Lac-Mégantic

Forty seven names read out one by one
Ages ranged from four to ninety three
St Agnes Church overflowed, people in the street
A quiet voice behind me said, “I hope God found a seat”.

My sister lived above her shop on Rue Frontenac
Peacefully asleep beside the railroad track
Over in the café the dance ended with a waltz
The band ordered one more beer… their last, last call

No one saw it coming, sparks flying from the wheels
Eleven thousand tons of runaway oil and steel
Brakes let go, train came loose. No one to slow it down ‘Til it jumped the track and ripped a hole, in the heart of our town

They led me to the crater that was once my sister’s home
There was nothing left at all except a few charred stones
I showed the policeman the corner by the stairs
“If you’re looking for her bones her bed was right there”

Tankers full of crude oil, a pipeline on wheels
So much more explosive than the label revealed Brakes let go, train came loose. No way to slow it down
‘Til it jumped the track and ripped a hole, in the heart of our town

Numbness turned to sadness, her remains never found
I put those black stones in an urn and let my tears fall down
I cry for my Marie ­­­­and all the lives we’ve lost
I cry for Lac-Mégantic as it pays the hidden costs

Of tankers full of crude oil, pipelines on wheels
Driven by the bottom line and back room deals The tracks are worn, but profit’s high, no rules to slow it down
‘Til it jumps the track and rips a hole, in the heart of our town.

When The End Begins

It’s true that’s how the story goes
A dance, a kiss, a long stem rose
A touch that makes the shimmer shout
Then the stars all twinkle out
And the end begins

Chorus: That’s always how the end begins,
A curtain’s drawn,  the sun shines in
A trumpet sounds and a choir joins in
Everyone knows what’s happenin’
when the end begins

Blue jays screechin’ from an wild plum tree
Flowers are sacrificed for seeds
Leaves curl their edges underneath
Thorny branches bare their teeth
When the end begins

That’s always how the end begins,
A killing frost,  a northern wind
A trumpet sounds and a choir joins in
Everyone knows what’s happenin’
when the end begins

Confetti falls down on our plates
Politicians celebrate
Soldiers who are left to stand
Limp home with medals in their hands
Then the end begins

That’s always how the end begins,
Nightmares come, no one ever wins
A trumpet sounds and a choir joins in
Everyone knows what’s happenin’
when the end begins

Bridge:
Time is served in a Dixie cup
It’s reservoir is drying up
Old ghosts gather ’round your bed
Memories circle overhead
When the end begins

That’s always how the end begins,
A final prayer to absolve our sins
A trumpet sounds and a choir joins in
Everyone knows what’s happenin’
when the end begins

Sliver of Light

We were married in a church called “Our Lady of Sorrow”
It took me 12 years to break free
When our dear Dottie Ann, lay limp in my hands
On the boulevard down in Revere
I had nothing to stay for, no life to care for
I finally had nothing to fear

Chorus:
I don’t know where these tears are flowing
I don’t know where these prayers are going
If there’s a heaven above me with angels in white
Send me a sliver of light

I took the new car, I drove through the darkness
I drove all the way to the sea
I had one thing worth holding, but it slipped through my arms
Now I found myself down on my knees

Every morning I walk to “Our Lady of Sorrow”
I light a candle and kneel
Then I unfold my hands the same hand that held her
And will never forget how that feels

Sliver of Light,  thimble of hope
Through the long cold night at the end of the rope
If there’s a heaven above me with angels in white
Send me a sliver of light
Send me a sliver of light

Larry’s Guitar

He called his guitar Constance, said she was truer than most
A 1958 D35 with cracks and spots worn as thin as a ghost
Traveled with her along the open road never knowing where he was bound
A yodelin’ buckaroo singin’ his songs from town to town

He played like Libba Cotton, couldn’t steal a lick
Upside down and backwards his fingers moved so sure and quick
Brushed and slapped a rhythm out on his flat-top drum
Kept a bass line moving with his fingers picked the melody with his thumb

Chorus:
When Larry’s guitar filled up the room freight trains rolled by
And coyotes howled at a big full moon
You could feel the magic that his Grandpa weaved
Smell Texas flowers in the air
On Larry’s guitar you could hitch a ride to anywhere

Came from a long line of railroad men, small Illinois town
Like his Dad before him that town couldn’t hold him down
He climbed on board the main-line felt the rumbling beneath his feet
When he sang “The City of New Orleans” his own memories kept the beat

He told me once he met Guy Clark, a song-writing hero of his
He said, “I asked him to listen to a few of my tunes
We sat down in the back of the room
If you ask me what happened in that late night Austin bar
Guy Clark’s hit the lucky sevens
He got to listen to Larry’s guitar

 

The River Beneath Me

Grey skies, thick with rain
The day her letter came
She said, “You are a child of mine no more”
Slammed that door behind me
Drifting, searching blindly
Every stumble led me to this shore

The river beneath me guides me along
The path is uncertain, but the current is strong
The river beneath me is calling me home
It’s calling me back to the sea

I’ve heard the wood thrush sing
I’ve heard the church bells ring
One’s a comfort, one’s ice in my veins
I awake again in a cool sweat
I hear your voice. I hear the threats
I wonder will I always fear your name

Time ticks, time talks
It’s given me some good advice
Love wakes, love walks
Moving in and out of my life

But the river beneath me is winding along
The path is uncertain, but the current is strong
The river beneath me knows all I am
Still it’s calling me back, it’s calling me back
It’s calling me back to the sea
It’s calling me back   it’s calling me back
It’s calling me back to the sea

Jessica Says

Jessica says, “It’s beautiful, but horrible to look at this”
She stands between the walls of crosses
searching for names of those she’ll miss
“I don’t know what is harder, all these crosses or watching
the cars roll by.   Nobody seems to care”.

