So so long ago and so far away
When time was just a line that you fed me when you wanted to stay
We'd talk as soft as chalk till morning came, pale as a pearl
No time, no, no time, now I have got all the time in the world

Say, honey, did you belong to me
Tell me honey, was your heart at rest
When darlin, all the mourning doves were howling us
A song of love's oh godawful lawlessness
Lawlessness

Say, honey, did you belong to me
Tell me honey, did I pass your test
I lay as still as death until the dawn
Whereupon I wrested from y'r godawful lawlessness
Lawlessness

I roam around the tidy grounds of my dappled sanatorium
Coatless I sit amongst the molds adrift and I dote upon my pinesap gum
And the light through the pines in brassy tines lays over me, dim as rum
And thick as molasses, and so time passes, and so, my heart, tomorrow comes

I feel you leaning out back with the crickets
Loyal heart marking the soon-ness, darkness tonight
Still, the mourning doves will summon us their song
Of love's neverdoneing lawlessness
Lawlessness

While over and over: rear up, stand down, lay round
Trying to sound-out or guess the reasons
I sleep like a soldier -- without rest
But there is no treason where there is only lawlessness
Lawlessness

In the last week of the last year I was aware
I took a blind shot across the creek at the black bear
When he roused me in the night and left me cowering with my light calling out
Who is there
Who's there
Who is there

I watched you sleep repeating my prayers,
You give love a little shove and it becomes terror, and now I am
Calling in a sadness beyond anger and beyond fear
Who is there
Who's there
Who is there

I glare and nod like the character God bearing down upon the houses and lawns
I knew a little bit, but darling, you were it, and darling, now it is long gone
Sweetheart in your clean bright start back there behind a hill and a dell
And a state line or two I'll be thinking of you, yes, I'll be thinking and be wishing you well

We land, I stand, but I wait for the sound of the bell
I have to catch a cab and my bags are at the carousel
And then, Lord, just then, time alone will only tell
Go on little dove


Lyrics submitted by animalcollector

Soft as Chalk song meanings
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17 Comments

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  • +2
    General Commentthe piano on this makes me die
    sibylseacowon March 03, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General Commentthe live performance of this song on late night with jimmy fallon effectively seeded my fascination with joanna. shes incredibly unique and bright with character. do yourself a favor and check it out.
    indiansummeron June 24, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI just saw her at Town Hall NYC this week, and watching her play this on piano was NUTS. I'm pretty sure this is the song that requires some serious crossover technique??? And the whole time, she was nodding and smiling and bobbing like it was The Greatest Thing she's ever done.
    Which it was.
    The show, I mean. We were all breathless.

    I feel like the whole album is her unraveling relationship with Bill Callahan and the developments with Andy Samberg... So this song is like a nostalgic malaise that comes from looking back on ANY relationship. ("Give love a little shove and it becomes terror")
    It is 2am.
    jxnarcoticzon March 22, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Commentaccording to my song-by-song interpretation of the album as a whole narrative, this track picks up right where "occident" left off.

    our narrator has known the relationship was ending for some time, and this song is an after-the-fact reflection of the relationship's slow unravel. she reflects on when the relationship was young and things were good. she then asks her lover whether his heart was ever really in it, whether he ever really belonged to her in the first place.

    a repeated theme in this song is the "lawlessness" of love. when she knows it is over, she sleeps, "like a solider, without rest-- but there is no treason where there is only lawlessness." this means that she can't blame him, she can't blame anyone. with a lawless thing like love, in which there are no set rules, it's really impossible to place blame. the "terror" that she speaks of is, i think, the fear that she experiences while waiting for something to happen. will it end, as she knows it will? when? waiting can be terrifying. the thought of losing love after it has been pushed too far can be terrifying. however, she probably blames herself more than anything, as sonikyouth has said. she says that when she leaves, she will bear her former lover no ill will: that she will, in fact, be thinking of him and wishing him well.
    then comes the last verse: "we land, i stand, but i wait for the sound of the bell. i have to catch a cab, and my bags are at the carousel. and then-- lord, just then-- time alone will only tell." she leaves to go back to her hometown, but has not yet taken her things from her lover's home or officially ended things between them.
    ericaruthon September 19, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentLAWLESSNESS! LAW-LESS-NESS!
    Themeaningon March 03, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commentin the last week of last yeeeeeeeeeariiiiiiiiiiiiii was awaaaaare
    sibylseacowon March 03, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthe piano parts remind me of something i've heard before. i keep thinking a charles schwab commercial, but i really don't think that's right. anyone else have any ideas?
    minincoalon March 03, 2010   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationWhat I hear in the song is regret about not being clearer about ones expectations in a relationship. It sounds like this lack of clarity was the result of fear of losing the person- "give love a little shove and it becomes terror"- When the relationship ends badly, the speaker feels like she can only blame herself, in a way, because "there is no treason when there is only lawlessness." It feels to me like she is asking if it is fair to blame someone for not living up to her expectations when she was too afraid to make those expectations clear.
    sonikyouth74on May 17, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthe live performance of this song on late night with jimmy fallon effectively seeded my fascination with joanna. shes incredibly unique and bright with character. do yourself a favor and check it out.
    indiansummeron June 24, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOhhhhh I love this song. It was the Jimmy Fallon performance that got me into her too. I don't really know what the song is about but it kinda feels like a relationship that ends badly? I dunno
    whiskybootinon July 04, 2010   Link

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