Lyrics: Mortal City

Yea, there was a time I didn’t like the love, I liked the climbers,
I was no sister then, I was running out of time and one liners,
And I was afraid, like you are when you’re too young to know the time, and
So I watch the way you take your fear and hoard the horizon,
You point, you have a word for every woman you can lay your eyes on,
Like you own them just because you bought the time,
And you turn to me, you say you hope I’m not threatened,

Oh — I’m not that petty, as cool as I am, I thought you’d know this already,
I will not be afraid of women, I will not be afraid of women.

So now were at a club, you watch the woman dancing, she is drunk,
She is smiling and she’s falling in a slow, descending funk,
And the whole bar is loud and proud and everybody’s trying, yeah.
You play the artist, saying, “Is it how she moves, or how she looks?”
I say, It’s loneliness suspended to our own like grappling hooks,
And as long as she’s got noise, she’s fine.
But I could teach her how I learned to dance when the music’s ended,

Oh — and that’s not petty, as cool as I am, I thought you’d know this already,
I will not be afraid of women, I will not be afraid of women.
You tried to make me doubt, to make me guess, tried to make me feel like a little less,
Oh, I liked you when your soul was bared, I thought you knew how to be scared,
And now its amazing what you did to make me stay,
But truth is just like time, it catches up and it just keeps going,

And so I’m leaving, you can find out how much better things can get,
And if it helps, Id say I feel a little worse than I did when we met,
So when you find someone else, you can try again, it might work next time,
You look out of the kitchen window and you shake your head and say low,
“If I could believe that stuff, Id say that woman has a halo,”
And I look out and say, “Yeah, she’s really blond,”
And then I go outside and join the others, I am the others,

Oh — and that’s not easy, I don’t know what you saw, I want somebody who sees me,
I will not be afraid of women, I will not be afraid of women.

I threw your keys in the water, I looked back,
They’d frozen halfway down in the ice.
They froze up so quickly, the keys and their owners,
Even after the anger, it all turned silent, and
The everyday turned solitary,
So we came to February.

First we forgot where we’d planted those bulbs last year,
Then we forgot that we’d planted at all,
Then we forgot what plants are altogether,
and I blamed you for my freezing and forgetting and
The nights were long and cold and scary,
Can we live through February?

You know I think Christmas was a long red glare,
Shot up like a warning, we gave presents without cards,
And then the snow,
And then the snow came, we were always out shoveling,
And we’d drop to sleep exhausted,
Then we’d wake up, and it’s snowing.

And February was so long that it lasted into March

And found us walking a path alone together.
You stopped and pointed and you said, “That’s a crocus,”
And I said, “What’s a crocus?” and you said, “It’s a flower,”
I tried to remember, but I said, “What’s a flower?”
You said, “I still love you.”

The leaves were turning as we drove to the hardware store,
My new lover made me keys to the house,
And when we got home, well we just started chopping wood,
Because you never know how next year will be,
And we’ll gather all our arms can carry,
I have lost to February.

I’ve never had a way with women, but the hills of Iowa make me wish that I could,
And I’ve never found a way to say I love you, but if the chance came by, oh I, I would,
But way back where I come from, we never mean to bother,
We don’t like to make our passions other peoples concern,
And we walk in the world of safe people, and at night we walk into our houses and burn.

Iowa oh ooo oh, Iowa oh ooooh ooo oh I-Iowa

How I long to fall just a little bit, to dance out of the lines and stray from the light,
But I fear that to fall in love with you is to fall from a great and gruesome height.
So I asked a friend about it, on a bad day, her husband had just left her,
She sat down on the chair he left behind, she said,
“What is love, where did it get me? Whoever thought of love is no friend of mine.”

Ioway oh ooo oh, Iowa oh ooooh ooo oh I-Iowa

Once I had everything, I gave it up for the shoulder of your driveway and the words I’ve never felt.
And so for you, I came this far across the tracks, ten miles above the limit, and with no seatbelt, and I’d do it again,
For tonight I went running through the screen doors of discretion,
For I woke up from a nightmare that I could not stand to see,
You were a-wandering out on the hills of Iowa and you were not thinking of me.

