Album Lyrics – Paths

I’ve always thought of my own song lyrics as poetry first and music second. I released some songs recently and I’m putting the words here so that people who don’t want to spend 20 minutes listening to the album or don’t like the style can still consume this content.

A Detour

I can’t sleep
It’s the last day off
Before we have to go back
And pretend like we know what we’re doing

I can’t keep
Staying up this late
I’ve got to understand
Before I decide to keep moving

I used to spend summers
Learning curse words in churches’ gravel parking lots
We’re stuck inside now

I can’t keep staying up this late
I’ve got to get my head on straight

Fever Dream

The world is ending and we’re knee-deep in ocean
I just wanted to know that I belong
So let me dream
With the light on

Hurricane

Everything is blue and green
Above and below I see aquamarine
But off in the distance
A hurricane brews
How could we miss this?

Landlocked cities turn away
Why should they care what happens
In the shadow of the ocean’s spray?
It’s gray outside and the lighthouse is out
The grass has turned brown
In the cowering harbor towns

So trees snap
The sky turns black
I want to go back
To a calmer time
You told me everything would be fine
But the hurricane’s finally here
And I need to stop wishing
It would disappear

Morning Rain

I could do without the thunder in the morning
I don’t mind that it’s pouring
But I want to go back to sleep

Let me breathe
Without a crash outside
We shouldn’t have to wonder if we’re gonna survive

I don’t care about making a name
All I need is a cold
Morning rain

Give Up

Maybe it’s time to give up
Maybe it’s time to find out
What’s on the other side of the spout
I don’t care if I’m never the same
But I hope it’s not a drain

Days are numbered
Unclaimed, fleeting
Stolen, seemingly
Someday leaving
Days are leaking away

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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.

Sanctuary

Emanuel

God With Us

One event changes a whole word

In a place named for the incarnation, of the coming of a savior, we now also have to think of it as a place in which the dirtiest part of humanity was made manifest

Again.

In Charleston as the state flies the flag of those who fought to keep black people as property, in a church that had been burned because its members dared to dream of freedom,

in a church to which Coretta Scott King led a march in support of striking hospital workers,

in a church where people have gathered for almost 200 years to celebrate Emanuel, God With Us

The unthinkable happened.

Or maybe it would be unthinkable if we didn’t keep watching it happen week after week in places like Baltimore, Ferguson, McKinney, New York

Maybe it would be unthinkable if the nine names that we now remember

Clementa Pickney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Depayne Middleton Doctor, Myra Thompson, Susie Jackson, Cynthia Hurd, Ethel Lance

weren’t nine more names added to the list of those who have been killed this year

We see people in the streets howling for justice, fighting against a tide that seems overwhelming

And yet they still move in a way we can’t deny as if to say that they won’t be beaten even though it keeps looking like the game is rigged against them

When will we stop just saying that this is unthinkable and fight against the reality that we see in our nation that says racism is alive and it’s more than just 21-year-old shooters pulling triggers in sacred spaces.

When we call our places of worship sanctuaries, I think we ought to mean it.

I think we should realize that the church is called to stand with those people in the streets, to harbor those that would do justice and seek mercy as we all march humbly with our God towards the kingdom.

Where are you, Church?

Did you think the sanctuary was just for you?

When we claim God With Us we claim God With ALL of us

May we never forget that God With Us came to bring release to captives, to let those oppressed go free

And so when we go into the world

And we’d better go because while we need that sanctuary to prepare us, to fill us, to remind us why we live the lives we claim, we should realize that the sanctuary wasn’t meant to be a panic room.

It wasn’t a place designed for us to lock ourselves away in when things got hard but rather a place from which to be sent out

We go ready to look into the eyes of all we encounter and see that divine spark staring back at us. We go ready to bend that long arc of the world towards justice, even if we have to stretch more than we’re ready to in order to reach it.

Emanuel

God With Us

Storm

Once again I wrote and performed this tonight at Union’s Naked Stage

I have a tenuous relationship with storms.

Living in Oklahoma you have to get used to them pretty quickly

But all that does is help you forget the power that comes along with them.
I remember, or do I?

As the winds swirled, like some reality of Oz, taking away homes and lives of people I never met

As my parents moved me, still sleeping, to safety.

And when I awoke, I was safe, back in my bed, like nothing had happened

Years later I found myself outside, watching as that beautiful day turned jet black

As winds began to turn and a wall of clouds lowered from the heavens as if to say “Stay Back”

And I knew what to do

But there wasn’t much time as things began to swirl and rain began to fall

I dove in to a basement of a stranger and waited, waited, waited as the storm howled

And when we came out, it was like we were standing in a new world

Because the old one had been ripped away in a brief gust of wind

And this time, everything has changed

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.