Album Lyrics – Complacency

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The Plan

(Demetri Martin, from If I)

It was a crazy moment, to have a plan from eleven years old
Every choice, every summer: classes, extra activities, SATs, essays,
Leading to that one big goal, and then being that close to it and realizing,
“I made a huge mistake, I have to admit it, cut my losses, I’m out of here.”

And it was a total crisis, a total crisis of relevance.
Because I was now an adult – yes, okay, it’s cool to be quirky, maybe, on the side.
Do some puzzles, make puzzles, whatever, you learn how to ride a unicycle,
That’s cool when it’s on the side, right? And you have a plan.
What happens when you remove the plan?

Florida Coast

Take me through the everglades
Take me to the top of this mountain I’ve made

Keep your head above water
Keep your head above water, you’ll
Keep your head above water, you’ll
Keep your head above water

I miss places I’ve never been
Got to stop thinking “remember when?”

Get Through

Maybe the sophomore slump will end soon
I thought I could be like Xaphoon
I thought I could write songs like songs “for emma” too
I can’t promise it’ll all be good
But I can promise you we’ll get through

Birds

Circle all you want there
I won’t let you nest in my hair
You’ll keep it up long enough
That’s not belief, that’s fear

Circle all you want there
I won’t let you nest in my hair

Interlude

I revolve around you
Your shadow becomes my shape
My path is mostly yours and my
Kingdom is your tide
My path is mostly yours and my
Kingdom is your sky

Your shadow becomes my shape
My path is mostly yours and my
Kingdom is escape

Sacred Spaces

The places I love are scattered everywhere
They’re sinking and floating
Drowning, dehydrated
I don’t care
They’re sacred

The places I miss are scattered everywhere
They’re haunted and empty
A ghost like me can’t stay
I don’t care
They’re sacred

Reckless

There’s a vast blank wall up ahead
Useless and frightening
The clouds might swallow you whole
With an ominous flash of lightning

No longer staying silent
Your dreams have gotten violent
You tossed and turned last night
Fumbling and shaking
You panic and drop the flashlight

This is as reckless as you’ve ever been
Time and time again
There’s no way to win

I lay on my back
Dreaming of ways
To hide from prying eyes
I grew up under an endless sky
Where sunsets can last for days

Complacency

I could say that I’m happy
But that would be a lie
Under the oppression of a perfect blue sky

I’m trapped
By the light reflected in your eyes
I’m trapped
Under wishes and hopes
I’m trapped by childish fears
And the urge to keep chasing ghosts

Maybe that’s dramatic
I shouldn’t be so dire
But sometimes it feels like I’m the last one
Standing up to the empire

I could be quiet and call it maturity
I’d know that it’s complacency

I was ready to run away
But now I can barely stand
My legs are getting heavy
I’m sinking into the sand

I was ready to run away
But now I can barely stand
My legs are getting heavy
I’m sinking into the sand

Invisible

At the supermarket checkout
A sandwich and a bottle of tea
I’m tired and awkward
But she stares right through me

Standing on the bus I pull the stop
The driver doesn’t hear, I know
I should say something
But we’re already past and I’m too slow

I glance up and he looks away
You walk out when I want you to stay
Maybe I’m invisible today

Late night at work
I walk to the car in darkness
Nobody pauses, nobody steps aside
I’m not bothered, through the crowd I glide

Put on those headphones and press play
They’re staring at me but I’m far away
I know I’m invisible today

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Gasping for Air

Continuing my lectionary poetry project, this piece is based on Mark 1:1-11

Listen. Did you hear it?

There was a sound of expectations rending apart, something heavenly being split open

The divide that was between us and what is much greater than us has been smashed and from the looks of it I don’t think we’re putting it back together that easily.

And as we look to see what could have possibly made that hole in the heavens all we can find is a tiny dove.

A dove and a voice are all we get to see as proof that this rending, this tearing, this schism is worth seeing.

And these  two guys that say all I have to do is get in the water. That it’ll wash everything away, let me start fresh

I tell them they’ll have to hold me under a while. I’ve got a bit more grime on me than I’d like to admit

The water is so cold. You’d think it would be refreshing for what it claims to do but all I can feel as I wade in is my chest tightening up as the chill bites at me, working its way up my bones.