Ioway oh ooo oh, Iowa oh ooooh ooo oh I-Iowa
Ioway oh ooo oh, Iowa oh ooooh ooo oh I-Iowa

Amber called her uncle, said “We’re up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay.”
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,v
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three.
He told his niece, “Its Christmas Eve, I know our life is not your style,”
She said, “Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it’s been awhile,”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, “Is it true that you’re a witch?”
His mom jumped up and said, “The pies are burning,” and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, “It’s true, your cousin’s not a Christian,”
“But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere,”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from? I think magic’s in the learning,
‘Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, “Really, no, don’t bother.”
Amber’s uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadn’t spoken in a year,
He thought he’d call him up and say, “It’s Christmas and your daughter’s here.”
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, so his own son tug his sleeve, saying,
“Can I be a Pagan?” Dad said, “Well discuss it when they leave.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old, and
Making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold.

I am thinking about the woman in a century of peace,
On a bright mosaic she is washing on her knees,
And she looks up at the black sky beyond the mountain tall,
She says, “Oh good, the rain is finally going to fall today.”
This was Pompeii

And everyone has memories of the night that melted stone,
The neighbor’s nightgown, the screaming on the phone,
And the tired man at the station says, “We can’t tell who’s alive,
All we ever know is that the tourists survive.”
“Tra la, tra la,” they say, they say,
“Let’s Go Pompeii.”

And I think about Pompeii when I feel an end is near,
Just before the rain and every time you disappear,
And I think about a teacup, suspended and half served,
And all the scholars know is that it’s perfectly preserved.
“Oh, oh,” that’s all, they say,
“This was Pompeii.”

And as for my on kingdom, not a table leg was charred,
I simply lost my kingdom, ’cause I held it much too hard,
Once I had a sadness, the sadness turned to trust,
The trust turned into ashes and to lawyers and dust,
A century, a day,
This was Pompeii.

When I went to your town on the wide open shore,
Oh I must confess, I was drawn, I was drawn to the ocean,
I thought it spoke to me, it said, “Look at us,
We’re not churches, not schools, not skating ponds, swimming pools,
And we have lost people, haven’t we though?”v
Oh, that’s what the ocean can know of a body,
And that’s when I came back to town, this town is a song about you.
You don’t know how lucky you are, you don’t know how much I adore you,v
You are the welcoming back from the ocean.

I went back to the ocean today,
With my books and my papers I went to the rocks by the ocean,
But the weather changed quickly, oh the ocean said,
“What are you trying to find, I don’t care, I’m not kind,
I’ve bludgeoned your sailors, I’ve spat out their keepsakes,
Oh it’s ashes to ashes, but always the ocean,”
But the ocean can’t come to this town, this town is a song about you.
You don’t know how lucky you are, you don’t know how much I adore you,
You are the welcoming back from the ocean.

And the ones that can know you so well are the ones that can swallow you whole.
I have a good and I have an evil, I thought the ocean, the ocean thought nothing,
You are the welcoming back from the ocean.

I didn’t go back today,
I wanted to show you that I was more land than water,
I went to pick flowers. I brought them to you,
Look at me, look at them, with their salt up the stem,
But you frowned when I smiled and I tried to arrange them,
You said, “Let me tell you the song of this town,”
You said, “Everything closes at five. After that, well, you just got the bars,
You don’t know how precious you are, walking around with your little shoes dangling,
I am the one who lives with the ocean,

It’s where we came from, you know, and sometimes I just want to go back,
After a day, we drink ’til we’re drowning, walk to the ocean, wade in with our workboots,
Wade in our workboots, try to finish the job.
You don’t know how precious you are, I am the one who lives with the ocean.
You don’t know how I am the one. You don’t know how I am the one.”

Can you fix this? It’s a broken heart.
It was fine, but it just fell apart.
It was mine, but now I give it to you,
Cause you can fix it, you know what to do.

Let your love cover me,
Like a pair of angel wings,
You are my family,
You are my family.

We stood outside in the summer rain,
Different people with a common pain.
A simple box in that hard red clay,
Where we left him to always remain.

Let your love cover me,
Like a pair of angel wings,
You are my family,
You are my family.

