Poppies (song)

In the field the poppies grow
Row on row and row on row
Where the wheat meets the grass
Where I lie down with my lass

Beneath her dress she’s white as milk
Her hair as soft as any silk
Her kiss is sweet, her breath’s the scent
Of the wild peppermint

And in the field the poppies grow
Row on row and row on row
Where the wheat meets the grass
Where I lie down with my lass

She tells me of a wee baby
And how I’ll make a fine daddy
We’ll build a house down by the stream
Where the ransoms blow and dream

We build the house and the babies come
They find their feet and away they run
Life can be dark or bright as the sun
When you’ve got your little ones

And in the field the poppies grow
Row on row and row on row
Where the wheat meets the grass
Where I lie down with my lass

We blink our eyes and the babes are grown
And they have babies of their own
The years have come and they have flown
Our work is done, the seeds are sown

Now we lie beneath the silent earth
Above the poppies blossom forth
Where other lovers come and lie
Upon the grass beneath the sky

And in the field the poppies grow
Row on row and row on row
Where the wheat meets the grass
Where I lie down with my lass


Notes

We are surrounded by fields of wheat, rye and barley, and the red corn poppies Papaver rhoeas do grow gaily along the margins in the summer. I was out for a walk one evening when the phrase “row on row” came into my head, from the poem “In Flander’s Field” by John McCrae (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Flanders_Fields).

My mind riffed off the theme of life and death in that poem and it morphed into a folk-song trip through an ordinary life, finding the transcendent in the simple things of life.

Ransoms is the wild garlic Allium ursinum. We have that locally too, and fills the air in damp secluded glades with the heady smell of garlic.

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Snowflakes Fly (song)

You told me that you love the snow
Even though it brings in the cold
So you sit by the fire while snowdrifts grow higher
Outside where you no longer go

And the snowflakes fall down from the sky
Like souls we watch the snowflakes fly

You took me out in the night
To look at the stars shining bright
But to my surprise from the tears in your eyes
Reflected the cold northern lights

And the snowflakes fall down from the sky
Like souls we watch the snowflakes fly

Now eighty winters you have seen
And eighty times you’ve welcomed spring
Eighty snows have shrouded Earth
And eighty times a second birth

I found you outside in the snow
That day it was forty below
I took you in by the fire, you were light as a sigh
And I wept in the warm fire’s glow

And the snowflakes fall down from the sky
Like souls I watch the snowflakes fly
And snow came falling from the sky
Likes souls we watched
Oh how the snowflakes fly


Notes

This song is informed by the time I lived in Alaska in the 80’s. As you can imagine (or maybe you don’t have to) snow plays a huge role in the wintertime, and you can get to be a keen observer of the stuff.

Some of my strong memories are of the dark dark nights and the brilliant swathe of stars, and of course the aurora borealis. And that 40 below is the same in Farenheit and Centigrade.

“Like souls we watched the snowflakes fly” is a slightly convoluted way of saying swirling snowflakes reminded me then and still do now of souls lost in the night. I may be thinking of the scene in “A Christmas Carol” where Marley first comes to Scrooge and they look out the window to see ghosts of tortured souls, unrestful in the night air. (Or was that from a filmed/animated version of the story?)

The events of the song aren’t based on anything real, most of my songs are pure invention based on feelings and emotions.

Read about Fannie Quigley, one of Kantishna, Alaska’s early colorful characters. This is where I spent a winter in the outback in 83/84. This piece gives you a flavor of the atmosphere of the place.

The Year of Jubilo (song)

Walking home through Georgia in the Year of Jubilo
The War Between the States is finally over
Beside a burnt-out farmhouse music fills the air
Where a mockingbird is singing in the clover

I try to whistle up a tune, a dear old mountain song
But something bright inside me just dies
Of all the things I’ve seen and done, and all the men I’ve killed
A happy song sounds like a pack of lies

But though we may not feel like singing
Music soothes the soul
And it’s a sin to kill a songbird
In the Year of Jubilo

Lord knows I have been hungry and you don’t know what it means
When a widow feeds you cornbread with grits and greens
And sleeping in that widow’s barn, bedded in the hay
To hear a whippoorwill a’calling at break of day

And though we may be hungry
Music feeds the souls
And it’s a sin to kill a songbird
In the Year of Jubilo

(bridge)

Little boys they sing of marching off to war
And little girls they sing of love forevermore
Old men sing of horses that they used to ride
Old women sing of meeting in the sweet by-and-by.

