REPETITIONS OF THE OLD CITY - II (2018)


THE BLIZZARD

  1. 1.Damascus Gate

  2. 2.Miracle Car Wash, 1978

  3. 3.Island Time

  4. 4.Errol at Twenty-Three

  5. 5.Whiteout


INTERLUDE

  1. 6.Guru on the Road


ARTIFACTS OF LOVE AND ISOLATION


  1. 7.My Room Before Sleep

  2. 8.Into the Fireplace

  3. 9.Unger Reminisces

  4. 10.I’m Afraid of Fucking

    the Whole Thing Up

  1. 11.Double Door

  2. 12.A Sick Boy


(back to DISCOGRAPHY)


Produced by Damon Waitkus


Recorded and mixed by Damon Waitkus,

October 2014 through March 2018, in Oakland and Alameda, CA,

except drums and bass to tracks 2, 6, 8, and 12, engineered by The Norman Conquest, October 2014.


Mastered by Myles Boisen at Headless Buddha Mastering Lab, Oakland



Jack O’ The Clock


Damon Waitkus - vocals, acoustic, electric, baritone and piccolo guitars, hammer dulcimers, banjo, mandolin, ukelin, keyboards, guzheng, flute, percussion, wine glasses, field recordings

Emily Packard - violin, baritone violin, viola, melodica, car horn

Kate McLoughlin - bassoon, vocals, recorder, car horn

Jason Hoopes - bass, voice, piano guts, car horn

Jordan Glenn - drums, percussion, vibraphone, marimba, bells, melodica, car horn

Thea Kelley - vocals

Ivor Holloway - tenor saxophone, clarinet


***


with

Art Elliot - pipe organ on track 1

Darren Johnston - trumpet on track 2

Dave McNally - piano blizzard on track 2

Sarah Whitley - samples on track 2

Cory Wright - clarinet on track 8



Lyrics by Damon Waitkus


REPETITIONS OF THE OLD CITY - II


THE BLIZZARD


Damascus Gate


I arrive late, late.

Gate’s closed. The snow is banking

up against it––no footprint, it’s

like it’s never been open.

It must have been.

Knocking on the studded wooden door,

BANG BANG for hours,

nothing.

What do you do?

Well, what do you remember?

Remember? I remember nothing.


I remember a lamp.

A lamp on an island.

The damp, salt, the smell of kerosene.

I remember how they told us

“It will burn so warm

but you’ve got to turn away.

Just turn away”


Miracle Car Wash, 1978


I saw a picture and I thought of you

and the gloomy Christ on your bedroom door:

a clown sits in a giant swing

in the shadows high above the forest floor.

The same tempera blare,

the same tenebrous eyes that dogged your little friends around the room.


Somehow you told yourself a secret joke

and I envied you because I couldn't laugh.

The house is burning and the clowns are down

in the basement slaughtering a fatted calf.

And as they crackle like thorns blazing under a pot

you cross your eyes and cross yourself and grin

like its some sort of play we're in.

Well, I was wrong, but I thought at the time

that you were after that calfskin.


Remember, sister, when the baby comes, 

that to miss the mark's the only mortal sin.

Our father hit it running eggs for years

to the local stores until the chains came in,

and if he blackened at Christmas and totaled the truth

he'd find his way into the velvet booth.


Starting to think something happened here

in the dead of night when you and I were small.

A man broke in, left a pile of gifts,

and took the Kennedys from the parlor wall,

Saying I know that you're good for it brother,

like all the shlubs who drive their own sun out to shine

from nine to nine,

park it downtown, ride home on the red line.


I was alive when that blizzard hit,

I don't remember but I've seen the super-8s.

People asphyxiating in their cars

and there was martial law in parts of some Northeastern states.

And there's Miracle Car Wash, and you and your friends

are making high-speed angels in the road.


Island Time


Island time, sweet and brief

no affliction, no relief

Tiny lights burn up the mainland night

That’s my loss, that’s my grief


Island time, sea is high

no epistle, no reply

When that ship pulls into Avalon

you just board, no goodbye


Ocean time, rocky shoal

hands of petrol, eyes of coal

No it won’t end well, not for anyone

Not my baby, not a soul


Island time, safe and dry

Nurse your wounds, watch the sky

If that ship pulls into Avalon

you just board, no goodbye


Errol at Twenty-Three


Several hundred mice overwintered

in that filthy house with the dirt floor cellar,

and four green men barking at the mouth of big woods.

I'm a wash at the edge of the frame

but Errol stands blue

against the sunny nineteenth-century clapboard,

heels dug into himself.


Errol withdrawn into his garret room running in place

for a week straight. Dropping notes through the heating grate.

Bucket full. Soap, please. Vegetables. I need soap!

Redreaming Israel to a house of gentiles:

the scorched red rocks,

the guts in knots.

Alcee and Kane are outside in the dusk

making love on the rope swing,

and Errol's upstairs, he's painted his naked skin,

he's got the video camera rolling,

flashes of b-roll tanks across his chest.


Rudy and Errol on a sunless day

in the crackling woods, stoned,

stone walls describing obsolete borders,

this land too a palimpsest.

The camera’s panicked eye

claws the winter trees

like a sick old cat taken out for one

last walk

to be shot.

Stopping dead on the rooty path,

looking around--  

Unbracketed by the wind, Errol sighs.

"Where are we?”


