"My Mother Was a Chinese Trapeze Artist" as written by and Colin Meloy....
My mother was a Chinese trapeze artist
In pre-war Paris
Smuggling bombs for the underground.
And she met my father
At a fete in Aix-en-Provence.
He was disguised as a Russian cadet
in the employ of the Axis.
And there in the half-light
Of the provincial midnight
To a lone concertina
They drank in cantinas
And toasted to Edith Piaf
And the fall of the Reich.

My sister was born in a hovel in Burgundy
And left for the cattle
But later was found by a communist
Who'd deserted his ranks
To follow his dream
To start up a punk rock band in South Carolina.
I get letters sometimes.
They bought a plantation
She weeds the tobacco
He offends the nation
And they write, "Don't be a stranger, why'hear."
"Sincerely, your sister."

So my parents had me
To the disgust of the prostitutes
On a bed in a brothel.
Surprisingly raised with tender care
'Til the money got tight
And they bet me away
To a blind brigadier in a game
Of high stakes canasta.
But he made me a sailor
On his brigadier ship fleet.
I know every yardarm
From main mast to jib sheet.
But sometimes I long to be landlocked
And to work in a bakery.

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"My Mother Was a Chinese Trapeze Artist" as written by Colin Meloy


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  • +2
    General Commentthis is one obscure family...and pretty awesome.

    i feel so bad for him!! everybody gets to do what they want except him! his sister gets to weed the tobacco, her husband presumably, gets to be in punk rock band and offend the nation and he has to be a sailor. and all he wants to do is work in a bakery! poor guy...
    WriterOfFictionson March 02, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentHe wrote it at a time when Tarkio was still around, and recorded it with them and probably performed it solo, but he's made it a Decemberists song since.

    By the way, the interview mentioned above (in like the second post) is a fantastic one. Sean Nelson, who's the lead singer of Harvey Danger and frequently contributes guest vocals on Death Cab records interviewed him and the article is great, especially the entire transcript.
    musicforlife!on October 02, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis is just a perfect picture.. so much imagery and character and story. i love it.
    gyroscopeon June 05, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song was mentioned in a recent article on the band in Seattle\'s The Stranger (web: thestranger.com/2005-03-17/…). Apparently it\'s Colin\'s fantastic retelling of his family history and probably the first Decemberists song of them all.
    avuncularon March 23, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love the accordian.

    I think this one is absolutely brilliant.
    foreign_handon August 24, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentReminds me of my family...
    Colosimoon April 23, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI don't understand how there's talk of the Axis and the Reich, and then there's a punk-rock band? Is this multiple generations?
    makeshifton August 29, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentyeah thats what I was wondering. Because you know, World War II, and then rock and roll...
    Don't make sense.
    jxnarcoticzon August 31, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSurprised that nobody mentioned this yet, but this isn't a Decemberists song. It's a Tarkio song, Colin Meloy's pre-Decemberist band.
    Colosimoon September 11, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentUh. Whether it's a Tariko song or not, which I wouldn't know, it's on The Decemberists' 5 Songs EP.
    Meinoson September 18, 2006   Link

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