To The Teeth

to the teeth

the sun is setting on the century
and we are armed to the teeth
we're all working together now
to make our lives mercifully brief
and schoolkids keep trying to teach us
what guns are all about
confuse liberty with weaponry
and watch your kids act it out
and every year now like christmas
some boy gets the milkfed suburban blues
reaches for the available arsenal
and saunters off to make the news
and the women in the middle
are learning what poor women have always known
that the edge is closer than you think
when the men bring the guns home

look at where the profits are
that's how you'll find the source
of the big lie that you and i
both know so well
in the time it takes this cultural
death wish to run it's course
they're gonna make a pretty penny
and then they're all going to hell
he said the chickens all come home to roost
yeah, malcolm forecasted this flood
are we really gonna to sleep through another century
while the rich profit off our blood?
true, it may take some doing
to see this undoing through
but in my humble opinion
here's what i suggest we do:

open fire on hollywood
open fire on MTV
open fire on NBC
and CBS and ABC
open fire on the NRA
and all the lies they told us
along the way
open fire on each weapons manufacturer
while he's giving head
to some republican senator

and if i hear one more time
about a fool’s right
to his tools of rage
i'm gonna take all my friends
and i'm gonna move to canada
and we're gonna die of old age

soft shoulder

i don't keep much stuff around
i value my portability
but i will say that i have saved
every letter you ever wrote to me
the one you left on my windshield
outside of that little motel
is in the pocket of my old gig bag
from back when life was more soft shell

letters littered with little lewd pictures
drawn by the ghost of woody guthrie
who would use your big thick hand
just to draw one or two for me

i think of your letters as love letters
which is how i think of songs
in that it is the writing of them
that tends to carry us along
and i danced to one of your old tunes
with my true love on our wedding day
and your voice sang the way my heart would sing
if it finally knew just what to say

two people pulled over on the same night
to look up at the same stars
they both found their wheels were spinning
in a soft shoulder
when they both got back into their cars
and they missed fate’s appointed rendezvous
and then a whole lotta time went by
and then one day they were done
worshipping the landscape
and they just put down their hands
and moved into the sky

they had barely said hello and it was time
to say goodbye

wish i may

i am losing my love of adventure
i’m losing all respect
for me and myself tonight
i wonder what happens if i get to
the end of this tunnel
and there isn’t a light
i’ve worn down the treads
on all of my tires
i've worn through the elbows
and the knees of my clothing
i am stumbling down
the gravel driveway of desire
trying not to wake up
my sleeping self-loathing

do you ever have that dream
where you open your mouth
and you try to scream
but you can’t make a sound
that’s every day starting now
that’s every day starting now

don’t tell me it’s gonna be alright
you can’t sell me on your optimism tonight
it’s a stiff competition
to see who can stay up later
the stars or the street lights
all they really want
is to be alone with the darkness
no more wish i may
no more wish i might

it takes a stiff upper lip
just to hold up my face
i got to suck it up and savor
the taste of my own behavior
i am spinning with longing
faster then a roulette wheel
this is not who i meant to be
this is not how i meant to feel

i don't think i am strong enough
to do this much longer
god, i wish i was stronger
this song could never be long enough
to express every longing
god, i wish it was longer…


life in the circus ain't easy
but the folks on the outside don’t know
the tent goes up and the tent comes down
and all that they see is the show
and the ladies on the horses look so pretty
and the lions are lookin real mad
and some of the clowns are happy
and some of the clowns are sad

but underneath
there’s another expression
that the makeup isn’t making
life under the big top
it’s about freedom
it’s about faking
there’s an art to the laughter
there’s a science
and there’s alot of love
and compliance

welcome to the freakshow
here we go…

we live to hear the slack-jawed gasping
we live under a halo of held breath
and when the children raise up a giant shield
of laughter, it’s like they’re fending off death
and we can make something bigger
than any one of us alone
and then the  clowns will take off their make-up
and the people will go home

but life on the outside ain't easy
no sequins, no elephants,
no parading around
yeah, the tent goes up
and the tent comes down
and they’re stuck in this fucking town

you need a lot of love and compliance

welcome to the freakshow
here we go

going once

going once, going twice
sold to the girl
who ignored all the advice
of all the people who knew better
she just stood there
on the front porch
waiting for her will
to come and get her

