Last night, again,
you were in my dreams
several expendable limbs were at stake
you were a prince, spinning rims
all sentiments indian-given
and half-baked
I was brought
in on a palanquin
made of the many bodies
of beautiful women
brought to this place to be examined,
swaying on an elephant:
a princess of india

We both want the very same thing.
We are praying
I am the one to save you
But you don't even own,
your own violence
Run away from home-
your beard is still blue
with the loneliness of you mighty men,
with your jaws, and fists, and guitars
and pens, and your sugarlip,
but I've never been to the firepits with you mighty men

Who made you this way?
Who made you this way?
Who is going to bear your beautiful children?
Do you think you can just stop,
when you're ready for a change?
Who will take care of you
when you're old and dying?

You burn in the Mekong,
to prove your worth,
Go Long! Go Long!
Right over the edge of the earth!
You have been wronged,
tore up since birth.
You have done harm.
Others have done worse.

Will you tuck your shirt?
Will you leave it loose?
You are badly hurt.
You're a silly goose.

You are caked in mud,
and in blood, and worse.
Chew your bitter cud,
Grope your little nurse.

Do you know why
my ankles are bound in gauze
(sickly dressage:
a princess of kentucky)?
In the middle of the woods
(which were the probable cause),
we danced in the lodge
like two panting monkeys.

I will give you a call, for one last hurrah.
If this tale is tall, forgive my scrambling.
But you keep palming along the wall,
moving at a blind crawl,
but always rambling.

Wolf-spider, crouch in your funnel nest,
If I knew you, once,
now I know you less,
In the sinking sand,
where we've come to rest,
have I had a hand in your loneliness?

When you leave me alone
in this old palace of yours,
it starts to get to me. I take to walking,
What a woman does is open doors.
And it is not a question of locking
or unlocking.

Well, I have never seen
such a terrible room-
gilded with the gold teeth
of the women who loved you!
Now, though I die,
Magpie, this I bequeath:
by any other name
a jay is still blue

with the loneliness
of you mighty men,
with your mighty kiss
that might never end,
while, so far away,
in the seat of the west,
burns the fount
of the heat
of that loneliness.

There's a man
who only will speak in code,
backing slowly, slowly down the road.
May he master everything
that such men may know
about loving, and then letting go.


Lyrics submitted by animalcollector

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33 Comments

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  • +6
    General Commentthree references to will oldham albums in that last stanza. 'ease down the road', 'master and everything', and 'the letting go'.
    spaceron February 24, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General CommentPerhaps she sees parallels between the story of Bluebeard and her relationship with Bill Callahan. Good 'ol badass, ladykilling Callahan has probably left a trail of women in his wake (in the same way that Bluebeard moved from wife to wife after he had disposed of the previous one), but Joanna was charmed by him and gave him a chance. Eventually, however, Joanna came to realise what had caused Bill's previous relationships to fail, his 'secret,' as Bluebeard's wife eventually discovered his terrible secret.
    adlezon February 23, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General Commentnever knew the story of Bluebeard; see that's the wonderful thing about Joanna, she teaches you things you might never get the chance to learn.

    since most of what i understood from the song has already been touched on in one way or another by the other comments i just want to point out the lyric:

    "You burn in the Mekong"

    - this is a reference to the legend of the Nāga/The Curse of Kadru, where (in short)
    "Kadru, the ancestral mother of snakes, made a bet with her sister Vinata, the stakes being that the loser would be enslaved to the winner. Eager to secure victory, Kadru requested the cooperation of her offspring in order to fix the bet so that Kadru would win. When her offspring balked at the request, Kadru grew angry and cursed them to die a fiery death in the snake-sacrifice of King Janamejaya, the son of Parikshit, who was the son of Abhimanyu the son of Arjuna. The king of the snakes Vasuki was aware of the curse, and knew that his brethren would need a hero to rescue them from it. He approached the renowned ascetic Jaratkaru with a proposal of marriage to a snake-goddess, Manasa, Vasuki's own sister. Out of the union of the ascetic and the snake-maiden was born "a son of the splendor of a celestial child." This son was named Astika, and he was to be the savior of the snakes. In accordance with Kadru's curse, Janamejaya prepared a snake sacrifice of a type described in the scriptures, the Puranas. He erected a sacrificial platform and hired priests and other professionals needed for the rites. Following the proper form, the priests lit the sacrificial fire, duly fed it with clarified butter, uttered the required mantras, and began calling the names of snakes. The power of the rite was such that the named snakes were summoned to the fire and were consumed by it. As the sacrifice took on genocidal proportions, Astika came to the rescue. He approached Janamejaya and praised the sacrifice in such eloquent terms that the king offered to grant him a boon of his choosing. Astika promptly requested that the sacrifice be terminated. Though initially regretful of his offer, Janamejaya was true to his word, and the sacrifice came to an end."

