty lot down the block. well, it was empty except for the beautiful detritus left behind when its former life as a factory parking lot dissolved into its present empty lotty glory. while i held the dogs’ leashes, the boys pushed boxes and lead pipes into place around cement girders and ramps, creating an obstacle course friendly to both canine toe pads and rubber tires. when it was finished, we had a sort of garbage castle to keep us busy until the sun disappeared. one of the best garbage castles i ever saw and it suited us.
mostly it was the thrill of down and then the thrill of up and the thrill of in-between on our way to one extreme or the other that made us so happy. we remained dust-encrusted, but shimmeringly so, the love of the 99% all around us: we are so lucky.
you said aloud, “i’m not allowed, i’m in trouble, i’m in trouble”
under your breath, “i got one left in me, i’m in trouble”
you step outside and hydrogen pops again on the white hot sidewalk
thunder and wonderland gone
you got it backwards
thunder and wonderland gone
you had it all
you’re losing her
you run and hide
it may seem like a brave new world out there, what with the bad guys trying to turn us stupid and the stupid guys thinking they can turn us bad. like The Simpsons sang so long ago, though, “just don’t look,” and you get your planet back instantly. the only power anybody has over us is the attention we give ‘em: they can’t chase us into heaven. that’s not where they’re headed anyway.
i watched a little girl sing a song to her tricycle this morning – “i wanna be a cowbitch” – which is a pretty good idea and a pretty good idea for a song, too. her saggy, pink sweatpants were on backwards and the grass in her hair was wilting. she’d turned her tricycle upside-down, too, so she could work the pedals with her hands. she was fucking with stuff, her life pictures completely under her own control, her soundtrack a stairway to little-girl-in-saggy-pink-sweatpants heaven.
as my son says, “you are what you see.”
somebody please put these kids in charge; they know how to keep hydrogen and hearts popping. and i think, for a minute, we maybe forgot how important that is.
“some dumb runaway”
our crummy commie neighbors draw the blinds on gutter pissing by midnight
hard to tell when they’ve had enough
doubling up on every vice
i’m doubled over on my knees again
only way i know how to be
i just adopted your thing about hope as doubt
some dork horked his rolling rock
hit a kid on the sidewalk
hard to tell when we’ve had enough
the stars align so drink up
don’t have much pull miles away
some dumb runaway
waiting for the moon
better spit out that bad voodoo
now under this streetlight
screw the moon
mardi gras here in new orleans this week, with its pounding and grinning and trumpets and smoke and staggering and sirens and puking and feathers and beaded whoopers taking to the streets. not too different from the everyday highs and lows of new orleans, of course, just noisier. so far only four people shot…everybody else seems pretty happy, taking the bitter with the sweet, the garbage with the charm.
and still the lizards spread micro jurassic parks across the pink petals on the sidewalk. and the palmetto bugs skitter under the streetlight where you wait for the moon to show itself. it doesn’t. sultry clouds keep it hidden, the sky a swirling wash over the corner where that drunk frat boy drove into a stop sign and a fourth grader. honestly, you gotta be a little hard to take this particular brand of garbage. you gotta be real charmed by the charm.
or maybe your brain is sleeping or you lost your heart far away and this keeps you slightly zombified. or at the very least, numb. cuz otherwise, hope’d hurt. only problem is: if you’re already a runaway…where do you go from here?
love these swastika trees and spitting in the wind
another lesson we don’t need
swimming to normal
spark meet gasoline and bitchy oxygen
halfway down the rock
shatter my fingers and my heart
another ending we won’t start
Feminism didn’t become necessary because women are treated as sex objects. It became necessary because only women are treated as sex objects, and then only some women. Gay, straight, male, female, young, old, short, tall, fat, thin, able-bodied or not, and any goddamn race, every consenting adult deserves to be somebody’s sex object. If we could level that particular playing field, it’d be a helluva kick in the nuts to entertainment and it’d turn politics upside-fucking-down.
Art already knows this, of course, because real art is real life. You let the feminine in and suddenly Barbie disappears because everyone is beautiful. And you and your work evolve, which is a big deal, cuz we all need visceral and funny and heartbreaking.
Ernest Hemingway, that famous manly, gun-toting, manly, womanizing, manly, hard-drinking manly, hunter/soldier manly man, could only write well from his female side. His genius was in a bewitching sensousness that allowed him to align with nature and expose human nature, expressing it as simply as it is expressed here on earth.
As thrilling as this is for a reader, personally, it seemed to make him nervous. Nervous enough to write dry, gray, manly stories and live in accordance with those rather than the rich world of color he could only access when he let his unconscious hold the pen. Which is weird, cuz the day of the Straight White Man doin’ stuff to make the Skinny Girl like him seemed so over so long ago. Never should have been, if you ask me, cuz it was never real art and it was never real life.
But I know people as dead as Hemingway whose deaths I blame on the trickle-down effects of believing that other people believe in shallow. And I know shining, brilliant, healthy men and women whose sensitivity will never break their hearts, because it makes them stronger, and thus more giving. Shallow shows its wispiness in their presence, blows away like the nothing it always was.
woke up wide awake and prayed
sorta know how to pray
you just ache with hope ‘til it goes away
you only know secret codes
to god and man you only know secret codes
you’re terra firma on singapore air
you’re bouncing babies when we had no fear
flat on a bare mattress
then you disappear
caffeine and palsied balls
you’re just greasing up lightning
you don’t need my help at all
just ache with hope ‘til it goes away
you only know secret codes
i had a friend who used to say that hope was our enemy. “hope is greed!” he’d rant, “a sticky situation, coming and going.”
real smart guy, so i’d sit in his kitchen, listening and waiting to get it. “what about spring?” i asked him one morning in june, admiring a giant sunflower that peered back at me through the kitchen window. it bothered me that spring was slipping away, each day muggier than the last. “feels so hopeful, everything growing, and it keeps happening, comes back every year…makes you hopeful.”
narrowing his eyes at me, he lifted a finger. “about what?”
“that’s just happy.” he shook his head dismissively. “hope is when you think you can tell the future by bossing it around.”
i smiled. “bossing the future around?”
lifting his coffee cup, he spoke over it. “by wanting one particular element of the big picture to go your way.”
i thought about this. “sounds great.”
“you’re so dopey,” he sighed.
“i mean it sounds like prayer.”
“my point is, you can’t do that. you-will-be-disappointed.”
i leaned back in my chair and looked out the window at the sunflower again. “could hope be a seed?” i asked him.
“that’s exactly what it is.”
“you know how many seeds take?” he grumbled. “you wanna gamble away your energy on something that may never take root?”
his sunflower squeaked across the window, bending in the breeze, and blocked the sun for a moment. when it straightened, a fuzzy beam of light shot through the glass. i shrugged. “sorta.”