The child who played with the moon and stars,
Waves a snatch of hay in a common barn,
In the lonely house of Adam’s fall
Lies a child, it’s just a child that’s all, crying

Let your love cover me,
Like a pair of angel wings,
You are my family,
You are my family.

I’m not a leader, I’m not a left-wing rhetoric mobilizing force of one,
But there was a time way back, many years ago in college, don’t laugh,
But I thought I was a radical, I ran the hemp Liberation Group with my boyfriend,
It was true love, with a common cause, and besides that, he was a Sagittarius.

We used to say that our love was like hemp rope, three times as strong as the rope that you buy domestically,
And we would bond in the face of oppression from big business and the deans,
But I knew there was a problem, every time the group would meet everyone would light up,
That made it difficult to discuss glaucoma and human rights, not to mention chemotherapy.

Well sometimes, life gives us lessons sent in ridiculous packaging,
And so I found him in the arms of a Student Against the Treacherous use of Fur,
And he gave no apology, he just turned to me, stoned out to the edge of oblivion,
He didn’t pull up the sheets and I think he even smiled as he said to me,
“Well, I guess our dreams went up in smoke.”
And I said, No, our dreams went up in dreams, you stupid pothead,
And another thing, what kind of a name is Students Against the Treacherous Use of Fur?
Fur is already dead, and besides, a name like that doesn’t make a good acronym.

I am older now, I know the rise and gradual fall of a daily victory.
And I still write to my senators, saying they should legalize cannabis,
And I should know, cause I am a horticulturist, I have a husband and two children out in Lexington, Mass.
And my ex-boyfriend can’t tell me I’ve sold out, because he’s in a cult.
And he’s not allowed to talk to me.


If you’re gonna get your heart broke, you better do it just right,
It’s gotta be raining, and you gotta move your stuff that night,
And the only friend you can reach isn’t a good friend at all,
And you know when he says “Now who dumped who?” that you never should have made that call.

I had the blessings, there’s nobody there, there’s nobody home,
Yeah the blessings, at the moment I was most alone
And aimless as a fulltime fool, the joke was on me,
I got all those birds flying off of that tree, and that’s a blessing.

And the blessings were like poets that we never find time to know,
But when time stopped I found the place where the poets go.
And they said, “Here have some coffee, it’s straight, black and very old,”
And they gave me sticks and rocks and stars and all that I could hold,

I had the blessings, a moment of peace even when the night ends,
Yeah the blessings, can we meet? Can we meet again,
At the crossroads of disaster and the imperfect smile,
With the angel in the streetlamp that blinks on as I walk on a mile, the blessings.

And the best ones were the ones I got to keep as I grew strong,
And the days that opened up until my whole life could belong,
And now I’m getting the answers, when I don’t need them anymore,
I’m finding the pictures, and I finally know what I kept them for,
I remember, I can see them, see them smiling, see them stuck,
See them try, I wish them luck and all the blessings.

I was fast asleep at three in the morning when I got the payphone call,
And she said, “Did I wake you up,” I said, “Hey, no, not at all.”
And she said, “I got this suitcase and I don’t know what to pack,”
And I said, “You can take anything you want, just wait and see,
It’s not a release, not a reward, it’s the blessings,
Its the gift of what you notice more,”
And I walked out and I watched her kick the big pile of the night,
And we sat down and we waited for that strange and empty light.
Yeah the blessings…

See them smiling, see them stuck,
See them try, I wish them luck and all the blessings.


There’s a part of the country could drop off tomorrow in an earthquake,
Yeah it’s out there on the cutting edge, the people move, the sidewalks shake.
And there’s another part of the country with a land that gently creaks and thuds,
Where the heavy snows make faucets leak in bathrooms with free-standing tubs.
They’re in houses that are haunted, the with kids who lie awake and think about
All the generations past who used to use that dripping sink.

And sometimes one place wants to slip into the other just to see
What it’s like to trade its demons for the restless ghost of Mrs. Ogilvey,
She used to pick the mint from her front yard to dress the Sunday pork,
Sometimes southern California wants to be western New York.

