You are beautiful, difficult. Rare. Outside, a new year’s snow and a frozen river, the winter smell of never. Inside, a fire so golden it glows a hollow focus in the now and ever after, in my mind I will compose a thousand letters, send none.
Given the dangers of nostalgia, it’s not a question of coming closer if (sister, lover?) my songs hover anxiously over a bare stage, an echo chamber, while only your own words could ever pin you to a page.
Still, you will switch off the lamp near the window, cast us both in shadow, the better to watch me dance, whiskey in a crystal glass in hand, asking what is beautiful about the music we’re hearing?
As if I understand how rhythm and its exhale, rapture, and your cheerful smile and my foolish laughter, in one quick glance over the shoulder of surrender answer nothing further than time. Time! Time.
Happy, tired colleagues after Saturday’s performance of The Saltwater Hotel. That’s me and my director Jenny Campbell (photo by Sandie Luna!).
Music & Lyrics by Susan Oetgen (*with some borrowed from Lisa Hannigan). Sailor’s Valentine (image above) by Lynda Susan Hennigan.
Verse 1: A reason to sing: you caught me ready to remember. I’d take your everything just to try to make a sad song better.
Verse 2: Surrender and swing! You taught me love comes like the weather. What changes may it bring, I would ebb and flow with you forever.
Chorus: You’re a postcard from the road less-traveled, a phone call from the long way home. Morning sees you off with nets to scatter.* Will evening bring you back? I never know. How many days does it take a river to wander to the sea? That’s how long I’ll wait for you to come on home to me.
Verse 3: Of salt and stone you are king*, but you brought me home again to pleasure. I’d hold my breath and swim every tide that brings us home together.
O, while I sleep, come close to my bed, the way that Laura appeared in Petrarch’s room in the night, and as you near me, your breath will touch my skin, and when it does, my lips will part…it will touch my anxious brow, where perhaps a dark dream that has lasted too long is clinging, which your glance will elevate like a star and suddenly my dream will shine with light! And then, on my lips, where a flame is burning, love’s flame that God himself has purified, place a kiss, and as an angel transforms into woman, suddenly my soul will awaken! O, come!…the way that Laura came to Petrarch…
But don’t just believe me! Let Leontyne tell you:
‘Oh! Quand je dors’ Music by Franz Liszt, Poem by Victor Hugo
Bill Evans: “Enjoy the step by step learning procedure.”
Oscar Peterson: “Articulate it like you do in speech” (on how to accomplish ‘the two-fingered percussiveness of Nat Cole’).
Fred Hersch: “You have to say ‘Oh, that was great. Now I’m going to start fresh” (on getting too attached to great concerts you’ve played).