A Valentine For My Valentine

February 14, 2017 § Leave a comment

For some reason, when I write lyrics, I tend not to write very romantic songs. Many of my songs deal with love, but they do so from the other side of the coin, speaking to relationships that failed. I’m not sure why that is, seeing as how I’ve been married for 23 years and counting.

In other words, I don’t do mushy well, as my wife can attest. However, I thought I should try to write something for her for Valentine’s Day, especially as we decided not to get each other anything and help fill the coffers of the greeting card or jewelry industries. (Also, since I wrote this, it technically isn’t “getting” her anything. See how I did that?)

In writing this, I knew I also did not want the lyrics to come across as syrupy or saccharine. Having recently been listening to music with more clever turns of phrase, I decided I wanted to try something a bit more poetic. Let me know if I came close.

These lyrics do take some poetic license, but hopefully that is to be expected. For the sake of vocalization, my wife’s name is pronounced in the lyrics as teh-ray-sah rather than its normal pronunciation of tuh-ree-sah.

NOTE: Edited to correct some typos and other weirdness in the lyrics. (6-13-2017: edited to reflect change in song’s title.)

Sister Teresa Merciful Angel

The patience of a saint, the temper of a sailor
My heart is in prison, and she is my jailer
She can go ahead and throw away the key
‘Cause I never want to be set free

A smile to warm my heart, a look to stop a train
Even when she’s gone, she is still inside my brain
Haven’t ever done enough to make her stay
But she’s the holy heart to which I pray

Sister Teresa Merciful Angel, watch over me
Keep me safe from the coming storm
I look to you to help me make it through
Save me from the demons of the night and keep me warm

Sits like the Madonna, angelic in repose
Just what she is thinking there’s nobody knows
I gladly sacrifice myself upon her cross
If she left, how would I stand the loss

I lay my heart there at her altar
And hope she’ll take my sacrifice
Small recompense for what she’s given
Her love is gold at any price

Sister Teresa Merciful Angel, watch over me
Keep me safe from the coming storm
I look to you to help me make it through
Save me from the demons of the night and keep me warm

Sister Teresa Merciful Angel, won’t you save me from the storm

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

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Under The Influences

October 13, 2016 § 1 Comment

I have always thought of songwriting, especially good songwriting, as a form of poetry. Today’s news that Bob Dylan is this year’s Nobel Prize recipient for literature indicates that I am not alone in this line of thought.

After reading through a few of the stories and samples of some of Dylan’s best-known and most poetic lyrics, I began to think of some of the songwriters/lyricists I’ve wished I could emulate. Dylan, himself, of course, although I doubt anyone will ever again tap into the public consciousness quite so well.

Leonard Cohen is a poet/songwriter I’ve only recently begun listening to in earnest, even though he has been around as long as Dylan, even longer if you note the fact that he published poems several years before Dylan released his first album. Like Dylan, though Cohen’s way with a phrase is out of reach for most mere mortals, including me.

Perhaps my favorite songwriter and lyricist is Elvis Costello, a prolific writer who has delved in several different genres, each with equal artistry. Sandwiched somewhere between Dylan and Cohen in terms of commercial success, Costello is the songwriter I have most wished I could approach in terms of style, though I know his lyrical mastery is well out of my reach.

Lately, I have added another songwriter, or in this case songwriting duo, to the short list of those I try to draw inspiration from. They are Glenn Tillbrook and Chris Difford of Squeeze. I have the thrill of seeing the band in concert last week. Like Costello, they are able to marry turns of phrase and wit and melody into catchy three or four-minute melodic short stories. Unlike Costello, though, the lyrics of Difford and Tillbrook often mask the ascerbic wit and acidity. They might knock you over with a feather, whereas Costello might well hit you upside the head with a sledgehammer.

After the concert, I again wished I could write a catchy and clever tune in the manner of Squeeze. What I offer below fails to match that level of aspiration, but I am pretty happy with it all the same.

Lost

She sits at the bar, and she dreams of salvation
A face or a hand to support her
Back in the day, she was thought quite a catch
Now no one comes ’round to court her
Most Friday nights, she just sits on her own
Thinking of romance but drinking alone
Knowing that no one will come ’round to see her
Or call her up on the phone

Lost to the world, lost to herself
Seeking her own private grace
All that is left of the person she was
There in the lines on her face
But her memory sustains her, sometimes entertains her
When the days and nights start to turn cold
She says to herself, “Girl, you’ve had quite a life,
Ah, but it’s hell to grow old.”

