BUILDING A PUZZLE
Grandma taught me to find the corners first,
dependable as a compass rose
or Johnson’s drug store on Lincoln and Main.
Next she gathered and connected each flat edge,
straight as a birch tree, strong as a cane
supporting unsteady steps on uneven sidewalk.
The rest was trial and error,
like stumbling through a melody on dusty old piano keys.
Like putting a name with a face, or a word with an emotion.
But the longer she tried, the more pieces were missing.
OPENING THE WINDOW AFTER A LONG WINTER
The bees lie scattered,
almost buried by dust,
their rigid corpses
like markers on the interstate––
antennas drooping stems,
wings like wilting petals.
And we who have survived,
we who are as small as we’ve dreamed ourselves,
we need to know they did not suffer,
that their tiny lives worth living,
that they died in search of…
they died in search of sweetness,
they died in search of sweetness.
An usher near the narthex turned the dimmer down
while Pastor Cath gave the fire safety speech.
We fumbled in our hymnals, eyes blinking like a seraphim,
trying to adjust to the light; we opened up to Silent Night.
We opened up to Silent Night.
The amber flames stretched out onto my waiting wick
and I felt the heat like sun on my face.
The light cast long shadows on my Sunday best slacks,
making hulking monsters of the full coat racks.
I passed the flame to Grandma’s shaking hand,
and the organist played the first chord.
Silent night, Holy night…
The wax starts to slide down the candle’s side.
We sing all together in four part harmony
My dad, my mom, my sisters, grandparents and me.
We still do in my memory. We still do in my memory.
Silent night, Holy night…
I’VE SEEN YOU
i’ve seen you in my dreams
more and more with every passing month,
always near, but never close enough to touch
you never speak, your movement’s slow,
like i’m thumbing through a book,
trying to animate the pictures of you
doing something ordinary.
just before i wake up
i realize there’s no way you could be here
so i try hard to stay asleep,
but morning takes you away.
and i think,
there goes the day, there goes the week.
going back to sleep only means another dream.
i lie like a hostage in bed.
i start my day and i wait
for the grief to pass me by
‘til next time that i climb in my bed
and all these miles that i’ve flown from my home
never made me feel as grown up
as when you were proud of me.
i’ve seen you…
many lovely people have been asking my family and me how we’re doing during the holidays, and i want to thank you for your concern and continued prayers. i’d also like to answer, in my own way, by sharing a song i wrote and recorded a couple months ago. it’s about my dad; the way i’ve always thought of him, the way i’ve thought of him since his death. bonus points for you if you catch the musical quotation in the bridge.
i considered “always smiling” scrapped for a while due to an unfortunate dance break. turns out forced whimsy is just not whimsical. who knew?!
i despaired at the idea of deleting and rearranging and etc.ing the song without the dance break, but it actually ended up being easy. now i just have to record chorus vocals, but i’m still sort of on the fence about this tune. the synthesized organ breakdown worries me in its similarity to the acoustic organ at the beginning of “hard to say.”
i, uh, had some time to kill while i waited for friends. these are just my four favorites from twelve or so.
near the oregon / washington border.
“and my heart says” used to be acoustic and just enough slower to make it sort of boring. i kicked up the bpm, made it electric, and now it’s a sassy little dance song. much improved. i’ll post the acoustic version at some point.
one of my favorite afternoons at st. olaf, spent reading c.s. lewis in my hammock, watching leaves fall.
“unhappy with you” is my favorite song of the batch. i wrote it in grand island, nebraska and recorded most of it in beemer, nebraska. still needs vocals for the little bridge, but otherwise i’m getting closer to satisfied with the mix. for the first verse background vocals, i looped, copied, and pasted little auto-tuned eighth note snippets so that the individual recordings of my voice were like notes from a synth.
couch gag directed by banksy.
first and ten wisconsin.