Spirit of my silence I can hear you But I’m afraid to be near you And I don’t know where to begin And I don’t know where to begin Somewhere in the desert there’s a forest And an acre before us But I don’t know where to begin But I don’t know where to begin Again I’ve lost my strength completely, oh be near me, Tired old mare with the wind in your hair Amethyst and flowers on the table, is it real or a fable? Well I suppose a friend is a friend And we all know how this will end Chimney swift that finds me, be my keeper Silhouette of the cedar What is that song you sing for the dead? What is that song you sing for the dead? I see the signal searchlight strike me in the window of my room Well I got nothing to prove Well I got nothing to prove I forgive you, mother, I can hear you And I long to be near you But every road leads to an end Yes every road leads to an end Your apparition passes through me in the willows: Five red hens—you’ll never see us again You’ll never see us again
I should have known better To see what I could see My black shroud Holding down my feelings A pillar for my enemies I should have wrote a letter And grieve what I happen to grieve My black shroud I never trust my feelings I waited for the remedy When I was three, three maybe four She left us at that video store Be my rest, be my fantasy I’m light as a feather I’m bright as the Oregon breeze My black shroud Frightened by my feelings I only want to be a relief No, I’m not a go-getter The demon had a spell on me My black shroud Captain of my feelings The only thing I want to believe When I was three, and free to explore I saw her face on the back of the door Be my vest, be my fantasy I should have known better Nothing can be changed The past is still the past The bridge to nowhere I should’ve wrote a letter Explaining what I feel, that empty feeling Don’t back down, concentrate on seeing The breakers in the bar, the neighbor’s greeting My brother had a daughter The beauty that she brings, illumination Don’t back down, there is nothing left The breakers in the bar, no reason to live I’m a fool in the fetter Rose of Aaron’s beard, where you can reach me Don’t back down: nothing can be changed Cantilever bridge, the drunken sailor My brother had a daughter The beauty that she brings, illumination
Shall we beat this or celebrate it? You’re not the one to talk things through You checked your text while I masturbated Manelich, I feel so usedFound myself on Spencer’s Butte Traced your shadow with my shoe Empty outline changed my view Now all of me thinks less of youOn the sheet I see your horizon All of me pressed onto you But in this light you look like Poseidon I’m just a ghost you walk right throughSaw myself on Spencer’s Butte Landscape changed my point of view Revelation may come true Now all of me thinks less of you(All of me wants all of you)
I’m drawn to the blood The flight of a one-winged dove How? How did this happen? How? How did this happen?The strength of his arm My lover caught me off guard How? Head of a rabbit How? Head of a rabbitFor my prayer has always been love What did I do to deserve this? With blood on my sleeveDelilah, avenge my grief How? God of Elijah How? God of ElijahAs fire to the sun Tell me what I have done How? Heart of a dragon? How? Heart of a dragon?For my prayer has always been love What did I do to deserve this now? How did this happen?
Light struck from the lemon tree What if I’d never seen hysterical light from Eugene? Lemon yoghurt, remember I pulled at your shirt I dropped the ashtray on the floor I just wanted to be near you Emerald Park, wonders never cease The man who taught me to swim, he couldn’t quite say my first name Like a father he led community water on my head And he called me “Subaru” And now I want to be near you Since I was old enough to speak I’ve said it with alarm Some part of me was lost in your sleeve where you hid your cigarettes No I’ll never forget I just want to be near you Still I pray to what I cannot see In the sprinkler I mark the evidence known from the start From the bed near your death, and all the machines that made a mess Far away the falcon flew Now I want to be near you What’s left is only bittersweet For the rest of my life, admitting the best is behind me Now I’m drunk and afraid, wishing the world would go away What’s the point of singing songs If they’ll never even hear you?
The evil it spread like a fever ahead It was night when you died, my firefly What could I have said to raise you from the dead? Oh could I be the sky on the fourth of July? “Well you do enough talk My little hawk, why do you cry? Tell me what did you learn from the Tillamook burn? Or the Fourth of July? We’re all gonna die.” Sitting at the bed with the halo at your head Was it all a disguise, like Junior High Where everything was fiction, future, and prediction Now where am I? My fading supply “Did you get enough love, my little dove Why do you cry? And I’m sorry I left, but it was for the best Though it never felt right My little Versailles.” The hospital asked should the body be cast Before I say goodbye, my star in the sky Such a funny thought to wrap you up in cloth Do you find it all right, my dragonfly? “Shall we look at the moon, my little loon Why do you cry? Make the most of your life, while it is rife While it is light Well you do enough talk My little hawk, why do you cry? Tell me what did you learn from the Tillamook burn? Or the Fourth of July? We’re all gonna die.”
