RARE WEATHER (2008)                           

  1. 1.New American Gothic

  2. 2.Aspen

  3. 3.All Last Night

  4. 4.Suckers ‘N Marks

  5. 5.Fire At Noon

  6. 6.Half Life

  7. 7.Sea Change

    Rare Weather

     I Watch The Planes

  1. 7.Mountains


All songs by Damon Waitkus, except track 1, by Damon Waitkus and Nicci Reisnour.

Damon Waitkus - voice, guitar, hammer dulcimer, flute, bass, percussion,

       piano, bells, odds ‘n ends, Musical Fence, production

Emily Packard - violin, baritone violin, Musical Fence

Nicci Reisnour - harp on track 1 and psaltery on track 3

Jordan Glenn - drums on track 1

Shauna Laurel Jones - vocals on tracks 2 and 3

Art Elliot - vocals on tracks 6 and 8

Kris Drickey - vocals on track 8

Dave McNally - Arp Odyssey on track 7

Andy Strain - trombone on track 7

Mastered by Michael Romanowski

Lyrics by Damon Waitkus


New American Gothic

Don't look now, just lock the door

There's someone on the porch outside.

Brazen-eyed and sallow, looking in.

Her right hand holds an abacus.

Her left hand holds a golden star.

And through her paper temples

the black blood whispers:

better call all your children in,

better call all your children back,

better call all your children in

or paint the windows black.

A holt of wooden markers grew

upon the roadside overnight

and queasy in the third-shift dawn

I found I couldn't bear the sight

of such a claim upon the dead

within the view of Crawford town

and that is why I jerked the wheel

and with my truck I mowed them down.

She is like a baby

her hands are soft like a baby

her eyes are wide like a baby

her tears are free like a baby

and there are Arabs in the corn.


When I heard them testing the gallows

and then pounding on the chime,

I was ill in the courthouse

and I begged them for some time

to digest the strange injustice

in the name they gave my crime,

so thy pointed to the mountainside

and instructed me to climb.

I had one night ‘til the dogs’ release.

They assured me I’d be tracked.

Understand, son, I’m a human,

and I felt I’d been attacked.

Understand, son, nothing’s clear to me,

but in time you have to act,

so you spill some blood and a paper trail

and the blood is just abstract.

    I was a king before the coup.

    I had the same disease as you,

    I only saw it through.

Like a hatchet down the sidewalk,

he split his bloody way.

We were partners then in the charge of men

who would do anything for pay.

But when I called on him to join my climb,

he laughed at me and told me he would stay.

And when I turn my back upon the court,

I know what he will say:

He’ll say he doesn’t know the first thing

about no horseplay

and he doesn’t know the first thing

about no seventh day

and he doesn’t care for fields of goldenrod

or bullion spun from hay,

but if they’ll follow him up the mountainside

he’ll show them where it lay.

    He took us to jungles in the East,

    he made us ride the backs of beasts,

    he had the bellows of a priest

    ruffling the flock before a feast.

    I was a king before the coup,

    I had the same disease as you,

    I only lived it through.

When the sun set on the mountainside

my heart began to race.

I thought that if you waited out the fall of night,

night itself was its own place

with its own boreal gardens

and its own celestial face,

but my heart gave out.

My heart gave out.

    August Houston and its swirling sands, call off your curs.

    I will bury my face in its secret place among the firs.

All Last Night

All last night the wind was howling

through the asylum behind our wall.

It’s halls are lightless, its rooms abandoned.

I think it’s time that we forgot about it all.

You know I did my time up there.

I played a lot of solitaire.

And while my doctor combed his hair

I read all of his cards. Horrible,

but it returns you to your childhood.

Not the girl who brings the firewood

but the one that burns it.

‘Cuz when it catches, her hands start shaking.

There is a prayer we use to keep them still

but she never learns it.

My little daughter’s eyes eclipse.

She only speaks with the corners of her lips.

She’s already burned, wretched little clown,

slamming doors in the attic while the sun’s going down.

    You’ve plucked the wrong thorn, robin,

    ain’t no deliverance, I fear,

    only sustained temptation:

    Lord, deliver us!

All last night the wind was wailing

through the asylum upon the hill.

For half a lifetime now it’s stood there empty.

The healing touch is just a little pinch I feel inside a pill.

You want to keep the poor folks straight,

underpaid and working late,

then preempt their demands:

take their feelings in hand.

I have no summer, I feel no winter,

I get no honest-to-god sleep, and no wide-eyed waking,

but it’s not the shell shock of all that acid

that pursues my senses when my hands start shaking–

and isn’t it an easy ruse to fill your eyes with breaking news

and to simply refuse what you sense is there but you cannot use?

    You’ve plucked the wrong thorn, robin,

    ain’t no deliverance, I fear,

    only sustained temptation:

    Lord, deliver us!

    You’ve got the wrong thorn, robin,

    ain’t no deliverance, I fear,

    only this fierce temptation:

    Lord, deliver us!

Bill is hungry and she’s still up there slamming that door

and Bill is livid, he’s terrified. Says

“she don’t know her own father now, she just keeps shrieking.

The floor is soaking. Her eyes are wide.”

Well, Bill is fishy just like me.

He’s hung upon that bloody tree, but he’s always looking West.

You want to see inside the crow?

Take a break from what you know, don’t go auguring all

“black murder!”

Have some dinner, Bill, she’ll be all right.