I only mean to say How lovely

to be drawn instead of elbowed

into your groundlessness

when the shadow of a friend goes off ahead.


Whiteout (instrumental)


INTERLUDE:


Guru on the Road (instrumental)


ARTIFACTS OF LOVE AND ISOLATION


My Room Before Sleep


Hey-ho, pretty face!

How is your Wednesday night?

There’s a candle burning in your building

and another in my room.

In my room: no empty bottles this evening

and no luxurious loneliness.

Just four walls, a window, and a breath.


Into the Fireplace


The basement windowpanes were rimed with frost

the revelers by the open door were morbidly sauced

there wasn't any line that hadn't been crossed

there wasn't any pride that hadn't been lost

when Joel climbed into the fireplace.


We thought he was fucking around when he got down on the floor,

shook off his shoes and the clothes that he wore,

but then he jostled the fire into a roar,

stepped over the hearth and closed the glass door.


And someone said Aw, that flame isn't real!

though the skin on Joel's arms was starting to peel

He said It sure as hell is but it's not a big deal

it's nothing a little bit of rest wouldn't heal.


And everybody watched for a minute or two

waiting to see what our old friend would do

but the bastard is headstrong as everyone knew

and as he fumed there in silence, our restlessness grew.


I meant to stir the coals and give him one last shot

to let us in on what he really thought

but the air was so thick and the room was so hot

that after a while, I—


***


The evening fades and the refectory clears

the semblance in charcoal of Joel disappears

the few that remain sit dissolving in tears

cuz we don't know how to account for the years


or the unanswered letter or the dangling ache

or the quietly skipped-over wedding and wake

and we're eyeing the door but we can't make a break

just as long as a part of him might be awake.


A sickening stench rises up from the grill

the great hall is seized by a terrible chill

Does he see us as frigid, does he see us as ill?

We'd all like to ask him but none of us will.


Unger Reminisces


Lily on the hill, with us

on the night of the blizzard,

stealing through rich people’s wooded back yards,

melting snow over a stick fire for tea.

Out behind some gutted house,

before they found us,

she caught my scarf and drew me in.


I’m Afraid of Fucking the Whole Thing Up


Mr. Clipper cranks my shoulder,

says "you'll thank me when you're older.

Climb yourself out of this rut. Go downtown

and you get a job. You must be good for something."


Mom's emotions: huge and haunted,

any others pass unwanted.

And she tells me I'm a cold fish,

and I stand there mouthing Os,

breathing underwater.


The field was bright and open wide a

nd you stood darkly at the side,

empty and perfectly in the way.


Don't touch me yet my love,

I'm afraid of fucking the whole thing up.


Over high school's gleaming hallways,

vaulted arches now and always.

Find the stairwells and the bogs

and the crawlspace way up above the theatre's ceiling rafters.


But trust the pedants, well I won't.

I cannot know the things I don't

but bullshit is as clear as day to me.

So: out with Errol on rainy nights

collecting footage of streetlights,

baying at the houses through the trees.


Don't touch me yet, my love,

I'm afraid of fucking the whole thing up.


They're flicking their eyes at me all over town

like I'm some hovering coyote.


Pleasure courses through the wiring.

Talk is windblown, leaves are gyring.

Can I kiss you on the eye,

feel that burrowing, nervous thing twitching then relaxing?


My body screams, I don't gainsay

this throb I live with day to day

but I am not some cur on the attack.

Love is not some cultural machine,

it's not some function of the spleen,

it's nature seeing itself and smiling back.


Don't touch me yet, my love,

I'm afraid of fucking the whole thing up.

Don't touch me yet, my love,

I'm afraid of fucking the whole thing up.

Don't leave me yet, my love, I'm afraid—


Double Door (instrumental)


A Sick Boy


We had nothing but repugnance

for the boy behind the door

whose affliction was his asset,

his excuse to ask for more.

While the rest of us were inmates

locked away in twos or threes,

all the sick boy had to live with

was his nebulous disease.


Now, we have never seen the sick boy.

We don't even know his name.

We don't know what eats his body,

but we hate him all the same,

and on a sleepy Sunday evening,

conversation wearing thin,

we convened outside the sick boy's door,

and on an impulse, busted in.


A well-made bed, a desk lamp, lit,

a stack of books, a comfortable place to sit,

a water glass, a plastic comb,

a photo and a letter, and no one home.


And this beastly little squirrel,

frothy-mouthed and rabid-eyed,

darted wildly around the room,

looking for a place to hide,

slammed it's head in to the doorsill,

briefly hesitated there,

then ran bleeding down the hallway,

and vanished down the stairs.


A funny thing, a kind of pet!

We want to laugh, or else forget

this seeping cold, this creeping fear.

The night is young, we can't stay here.


Though the mercury was falling,

we went howling through the town,

rattled all the darkened windows,

tried to shout the buildings down,

nullified the city charters,

held our own pro forma election,

rammed our flag into the center

of every sleepy intersection,

lit a fire in the library,

muzzled all those screaming fools,

castrated every city father

with his own blunt, rusty tools.

But we signed our deeds with pseudonyms

that were almost all the same,

thinking if we just persisted,

we'd forget our given names.


With my hat in hand, I'm heading back upstairs.

With my hat in hand, but without regret.

With the burning patience of my health,

I'm heading back upstairs

to greet a friend I've never met. (Boy, where have you been?)