LEAVING CALIFORNIA (2021)


  1. 1.Jubilation

  2. 2.You Let Me Down

  3. 3.The Butcher

  4. 4.A Quarter-page Ad

  5. 5.Leaving California

  6. 6.Fascination

7. Narrow Gate


(back to DISCOGRAPHY)


Produced by Damon Waitkus


Words and music by Damon Waitkus,

except “Narrow Gate,” music by Damon

Waitkus, Emily Packard, Jason Hoopes,

Jordan Glenn, and Evelyn Davis. 


Produced, recorded, and mixed by Damon Waitkus in Alameda and Oakland, CA and at Orchard Hill Studio, Brattleboro, VT, 2018-2020.

Pedal steel recorded by Myles Boisen at Guerrilla Recording, Oakland, CA.

Mastered by Myles Boisen at Headless Buddha Mastering Lab, Oakland, CA. 

Photography by Myles Boisen

Design by Steven Contreras


Jubilation


Damon Waitkus - lead and backing vocals, mandolin, electric, acoustic, and baritone guitars, piano, percussion

Jason Hoopes - bass

Jordan Glenn - drums

Thea Kelley - backing vocals


You Let Me Down


Damon Waitkus - lead and backing vocals, acoustic and electric  guitars, mandolin, guzheng, harmonica, keyboards, hammer dulcimer, percussion

Emily Packard - violin

Jason Hoopes - bass

Jordan Glenn - drums

Thea Kelley - backing vocals

The Butcher


Thea Kelley - lead and backing vocals

Damon Waitkus - baritone electric and acoustic guitars, lead and backing vocals, electric taishogoto, psaltery, music box, percussion, pianet, melodica, slide whistle

Emily Packard - violin, viola

Jason Hoopes - bass

Jordan Glenn - drums, accordion

Ivor Holloway - clarinet

A Quarter-Page Ad


Thea Kelley - lead and backing vocals

Emily Packard - violin, viola

Josh Packard - cello

Jason Hoopes - bass


Leaving California


Damon Waitkus - lead and backing vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, piano, percussion, electric taishogoto 

Emily Packard - violin

Jason Hoopes - bass

Jordan Glenn - drums

Thea Kelley - backing vocals

Myles Boisen - pedal steel


Fascination


Damon Waitkus - lead and backing vocals, acoustic, electric and baritone guitars, keyboards, recorder, melodica

Jordan Glenn - bass drum


Narrow Gate


Damon Waitkus - lead and backing vocals, acoustic, electric,piccolo and baritone guitars, hammer dulcimer, percussion, tin whistle, keyboards, electric taishogoto, mandolin

Thea Kelley - lead and backing vocals

Emily Packard - violin, viola

Jason Hoopes - bass

Jordan Glenn - drums, percussion

Ivor Holloway - saxophones


***


LYRICS:


Jubilation


Once in my life, came a heat across my chest:

I dropped everything and followed


her laughing fire, fanning west

through the grassland

and up into the foothills,

the massifs breathing into midday,

where we lay down

and wept for joy.


I  want to tell you that whatever it is,

it is possible.


Sky-blue, she steps out

onto the breezy, old front porch

where I hang my tacky thoughts to dry,

beaming quietly over me.

She’s beaming right through

the anvils of the afternoon—

jubilation!



You  Let Me Down


I was wrong to expect.

I know you’re a sensitive filament.

I was a sensitive filament and,

blown-out, I could have used your light.

You let me down.


Death came up like a bubble in the night

and it popped in my face. 

What a mess. No picnic!

Do you want me to tell you how I cleaned it all up?

Well, I can’t! You missed it!

You let me down.


Did you fear a drowning man?

Did you fear that iron grip? 

You know, all you have to do to free yourself

is dive deeper.


Christ, you’re older than me:

it’s coming! 

When you going to look at it?

Life is one big solid mass of connections

and you let me down. 



The Butcher


Point the gun at the X above the eyes,

pull the trigger, pull the trigger,

slit the throat of the carcass where it lies,

pump the foreleg, get the blood out,

cut the head and the balls and then the feet,

keep a sharp blade, keep a sharp blade,

peel the hide, top to bottom, from the meat,

clear the offal: this is God's work.

