Train From Gary

How’d it feel to be the daughter late in life
of a mother who was sure she didn’t want to be a wife
And what’d you say to your Irish-eyed dad
who always seemed so silent and sad
And how’d it feel to know you could sing
and know that was the most important thing
when courage was the chords on a piano
And how’d it feel to board that train
your hands against the windowpane
and say goodbye to Gary, Indiana

And how’d it feel to stand on that stage
the light in your eyes, your hands shaking on the page
and your voice maybe trembling with all you could feel
and those men in the dark saying your dreams were real
And what’d you think when that boy sauntered in
and undid you with his lazy grin
you could almost hear your mother sigh with pity
And what’d you say when you turned in your keys
to your tiny room and your melodies
and said goodbye to dreams of New York City

And how’d it feel to have a love so vast
that you almost didn’t mind what you left in the past
And what’d you say each time he wanted to move
and left you in a new place with something to prove
Did you give your all at a talent show
or blow the back walls out in another church solo
exhausted by the effort of believing
And in each new room what did you put on the shelf
to remind you that you were still yourself
despite all of the places you were leaving

And how’d it feel to know a girl with your hands
who told you about her dreams of playing in a band
And what was the advice that died on your lips
as the songs poured out of her fingertips
And how’d you know that the best you could do
Was to tell her that she had to see it through
while inside your mind was teeming with the stories
of a girl who felt like she was still nineteen
when her eyes were blue and her slate was clean
sitting on a train from Gary
dreaming of future glories
how I wish I thought to ask you for your stories
Man I wished I’d asked you for your stories


Fabric

Half a yard, please
Just enough for the pattern to repeat
Those flowers and leaves remind me
Of old hands and a smile and a laugh and my grandmother’s dress
So she tells me, she says,
I’ve got this closet all cluttered with lengths of my life,
and what looking at all this fabric does to me
I can hardly express

Funny, don’t you think, how one scrap of fabric
Can bring you back, bring you back

And she marvels how a few feet of thread can bring her to tears
The years flew by
On puppets and pillows and patchwork
And dresses for her girls
When that fabric was all that she had to cover her couches
And conquer her loneliness
When the warp and the weft were all she had left
To keep her warm in the world

Funny, don’t you think, how one scrap of fabric
Can bring you back, bring you back
Velvet may be nice but the pile won’t last
Synthetic fibers won’t be colorfast
You’ve got to watch to see how far you make your money go
You can rely on serviceable calico

Two weeks later, a friend caught my arm and said,
Your shirt’s like a dress I had when I was six
And when I wore it I felt like a warrior queen in a magical gown
And my daughter has this dress that she wears every day
Someday soon I’ll have to put it away
And when she’s older I’ll tell her how pretty she was
And we’ll take it back down
Funny, don’t you think, how one scrap of fabric
Can bring you back, bring you back
Bring you back


Spring Come Running

There’s a little spring outside my door
Love to watch it run so clean so neat
Once walked its banks, threw stones in the water
And you fed me the bitter along with the sweet
Oh it’s a different kind of spring when it comes to the summer
Dust-dry beds and the heat a-humming
Now I’m waiting on the bank for the rains of September
For the skies to open and the spring come a-running

Found a little shoot in the corner of my garden
Sharp green leaves ready to grow
But there ain’t no prize for such an early riser
Stopped in her tracks by an April snow
Oh it’s a brave kind of bloom holds her ground in the winter
Icy cold but her face a-sunning
We’re both waiting on a change, signs of a thaw
For the earth to open and spring come a-running

Got a little chair beneath my window
Where I can watch the cars go up and down the hill
But the roads gone dark, traveled just by shadows
While I’m a-wishing and a-watching through nights so still
Oh it’s a steady kind of soul knows the tide’s still a-turning
And holds on tight though she knows what’s coming
So now I’m waiting on the dawn, til you round the corner
And our hearts can open, and spring come running
Now we’re waiting on the dawn til we round the corner
And our doors can open, and spring come running
Spring come running
Spring come running
Spring come running


Take It From There

Well it’s day 23 at the Grace Hope Mission
I get the boys on the school bus and head back to the church
Where I’ll help to sort clothes for the thrift shop
And talk with that lady who always remembers to ask how I’m doing
Then I’ll check at the office and they’ll check on my papers
Then it’s back to the office to pick up the boys and check in
and make sure that their homework is done and they’re safe
Don’t you know we’re so lucky we three have each other

And it might not seem like much of a day to you
But I’ve learned how to lean on routine and feel safe anywhere
I can take it from there

Day 79 at the Grace Hope Mission
And summer has come to Lewiston, Maine
And the days can get long with the boys
But we’re finding some places to go that are safe and where people are kind
Well the library’s quiet, we all love to read
And sometimes the boys play a video game
And on hot days we walk to the fountain where the boys catch the drops in their hands
as they splash from black slabs of stone