she was packed
she had a suitcase
full of noble intentions
she had a map
and a straight face
hell bent on reinvention
and she was ready
for the lonely
she was in it for
it only

going once, going twice
down the road less taken
with her diary and her WD40
and her swiss army knife
and her beer
and there was always
someone there to say
why don’t you just stay
and hang your hat here

but she was packed
she had a suitcase
full of bungles and near misses
and she was swinging
through a jungle
of last calls and first kisses
and she was learning
about please
about huge humilities

then one day she looked around her
and everything up til then was showing
and she wondered: how did i get here
without even knowing where i was going?
now there's no getting out of this
and there is no going back
and it all seems so odd sometimes
and the odds all seem stacked

going once, going twice
sold to the girl
who ignored all the advice
of all the people who knew better
she just stood there
on the front porch
waiting for her will
to come and get her

she was packed
she had a suitcase

she had a map
and a straight face

she was ready
for the lonely

she was in it for
it only

hello birmingham

hold me down
i am floating away
into the overcast skies
over my hometown
on election day

what is it about birmingham?
what is it about buffalo?
that the hate-filled wanna build bunkers
in your beautiful red earth
they wanna build them
in our shiny white snow

now i've drawn closed the curtain
in this little booth where the truth has no place
to stand
and i am feeling oh so powerless
in this stupid booth with this useless
little lever in my hand
and outside, my city is bracing
for the next killing thing
standing by the bridge and praying
for the next doctor

it was just one shot
through the kitchen window
it was just one or two miles from here
if you fly like a crow
a bullet came to visit a doctor
in his one safe place
a bullet insuring the right to life
whizzed past his kid and his wife
and knocked his glasses
right off of his face

and the blood poured off the pulpit
the blood poured down the picket line
yeah, the hatred was immediate
and the vengance was devine
so they went and stuffed god
down the barrel of a gun
and after him
they stuffed his only son

hello birmingham
it's buffalo
i heard you had some trouble
down there again
and i’m just calling to let to know
that somebody understands

i was once escorted
through the doors of a clinic
by a man in a bullet proof vest
and no bombs went off that day
so i am still here to say
i'm wishing you all of my best
oh birmingham
i'm wishing you all of my best
i'm wishing you all of my best
on this election day

back back back

back back back in the back of your mind
are you learning an angry language
tell me boy boy boy are you tending to your joy
or are you just letting it vanquish
back back back in the dark of your mind
where the eyes of your demons are gleaming
are you mad mad mad about the life you never had
even when you are dreaming

who are these old old old people
 in these nursing homes
scowling away at nothing
like big rag dolls just cursing at the walls
and pulling out all of their stuffing
every day is a door leading back to the core
yes, old age will distill you
and if you’re this this this full of bitterness now
some day it will just fill you

when you sit right down in the middle of yourself
you're gonna wanna have a comfortable chair
so renovate your soul before you get too old
cuz you're gonna be housebound there
when you're old you fold up like an envelope
and you mail yourself right inside
and there's nowhere to go
except out real slow
are you ready, boy, for that ride?

your arrogance is gaining on you
and so is eternity
you better practice happiness
you better practice humility
you took the air, you took the time
you were fed and you were free
now you’d better put some beauty back
while you got the energy
you’d better put some beauty back, boy
while you got the energy


she came to and her
whole life was how she remembered it
she had a mouth full of fur
and she was laughing
she parked her hearse across
three spaces posted motorcycles only
and jumped out shouting
what the cus could make a nice girl like us
feel so lonely?

are you weary as water
in a faucet left dripping
with an incessant sadness
like a sad record skipping
and an ugly and ornery
and shadowy dread
lurking like a troll under the bridge
between your heart and your head

please, dumb blind kind sir
lend little miss listless a little bit of christmas
she’s been a real good girl
but now she’s stuck here
the world is so little and still
mysterious and ominous as ever before
like an unmarked bottle full of pills
on the shelf, right next to the thing
you were reaching for

swing the groove ‘round here
where i can reach it
when i get my ass back on track
i’m gonna need it
swing shift til i get the money
i gotta get me enough money
to buy me and my baby a moon full of honey
then i’m gonna turn off the nagging voices
inside my head
that follow me to bed and say
you suck....blah blah blah

