“Twenty Miles” Deer Tick
The last song on the cd in the car changer,
It would end just as I was twenty minutes away from my college apartment
That was my escape from my mother’s house in the summer.
He sang the kind of grittiness I wanted to feel,
He sings like he’s seen something to make him yearn,
I wanted that.
It was the drive from my hellish internship to the southern part of the state,
Trees, winding hills, freedom, and limestone,
And my own music no one else had heard of.
“London Calling” The Clash
My sister was getting ready in her wedding dress in my childhood blue bedroom.
I needed her calm.
She was turning into the unmanageable sixteen-year-old again.
So I played Clash from my phone, and set it on top of the white hamper.
I couldn’t listen to them for years afterward.
They would take me back to that stress,
That fidgeting anger, that is my sister.
And, more importantly,
The last time I was vulnerable to her.
I said she was the most important person to me,
In my wedding toast.
That winter, she asked, “what do you want from me?”
And I’ve asked for nothing ever since.
“Go Your Own Way” Fleetwood Mac
I moved to Alaska this year.
Like your cell phone when you’re looking for it,
Or your girl when you’re sharing your heart,
I’m very rural and remote.
I’m on an island.
It can be debilitating.
When my car finally got here,
I took it out on the white gravel road at an early hour on a Sunday before moose season,
I blasted this song as loud as I could,
And reminded myself I love to sing,
I put my hands out the windows,
“Pale Blue Eyes” The Velvet Underground
The last year of college,
My friends had moved on,
I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life,
I felt ill prepared and a disappointment
And my roommate refused to turn the heat up.
I was cold always.
I would cook to warm up the kitchen.
It will always take me back there,
To sitting on countertops eating oatmeal watching the gray-blue dawn,
Hoping the night would last a little longer into tomorrow.
“Read My Mind” The Killers
I had a car full of friends.
We blasted this driving on old country roads,
My shotgun singing loudly after her tequila & worm
I was still nervous around people,
Waiting for them to reject me
For something I didn’t know I’d done wrong.
But, for right then,
I wasn’t bored, and it was a beautiful night.
“Heart in Your Heartbreak” Pains of Being Pure At Heart
My first college party, when I was determined to go with it,
They handed me vodka in red solo cups,
I didn’t say it was my first drink,
A boy started talking about this band, and their new album,
I loved their new album,
He said we could listen to the record in his room,
My friend got in a drunken fist fight with her boyfriend,
And I went up to take care of her.
I saw him again when he made my sandwich at the deli counter,
I don’t think I registered.
“Fast Car” Tracy Chapman
My mother would buy me dinner on Friday nights after work in the city.
I would drive back north, late,
It was always a wonderful drive,
I had nothing to do the next day,
And no responsibilities on my time.
I could sing as loud as I wanted,
And listen to my favorite parts again and again without
The risk of annoying anyone.
It made me glad I was alone.
“O Holy Night”
My brother has a beautiful voice.
For a year or two there, he kept his high register, and his baritone came in,
And we sang this song a cappella in the kitchen while I made Christmas cookies,
Just for fun,
Just to see what we could do,
I didn’t have shame, for a minute,
We just had fun with a very silly song.
“Thunder Road” Bruce Springsteen
My sister’s husband doesn’t like when people sing along to a song he’s never heard.
My mother and I visited them in Texas.
I put this song on in that tiny four door,
And the three of us,
Who know all the words,
Because of my father,
Said screw you to her husband,
Cut off all conversation,
And sang our hearts out for a couple minutes
Stuck in highway traffic on the way back from IKEA
With a bookcase stuck out the back window.
Loved, and free.
This is the song my father sang to me in my mother’s stomach.
This is the song I discovered for myself, in 8th grade, with a portable cd player, could make me feel and think,
This is the song that made me want to write.
This is the first song I learned all the words to on purpose.
This is my litmus test for a relationship.
This is the song I lip-sync to at midnight in the pitch-blackness of my room,
To remind myself how to feel, and how to air-guitar.
“Elephant Love Medley” Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor et. al
I’ll always do something wrong, and they won’t like me anymore,
Whatever I don’t want to parse from my childhood,
All seems to be stuck in this song,
When my sister would yell at me for singing a line of the wrong part,
Then not speak to me for a week,
When I didn’t understand why she loved this movie so much,
When I wanted to make myself like it,
And not think it was weird,
I wanted so badly not to be in the middle,
But not noticed either.
For some reason, it brings it all back, this little mix-ballad,
To that summer when she would push me and yell at me to see
How long it took till I cracked,
Then say, “ha, I can’t believe you’re angry.”
And throw me out of her room.