And it might not seem like much of a day to you
But I’ve learned how to lean on routine and feel safe anywhere
I can take it from there

The paths we carve from day to day
They bind us to ourselves and to no other
A map etched on our hearts that shows
The way to home is simply through each other

Day 126 at the Grace Hope Mission
They tell me it’s settled and just three days more
Then we’ll go back to Farmington, our own apartment
The boys will have bunkbeds, I’ll get them a guinea pig too
But it’s Sunday, so laundry, I’ll head down to Main Street
The boys will come with me, we’ll stop for a treat
Then we’ll visit the fountain, hug the librarian, stop by the thrift shop
And make a new plan for Tuesday

And it might not seem like much of a day to you
But I’ve learned how to lean on routine and feel safe anywhere
I can take it from there
And it might not seem like much of a day to you
I can take it from there
I can take it


Fireflies

One summer evening I went out walking
The breeze was breezy, the moon was bright
Then out of nowhere between the treesies
A fairy pinprick, a flash of light
Despite my wishing for that light to stay
Those fireflies just faded away

I’ve learned you can’t stare at fireflies, you’ll miss their spark
Sometimes a sideways glance works better in the dark
You know you gotta grab at happiness, but still I think you’ll find
That life’s best moments sometimes sneak up from behind

December morning, a winter window
The snow reflecting a sky so blue
The silver crystals between my mullions
A frozen gamble, a millionaire’s view
And though I’d like to keep this art til June
I know it will be gone by noon

I’ve learned you can’t ask the sun to never melt the frost
Sometimes the beauty’s in the moment lost
You know you gotta grab at happiness, but still I think you’ll find
That life’s best moments sometimes sneak up from behind

The color of the autumn leaves will fade
You’ll lose that spiky jolt from that cup of coffee you made
Linen will crinkle
Your face will wrinkle
Remember life is sweet
Cause it’s gone in a heartbeat

I am a mother, my kids are awesome
They think I’m cheesy, and that’s all right
Being a mother is not so easy
The sullen silence, the popup fight
But then there’s moments of unbridled grace
Adulthood in your baby’s face

I’ve learned you can’t force your kids to say they love you so
Sometimes a speedy hug’s enough to know
You know you gotta grab at happiness, but still I think you’ll find
That life’s best moments sometimes sneak up from behind


Wind Around You

It was just a little nothing, he said, please forgive me
She said, a lot of little nothings add up
He said, it’s not my heart, it’s my mind that keeps changing
She said, well you sure act like your mind is made up

And your life as you live it is a big ball of string
A sure way to waste it is to wrap it round everything
My lines as I seem them are straight but they’re true
There’s a whole lot of me left to wind around you

A fork-tapping dreamer in a plastic mat restaurant
He wants a meal for a king at a price he can pay
But the menu’s a minefield, she says, can’t you set on what you want
I’m skin and bones starving our loving away

And your life as you live it is a big ball of string
A sure way to waste it is to wrap it round everything
My lines as I seem them are straight but they’re true
There’s a whole lot of me left to wind around

You keep watching the clock
We’re not there yet
It’s a long lonely road
You’re spinning too fast to stop
And you tie me in knots
with your rhymes and your reasons

What will you be, darling, a shark or a sailor
Or everywhere at once like the salt in the sea
Unroll yourself into my arms ’til the morning
And then you’ll be trapped and all tangled round me

And your life as you live it is a big ball of string
A sure way to waste it is to wrap it round everything
My lines as I seem them are straight but they’re true
There’s a whole lot of me left to wind around
wind around
wind around
wind around you


Ducks in a Row

Oh, it was a long dark night and I was out of money
Had to get across state lines by the morning light
Some might have seen it like a great big joke - I didn’t find it very funny
But I grabbed my bag and I jumped that train without a shadow of a plan in sight

And that’s not like me - I’m the one who likes to know
Where I’ve come from and where I’m gonna go
It’s been a long hard lesson to go with the flow
And to give a little push to my ducks in a row
Just a little push to my ducks in a row

Oh, you showed up at my door in a funny kind of raincoat
Talkin’ ‘bout the storms that you dodged when you came to town
You didn’t seem to mind the holes at your elbows (You liked the ventilation)
And you laughed as you shook your arms til the water dripped down

And that’s not like me - I’m the one who likes to fly
Under the radar and stay warm and dry
It’s been a long hard lesson to go with the flow
And to give a little push to my ducks in a row
Just a little push to my ducks in a row

Give me balance on these shifting sands and a star to point me north
Give us sea legs so we can crest the waves and catch the spray
And a lifeline for when they toss us overboard

