Emily

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the meadowlark and the chim-choo-ree and the sparrow
set to the sky in a flying spree, for the sport over the pharaoh
a little while later the Pharisees dragged comb through the meadow
do you remember what they called up to you and me, in our window?

there is a rusty light on the pines tonight
sun pouring wine, lord, or marrow
down into the bones of the birches
and the spires of the churches
jutting out from the shadows
the yoke, and the axe, and the old smokestacks and the bale and the barrow
and everything sloped like it was dragged from a rope
in the mouth of the south below

we’ve seen those mountains kneeling, felten and grey
we thought our very hearts would up and melt away
from that snow in the nighttime
just going
and going
and the stirring of wind chimes
in the morning
in the morning
helps me find my way back in
from the place where I have been

and, Emily - I saw you last night by the river
I dreamed you were skipping little stones across the surface of the water
frowning at the angle where they were lost, and slipped under forever,
in a mud-cloud, mica-spangled, like the sky’d been breathing on a mirror

anyhow - I sat by your side, by the water
you taught me the names of the stars overhead that I wrote down in my ledger
though all I knew of the rote universe were those pleiades loosed in december
I promised you I‘d set them to verse so I’d always remember

that the meteorite is a source of the light
and the meteor’s just what we see
and the meteoroid is a stone that’s devoid of the fire that propelled it to thee

and the meteorite’s just what causes the light
and the meteor’s how it’s perceived
and the meteoroid’s a bone thrown from the void that lies quiet in offering to thee

you came and lay a cold compress upon the mess I’m in
threw the window wide and cried; Amen! Amen! Amen!
the whole world - stopped - to hear you hollering
you looked down and saw now what was happening

the lines are fadin’ in my kingdom
(though I have never known the way to border ‘em in)
so the muddy mouths of baboons and sows and the grouse and the horse and the hen
grope at the gate of the looming lake that was once a tidy pen
and the mail is late and the great estates are not lit from within
the talk in town’s becoming downright sickening

in due time we will see the far butte lit by a flare
I’ve seen your bravery, and I will follow you there
and row through the nighttime
gone healthy
gone healthy all of a sudden
in search of the midwife
who could help me
who could help me
help me find my way back in
and there are worries where I’ve been

say, say, say in the lee of the bay; don’t be bothered
leave your troubles here where the tugboats shear the water from the water
flanked by furrows, curling back, like a match held up to a newspaper
Emily, they’ll follow your lead by the letter
and I make this claim, and I’m not ashamed to say I know you better
what they’ve seen is just a beam of your sun that banishes winter

let us go!
though we know it’s a hopeless endeavor
the ties that bind, they are barbed and spined and hold us close forever
though there is nothing would help me come to grips with a sky that is gaping and yawning
there is a song I woke with on my lips as you sailed your great ship towards the morning

come on home, the poppies are all grown knee-deep by now
blossoms all have fallen, and the pollen ruins the plow
peonies nod in the breeze and while they wetly bow,
with hydrocephalitic listlessness ants mop up-a their brow

and everything with wings is restless, aimless, drunk and dour
the butterflies and birds collide at hot, ungodly hours
and my clay-colored motherlessness rangily reclines
come on home, now! all my bones are dolorous with vines

Pa pointed out to me, for the hundredth time tonight
the way the ladle leads to a dirt-red bullet of light
squint skyward and listen
loving him, we move within his borders:
just asterisms in the stars’ set order

we could stand for a century
starin’
with our heads cocked
in the broad daylight at this thing
joy
landlocked
in bodies that don’t keep
dumbstruck with the sweetness of being
till we don’t be
told; take this
and eat this

told; the meteorite is the source of the light
and the meteor’s just what we see
and the meteoroid is a stone that’s devoid of the fire that propelled it to thee

and the meteorite’s just what causes the light
and the meteor’s how it’s perceived
and the meteoroid’s a bone thrown from the void that lies quiet in offering to thee

5 Responses to “Emily”

  1. 21st century soap-boxing » Lolo’s 10 favorite albums of 2006 Says:

    [...] 3. Joanna Newsom- Ys: This is probably the biggest surprise on the entire list. Anyone who knows me is well aware of the deep disdain I hold for poor singers. I have never been able to appreciate the poetry and skill of Bob Dylan, because I can’t get over the fact that he sounds like a drunk bum who got worked over pretty badly by the railroad police. Joni Mitchell has always sounded like something between a banshee and a fish monger and has born the brunt of my distaste for poor “folksy” singing. And for a long time, Joanna Newsom was near the top of the list. Her voice is at times painful to listen to. I never was able to listen to her first album, Milk-Eyed Mender, in its entirety and had no regrets about that. When I heard that she had a new album, Ys, coming out, I was interested but merely because I was surprised that her label didn’t drop her flat after her first mistake. Then Colin posted the lyrics to opening track “Emily” on his blog and I was captivated (you can also find the lyrics to Ys’ tracks “Only Skin” and “Sawdust & Diamonds” at Brightness Falls). It was beauty, through and through. I was hooked. I loaded the album to my iPod and went to the best speaker system I have- our car stereo. There, while dropping off the recycling, I fell in love with this entire album. The arrangements and compositions seem to have been dropped from the Italian renaissance and her lyrics are as poetic as any that the Bard penned. The beauty of phrases like “Let us go! Though we know it’s a hopeless endeavor/ The ties that bind, they are barbed and spined and hold us close forever/ Though there is nothing would help me come to grips with a sky that is gaping and yawning/ There is a song I woke with on my lips as you sailed your great ship towards the morning” from opening track “Emily” do not lose their beauty even though they come from a voice that sounds akin to a cat in heat. If anything it forces the listener to take note of the wondrous wordplay because you can’t tune out her voice to listen solely to her beautiful harp-playing. It’s a short album in that it only has six tracks, but each song stretches out to draw the listener in to its unique world. The shortest track, “Cosmia”, is still over 7 minutes long. I urge all listeners to give the album a chance. You may want to skip it once you hear Newsom’s voice, but you will not regret exposing yourself to her magical music-making. [...]

  2. Mark F Says:

    Good write-up, although surprised that you weren’t able to latch on to Milk-eyed Mender at the time. Hope you’ve had a chance to revisit and re-evaluate it since.

    It’s 18 months since this album’s release and I still can’t stop listening! The words now inhabit my mind to the extent that as I walked along my local windswept beach recently I found I could recite all of Sawdust and Diamonds, and that’s a lot of words.

    You’re right, it’s poetry, and no doubt the classic poetry scholars may scoff, but if there are better written, more beautiful, lyrics in the rock era I’d love to hear them. This CD is a major high point in my 35 years of record buying.

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