"Mortal City" as written by and Dar Williams....
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 t-shirts, 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

Lyrics submitted by Madame Me

"Mortal City" as written by Dar Williams


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Mortal City song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentWell, the Mortal City is New York, where Dar lived for a time and earned her anti-urban sentiments (just listen to Spring Street) but it absolutley accurate in both the melancholy and the hope. I've lived in New York for the last eight years, and while it can be a huge, intimidating place, especially when you're new here, it's also one huge small town in a lot of ways.

    There's the universal timidity about meeting new people, though everyone in town is generally friendly and anxious to meet new people as well, and the city-wide yearning for romance which plays out the same, only more intensely. With so many people in their own days and words, it can seem as if no one cares to the uninitiated, but as I said, I've been here eight years now. I've lived through 9-11, the blackout, and the transit strike. I'll tell you, as little as an Ice Storm can bring the city to its knees, except that whenever anything threatens to do so, everybody bonds together as one to keep going. During the '03 blackout I beamed from my rooftop to see the lights on at the hospitals. We are not lost in the mortal city; sometimes it just takes something that affects us all for us to remember that we're all in this together. More remarkable is that we do remember. Every time.
    Navelgazer33on June 04, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think few songs clasp melancholy as well as this one. It taps into sadness and loss of connection, but yet saves a painful and prickly seat for hope. Even within the cold depths of an inpersonal universe, there still can be moments of connection, but only if you are really still and achingly open your heart to the silence.
    I have always found it amazing, with any snow storm or power outage how suddenly there are real people who appear in the city and pause in their life and you meet the person you live next to for the first time and it feels real and connected and so achingly sad, because when the snow is cleared, it all flows back to no one listening.
    Pathoson December 08, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"I think that those observations can have a lot of sides to them,'' says Williams. "Looking at the humanity of the situation can have a lot of perspectives and a lot of sides and that can be an interesting song -- how people come together a lot more than we give them credit for in a very mortal context or how various states of emergency come through us in our daily lives and how we united around it, fixing problems.

    "In fact it was hard to write the song Mortal City because I was going through a pretty anti-urban time and so for me, it was a reconciliation of loving what I experienced in cities.''
    pnkseashelon January 16, 2006   Link

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