 

Jessica says, “We did something over there, we did
something, hey, it wasn’t much
People I knew died building a base camp, building a base
camp just for us
People died so we could lay down gravel,
because some battalion commander wanted gravel
all around the camp

We’re not fighting for freedom. We’re not fighting for our  homeland
We’re not fighting for anything that anyone seems to understand”

Jessica says, “This is one of them” as she pulls a cross  down  from the wall
“This guy was in my platoon. He lived right next to me.
We served together before he took a fall.
On the day before Thanksgiving his wife left him and he blew himself away
right there in front of everyone,”

Jessica went a little crazy over there. So they discharged her
and sent her here
Her cries for help went unanswered, on a waiting list for
more than a year
Jessica says, “It’s too easy. This war has become okay”
It’s just something else on the news today”

We’re not fighting for freedom. We’re not fighting for our homeland
We’re not fighting for anything that anyone seems to understand”

Jessica died at twenty-four, another casualty of this war
Driving drunk trying to numb her pain.
Driving south in a northbound lane
“We’re not fighting for freedom. We’re not fighting for our homeland
We’re not fighting for anything that anyone seems to understand”

The last time I saw Jessica, she was crying among the
crosses.  Jessica said, “It’s beautiful, but horrible”

When I Grow Up

I want to be a drunk when I grow up
I want to scream and shout when I get mad
I want to throw my plate against the kitchen wall
I want to be just like my mom and dad

I want to take a ride when I grow up
I want to feel the needle in my veins
I’ll lie down on my bed and let my eyes roll back
I want to be just like my brother James

I want to learn to read when I grow up
I like that book called “Where the Red Fern Grows”
I‘ll read it over and over ‘til I know most of the words
I want to be just like Mrs. Monroe

I want to do secret things when I grow up
I’ll give you altar wine and lock the door
I want to put my hands where they don’t belong
I want to be just like Reverend Moore

I want to be a drunk when I grow up
I’ll fly so high and look down from above
I’ll learn to read, I’ll learn to let my eyes roll back
Just wanna be like everyone I love
I wanna be like everyone I love

I Would

I would, I would I were a snake.
I would, I would I were a snake.
I’d seek the warmth of sunshine.  My body would uncoil.
I’d shed my skin and crawl away.

I would, I would I were an oak.
I would, I would I were an oak.
I’d reach for the heavens, arms outstretched wide.
My heart and limbs would fill with pride

I would, I would I were a bird.
I would, I would I were a bird.
I’d leave this cold country and find a new home.
Sing the sweetest song that’s e’er been heard.
I’d sing the sweetest song that’s e’er been heard

Put A Penny In The Old Man’s Hat

Made it past the border to a town called Waterloo
Woke up on the side of the road, a parade was passing through
Our guitars slung across our backs our thumbs stretched in the wind
We were heading anywhere that wasn’t where we’d been

We made up stories of who we were and where we’re bound
Other times we were just ourselves as we hitched from town to town
At night you sang me songs that you wrote throughout the days
Of waitresses and truck drivers and old men needing change

Chorus:
You sang, “Put a penny in the old man’s hat see what he has to say
Put a penny in the old man’s hat, today”.

On the northern shores of Lake Erie acres of tomato vines
You took a job out in the fields I worked on a piecemeal line
As tomatoes rolled by I snipped off the skins tossed ‘em to a bucket in my lap
For every bucket I filled they gave me change for the old man’s hat

Chorus

I had my 15th birthday with that crazy Canadian crowd
New friends around the campfire reading Kerouac out loud
They had a motorcycle clubhouse on the edge of town,
they were lettin’ us call it home
It had a lumpy old mattress, a dozen mice and a hefty bag of homegrown

Chorus

You sang to me, I sang to you
We learned about love and we learned to make do
The kindness of strangers opened the door to a big round world
And helped two wandering kids find their way home

We made ourselves a promise then that we would never grow old
Cause you can’t trust anyone over 30 that’s what we’d been told
You kept your promise in a fiery crash just north of Castle Point
But across the years and the weary miles sometimes I hear your voice

Chorus

Down to the River

I’m going down to the river again just to watch it roll
I’m going down to the river again just to watch it roll
That cool clear water is a comfort to my troubled soul

There’s a music in the river seems to calm me down
Music in the river just seem to calm me down
When my feet feel heavy that rocky riverbed is where I’m bound

When I’m feeling lonely I go down
When my cup is empty I go down
I go down to the river and let it wash
These weary blues to another town

There’s a deep, deep pool on the corner by the old crib dam
There’s a deep, deep pool on the corner by the old crib dam
It’s deeper than my sorrow and wiser than I’ll ever understand

This river makes me feel alive
Always lets me speak my mind
This river knows me by name
Never asks no questions, just takes the blame