Poem of the Day: 1/14/13

Born in and from the same cell, song lyrics and poems share many of the same elements, and there are still a handful of lyricists for whom a song’s language is not mere afterthought, or something to tack onto a good melody, whose songs are driven as much by the urgency of an idea, of imagery and metaphor, of the power and intricacies of the words themselves, of narrative. I am a poet much less because of the poetry I read growing up, but because of the music I listened to. And I’d still rather hang my words on a melody any day.

In this spirit, and since I’m still walking around singing Neutral Milk Hotel’s catalogue having seen their frontman Jeff Mangum play solo on Saturday night, today’s poem is by Jeff Mangum. A simple test to determine if lyrics are good: remove the song. For many lyrics, this exposes their vapidity or their over-emphasis on rhyme, their lack of anything interesting etc.

Not so with Mangum. Even if you don’t know the tune here: this “poem” itself sings.


Daddy please hear this song that I sing
In your heart there’s a spark that just screams
For a lover to bring
a child to your chest that could lay as you sleep
And love all you have left like your boy used to be
Long ago wrapped in sheets warm and wet

Blister please with those wings in your spine
Love to be with a brother of mine
How he’d love to find your tongue in his teeth
In a struggle to find secret songs
that you keep wrapped in boxes so tight
Sounding only at night as you sleep

Brother see we are one in the same
And you left with your head filled with flames
And you watched as your brains fell out through your teeth
Push the pieces in place
Make your smile sweet to see
Don’t you take this away
I’m still wanting my face on your cheek

And when we break we’ll wait for our miracle
God is a place where some holy spectacle lies
And when we break we’ll wait for our miracle
God is a place you will wait for the rest of your life

Two headed boy she is all you could need
She will feed you tomatoes and radio wires
And retire to sheets safe and clean
But don’t hate her when she gets up to leave


And here’s the song if you want to hear these great words filled with fire.