Split the trunk down the center, front to back,

hose the stone down, hose the stone down,

hang the halves seven days upon the rack,

keep the flies out: this is God’s work.


Take your kill to the butcher,

he will cut you a deal,

he will weigh it and wrap it in paper.

You will know from the moment 

that you look in his eyes:

everyone else lies


I have a heart that sings to me

of all the things I will not see:

the sob of laughter in the street,

the very ground beneath my feet.


Before the prophet, before the lamb,

slips the blade of Abraham:

stabs the pain of contradiction,

burns the heat of inner friction.


Place your trust in the butcher,

he will cut you a deal,

he will weigh it and wrap it in paper.

You will know from the moment 

that you look in his eyes:

everyone, everyone…



A Quarter-Page Ad


Looking for a quiet man,

preferably long in tooth,

to live out his simple life alone

among the shadows of our garden

between the sundial and the stars

and tend a fire in the offing.

Must appear to have resigned

to the heavy hand of fate

and to live from day to day

in humble contemplation of his last breath.

Must never talk to any guests,

or leave the premises,

or publish.

For  the qualified applicant:

hedge clippers, hovel,

and a burial plot 

behind the birdbath 

provided.



Leaving California


I want more than I can rightly take.

The form of hunger is awful hard to break.

It's hypnotizing,

watching the almond trees go by.


It's a long, long valley.

I drove through it all day

and passed my likeness

going back the other way.

All my ambitions, 

like a carapace, cracked and fell away.


I'm leaving California.

I never meant to get so drunk—

I meant to pass the cup.

And with her sails so full of wind,

I thought for sure I'd live to see

a passage open up.


Almond leaves dusty to the touch.

Sunlight reigns here—

water, not so much.

Pine beetle blight:

copper upon the Western slope,

aching for fire.

Rifles and gas stations,

In-N-Out and Nation’s— 

the future's never been a blanker wall,

and I miss my people, even in depravity.

They're not saints but they have a certain gravity.

All of this craving and what is it for?

Switch on some tunes, I ain't talking no more.


I'm leaving California.

I never meant to get so drunk—

I meant to pass the cup.

And with her sails so full of wind,

I thought for sure I'd live to see

a passage open up.



Fascination


When you’re away,

I soften myself for you.

It takes some time, but not too much,

to uncoil in the sun of separateness

like I’ve come shivering from a lake:

September’s end, the breeze is edgy,

but this stone warms me for a while.


Then the blue tracks of your inwardness

shunt me on the stairs and end in a tangle

of books by the bed

where you sigh into my failures.

Or is that just your breath?


Went to a shop to kill some time:

hands chase in circles

antique phases of the moon.

“Look out!” comes an old voice.

“You’ll stare for fifty years!”

Fascination. 


I kiss this axe that tears me through

doubt and intention to the ground 

of molten heart

where a beaming stranger stands.

I wake in the morning

with our bird pecking my eyelids

before she lifts

and the day self-assembles

so fluently around your given light,

I blaze into the present like a child.

Fascination.



Narrow Gate


Dress men in black, women in white,

no jewels or frills,

and stand with us in clerestory light

until your mind stills.

Our altar's plain, its angles are right,

our backs are straight.

The star of grace burns clean at night

through a narrow gate. 


Square your shoulders now:

you are God's own hunter.

No more will you go 

cowering through the day.

Bones of rectitude

pass privately through a public door.

Come crows and thieves, open your hand

and He will fill it,

but you must not talk of owning the land:

you do not till it.

You must not talk of sex or of prayer:

you will be lying.

The politic man, asleep in the square,

is quietly dying.


Square your shoulders now:

you are God's own hunter.

No more will you go 

cowering through the day.

Bones of rectitude

pass privately through a public door.


This is my life. My life. What is the baseness before which death is preferable? I think it is that of the man who has put his hand to the plow and turns back.*


A fingering wind sightlessly reads

December’s last rites,

and candles bolt in windows like weeds

to seed the long nights.

Her breath in clouds, billowing past,

brushes your cheek,

and desire runs, broader than fast

beneath the frozen creek.


Enter from the West

–whispers in the architecture–

no more will you place idols at her door

Eyes upon the work,

clasp hands and stand together to your full height. 



(* E. L. Ennis, 1908)