Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Patty Griffin

Patty Griffin is one of those rare musicians who has had a long and fruitful career, has been universally recognized and praised as among the very best at her craft, and yet still might legitimately be called underrated or even relatively unknown. She is one of my wife's favorite artists, and the quality (within the quantity) of her output is remarkable. (If you don't know her, go check out her music!)

The song below is from her most recent album, Children Running Through, and is a powerful and suggestive exploration of relationship, conflict, abuse, and hope. I find it a wonderful twist on the notion of the gospel, literally "good news," threatened by a demonic upending but refused by the strength of a voice willing to speak dissent. The relentless acoustic guitar and vocal performance bring it home.

My own poem afterward is, as has been my unfortunate habit of late, completely (and almost absurdly) unrelated, thematically or otherwise. It's almost jarring. Regardless, this week I received Arther McGill's Death and Life: An American Theology in the mail, and this poem was a bleak reflection upon beginning the book.

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No Bad News

By Patty Griffin

Don't bring me bad news, no bad news
I don't need none of your bad news today
You're a sad little boy, anyone can see
You're just a sad little boy
That's why you're carrying on that way

Why don't you burn it all down
Burn your own house down
Burn your own house down
Try to kill your own disease
And leave the rest of us
There's a lot of us, leave the rest of us
Who wanna live in peace to live in peace

I'm gonna find me a man
Love him so well
Love him so strong
Love him so slow
We're gonna go way beyond the walls of this fortress

And we won't be afraid
We won't be afraid
And though the darkness may come our way
We won't be afraid to be alive anymore

And we'll grow kindness in our hearts
Tor all the strangers among us
Till there are no strangers anymore

Don't bring me bad news, no bad news
I don't need none of your bad news today
You can't have my fear
I've got nothing to lose, can't have my fear
I'm not getting out of here alive anyway

And I don't need none of these things
I don't need none of these things
I've been handed
And the bird of peace is flying over
She's flying over and
Coming in for a landing

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On Dying in America

I have come to realize that
I do not want to die. The street
Outside, in its speeds of men and
Constant stillborn explosions, holds
Only highways of death, postponed
And held at arm's length like a trail
Littered with corpses slain by swift
Bullets, trained across a canyon
By snipers happily random
In their trigger satisfaction.
The world entire is this sort of
Thing: murderous canyons of end.
We walk among them like sick dogs
Whimpering, limping toward the long
Needle of being put to sleep.
This is the truth. And I am scared.

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