American Goodbye

by Nancy Burke

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1.
Oh, Flaneur 01:42
Oh, Flanneur CHORUS: Oh, flanneur Oh, flanneur Oh, flanneur Now what do you see? There’s the city, posed between sea & sky, Hovering between fear and joy, And there you wander aimlessly As my dreams wander inside of me. CHORUS Oh, City, library of dramatic scenes, And you, Reader of Cities, by what means Do you turn the pages, keep yourself alive When you never leave and you never arrive? CHORUS London, Berlin or Moscow or Boston, I wander my life like a city I’m lost in. Paris, Manhattan or Kathmandu, What kind of witness or protector are you? Reflections pool in storefront glass, They whisper to you as you pass, That the end is always where you start, Metropolis of your own heart, CHORUS
2.
If you were gone Out beyond my window At the break of day There’s a glow at the horizon And the sound of a car driving away, But the birds, they surprised me, Singing of the day about to dawn. I didn’t think the birds would still be here If you were gone. Softer than a whisper, Sadder than a sigh, I felt the hours brush my cheek As they went fleeing by, But the sun, it surprised me, Floating in the harbor, silent as a swan. I didn’t think the sun would still be here If you were gone. (Break) Ripples on the water, Waves upon the shore, Footsteps in my memory And a silence at the door, But the moon, it surprised me When it threw its golden sigh across the lawn. I didn’t think the moon would still be here If you were gone.
3.
The Ballad of Cristobal Colon Cristobal: Oh, widow, I must leave you now He said and closed the door And went down to the water’s edge TO scan for new worlds to explore Oh, widow, I must leave behind The world that I have known, And seek the solace of the seas Said Cristobal Colon. Philipa: Oh, who can map this restlessness, This roiling silence spread, A rumpled linen continent Between the four posts of our bed? Oh, love, don’t doubt the sea is false Nor that my love is true, But sure as you embrace the sail, I will not wait for you. He grasped the ropes and scanned the restless Tempests of the sea And drove them on towards Hispanol And down toward mutiny “Oh, my love,” his cry caressed The fullness of the sail “Oh, take me to the places where All bonds are loosed and all maps fail!” Love is wide and Shoreless as the black Sargasso Sea And you can drown within it As you can in memory. I know the contours of desire By that which failed to last, I know those of the earth by the smooth Disappearance of your masts. Oh, who can map this appetite To reach at any cost The green shores of the truth That one can only find what one has lost? I know the bite of salt and spray, The tastes of sweat and sand, But most, I know the earth is round For I have held it in my hand. I think of you in morning light And pray for you at noon, But at eventide, I lay with him Whose child now floats within my womb His sleep is deep and soundless As the amniotic sea, His breathing fills and moves me As the currents do move thee. ‘Twas not the arrows hurled at them, Nor endless, pelting rains But the savage fist of mastery that Brought him homeward bound in chains Remember these two wat-ry orbs As unmarked as the seas You’ll no more grasp the thoughts behind Than you’ll reach the Antipodes.
4.
Clouds 02:28
Clouds Clouds, you perpetual Immigrants, following Close on each other like Elephants, lumbering slow Where will you go? I saw you glide over The forests, the cities You scattered your silver Your necklaces draping the boughs, Where are you now? CHORUS: And which one, Which one, Which among you wears the heavy crown? That one, That one, Floats a little closer to the ground. Where is your pastureland? Where do you go to Replenish your sacks full of Shadows, your amythest soul? Where do you go? You retreat to the evening, It rises to meet you The herd is dispersing, It’s leaving the moon in its wake So cool, so opaque. CHORUS
5.
Haunted 02:25
It’s like no one has set foot in here For maybe half a dozen years. There’s thick dust on the windowsills, The curtains drawn, air dank and still, And the room that’s farthest from the light Is the one behind your eyes. A picture in a broken frame And on the back, I see my name…. Fleeing figures, Whispered words, Footsteps in the spaces between What I said and what you heard I’ve seen you disappear before, Close the shutters, lock the door. You think you can escape those ghosts But silence is what draws them close… ‘Cause it’s true that whatever is locked out Can also be locked in. And the film that covers all your fears, It dims the lights and coats the mirrors Looming figures, Flying free, Circling your mind like moths To the flame of memory Out on the street, the traffic’s thinned A branch is creaking in the wind Your shade is pulled against the glass, I turn and see your shadow pass, Something far away that’s Framed by something near…..
6.
Patrick 03:03
Patrick I’m the grandson of a country I never set foot on. I’m the son of a man I haven’t laid my two eyes on for twenty years. Paid an arm and a leg, but he’s my phantom limb, And I’ve given up my future for a cause I hate as much as I hate him. Chorus: And I sleep, not with a girl, but with a pistol by my side, There was a battle in the kitchen and a foxhole in the floor, And I was hunkered down inside it when Mom reached in and pulled me out the door. Don’t know what’s in a name, don’t know what a father’s for, Mom said, “your Dad’s just an old soldier who never found his war.” I think I found it for him. Chorus: And I sleep, not with a girl, but with a pistol by my side. A pistol never hears you when you cry. Some day I’m going to find him and we’ll fight that fairer fight. I’ll find the heart of darkness in that empty, blinding desert light. At the length of twenty paces, he’ll see what I’ve become. Just like him, I’m half a man, a hero, a hero and a bum Chorus: And I sleep, not with a girl, but with a pistol by my side.
