Artifact No. 4 – Williamsburg Savings Bank Clock Tower, Winter Afternoon Light

These lyrics were created for a song I made and performed with David Durst for Daniel Burkholder’s dance piece Horizon Light in 2004 (2005?).  We performed Horizon Light three times in DC – twice on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center, and once at Dance Place.  I don’t know if a proper recording of the song exists, but I have always loved these lyrics, and Daniel’s beautiful project (which introduced me to Martha Graham), and my hometown Washington, DC, and, finally, Brooklyn.  At this time of day, at this time of year, I miss the flocks of Canada geese that used to fly through the winter skies of the quiet suburb where I grew up, but I can see the Williamsburg Savings Bank Clock Tower right here from my desk, where I am writing and enjoying a cup of strong black tea on this late January afternoon.  It probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that the building was recently converted to luxury condominiums, but how nice that the red neon clock hands are still telling correct time.


Williamsburg Savings Bank Clock Tower, Winter Afternoon Light

lyrics by Susan Oetgen

music by Susan Oetgen and David Durst

Gold light carried from the south

Imprints your face on the city brick

But Brooklyn has been Brooklyn now

Since before your tower of time began to tick

Torchlight buried in a cloud

How will your shoreline beacon beam

But harbor has been harbor now

Well before your tired, your poor began to dream

I’ll find my way through a neighborhood where all

The landmarks are sprawled against space

I’ll hide again when the afternoon falls

And swallows the backyards in shade

(Living here for years before it

Fell on me the same way it

Falls across the buildings

Wishing I could climb inside it

Unafraid of time and

Illuminate the city)

Is it me, or is the ground shifting

Under my feet?

I’m at sea; a continent drifting

Until it’s free

Twilight married to the ground

And a claim to the future staked

But border has been border now

Long before your promise of dawn began to break

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