American Goodbye

by Nancy Burke

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released December 17, 2018


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Nancy Burke Evanston, Illinois

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Track Name: Oh, Flaneur
Oh, Flanneur

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.


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?


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,

Track Name: If You Were Gone
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.


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.
Track Name: The Ballad of Christobal Colon
The Ballad of Cristobal Colon

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.

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.
Track Name: 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?

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.

Track Name: Haunted
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…..
Track Name: 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.

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.

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

And I sleep, not with a girl, but with a pistol by my side.
Track Name: I Am Windowless
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 *
Track Name: The Calm
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.

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.

Track Name: Late Midnight
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.

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

Track Name: 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.

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.
Track Name: Hot Sand
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.

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


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.


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