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
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.”