Carrie and Lowell Such a long time ago Like a dead horse Meadowlark, drive your arrow Season of hope (after the flood) Valentine, spurn my sorrow Head on the floorboards (covered in blood) Drunk as a horsefly Climb on the mattress pad Twist my arm Under the pear tree Shadows and light conspiring Covered bridge, I scream Cottage Grove shade, invite me I will bow down (Dido’s lament) Lord of the ancient waters From the backyard (as far as she went) Carrie surprised me Erebus on my back My lucky charm Carried by stones Fairyland all around us Like a dead horse Sign of your children’s fever Carrie, come home (Thorazine’s friend) Holding your hands with Opal Like a dead horse (shall we ascend?) Flight of the mayfly Ephemera on my back She breaks my arm
The only thing that keeps me from driving this car Half-light, jack knife into the canyon at night Signs and wonders: Perseus aligned with the skull Slain Medusa, Pegasus alight from us all Do I care if I survive this? Bury the dead where they’re found In a veil of great surprises: I wonder did you love me at all? The only thing that keeps me from cutting my arm Cross hatch, warm bath, Holiday Inn after dark Signs and wonders: water stain writing the wall Daniel’s message, blood of the moon on us all Do I care if I despise this? Nothing else matters, I know In a veil of great disguises: How do I live with your ghost? Should I tear my eyes out now?Everything I see returns to you somehow Should I tear my heart out now? Everything I feel returns to you somehow I want to save you from your sorrow The only reason why I continue at all Faith in reason, I wasted my life playing dumb Signs and wonders: sea lion caves in the dark Blind faith, God’s grace, nothing else left to impart Do I care if I survive this? Bury the dead where they’re found In a veil of great surprises, hold to my head till I drown Should I tear my eyes out now, before I see too much? Should I tear my arms out now? I want to feel your touch Should I tear my eyes out now? Everything I see returns to you somehow Should I tear my heart out now? Everything I feel returns to you somehow
Are we to speak, first day of the week Stumbling words at the bar Beauty blue eyes, my order of fries Long island kindness and wine Beloved of John, I get it all wrong I read you for some kind of poem Covered in lines, the fossils I find Have they no life of their own? So can we pretend sweetly Before the mystery ends? I am a man with a heart that offends With its lonely and greedy demands There’s only a shadow of me; in a manner of speaking I'm dead Such a waste, your beautiful face Stumbling carpet arise Go follow your gem, your white feathered friend Icarus, point to the sun If history speaks of two baby teeth I’m painting the hills blue and red They said beware, Lord hear my prayer I’ve wasted my throes on your head So can we be friends, sweetly Before the mystery ends? I love you more than the world can contain In its lonely and ramshackle head There’s only a shadow of me; in a manner of speaking I'm dead I’m holding my breath My tongue on your chest What can be said of my heart? If history speaks, the kiss on my cheek Where there remains but a mark Beloved my John, so I’ll carry on Counting my cards down to one And when I am dead, come visit my bed My fossil is bright in the sun So can we contend, peacefully Before my history ends? Jesus I need you, be near, come shield me From fossils that fall on my head There’s only a shadow of me; in a manner of speaking I'm dead
Now that I fell into your arms My only lover Give out to give in I search for the capsule I lost Drag me to hell in the valley of The Dalles Like my mother Give wings to a stone It's only the shadow of a cross I slept on my back in the shade of the meadowlark Like a champion Get drunk to get laid I take one more hit when you depart I'll drive that stake through the center of my heart Lonely vampire Inhaling its fire I'm chasing the dragon too far There's blood on that blade Fuck me, I'm falling apart My assassin, like Casper the ghost There's no shade in the shadow of the cross
Friend, why don’t you love me? Once the myth has been told The lens deforms it as lightning Raise your right hand Tell me you want me in your life Or raise your red flag Just when I want you in my life Search for things to extol Friend, the fables delight me My blue bucket of gold Lord, touch me with lightning Raise your right hand Tell me you want me in your life Or raise your red flag Just when I want you in my life
Sufjan’s hiatus from the recording studio ends with a darkly themed return to his roots of haunting folk melodies. His approach is raw, not just with respect to the simplicity of its instrumentation, but also— and especially—within the concepts he expresses lyrically.
The album is rooted in the exploration of life and meaning as a result of his mother’s death. In disscusing the album Sufjan said, “the emotional ramifications and repercussions that occurred for months and months following her death. It nearly destroyed me, because I still couldn't make sense out of it. In writing about it on this album, I was in pursuit of meaning, of justice, of reconciliation. It wasn't very fun”.
The album is a piece based on closure, not only with regard to his mother, but also to parts of his childhood—dreams and comforts based in the past. The rawness of the album is perhaps best emphasised in the 3 songs that were recorded on his phone in a hotel room while in Oregon, the location of his best childhood memories associated with his mother.
We decided to look further into the lyrics, to find some of the places and ideas referenced, and to attempt to note meaning in the verse. We did this because we wanted to know the context to some of these lyrics, we hope you can find some of the meaning here too.
(Sufjan, if you’re reading this, come and drink coffee with us in Amsterdam, The Netherlands please)
We are: Jonathan Vink (journalist), Joshua de Lange (internet mastermind), Jacob Kollar (father of three, aspiring journalist) and Bob Verweij (also somewhat aspiring journalist)
This project is done out of pure love and appreciation for Sufjan Stevens music and his wonderful brain. We don't own anything. it's all Ashtmatic Kitty Records.