She once was a dancer with Agnes DeMille
Even the lead for a time
She would brisé with the greatest of ease
Something to see in her prime
Around her, reminders of life on the stage
Dated and faded now she’s turned the page
No papparazzi or autograph seekers
Now she’s no longer the rage

Lost to the world, lost to herself
Seeking her own private grace
All that is left of the person she was
There in the lines on her face
But her memory sustains her, sometimes entertains her
When the days and nights start to turn cold
She says to herself, “Girl, you’ve had quite a life,
Ah, but it’s hell to grow old.”

Once graced the covers of glossy magazines
Fuel for the tabloids and young boys’ dreams
Now she’s forgotten, no longer in such high esteem

She waits for the ending and knows it will come
Not with a bang but a whimper
There’ll be no encore but knows down inside
There is a fire that still simmers
And so, Friday night, she’ll head down to the bar
Drink to the days back when she was a star
Sits and replays the soundtrack of her life
To an imagined guitar

Lost to the world, lost to herself
Seeking her own private grace
All that is left of the person she was
There in the lines on her face
But her memory sustains her, sometimes entertains her
When the days and nights start to turn cold
She says to herself, “Girl, you’ve had quite a life,
Ah, but it’s hell to grow old.”

She says to herself, “Girl, you’ve had quite a life,
Ah, but it’s hell to grow old.”

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Voices From The Past

May 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

I have spent the better part of this afternoon trying to bring some semblance of order to the room I laughingly call my office. It is certainly “off,” I’ll admit.

The problem (one of many) is that I have hundred of albums (you remember vinyl, don’t you?) that I no longer play. (Actually, I can no longer play it.) That, and sheets of paper with notes, lyrics, etc., on them.

In weeding through the various detritus on my desk, I came across a couple of poems I wrote years ago. One of the poems is from 2004; the other has no date.

Although I normally post lyrics on this blog, I thought I would share these poems here, starting with the dated poem from 2004. (Although I finished the poem, I never gave it a title, something I will remedy here.)

Coffee Club

In the corner, a small girl cries
Mommy said no again
To the left, a young man stares at nothing
His girlfriend said goodbye
And the conversations fly like
Random shots – a verbal drive-by
“Well, Molly said, ‘Did you hear what Ted did . . .’ ”
“I can’t believe she would . . . ”
“He couldn’t, could he?”

At the door, an overage woman
In an under-aged shirt
Shows off what is no longer there
For the men who no longer look
The willingness written for all to see
Like pages in an open book
“Oh, I never . . . Well, maybe just this once”
“Will you think any less of me?”
“Will you think of me at all?”

And the face behind the counter,
Jaded beyond her years,
Takes it all it, business as usual
Courtesy, but nothing more for $8.00 an hour
And the orders flow like water underneath a bridge
“Latte, half-caf, skim . . .”
“Cappuccino, double shot.”
“Large coffee and a biscotti”
“Could you make that to go?”

Old man, head buried in the paper
Young man, head glued to his cell
“Oh, he takes everything so seriously”
“But she’s so high-maintenance, I heard”
Meanwhile, the machine-gun noises of
The register scatters its financial fire
The whoosh of steaming milk
Marks the climax to some caffeinated orgasm
For the happy family of strangers in the coffee club

 

8 A.M.

Like lemmings to the sea we rush
To make our eight
To get our 40
To get that paper slip
To verify our worth
Is it pink?

Daily, we lie prostrate
Before the corporate gods
Supplicants to the “greater good”
In service to the almighty green
The bottom line –
Is it red?

Day in, day out
No different drum to march to,
Here, we rank low and file away our dreams
In circular recesses
Only one dream counts
With $ and zeroes attached

Few respites from the daily toil
Nose to the grindstone
Back to the grind; back to the wall
Inside four walls, need rats in a maze
In search of cheese, we take the bait
Becoming cogs in the corporate machine

Wearing down
Bit by bit, interchangeable
Replaceable, erasable
Forgettable
And one day,
Gone

© 2016 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Now For Something Completely Different

April 6, 2016 § Leave a comment

When I write my songs, I don’t actually write music. The whole process is somewhat organic; I come up with the first line, then I get a sense of the melody, and the rest proceeds from there.

Tonight, I was listening to my wife practice her guitar. While she played, the following line sprang forth from within. Unlike most of my songs, I have no melody already in mind for this effort, so I don’t know whether these are lyrics to a song or lines from a poem. I suspect they work either way.