Suckers ‘N Marks (instrumental)

Fire At Noon

Here’s a beach numb with sun, flanked by dusty rose hips.

Two men, two women, a guitar, some bottles,

all strewn across the scorching sand

in a collapsed conversation round the fire

–yes, a fire! You can just make out the twist in the lady’s arm

as she reaches for a cigarette.

White on white, a fire at noon.

Were you living in no direction? Yes, I was living in no direction:

1968, you know, we had just suspended judgment.

It was a windless place.

We had Times there.

We drew a circle in the sand and we burned wooden objects

that we found at the back of our parents’ garage,

and the Times combusted in their circles

while the future waited patiently

like an heirloom in the attic of the old house.

Half Life

You who grew up diagonally under the power lines

with a cat, a couple of drunks and a backwater library,

straight enough to stand up without holding on

and shake a couple hands–if a little crookedly–

Did you think if you stuck right to the blueprints

in their books, you could ply them with your eyes?

    A wink and a nod opens the door

    but they wouldn’t have you! What did you think?

    When you laugh, you show your teeth.

The rainy streets are changeless.

You can trace them to a childhood asleep

except for the hands.

    A wink and a nod opens the door

    but they wouldn’t have you! What did you think?

    When you laugh, you show your teeth.

So you took a class or two in a cell under the city   

like it made sense to do on a wage unduly shitty

and they spit on you for attempting something pretty

with a couple tons of marble and some kitchen knives.

So you took to the parks, with a view to taking things apart

handing out marks to the attendants of the Valu-Mart,

the check-cashing sharks, and old Chinese ladies pushing shopping carts

with their own ideas about their lives.

And it felt like you’d been given a ladder

that you knew could hold a million

if you could only find a few to lean it against.

After dark, you turn into your father.

When you drink, you pull upon his beard,

only to wake up next day in repentance

before the clean hard word that freed you.

And he knows that you steal his voice sometimes.

You were wrong to think he minds.

He says, “Scrap all your plans for the world, my groveling son,

I hate to hear the dry snap of the cord.

There’s a room with a bed and a table halfway down the hall.”

    A wink and a nod opens the door

    but they wouldn’t have you! What did you think?

    When you laugh, you show your teeth.

Sea Change (instrumental)

Rare Weather (instrumental)

I Watch The Planes

Come in, sit with me for a while and watch the dusk,

I’ll put this thing on mute.

It gives a view and lays a claim

on life that’s harder and harder to dispute.

Sometimes I open up the blinds

and put the set to rest

so I can watch those evening stars

descending in the West.

Haven’t you played long enough by now?

Every town bends or breaks in the same gale.

It didn’t take me thirty years to discover that, you know,

and I didn’t have to read a lot of fairy tales.

You’re not going to find a river that runs any wider

than the first your little eyes gazed across,

and you can’t help but drag your feet,

doff your hat and turn around once you see the sea

and realize your loss.

Your mother is a holy, selfish princess

always trying to get something from me.

Your father is a lazy furtive gawker.

You wonder why he’s aged so rapidly?

Two plagues are issuing through this country’s veins

although it hasn’t fallen yet.

I can see them both from this armchair, can’t I:

The TV and jumbo jet. And neither you

or your dreamy parents have any sense that something’s dead.

You’d give away the apple in your pocket

just to gain the tree in your head.

You can’t know strength through aspiration,

you simply do what must be done.

I served filets on silver trays–

I never thought of having fun.

I carried stretchers for the navy,

I buried bodies in the ground,

I kneaded bulky rolls at midnight–

I never thought of leaving town.

And when you start to lose your grip on things,

take down your tools from the shelf.

There is no future in an old age

of telling stories to yourself.


Turn away if you’ve heard this one before:

morning headlines rarely bear a mention

in the night. In the night there was a flood.

It made a mess of all my best intentions

and gave the world the crazy tilt

of Sabbath days devoid of guilt

and washed the plain with black abundant silt.

Heading home. Sleeping at the airport gate.

Shrinking from the needling morning sun spots.

In my dreams I am always heading home.

I am always sneaking through the same lots,

through heavy fog on Boston streets,

through San Francisco shocked with sleet.

The mountains rise above this tireless circumstance.

    There will never be an end to this half-birth,

    no rest for the kidneys or the palms of the hands.

Like a king, I wake up immaculate,

I resist the telephone and windows.

I try to breath, try to take the time I need,

but my heart is beating like a mole’s.

I can’t accept that vast belief,

that mountain range without relief,

the trappings of a mind that shoots its messengers.

    There will never be an end to this half-death,

    no rest for the kidneys or the soles of the feet.

    When we were driving west, you told me

    your head was a balloon in the thinning air

    bursting under the pressure of the raw interior scenes,

    the clamber of your genes, and the basic lack of means

    that blazed up before the mountains of the skyline

    like delirious refinery flares–

    they’ll show you just what all this wasteland’s good for.

    Drive, I’m pulling over. I’ve got no nerve

    for deserts anymore. Hum a sleepy road song

    for Selene.

But mountains change their shape as you approach,

make you think you’ve never really seen them.

Your thoughts distend, seeing hardens into needing,

openness becomes an empty craving–

and then there’s all this rock and space

to take the mirror from your face,

to lay out all your loss for you in one place.

    There will never be an end to this half life,

    no rest for the kidneys and the back of the mind,

    so I repeat myself.

    I repeat myself.