Oh, you might be hard pressed to call my life a big adventure
I wake up in the morning at the same time every dang day
But I wake to you and your point of view and our endless conversation
And it’s a funny kind of drama
When the action is the choice to stay

And it’s who I am and it’s who I’m trying to be
Staying true to you while I’m staying to true to me
It’s been a long hard lesson to go with the flow 
And to give a little push to my ducks in a row
Just a little push to my ducks in a row
One more push to my ducks in a row
Just another push to my ducks in a row

Ducks in a row
Ducks in a row
Ducks in a row


One Man Show

And I caught him looking at his own reflection
In department store windows by the fading light
And so I told him with the greatest of affection
Look out darling or you just might

Get a lot of what you’re looking at, get used to gazing
A one man show, really you’re amazing
Can you lean on loneliness, live on your pride
When a man like you needs a woman like me beside

Got a friend who lost her lover in the kitchen
At a marbled counter on a Monday night
He found her holding up slides and wrapping up linen
Looking for the shadow behind the light

There’s a lot of what you’re looking at, get used to gazing
A one man show, really it’s amazing
Can you lean on loneliness, live on your pride
When a man like you needs a woman like me beside

Got a mouthful of nails and a pocketful of pictures
And my bottle of poems tastes like pale moonlight
And I caught me looking at my own reflection
Thinking about the way that you felt last night

There’s a lot of what you’re looking at, get used to gazing
I’m a one man show, really I’m amazing
If I said I’d make it easy, well baby, I lied
Cause a man like you needs a woman like me beside


Sheep Shanty

A boat full of sheep left the coast of Romania
Bearing due south, its course well defined
Twenty men were aboard and the sheep, fifteen thousand
On a Syrian vessel they’d named the Queen Hind

Packed muzzle to rump they were boarded that morning
Bound for the slaughter on far distant shores
The Black Sea must have shimmered in the chilly new sunlight
Salt air in the hold as the crew slammed the doors

Was there one young sheep bundled alongside her sisters
Who raised her head, sniffed, sensed adventure ahead?
Hungry to seek out new pastures for grazing
To break out of the habits into which she’d been bred?

No one knows just what happened a few moments later
A mechanical failure, a mischievous tide
But the ocean fell silent and the gulls hovered, watching
As the Hind wobbled slowly, then keeled to its side

When the call came, it set off a desperate rescue
Small fishing boats swarming, casting nets in the sea
A daily catch made up of hooves, hinds, and shoulders
As the shepherds watched, anguished, lined up on the quay

Amidships, our sheep knew that this was her moment
A half-opened porthole made her woolly brain think
A well-placed kick shoved her well apart from her sisters
And she plunged, barely flailing, straight into the drink

She was far from alone—like so many soft buoys
Her fellow sheep bobbed as they kicked without cease
Their instincts alert as they swam for survival
But were doomed all to drown, weighed down by their fleece

By nightfall the rescuers, drenched, spent, and weeping
Counted thirty-two sheep as the ones they could save
The rest of the flock, sunk and soaked in salt water
Herded below to a watery grave

But I like to imagine one sheep missed the count
Our brave ewe with muscles and spirit to spare
I see in my mind’s eye her hooves scrape the shore
The sea answering the bleat of her brave ovine prayer

I see her agraze in the fresh fields of alfalfa
Finally free of the shepherds and the men of the sea
Free at last just to wander, unshorn and untethered
And to ruminate on being the best sheep she can be

And let’s not forget to remember the fallen
Each sheep who strove vainly to master the water
Let’s honor the moment they broke free of their sheep-ness
And fought to keep living despite certain slaughter

So take heart, dearest friends, remember this sheepwreck
And when you feel like the rough seas of life keep you battling
Just remember there are so many ways to be brave
And be the sheep that’s the last to go down, bravely paddling,
Be the sheep that’s the last to go down


Radio Show

Two little girls moving every two years
Taking refuge from the lonely and the new
We find a tape recorder with squeaky gears
And figure out that make believe’s much better than making do
And we can make the empty hours flow
By doing interviews on our radio show

And we don’t care that no one’s listening
We can hear each other
We can hear each other

We got a toothpaste ad and a parody tune
And a quiz show made from stuff we learned at school
And the older one plays Clair de Lune
While the tomboy brags about cannonballs in the pool
And just behind that old recorder’s hum
You can hear the whispers of the women we’ll become

And we don’t care that no one’s listening
We can hear each other
We can hear each other

The cassette runs down, the tape rolls clear
It’s tricky to remember just what we were thinking of
And now your worlds away and I’m still right here
But we still know how to broadcast who we are to who we love
A lesson that we both learned long ago
In this little world we made on our radio show

And we don’t care that no one’s listening
We can hear each other
We can hear each other

Melodic, fresh, and easygoing, with storytelling prowess on full display…recalling the likes of Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez.”

-Unxigned

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