Tonight I have been listening to one song, humming it, singing it to myself in the shower, and finding covers of it on YouTube. The song is "Star Witness" by Neko Case and if you don't have it already, you should buy it here or here. It's a good song to have on hand for the moments when you want or need it. (Really, you should buy the entire album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. It is a masterpiece.)
"Star Witness" has everything I need in a song. It is layered, deeply. Gently slapped drums, several guitars, a bass, some organ in there every so often, echoes all over the place, a piano, and Neko's voice haunting the whole thing like some gorgeous ghost sweeping in and out of my dreams. The lyrics are inscrutable and lovely all at the same time:
Trees break the sidewalkand the sidewalk skins my kneesThere's glass in my thermosand blood on my jeansNickels and dimes of the fourth of Julyrolled off in a crooked lineto the chained link lots where the red tails dieOh how I forgot, what it's like.The harmonies are like birds sweeping impossibly close but never hitting one another. And the music moves on the easy swing of an almost country sound that also echoes folk and indie.
There is no way to put it down in words. Even if there was, there's no way for you to have my experience of it. The song is working for me not just because of the notes, lyrics, and arrangement but because of the notes I'm hitting today, the lyrics I'm hearing, and the arrangement of my life.
A lot of what I'm putting on Neko Case rises from having cranked out a 50,000-words novel draft over the past twenty-six days and attending my therapy appointment today. In the hour of talking with my therapist, and the repeated listenings to Neko Case I've been thinking about what I tried to do in the novel.
Go on, go on and scream and cryYou're miles from where anyone will find youThis is nothing new, no television crewThey don't even put on the sirenMy nightgown sweeps the pavement, pleasedon't let him dieIn the novel a man is haunted by a childhood memory of a guy down the street who used to swing a baseball bat in his back yard for hours on end. The batter wasn't quite right, not in step with the rest of the world. The kid watches him, trying to understand the world. He grows up and life remains inscrutable. Like a child tries to unlock the secrets in one move. He imagines the batter having the answer. If he would just reveal it, then life would be great. Until then, something is missing. The novel is about something missing and the man keeping it from himself even as he tries to believe that he's searching.
I told my therapist this and she asked, "what if nothing is missing?"
I'm still trying to figure out an answer to that. I'm still trying to understand what the question even means. So I'm putting on a new song, one without words, so that I can do the only thing which makes sense to me all of the time: write on.