They plunge me beneath the surface and I’m underwater for what feels like forever, like they took my joke about my grime all too seriously. Everything feels like it’s closing in around me, the icy water seeming to freeze, encasing me in this mistake. I was simply too dirty to get clean.

Light. I see glorious light as I’m brought up, terrified, soaking wet, gasping for breath as if I thought I’d never get the chance to feel air in my lungs again.

I hear something in the distance, barely audible over my own distracted panting. Something about someone being “well pleased.”

Am I any different now? Has anything changed? All I can think of is surviving this frigid bath I just undertook.

But as I haul myself out of the water, I feel the light on me again and I am warmer than I’ve ever been. And when I look down at my arms, still dripping from the water, I see a shine that I haven’t noticed in a long time.

Performing for Ghosts

There’s a little park tucked away on Main Street in Wilburton

Passing it at 6:30 may as well have been midnight as most of the shops had already closed for the day

I felt the need to stop in, explore, see what there was to see and so I did, slipping through the gates as if there was something to hide.

Little did I know that this had the potential to be something like a secret garden

Beneath an arch of trees was a stage and out of curiosity I got up on top of it, saw what it looked like from that perch

And from that stage I had a flash to the countless stages I’ve been on and I was overcome  by something. It had been too long.

I started one of my favorite pieces, a stolen verse from the poet Chancellor Bennett

“No weapon formed against me will prosper. My sword looks just like Michael’s”

With no one in the audience save for the plaques on every bench, memorials to someone who had come before, I went through the poem as if I was curating another Friday night set

Performing to open the space, for others to feel okay opening up their lives to strangers

When the piece finished I reached into my pocket as if by impulse, to grab my phone

My notes app, a trove of finished and unfinished work, about half of which I’m happy with, holds everything I’ve ever written

From long odes working through the loss of people I’ve held close to short bursts of creativity, springing forth from dimly lit corners of open mics as I scrambled to have something to perform

I did another piece for the ghosts of those that had come before

And all the while I wondered why I did it. Why I do any of this.

I am a poet because there are some stories I want to tell but can’t without first donning a performer’s mask

There are things I’d rather not deal with as myself but that character, that Jeff that stands on stage finally has the courage to face

I perform because there’s something powerful in that secret poetic language that amplifies the stories, that lets a raw nerve become a collective experience, that reminds me that I don’t do this life alone

I get on stage because sometimes I see something beautiful in this world and it would be a shame if I kept it to myself

And so tonight I shared my soul with the ghosts that are remembered in that small park off Main Street

I may never hear their stories, I may never know what lies beyond “Given in memory of.”

But as of tonight they know mine.

Thin Ice

I wrote and performed this poem tonight at Union’s Naked Stage open mic and I thought it was worth sharing. 

Last night I followed my father out onto the ice.

I knew in the back of my mind that this couldn’t be real because for once my father wasn’t complaining about the cold aggravating the cracks in his hands

But at the time all I felt were my uncoordinated legs shaking.

As I followed my father he walked, no, he glided towards something I could barely make out while I staggered along behind, intimately aware of my own weight sending spiderweb cracks as emissaries in front of me.

We arrived at a place prepared for us; simple walls and a canvas roof and in the middle of the icy floor, a hole.

And my father presses into my hand a pole.

I look at the opening wondering how anything bigger than the line could fit through it.

My father looks at me and with a wink and a smile says “Just trust.” And I do.

And as we sit in my dream, waiting for the impossible, I feel just a little bit lighter.

A poem inspired by…well, who am I to tell you what you should think of this?

I was sure, I was certain, I knew what I thought
Until one unlucky day
I decided to stand in another’s spot
And see if my thoughts would stray.

And they did, they fled, flew out of my head
When I tried to abandon me
As somebody else I thought different things,
Just as plain and as clear of debris.
So I figured we all had something had something to give
Something to teach and to tell and decree.

But with all these ideas wanting attention
I wasn’t quite sure which to choose
I was queasy, in tension, needing intervention
Lost in another man’s shoes.