A child is playing in the dirt beside the weary road
Once a white man owned him, it was all he knowed
A bluebird singing in the bush, the child claps and laughs
And something cold and hard inside me finally thaws and cracks

Though we may be slaves to life and death
Music frees the soul
And it’s a sin to kill a songbird
In the Year of Jubilo


Notes

The Year of Jubilo was a name given by freed slaves to the year the American Civil War (or “The War Between the States” as it was – and still is – known in the South) ended.

I believe I wrote this after reading the excellent novel by the same name a few years ago by Howard Bahr: The Year of Jubilo.

When I was originally working out the music for it, I had planned on adding a musical coda after the last verse of the tune “The Year of Jubilo”, also known as “Kingdom Coming”. However, it proved too tricky for my limited guitar playing ability.

The death of me (song)

your love is a sledgehammer
knock me off my feet
split open my skull
spill my blood into the street
a 20 pound hammer of solid love
gonna send me straight to the Lord above

now you call me your angel
that’s just what you’ll get
cuz baby you gonna be
the death of me yet

your kiss is a switchblade
slice me open wide
my poor beating heart
got nowhere left to hide
now that you hold it in the palm of your hand
baby I’m headed for the promised land

now you call me your angel
that’s just what you’ll get
cuz baby you gonna be
the death of me yet

 your touch is like 10,000 volts
enough to fry my brain
you thought I was weird before
your touch has driven me insane
you better strap me down, good and tight
cuz I’m headed straight for the bright white light

now you call me your angel
that’s just what you’ll get
cuz baby you gonna be
the death of me yet

 

Come lie with me (song)

Turn out the light
Come lie with me

All through the night
Come lie with me

I’m feeling weary
And I need the company

So please come lie with me

Come lie with me (x4)
In this old house
By the sea
Come lie with me

In this old bed
Come lie with me

Leave it unsaid
Come lie with me

Moonlight on the waves
Is all we need

If you’ll come lie with me

Come lie with me (x4)
In this old house
By the sea
Come lie with me

Don’t turn away, there is no need to fear
Don’t close the door, don’t leave me here

Face to face
Come lie with me

Interlaced
Come lie with me

I’ll breathe you in
And you’ll breathe me

When you come lie with me

Come lie with me (x4)
In this old house
By the sea
Come lie with me

Pedantry

You know you are a pedant when you read blogs with poetry and prose of the utmost beauty but are still disappointed when someone misspells a pretty common word or uses “you’re” when they mean “your”.

I know I am not exempt. But please do let me know if I’ve done something incorrect, even if you think it’s petty. To me, it’s not.

paulmilnepoetry@gmail.com

What about you – would you like to be told (privately ideally to spare blushes) if I spot a boo-boo in your blog post?

Quiet Night In (a song)

A quiet night in, eating pizza on the couch
Watch a little telly, maybe later we’ll make out
Watching old films all through the night
We could be making love by dawn’s early light

A quiet night in, the kids have finally gone to bed
Go pour me another glass of that California red
I’m feeling giddy from the wine
Not half as giddy as I feel when your lips meet mine

And it’s good that we can both be here like we seldom are these days
I feel we’re going through an awkward phase
I don’t know where you are sometimes even when I see your face
I miss your laughter and your quiet grace

A quiet night in, let’s let the world go by
We need this time alone now, you and I
I need to feel our limbs entwine
I need to feel your heartbeat next to mine

And it’s good that we can both be here like we seldom are these days
I feel we’re going through an awkward phase
I don’t know where you are sometimes even when I see your face
I miss your laughter and your quiet grace

 A quiet night in, let’s forget the TV
Go put on some music, then come dance with me
We’ll be like young lovers once more
Dance into the bedroom, and close the door

(play out on instrumental)

I read your letters bound in box last night

I read your letters bound in box last night,
and charted empire’s rise and swift decline;
the first with purple ink and blinkered sight,
declaring all your futures to be mine.

So full of news, and views, and words of love,
with heady scent of lavender and rose,
our flag of love flew high in blue above,
in winds of poetry and deathless prose.

But how at last we weakened in the van,
as frontiers buckled, shattered, fell;
the horde of doubt grew strong, and over-ran
Abandoned heart, left empty lifeless shell.

These war dispatches, written long ago, grown cold:
where is that soldier now, once passionate and bold?