Cruel Mistress

I hear the guitar playing
To a crowd no one can see
But it doesn’t really matter
Because tonight, you’re feeling free
Escaping in the music
Riding high on every note
Lost within the melody
Like some forgotten quote

The music comes to life
With the band inside your head
Your fingers feel alive
Keep your heart from feeling dead

The strings bend to your will
Sounding off at your command
No tolerance for a stray note
If you’d keep the upper hand
You lose yourself in playing
To a room with no one there
The sound of melancholy
Echoing in the air

The music is your life
A cruel mistress just the same
Demanding everything
And yet, denies your claim

You play until your fingers ache
Because you have a need
And it’s in the strings
That a part of you is freed
The song torments and comforts you
While begging for release
Though each mistake is agony
The playing brings you peace

The sounds you play are symbols
Of the dreams you never share
Taunting and reminding you
If only you had dared

© 2016 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Uplifting Exchange

March 7, 2016 § 2 Comments

A friend of my recently began what I might call an exercise in civility and in raising people spirits. The exercise consists of sending an e-mail to 20 people via blind copy (BCC).

The e-mail I received contained two e-mail addresses, the first, that of a Facebook friend, and the second, hers. The e-mail itself asked that each of the 20 blind copy recipients send a verse/poem/meditation that has helped the sender through difficult times. Then, we were each asked to send the same message via blind copy to 20 additional people, moving her email address to the top spot and putting our email address second.

For me, the most difficult thing was coming up with 20 people to send it to. The verse/poem/meditation part would also have been hard had I not altered the parameters a bit.

I don’t know that I have a specific verse or poem or meditation that I have drawn upon to help me through hard times. What I have always had and relied upon is music, both the music I listen to and the songs I write.

Music has been at various times therapy, meditation, poetry, release, healing, relaxing. In good times and bad I have called upon music to give voice to what I am thinking or feeling. So I decided that my verse/poem/meditation would be about music itself, a choice made easier by the fact that the recipient of my little ditty is herself a composer.

Chords

Kindred spirits
Though never met
Music the common theme
Seek change through song
Not forced but ever flowing
Each note a ripple
The staff the never-ending stream

© 2016 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Diving Into “The Block”

August 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

Creative thoughts and words have been a bit harder to come by of late. I’ve dashed a few lines here, scribbled a few words there, but nothing I’ve started has seemed to go anywhere. A catchy line or nice turn of phrase may be enough at a cocktail party, but it does not tend to lend itself to a completed lyric or poem.

So I decided to dive into “the Block” and try to use it as my inspiration. Here is the result.

Writer’s Block

Parched, the paper waits
For life-affirming nourishment.
Seeking a word, a line –
Even one dashed in anger,
Struck off as mistaken,
Or erased, as if unwritten
Leaving only a faint shadow to prove
Its one-time existence and demise.

Silence – the paper openly mocks me
Taunting, daring me.
Jot down anything –
Gibberish, a foreign language,
Doodles, or hieroglyphs
To show that someone was here
And tried to write
To fill the empty void.

The building blocks are blank.
No letters issue forth
No word flows freely
No phrase bubbles to mental surface.
Creative thought suffocated
Beneath the dry wellspring
Of this infertile imagination.
Perhaps tomorrow the seed will sprout.

© 2014 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Desert of the Mind

June 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

One form of writing I’ve always struggled with is poetry. Despite the fact that I’ve written song lyrics for years, poetry has never come very easy to me, either the reading or writing of it. Whereas song lyrics are often more direct, poetry is typically more metaphorical, painting word images for the reader to follow rather than spelling it all out for him or her.

I do, from time to time, try my hand at writing poetry. Because of my difficulty with the form, most of the poems I do eventually complete are shorter efforts. This one was inspired in part by the almost six years I spent living in the Mojave Desert of California and, perhaps, in part by the desert my imagination sometimes becomes whenever I try my hand at composing a poem.

The Desert

Rock-strewn
Lunar-like, the landscape
Devoid and barren, saying,
No, screaming –
YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE!
Dry and dusty,
The weathered land,
Deeply scarred, displays the marks
Of a gentler time
All too brief.

A hardy few
Call this place home. Saving
Energy and strength, waiting
Patiently, Job-like, for
All-encompassing shadows
And momentary, blessed relief
From that brutal orb
That sucks life’s blood
From desperate soil
Too tired to fight.

Solitary flower –
Sisyphusian, the struggle
To find sweet nectar of life
Within the stingy,
Stubborn landscape.
Brief shining moment –
The color all too quickly
Fades against the brute force.
The arid desert gods
Enforce their will.

© 2014 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

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