sketches around a city

by peter j hochstedler

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sketched songs concerning the the burning of my city and the city of my burning.

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released September 4, 2011

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peter j hochstedler Lansing, Michigan

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Track Name: now the crows are in the trees
now the crows are in the trees
naked of bud and leaf
and they wonder how to begin
this sad work of being free
they said, "it's sad work being free."

i climbed out from the sea
sprouted strange limbs and climbed
saw a strange thing, this hollowed out city
i carry it with me
this strange and burnt out city

i climbed up on a roof
made my mind all aloof
gutted streets all calm below,
i named them so-and-so

now the god's beating on a crow
and feathers scatter to and fro
and i who climbed from the murky sea
feel branches shuttering beneath me
and buildings murmur beneath me

god now, gird your sword
prove yourself the lord
you gut this city with fire, you know
now you gut the guts of a crow

armies now underground
stamp their steeds around
i saw war like a subway sound
all bottled up to blow

crow now, what did you see?
"i saw the work of being free--
the angry ax at the root of god's tree,
armies out to taste and know,
and feathers to and fro."

god, gird your sword
prove yourself the lord
you gut this city with fire
now tend your eternal pyre
as it drops and gyres

now the crows are in the trees
and armies clamor underneath
and i pause at how to begin
this sad work of being free

i climbed out from the sea
naked of bud and leaf
with little armor and flimsy relief
in the task of being me
and you are ewe and we are wee
Track Name: tricky devil goat man iii
i was the guy in front of me
he was the guy in front of him
we were a line of lemming feet
all juggernaut and slim
and the fuck with the megaphone
said, "don't worry about a thing."

climb under mountains
and see what they carry

you were a god with bloody hands
a corpse always about you, now
said, "it wasn't me, i promise you!
i was framed by a cedar bough!
and the fuck with the megaphone
strapped this specter to my side
now this body is my body
and this crown is my crown!"

climb under mountains
and see what they carry

i was the guy with flat feet
face bloody and blown
you came venging my shell
burn your cards and groan as they light up your hands
and the fuck with the megaphone

climb under mountains
and see what they carry
Track Name: bright lights, big sound
i've been down to the end of all the lines,
between the scattered signs
and i've been scattered

dark the tree that trembles out beneath me
in a round a perfect wreath.
i've been trembled.

rake me in
reck my writ rod
my camisole god i've been writing

i've been beat in a subway seat
my subway feet just crumble

bright lights, big sound, and i'm gone.

i've been crossed
i'm a man with a gun aimed at no one
i've been no one

and i've seen a great thing--it was writ in ink
and you miss it if you blink
or if you stare too long

bright lights, big sound, and i'm gone

call my name, i'll remember it then
in the caw of a wren
or in the claw of a crow

sign the time
it's unbearably dark
and the rooster and lark have been warring all morning

and make me down a merry-go-round
with this planet you've found
and i will sing as it's turning

and rake me in,
the scatter i've been,
the smattered and spun spool of threadbare churning

i'll see great things rise up on jackdaw wings
with the rage of a king
and a kingdom burning

please make me down a pallet on your floor
how could i want nothing more?
just to keep your door--

in the bright lights.
big sound, and i'm gone
Track Name: two bucks for the bus
when i was a boy
i made birds out of clay
they flapped their feathered wings
and flew their merry way

and how the preacher crooned
and the rattle of the snake
how these sounds are still now,
still here, still the same

and how this city's shell
still rumbles like the sea

and i'm mapping out the space
at the end of all the lines
with a wrinkle in my page
no prophet's vision could unwind
i've got two bucks for the bus
blind man at the wheel
i ride blinded drunk from turning
all this spittle into wine,
to the end of the line

armies underground
and rumors of war
how they pound out the rhythms
of the radio sound!