Minotani Station

Looking for love all night
But never finding a bloody thing
Walking the dog on a long leash
Between graffitied pillars

I never found a bloody thing
Only a broken cigarette machine
Between graffitied pillars
Couldn’t find my lighter anyway

Just a broken cigarette machine
Even my vices deserting me
Couldn’t find my lighter anyway
So I was forced to be good

Even my vices deserted me
As I walked my dog on a long leash
I was forced to be good
While looking for love all night

(partly inspired by this photo)

You touched my hand and you smiled

you
touched
my hand
and you smiled
your eyes lighting up
as you leaned over the table
to offer me your lips in a cold winter cabin

storms
raged
blizzards
and snowdrifts
left us no exit
we were not going anywhere
Except into a warm bed and each other’s embrace

years
pass
seasons
and lovers
blossom and wither
but the memory of your touch
still warms my heart on a cold winter’s night in Scotland

WHY I WRITE POETRY

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

FLASHLIGHT CITY BLUES

because
when it comes
it comes like a mack truck
and i don’t have the strength
to plant my heels
firmly in the dirt
and slow it down
and i don’t want it to pass on by
so my only choice
is to stick out my thumb
jump in
and ride along
with this shady methed-out
truck driver
until one of us
is ready to kill the other

because
when it comes
it comes like a great woman
and i’m usually and inconveniently drunk
so i ask her to dance
in a loud room
where maybe she won’t notice my slurring
and i wear my cologne thick
so maybe she won’t smell
the booze on my breath
and the dance never lasts long
and usually
i end up taking a cab home
and usually
she goes her own separate way
but sometimes
she comes with me
and we spend the…

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Ancient gods in greenwood watch and wait

If only all of us could see our fate
Snow falls softly now on deer and crow
Ancient gods in greenwood watch and wait

Are we far too early or are we far too late?
If only all of us could see and know
Ancient gods in greenwood watch and wait

Can God hear our hearts, soft and inchoate?
Our prayers are cast aloft like seeds we sow
If only all of us could see our fate

The poor we trample, the rich we elevate
We stumble blindly, hoping yes and hearing no
Ancient gods in greenwood watch and wait

We dare go no further than the garden gate
We can only stand and watch the falling snow
If only all of us could see our fate

We dream the rising waters inundate
Far out to sea, a storm begins to blow
If only all of us could see our fate
Ancient gods in greenwood watch and wait

Living on the coast (a song)

Skimming silver stones across a moonlit sea
A shooting star skips out across the sky
I know your love is out there, like a million dancing stars
And a million miles between us, you and I

And I am wandering on the beach, my heart just out of reach
A gull flying lonely and lost
Your heart cries out to me, over sand and under sea
I guess we both are living on the coast

Something still connects us, something stronger than the tide
Although we both have tried to live apart
Currents running through our lives run deep beneath the sea
And it’s current, wind, and waves that rule the heart

Now I’m wandering on the beach, my heart just out of reach
A gull flying lonely and lost
And your heart cries out to me, over sand and under sea
I guess we both are living on the coast

And the mist rolls in
And the foghorn blows
And a light shines out

And oh, can you hear the breakers roar?
And will we ever make it to the shore?

I don’t know if we’ll ever kiss each other’s lips again
Or ever feel our fingers interlace
But the sea breeze that blows through your tangled hair
Is the same breeze that blows across my face

And I am wandering on the beach, my heart just out of reach
A gull flying lonely and lost
And your heart cries out to me, over sand and under sea
I guess we both are living on the coast

Generations Marched Away

Samhain is that time of year
When you can feel ancestors near
The veil between the worlds grows clear
And thin as lace
You feel that you could reach out – here –
And touch a face.

But “ancestors” is a lofty word
A whisper down the ages heard
When ancient deeds and works occurred
Now indistinct
Lives and feelings long interred
Almost extinct

My own Dad died not long ago
A blink of time, as these things go
My Granddad, Nana, Gran – ditto
And yet it seems
They live on in my heart and soul
And in my dreams

Their fathers, mothers, family home
Now seen in pictures, faded grown,
Were by them dearly loved and known
With feelings fresh
And made their souls, their skin and bone
Flesh of our flesh

So generations marched away
Passing their love down to this day
As we will pass it, if we may
And gods allow
By how we act and what we say
Here and now

So raise a glass to family dear
Gone from this world, but always near
Leave in your glass a drop of cheer
And to them prove
That we still feel their presence, clear
In present love