    the sacrificial platform is the "palanquin" and i think Joanna sees herself as a sort of saviour/comrade to all women tormented and tortured by men/society. She relates herself to Astika and, most likely her ex Bill Callahan, to the offspring that were destined to be burned in the Mekong River and also the more evil, more willing to kill/sacrifice others, Kadru.

    This legend and the story of Bluebeard have many parallels such as the killing of many and the escape of one.
    Joanna being that one who got away. Personally, Smog, i think you're missing out.

    PS: i'm still trying to figure out this song. feedback would be nice/helpful :)
    eveiamnoton February 27, 2010   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationI think this song is essentially a song about men and masculinity and how women and femininity are viewed and/ or relate to that.

    The song begins with the set-up of a dream. I believe the entire song is meant to be a dream, made up of shifting imagery about a singular situation, told through metaphors. It seems to be about a man, “tortured” in a sense. From one view it would seem that the man is cruel (and he probably is) but the song lends a lot of sympathy, makes him sound weak and pathetic and pitiful rather than strong and secure and manly as he might imagine he is viewed.

    The narrator is supposed to “save” this man. The first verse looks as if she is a beautiful woman (a “princess of India”) brought in almost as an offering to this wealthy, extravagant and insincere man. It’s no secret that he goes through women quickly, as she’s brought in on a bed of their sacrifice to him. These women too hoped to be the one to “save him,” to end his cruelty, to make him love truly another person. Instead, he has continued to live a life of extravagance, of freedom, and therefore, of great loneliness.

    It seems that maybe with each new woman (who I believe, as the princess changes from an Indian one to a Kentucky one, are meant to be all the same, to embody this femininity that is out of reach for these men.) the man truly does believe he is being “saved,” he will no longer have to prove himself as a man, he will sink into the sweet bliss of domesticity and care from a woman he loves, and when he still does not feel fulfilled, with his disappointment, kills these women. The narrator is the newest addition, and they both hope for him. She recognizes though, as he does not, that when he kills these women for their failure, it is his failure, and his violence, which is truly causing him such pain. He can’t own this. He thinks that when he leaves his palace, his woman, disappears, takes advantage of his wealth and freedom, he will again be free, but he is forever stained by the remains of the women who have loved him and who he has torn up. He does not change by leaving; leaving does not save him. The list of attributes these lonely men have: jaws, fists — to represent violence, masculinity, fighting; guitars and pens — artistic and intellectual endeavors; and then sugarlip, a way of being irresistible to women. These men value these things and focus on them so entirely, seeing that men and only men can have these aspects, and gather around firepits to celebrate their manliness. No women are allowed, no women could be as violent, have such a great mind, as these men believe they have. And no woman has ever been invited, or crossed the threshold, into this burning and sad manliness, isolated in its surety of isolation.

    The narrator is concerned and sad for the man, wondering how he got this way, if he will ever have children, if he will ever have a wife that will care for him when he needs it. In his stark independence, his refusal to need anyone (ironically while needing someone so badly) he will end up alone. Worried for him, almost like a mother, the narrator is telling him softly how miserable he will be, and that soon enough, he won’t have a chance. No one will love him.

    Instead of mellowing himself, forgetting his quests for valor, he repeatedly goes on them; he tortures himself to prove himself. However, the sympathy is there. As a man, he’s repeatedly been failed by those who raised him, those around him, from his birth. It becomes a cycle, everyone just hurting each other.