it's a desert on these streets
desert in my mind
lord, i believe how the sparrow
soft twitches on the ground

or how this sweet bottle
breaks its oil at your feet

i made a lady from a whore
cathedral from a seed
been pulling tricks out of my ass
no one of good faith could believe
now elijah's on the line
his vision's growing blind
and his bus ain't making shit, darling,
just burning oil into wine
to the end of the line

when i was a girl
i made people of mud
o, jerusalem, how i long
to gather my brood

jerusalem is built
of sweet applewood
we pluck its memory down
and taste and it's good

it grows on the tongue,
the blossom and burn

i've got two bucks for the bus
to the end of the line
where the wrinkle in my page
maps out the wrinkles of your mind
i make dirt from a bird
shoes from a child
and suck mercy from the apple
of a dying man's side,
it's open wide
Track Name: were you there?
were you there when the rains began to fall?
oh, flood walls, and drowned it all
with thunder, thunder, thunder

well the drumming thunder roll
bullied in from the gulf of mexico
out to the parched sands of idaho
pummeled down the rockies' slick slope
i was sat in the shade of a tupelo
brown baggin' in the heart of amarillo
drunk sick on the wine of conoco
mad rushed from the font of the oil spill
the clamorous clouds had horns of a devilgoat
closed in like an ancient cupola
polyfaceted saints made cameos
ronny reagan, augustine, amerigo
hot rain drops the size of golf balls
beat down the dank dust like a timpani
and the pasty gods of olympia
girded up their sick loins for a holy war

were you there when the fires began to burn?
oh, tongue-tied, and fried it all
to ashes, ashes, ashes

well the tongues came lapping low
crackled out from the evening radio
you could feel in your face the fire blow
bunkered up on your roof in toledo
eating your meat and potato
beer and a bag of dorito
they were promising flames, the weathermen,
they forecasted an army of mexicans
the blast came at a ghosted rodeo
on the asphalt parking lot of a texaco
sparked with the fire of magazines
soaked in the maddening wine of gasoline
rolled quick and loud to the gulf of mexico
where the ghosted often go
swallowed the conservative plains of ohio
and the hippy-ass commies of san fransisco
there was a gone-rogue ghost of a nasa satellite
with a reasonable antipathy for the globe
wielding a cosmic camera
captured the bubbling skin of america
ever charred bone, every socket hole, bursted ventricle
of every cat, every democrat was comical
every slash, every burn it found magical,
looped eternally in a sick digital slow-mo

were you there when the ground began to cool?
oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble.
Track Name: when i was a fish
when i was a fish
i knew the waterway
i knew myself in it
it clothed me like a name

name me now,
i walk, i react,
know me now,
i walk, i react

grow me an arm,
i grope down the alleyway
digitize me,
i grapple an apple

hear me now,
i talk, i react,
build my syllables,
i wax, i theatricalize

eyes open now!
eyes open all!
skies open round--rolling back a scroll!

when i was a boy
i saw the subway
i hid myself in it
it belied me like a name

belly of the beast
i roar, i retract,
armies underground,
i fume, i attack

face me now!
beam me in the headlight!
face me now!
face me now!

when i was a god
i planted a garden
a man came along
and propped up a building

blame me now,
i hang, i bleed
face me now,
my face is a scene i play out

eyes open now--
now you are alone!
now you are a boy!
now you are a bone!

now you are a boy,
now you are a bone.
Track Name: antiphone
i was in the lion's mouth
the day they bombed bin laden out,
the night they bombed the fucker
who bombed the fuckers who rule the world
i watched it from a brooklyn flat
the president a slender cat
tv spat out words like rats,
their bodies blossom and unfurl

i caught the greyhound out of town
through subways trembling in the sound
of cloven bodies whirling round
the axis of our land
through port authority, gaping hole
and easy target, lincoln tunnel,
burrow beneath the skin of my soul,
combust (come bused?) back up to ground

some central pennsylvania station
saw glen beck address the nation
news in some new permutation,
comment from a can
said, "now we realize obama's failure--
oops--i mean osama--
well, god bless our americana
and you and freud be damned."

cleveland fox brought on a band,
rode horseback from dixieland
oopahed out an anthem grand
and if that ain't the news--
callers-in gave us the scoop,
"thank you god, thank you troops,
but we want the body close at hand,
live on pay-per-view."

i know that words won't make us free
they've all been chewed by our enemies
a mangled, tangled, hackery
that cleave us from our home
i bundle up my words and hurl them
at the fucks who bomb the world
and they, coherent hymns return
against my antiphone

toledo, where border patrol
pulled all who smelled of mexico
out off the bus to the depot
with handcuffs and a grin
"well, we bombed out the mohammedans
who bombed our freedom market land,
damn right we'll cuff them mexicans
who think they can just walk in,
who think they can just start working."