carry you around

how pleased can one
sun setting make you
if you humble yourself
to it?
how grateful can you
really say that you are
just to be here and live
through it?
and when beauty asks a question
how often do you reply?
how often do you wonder
about life on the other side?
on the other side of sorrow
on the other side of rage
on the other side of o.k.
o.k. at all
in any way
imagine what loneliness
will drive someone to do
now multiply that times me
and multiply that times you
now imagine what it would take to make
this all happen again
and just when you think you’re gonna cry
multiply that times ten
are distracting me
from all other activities
and i know the fact of your presence
will dominate my memory
of this restaurant, this table
this day and this town
cuz i carry you, baby
i carry you around

cloud blood

i’ve been wondering what you meant when you asked
do you have a light?
i’ve been wondering where you went when you left
that party that night
cloud blood smudge smeared on the sky
it’s dawn’s roadkill
i’ve been driving since midnight
and i’m driving still

stop on the top of the ridge just to feel the wind
on my rand mcnally
then i feel the air go cold as i drift in
to the first blue of the valley
you’re wondering how far down you are
on my call back list
but you don’t realize everytime i find i’m by a phone
the landscape shifts

every other song someone’s trying to write angels
into the world
every grace, every ace, every near miss
every decent kiss by a pretty girl
she was an angel
she looked like an angel
and all of the angels did sing
the angels were watching
and the angels were listening
and the angels were on hand
to stand in for everything

you can call it magic
when a man pulls a rabbit out of a hat
but the reason i don’t call is cuz i wonder
if there isn’t a better word than that
and you can call me crazy
but i think you’re as lazy
as white paint on a wall
and i know you’ll only speak to me in dial tones
if i call

its been way too long since i’ve been behind the wheel
headlights guiding me right through the dark i feel
dry eyed, trying hard to resist
sleeps first kiss
everytime i have time to think
i think of this

the arrival’s gate

gonna go out
to the arrivals gate at the airport
and sit there all day
watch people reuniting
public affection is so exciting
it even makes airports o.k.
watching children run
with their arms outstretched
just to throw those arms
around their grandpas' necks
watching lovers plant kisses
old men to their misses
at the arrivals gate

watching a mother
with a mother’s smile
don’t tell me to move
i just wanna sit here for a while
i have determined
it’s a sure cure for cancer
watching excitement turn family dogs
into dancers
at the arrivals gate

i got me a white bread sandwich
with some shredded lettuce
and i got me a ringside view
for my quaint little fetish
i just wanna drain my little pink heart
of all its malace
and kick back for the afternoon
in this fluorescent palace

everybody’s in a hurry
here in purgatory
except for me
i’m where i need to be

at the arrivals gate


who knew
at this party that
i would walk in and i'd see you
i guess now
we could just get drunk
yeah, and that could be our excuse
you could slip
and outta nowhere
i could be there to catch your fall
and we could laugh
at ourselves
and the writing that’s on the wall

it's a narrow margin
just room enough for regret
in the inch and a half between
hey, how ya been?
can i kiss you yet?
so we talk like
nervous neighbors over a tall fence
true love
but for the lack of providence

but i just got one more
thing to tell you
cuz words are vitamins
and life is short
and i know when we get up
to the front office
we’re gonna have to fill out
a full report
the first question will be
what were you thinking?
and the next question will be
what did you say?
and then they're gonna check to see
if the answers to one and two
matched up much
along the way

in the interest of poetry
and the cowboy movie
that's you and me
i'm back on the horse now
and i am riding
i am striding so effortlessly
what i mean is
it's late
much too late for us
and i'm fixing to go home
with just my conscience
and a bitter sense of irony
as my chaperone

I know this bar

i know this bar
with a jukebox full of medicine
and christmas lights blinking
around a clouded mirror
it’s not that far
from old voelkers bowling alley
just go up there and turn right
it’s about three blocks from here

you’ll probably find grace
her shift starts at happy hour
she’s got this sweet face
easy as tea leaves to read
you gotta know what to look for
you gotta know what’s there to find
but then i guess you don't really know her
so nevermind

i used to hang out a lot around there
in that part of town
where all the white kids
still have feathered hair

i know this song
with this one really killer line
i don't remember it exactly
but it slays me every time
it’s on the jukebox there
i know it’s number 5403
go put that song on for me won’t you
and make gracie think of me