    Again, softly, maternally, yearning for a simple domesticity, the narrator asks him about his clothing, wondering about his choices, teasing him. At this point though, he has almost destroyed himself. Covered in the remnants of him trying so hard to prove himself, he acts like a delirious and senile old man, groping at the women around them, not even able to respect or understand the women that are paid to care for him.

    The narrator likens herself to a horse, to something men watch and use for a sport. She tries to appeal to him, saying look at your princess now. She is also failing him, she has not saved him, and he will kill her soon. She attempts to get him to look at his life spiritually, to show him his fear, and his ignorance and betrayal of women and how he is hurting himself. She tells him that though he’s looking, he’s blinded himself. He’s sunk further into isolation and as she tries to pull him out, she wonders if she’s does the right thing, or if she’s made it worse.

    He leaves then, as he leaves them all, trying to embrace his freedom, off to the firepits probably, off to do something terrible to himself just to ensure that he can. He leaves his home and his comfort to punish himself, and she is left there. It is then of course that she realizes the true extent of the women he has used and deserted in his attempts for salvation, their sacrifice, and the sadness of it all. She realizes she too will die because she has not saved him either.

    Though he is lonely and sad and terrible, she has loved him, like all other women have too, and forever they feel his kiss, and he is forever kissing, asking for something he won’t accept. He is far away, lonely and alone, with all the other men, begging for and refusing help in the same breathe.

    She accepts it then, and speaks of him, of every man like him, the ones that are on an eternal quest to be something that doesn’t exist. They understand nothing about themselves and are always moving. The narrator knows now that they cannot be helped. She hopes only for the next best thing: that he becomes what he wants to be in a true sense, that, like he’s been doing his whole life, he will love, and then he will cast away, and then he will do it again, until he’s let everyone go, and it is only him, only the men, in one place, all together, steeping themselves in isolation and a journey that they refuse to let end.
    littlelifegiveron June 15, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Comment...as Spacer pointed out above. Sorry.

    Loving the kora on this.
    barbrynon March 15, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentBasically a bitter song ripping the guy a new one.
    fishbellyfaceon April 20, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI haven't been able to read over all of these brilliant, thoughtful ideas, although, I cannot overemphasize how Bluebeardian this song is to me personally. For a good reading and telling of the Bluebeard story, see Clarissa Pinkola Estes' book 'Women Who Run With The Wolves.' I knew as soon as I listened to this hauntingly beautiful song that its meta-narrative was telling the tale about the Bluebeard male archetype and how this male persona has affected Joanna personally in her love relationship(s). I know that I have had very haunting experiences with "Bluebird" in my own life, and this song is a calling forth for women to wake up and use our instincts so as not to become captured by the beautiful man who can easily steel your soul and not bat an eyelash. This isn't a matter of man-hating because we could flip genders if you wish--but rather, the song is about "opening doors" to the soul self and to the hidden truths that a particular person may be hiding from you. Bluebird is a result of patriarchy and is often the "fallen warrior" who must redeem himself in the most horrific way. And it is true that this person will show up in your dreams (as Joanna begins her song) over and over again because Bluebird is the predator of the psyche---the one that will not let you be free no matter how much work you do to rid yourself of him. It takes an inquisitive woman who is not afraid to open doors to really get her instinct and soul life back. Once she asks questions, it is only a matter of time before she is finally liberated from an abusive or unhealthy relationship:)

    The only thing I know about Joanna is what she has given me in her music because I don't read articles about her or follow pop culture or her latest boyfriend, etc. I think Joanna would be pleased to know instead of trying so hard to figure out which line is referencing who, what, when, or why, (you will never know this unless you know her very personally) that her listeners are able to connect with her stories through their own collective experiences, or, perhaps able to listen to the music in its entirety without systematizing and dissecting. And it is wonderful to read how this song relates to others. Thank you.
    elshugarton October 10, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis is beautiful beautiful beautiful
    organdonoron February 21, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentA beautiful song about Bluebeard.
    Marjoramon February 22, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI don't think it's so much about Bluebeard per se but rather using Bluebeard as kind of a symbol of modern oppressive relationships? The references to Bluebeard are pretty clear and fairly numerous but there's a lot else to it as well, I think.
    Elegnaimon February 22, 2010   Link

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