fuck the songs your children sing
fuck our mountains' freedom ring
fuck the party, fuck the cop
fuck the gun, fuck its crop
fuck our fear, fuck its spawn
fuck our vacant lexicon
fuck our pride, tongue is dumb
fuck our pandemonium
grow up with war--well, fuck it too,
fuck the red, white, blue
and fuck the green and fuck the gold
and shit, the pentamanifold,
causticasian polyanus
parashittle valedictatious
magnifunction crucedible
crack the crown, gape the hole,
creditable bifurcasian
frock the credible!
defrock the credible!

i was in the lion's mouth
the day they bombed bin laden out
i groped through the gaping jaws
of a television screen
and every word was chewed to bone
and hobbled alone and not (quite) alone
and i, i whispered antiphone
against the scripted scene

(antiphone)

i'll be making you a part of me
Track Name: you have hid yourself unto me
all the old roads have lost me
beckon and exhaust me
trumpet sound--a train passing through

my old land
old arcs in old sand
trace out a face--something new

sparrow framed in a tree
hop, feathered, twitching, and lightly
you have hid yourself unto me

my dark heart
beckon and receding
unclothe your frame in my feathering room

good lord, i'm wanting
i be made of something!
you have hid yourself unto

my gaudy gaze
bark-limbed, you embrace
none but you tree, you be, you chiseled and

free for gazing
drawn and erasing
you have hid yourself in my flickering view

all the old roads have lost me goodly
i walk dirt, i wander the woodly
i love the gaze of the face of the city
it sparrows the furrows of the features of creatures oldly new
Track Name: american dream
now that the world is over
i've got a lot of time
i'm reading through your journals
that was before the fire
you saw the seasons turning
you heard the war machines
they blossomed under buildings
while america dreamed

i mark your words and wonder
whatever god it was
came warring out of nowhere
and burned our bones to dust
you know the brain has buildings
a room for every day
i build a house with no windows
and hide my war away

behold a gutted city
with helter-skelter lines
and blackened doors and windows
and vacant, tarnished signs
i ride a ghosted subway
in nowheres underground
i cannot name the stations
i hear the scraping jaw sound

i met a man from new york
hid in a cloven wall
a tunnel lit by embers
and vacant, tarnished scrawl
he was a man of letters
he was a publisher
he had no book to his name
he had no name at all

you know the mind has mountains
i go out walking there
i feel the seasons turning
i feel the mounting air
i fashion out of nothing
an image of the earth
it blossoms under buildings
ungrammatized and rare

if you come back to brooklyn
i'll make it worth your while
we'll wander empty buildings
and cook with holy fire
and in the evening embers
we'll make a quiet love
with every bone a-tremble
and every breath enough

now that the world is over
i read about the war
i found it tongued and tattered
beside an apple core
it blossomed out of nowhere
with the steel scream
i watch the pages turning
while my america dreams
Track Name: my city, it is burning
oh, my city, it is burning
oh, my city, it is burning
and the flame, it is a restless child
swallowing to smoke the ancient loves
on which we built our lives
not to topple, not to crumble, not to ashen be

oh, my road, it is winding
oh, my road, it is winding
and it winds around my oaken heart
tethering me to a country i--
i have come to love
with a restless love, a reckoned wonder, a sad disdain

oh, my story is unfolding
oh, my story is unfurling
and it is not the story i would have
chiseled on the stone of my day
no, it is written on a city that is burning
with a road that is unraveling

and it is spoken on the tongue of a love
who is burning for another . . .
Track Name: winter is over
winter is over, the fires are dying
and they won't rekindle them, oh, for a time
and i wait in my rubble for the world to begin
for a third time, i wait for a sign

winter's a god i have no beef with
no chip on my shoulder, no raised, shaken fist
just a tiny argument softer than snow
back and forth, "are you happy?" "no."

three times we deserted these wasted streets
three times the cold drove our bones beneath
and the voice that called twice from the jaw of the beast
a third time returning to me
a third time returning

to me who has tarnished your Name aloud
smashed in your Windows and battered your Shroud
and secretly hoped to come closer than Close
in a city raised up to the ground,
oh my city raised (razed) to the Ground

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