7.
I * am windowless I * am windowless Can’t tell the sun from the rain or the spring from the fall. I * am windowless Don’t try to conjure the light through the cracks in the wall. The salts of the oceans transported by rainbows That course through the veins of the streets and are gone. The lakes that evaporate, leaving their films on the Buildings, the dusty pink haloes of dawn. But I * am windowless Can’t tell the suns from the springs or the rains from the falls. I * am windowless Don’t try to conjure your light through the cracks in my walls. The buzz of communities, chorus of forests, That bury the conifers snug in their green, The hum of oblivion, cry of becoming, The trees that recall all the sorrows you’ve seen. But I * am windowless, Pacing the space between chairs and the time between beds. I * am windowless, Don’t try to conjure the seven strong winds from the gusts in my head. Visions of entering in on the slipstreams, and Up through the stairwells to heavens unsealed Revealing of beauties as blinkingly, Blindingly white as the breathless first snow on the fields. But I * am windowless Angular tangle of obsolete elbows and echoes and sills I * am windowless Motionless traveler stuck in this endless dark battle of wills. I * am windowless Snow on the fields I * am windowless Snow in the sky I * am windowless I *
8.
The Calm 02:47
The Calm It’s a small town story, It’s a nation in retreat, We’re all sick from too much liquor And the stench of crude oil heat. In the afternoons, a barber’s shears, The soft shoe of a broom across a floor, Welcome everybody to the Armistice before the war. CHORUS: But I remember you, I remember what that trail of blood and tears led us to I remember it’s the truth that made you cry, In that fabled time before I’d learned to lie. Yes I remember you, I remember what that trail of blood & truth led us to, That proud stag who’s searching for a place to die; An American goodbye. It’s a small town story, It’s a time without a plot And it fills our dreams with longing And a fistful of buckshot We all know that when you keep your rifle Cleaned and oiled and loaded by the door You can’t help yourself but look for Something you can use it for. CHORUS
9.
Late Midnight The moon is setting over Lyman Lakes, and Steam is rising from the sewer grates And it’s raining on some barely glowing embers Of your soul. And you say it’s not bad, this living with the lost, In fact it’s practically as good, but at a fraction of the cost But it’s hard to believe when I see how it’s Taken its toll. CHORUS: Late midnight Bluer than midnight Bluer than Hopper Bluer than you, Late midnight Bluer than you. That blinking sign is your beacon in the night Saying everything is straight but nothing is right When you’re closing down a place like the Ideal Café Said it’s a good place to go after forever ends When history is a mirror that you see yourself in And the waitress doesn’t know your name and You like it that way CHORUS
10.
Rain 01:57
Rain Take the potholes, make ‘em ponds Oh, shiny droplets, little wands. Take dry dust, make clay and mud, Form for me the one I love. Rain, rain, don’t you leave, You still have evening up your sleeve. Rain, rain, don’t let up, Fill this overflowing cup. Forever in a grain of sand, Oh, dripping downspout, Rio Grande. Every drop a tiny flood Let me be the one you love. Rain, rain, don’t you leave, You have tomorrow up your sleeve. Rain, rain, stay right here, Rain a month then rain a year. Bridge: Branches drop your nectar words, Stir your sloshing witches’ brew, Fill inkwells for the little birds To dip their dripping pens into. Gutter, river, waterfall, Now I can’t see you at all. Drop my empty bucket down, Dredge you up, won’t let you drown. Rain, rain, don’t you leave, You have forever up your sleeve. Rain, rain, don’t you go, Loose your tides and let ‘em flow.
11.
Hot Sand 02:59
Hot Sand Throw back the curtain on this shiny day When the boss is away, this mouse gonna play I got nowhere to be, I got nothin’ else planned Hot sand, cool water, hot sand. Hot sand. Sun knock at my door, saying come out and play Water wash all those winter troubles away, The sky speaks a language that I understand, Hot sand, cool water, hot sand. Hot sand. (Bridge:) They all say that life is a beach But some days it seems so out of reach Now I open the window and reach out my hand I can almost touch cool water, hot sand, hot sand. Hot sand (Instrumental) I’m floating along on a dream and a day, I’m soakin’ up the sun, I’m ridin’ the waves To that sweet sugar ribbon where the sea meets the land Hot sand, cool water, hot sand. Hot sand. So babe, if the sky is cloudy and grey, Make like the sun and light up my day. Lyin’ blanket-to-blanket, with your hand in my hand Dreamin’ of that cool, cool water, hot sand, hot sand. Hot sand. Bridge

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released December 17, 2018

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Nancy Burke Evanston, Illinois

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