I’m Nobody! Who Are You?

Emily Dickinson wrote this poem that’s been coming to my mind often lately. It feels more meaningful than ever right now, in our always-on-brand, everyone-pay-attention-to-me, social-media-saturated culture. Being nobody seems so very sane and wise in contrast. With enough nobodies we could change the world I think.

For further consideration, hear this episode of the “Another Name for Everything” podcast with Richard Rohr, discussing the idea of the cosmic egg, and specifically the dangers of over-focusing on “my story.”

Also this “Big Head” episode of Matthew Syed’s “Sideways” podcast, which happened to come up in my feed today and felt truly timely.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

Emily Dickinson

Initiation (Rainer Maria Rilke) set to music

For week 20 of #songaweek2021 I turned to Rilke for my lyrics. I’d saved this poem with other song ideas I had but I wasn’t clear on its title. An internet search brought me to another WordPress blogger’s post about the same poem, from almost exactly a year ago! The blogger, Jeff Japp, gives two possible interpretations of the poem. And then a commenter asked if it might also be “the-end-of-quarantine poem” – and I hadn’t even thought of that but maybe that’s why I was drawn to this particular poem in this particular week as life around me starts to feel so much more opened up again (a year out from that original comment!).

Whoever you are, go out into the evening,
leaving your room, of which you know each bit;
your house is the last before the infinite,
whoever you are.

Then with your eyes that wearily
scarce lift themselves from the worn-out door-stone
slowly you raise a shadowy black tree
and fix it on the sky: slender, alone.

And you have made the world (and it shall grow
and ripen as a word, unspoken, still).
When you have grasped its meaning with your will,
then tenderly your eyes will let it go.


New Year’s Day 2020

It could be a cruel joke
that the sun keeps coming up
the years keep rolling out
and you and I grow older
withering back to the void
from whence we came

but maybe it’s a generous one
delightful, robust, profound
that we grow and learn and pick it all up
till we shrink, forget, let it all go
and nobody really knows at all
no matter what they know
and peace
at last
as ever
like a bomb from the blue
or the longest-running
in the cosmos.

Talk About the Weather

This song started with an idea I saved on my phone in August, which ended up being most of the melody and one line of the lyrics (“talk about the weather while I pull myself together”).

In trying to fill out this idea, I read back through my journal for the year and came across a dream I had shortly after being at my friend Troy’s funeral. That became the second verse.

I had a tune idea for the chorus but couldn’t come up with any words, so I searched through the public domain poems I’ve got filed away for possible writing use, and decided on “What If You Slept?” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The poem is italicized in the song lyrics below.

This is another song that certainly needs more work, but I’m not sure whether I’ll ever come back to it. Week 40 of #songaweek2018 was a week of getting the job done, not making a masterpiece!

It has turned out to fit well with this week’s weather though. And as always, I’m glad I took the time to write.

Today I feel I’ve said it all before
So let’s just talk about the weather while I pull myself together
My big ideas are a bigger bore
But how bout all this rain that’s falling?
Is it cold enough for you?

I dreamed my heart got buried with my friend
and that I didn’t even know it but that’s why I was stoic when they
Laid him down in the April ground
And how bout all this rain that’s falling?
Is it cold enough for you?

What if you slept and what if
In your sleep you dreamed

And what if in your dream
You went to heaven and there plucked
A strange and beautiful flower . . .

Some days all we can do is make it through
Just smile and talk about the weather try to keep it all together
Why is it home looks better when you’ve left
And how bout all this rain that’s falling
Is it cold enough for you?

. . .and what if when you awoke
You had that flower in your hand
Ah, what then?


The Last Rose of Summer

Today my youngest went back to school, so for the first time in months, it’s just the dog and me at home. Which means I’m looking forward to giving some more focused attention to songwriting and recording for the remaining weeks of #songaweek2018.

And it also means that for last week, week 35, in which only my son was home because his sister had already started at her school, I took the quick and easy route for my songwriting so I could spend more time with him. We played a lot of Doctor Who Fluxx and then on Friday we packed everybody up and drove out to North Dakota where we camped with family at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the badlands of NoDak, which is a long desolate drive from most anywhere people live but worth it. Beautiful and even on Labor Day weekend, not too crowded. (Also we witnessed a bison stampede while hiking, with wild horses just meters in front of us!)

But I digress. The quick and easy route for songwriting means I pick a public domain poem I’ve filed away for possible future use, and I write a tune for it. The title of this one by Thomas Moore made it the obvious choice! (If you follow the link on his name, you can hear a recording of another song made using the poem and recorded in 1914. Makes sense that I’m not the first to set it to music.)

Tis the last rose of summer
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone:
No flower of her kindred,
No rose-bud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
Or give sigh for sigh.

I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter
Thy leaves o’er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,
When friendships decay,
And from Love’s shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie wither’ d,
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit
This bleak world alone?