It wants to have a family business in sheet metal or power tools,
It wants to have a diner where the coffee tastes like diesel fuel,
And it wants to find the glory of a town they say has hit the skids,
And it wants to have a snow day that will turn its parents into kids,
And it’s embarrassed, but it’s lusting after a SUNY student with mousy brown hair who is
Taking out the compost, making coffee in long underwear.

And southern California says to save a place, I’ll meet you there,
And it tried to pack up its Miata, all it could fit was a prayer,
Sometimes the stakes are bogus, sometimes the fast lane hits a fork,
Sometimes southern California wants to be western New York.

Tempe, Arizona thinks the Everglades are greener and wetter,
And Washington, D. C. thinks that Atlanta integrated better,
But I think that southern California has more pain that we can say,
Cause it wants to travel back in time, but it just can’t leave L. A.

But now I hear they’ve got a theme park planned, designed to make you gasp and say,
Oh, I bet that crumbling mill town was a booming mill town in its day,
And the old investors scoff at this, but the young ones hope they’ll take a chance,
And they promise it will make more dough than Mickey Mouse in northern France,
And the planners planned an opening day, a town historian will host,
And the waitresses look like waitresses who want to leave for the west coast.

And they’ll have puttering on rainy weekends, autumn days that make you feel sad,
They’ll have hundred year old plumbing and the family you never had,
And a Hudson River clean-up concert and a bundle-bearing stork,
And I hear they’ve got a menu planned, it’s trés western New York.


She never should have rented this apartment in the Mortal City
The cold comes though every crack she puts her hand up to
The radiator’s broken, so she has to use electric heat.

And tonight was the first date with the brother of the guy she worked next to
He lived a couple streets away
He listened, he had things to say
She asked him up for dinner sometime
Sometime was tonight

The radio gave updates on the ice storm while she made the dinner
They said, from all the talk, you shouldn’t drive or even walk
And this just in — We’re asking everyone to turn off their power
They need it at the hospital.

She ran around pulling plugs, then she called him up
Maybe now they shouldn’t meet, he said that he would brave the streets
She met him at the door with a blanket and a candle
Saying, I heard it on the radio, I had to turn my power off.

He said you’re not the only one, the streets were dark tonight,
It was like another century
With dim lamps and candles lighting up the icy trees and the clouds and a covered moon.
She said what kind of people make a city
Where you can’t see the sky and you can’t feel the ground?

I tell you something, I have this feeling that this city’s dying
He said, it’s not dying it’s the people who are dying
She said, yes yes I think the people are dying and nobody cares.

We had all this technology our dreams were bold and vague
And then one city got bad planners, one city got the plague.

He asked why did you move here? She said, for the job
For the job and I’ve been so lonely here, so lonely
There’s no one I can talk to, you know I don’t even know your brother.

He smiled and said, sometimes at night I walk out by the river
The city’s one big town, the water turns it upside down
people found this city because they love other people
They want their secretaries, they want their power lunches.

And think about tonight, I heard the same newscast you did
I unplugged everything, I looked out the window
And I think the city heard, I watched as one by one the lights went off
So they could give their power to the hospital

They ate in silence while she thought this over,
They sat together in a dark room in the Mortal City
Shifting in their blankets so they wouldn’t get spaghetti on them.

Then came the awkward moment after dinner, what to do,
The ice was still falling, the streets were still dangerous
The cabs were not running and this neighborhood was not the greatest.

They both looked at the space where a couch would’ve been
She felt her stomach sink, she felt like she could hardly think

She said, I never should have rented this apartment in the Mortal City
The cold comes through eve crack I put my hand up to
The radiator doesn’t work, I have to use electric heat.

That settled it, they would both sleep in her bed
It was a matter of survival.

She brought out teeshirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, socks, hats
If there was ever any thought of what would happen in that bed tonight
There was no question now
They could barely move
They were wrapped up like ornaments waiting for another season.

They lay in bed, they listened to the pelting ice
He said my brother’s not a bad guy, he’s just quiet
I wished you liked this city
She said, maybe I do.

I think I have a special kind of hearing tonight
I hear the neighbors upstairs
I hear my heart beating
I hear one thousand hearts beating at the hospital
And one thousand hearts by their bedsides waiting
Saying that’s my love in the white gown,

We are not lost in the Mortal City
We are not lost in the Mortal City