So I retreated, dug in, decided I was foolish
And went back to how I had been
I saw what was different and pointed and laughed
Hid behind teasing grin.

But it felt hollow and dry and too hard to swallow
Because now I knew how it felt
I couldn’t laugh at what I’d just understood
I was changed for good, rearranged.

I couldn’t accept that everybody was right
But I equally doubted the opposite
I guess what I’ve found, puzzling all through the night:
Who’s to say how to think or write?

Landline

One September day I looked out to the sea
Over hills autumn bright and viridian
Tomorrow was sacred, I was sure to be
Part a world wrapped in careless oblivion.

Gears of progress, accomplishment turned in my head
As the breeze rustled reeds and hair
Little could I guess what lay up ahead
Nothing pleasant or graceful or fair.

The tide rolled in and back out again
Leaving rocks jagged behind
Nothing I do, to my great chagrin,
Is useful or inspiring or kind.

Nothing I’ve learned is worth much at all,
At least that’s what I’ve been told
I talk to myself in jeers and catcalls,
And I wait alone to grow old.

I was sure I was part of a grand design
And now I’m obsolete as a landline.

Grand Street, Part 2

This is part two of a two-part short story.

Click here for Part 1.

*****

Art wondered if he should buy a newspaper to hold over his head as a makeshift umbrella, like homeless people used to do in the movies.  But the words “homeless person” sounded awful in his head, and he mulled them over and over until they didn’t sound like words at all.  They felt like cold noodles sloshing around in his brain.

Anyway, Art doubted he could buy a newspaper with cigarettes, the only kind of currency he had.  And even if Art had any of his own money, they still used US dollars on GRAND STREET, a form of currency Art had only ever seen in museums.

Art thought about homeless people in movies holding newspapers over their heads and wondered if he was a bad person.  Thinking about movies always made Art wonder about this, because most times he found himself rooting for the villain, especially if the villain had an intelligent, well thought-out plan.  Art liked to see ingenuity and persistence and good planning rewarded, even if those admirable qualities were serving world domination or bank robbery.  It annoyed him when a protagonist foiled an antagonist’s carefully orchestrated schemes by dint of nothing but luck and intuition.  Art thought luck and intuition were stupid, as both usually served him poorly. Continue reading “Grand Street, Part 2”

Grand Street, Part 1

This is part one of a two-part short story.

Click here for Part 2.

*****

Art was in the past.  In the present, he’d been sentenced to fourteen days in jail for counting cards, which had struck him as a cartoonishly heavy-handed punishment.  But he’d “gone quietly,” welcoming a break from his job and thinking what’s the worst thing that could happen in two weeks?  Art was not a lucky person.  He’d gone somewhat more loudly when a clever administrator had decided that the best way to deal with that stubborn overpopulation problem was to send prisoners permanently back to the twentieth century.  Armed with little more than cigarettes and unwashed clothes, these transplanted criminals generally failed to convince anyone that they were from the future.  But widely they had success finding employment as bankers and lawyers.

Art, though, first took time to do what anyone thrust into his particular situation would do.  He wandered the rainy streets of whenever and wherever he was and wallowed in self-pity. Continue reading “Grand Street, Part 1”

Please Remain Seated

Here’s a short story I’ve been writing off and on for about half a year.  A few earlier Irrational Confidence posts were written for this, fictionally, and posted normally, so if you’re an avid reader of this blog that’s why there are some really familiar paragraphs. Enjoy!

*****

It was an airport in Denver.  Or maybe St. Louis or Seattle, it didn’t matter.  There were spindly, off-white trusses exposed in the ceiling and dappled tile carpet below them.  There were brushed aluminum signs, oatmeal-colored walls, and everywhere seats of varying age and comfort.

Andrew Gray sat in one of these seats, leaving.  Or really, he was staying and everything around him would shortly be leaving.  Where he was going, he’d still be, but his surroundings wouldn’t.  He was buried in a book, trying not to think about leaving.

So he thought about leaving, looking down at his faded jeans.  Jeans.  You wear them in, you wear them out.  Now they sold jeans that you barely had to wear in at all.  Drew worried that this was raising expectations for everything else. Continue reading “Please Remain Seated”