Parables & Primes

by Danny Schmidt

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released July 12, 2005

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Danny Schmidt Austin, Texas

Named to the Chicago Tribune's "50 Most Significant Songwriters in the Last 50 Years," Austin, TX-based singer/songwriter Danny Schmidt is considered a preeminent writer, an artist whose earthy poetry manages to somehow conjure magic from the mundane, with lyrical depth drawing comparisons to Leonard Cohen and Townes Van Zandt. ... more

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Track Name: This Too Shall Pass
Things change fast, but this too shall pass
Better carve it on your forehead or tattoo it on your ass
Cause who can tell, when the clock strikes twelve
If today’s become tomorrow or if it’s all just gone to hell

My friend makes rings, she swirls and sings
She’s a mystic in the sense that she’s still mystified by things
But scared to ask, how can nothing seem to last?
Cause like a cancer in your body, it all just goes too fast

We think too big, we think our self is one whole thing
And we claim that this collection has a name and is a being
But deep inside, when every cell divides
It sets upon the rule that states self-interest is divine

Cancer, too, lives by this golden rule
That you must do unto the others as the others unto you
All for the best, cause that’s all the life accepts
And so we kill it like a buffalo, with awe and with respect

Don’t ask God, just holler at the sky
Cause she’ll tell it to you plainly in the clouds that whisper by
And praise the shapes, and then praise the way they change
And they’ll teach you not to pray to light without you pray to rain

So I pray to hands, and I pray to needs
And I pray to blades of grass to find forgiveness in the weeds
But as for health, I just never did believe
And so I never prayed myself except to those that prayed for me

The story goes, or the way that I was told
There was a king that always felt too high and then he fell too low
And so he called all the wise men to the hall
And begged them for a gift to end the rises and the falls

But here’s the thing, they came back with a ring
It was simple and was plainly unbefitting of a king
Engraved in black, it had no front or back
But there were words around the band that said
Just know: This Too Shall Pass
Track Name: Neil Young
Well the night began with a Neil Young chord
Lazy and lovely and bored
With my ear on her belly, and my legs off the edge
And I couldn’t quite tell if we were still holding hands

She said something about starfish and the Oregon coast
Drifting and lilting, the song and her voice
And she finished, I think, with a hand through my hair
And I answered a kiss on the belly: I’m still there

And the rain through the screen leaves innocuous tears
Like the sky’s doing fine it just got dust in its eye
But the candle on the sill, it’s sensitive still
And it chokes back and flickers its sympathies

And I’m trying to think of something I might want
But the harvest is there in my arms
And the night trickles on by itself if we want
Completely complete in its own empty charms

I can smell that there’s still half an orange to eat
And the harmonica carries a tray full of cheese
But my love says Neil Young’s voice is like spoiled red wine
Well it’s lucky, it’s lucky she’s so beautiful and kind
Track Name: Dark-Eyed Prince
Once upon a time in a kingdom ill-defined
A dark-eyed prince sat sideways on his throne
And he cast aside the thoughts of his princess long and lost
And decided he’d live principally alone
So he built himself a castle made of stumbling blocks and bricks
And he filled the mote with crocodile tears and other tricks
But he forgot to build the doorway, he forgot to build the gate
So he had to build a catapult just to knock the wall away

And he’d venture out at night, bejeweled and erudite
And he’d ride from town to town and farm to farm
And he’d laugh at all the sheep and at the company they keep
And he’d burn down all the churches and the barns
Until he’d find a proper damsel, then he’d play the proper prince
And he’d lead her home with apples and a promise on a stick
Til she’d fall upon the pillow, then he’d fall upon the dawn
And he’d close his eyes to hers and then just dream that she was gone

So he swore upon the crown that he’d melt desire down
And he boarded up his windows and his eyes
But he still could hear the sound of the rain upon the ground
And he still could feel his face against the sky
And how the birds and how the bees, they each took turns upon their knees
And how the “Take me if you dare to” turned to “Thank you if you please”
And how the nectar in the flowers and how the flowers on the vine
They’d turn his blood from fever into honey-juice and wine

And he knew that it was true, in the crumbs that nature threw
And that ever-after always ends the tale
And that somewhere in disguise there was a girl with lantern eyes
Who could fill the darkest shadows with detail
So he’d build another tower just to tear another down
And he’d lay a trail of candles from his castle into town
But if you go there please be careful, and if you leave there please be quick
Cause he’ll rob your eyes of color and your bones to make more bricks
Track Name: Happy All The Time
I remember on the days when I was happy all the time
Of the forest and the fray but I was happy all the time
And the honeysuckle buds all dripped the sweetest love
And I never lost the taste cause I was happy, I was happy all the time

I lived inside a log but I was happy all the time
With the lizards and the frogs but I was happy all the time
And I always ate at dawn and I always slept til dark
I guess I worked too hard but I was happy, I was happy all the time

I danced beneath the moon cause I was happy all the time
With the beavers and racoons cause I was happy all the time
And the sycamores would chaperone and flash approving teeth
And herons cheered me on cause I was happy, I was happy all the time

Bubblebaths and parties I was happy all the time
With berries and Bacardi I was happy all the time
Is it darkness that inspires us, or passion that requires us
To have to stay so loose to be so happy, happy all the time

A river of retsina I was happy all the time
And though the bank was sorta seedy I was happy all the time
So I piled high the stones until the river kindly rose
Well dam it all cause I was so damn happy, happy all the time

I took the time to breathe cause I was happy all the time
Among the rootbuds and the weeds cause I was happy all the time
But the peat moss and the leaves took turns with both my feet
Until my toes took root and I was happy, I was happy all the time

I begged upon the seasons I was happy all the time
To strip my rhymes and reasons I was happy all the time
And the winter rained like razors and the summer burned like bees
And my skin grew thick as bark cause I was happy, I was happy all the time

There was fire in the forest I was happy all the time
To cleanse our closets for us I was happy all the time
And my branches were the first to embrace the scalded earth
And my middle opened wide cause I was happy, I was happy all the time

Now there’s a boy inside my chest and he seems happy all the time
Untethered and undressed and just so happy all the time
And all the frogs and all the lizards tell him tales of droughts and blizzards
And the soil ‘neath his toes just feels so rich
And just so happy
Track Name: Riddles & Lies
The gleam in your eye, it begged me to try
And it warned me I’d never succeed
But from the way that you stood, I understood
That you knew no better than me

Tell me why, tell me why, all these riddles and lies
And delicate threads of disguise
When the games that we play, they’re so carefully staged
Well why do we still roll the dice

Halfway to sleep, you asked what I need
I answered in tongues and in braille
Cause the thoughts that I speak are like tracks down the beach
They’re just true til the ocean exhales

Tell me why, tell me why, all these riddles and lies
And delicate threads of disguise
When the words on my tongue, they’re not the same ones
I speak to myself late at night

There’s things I can say, when you’re inches away
When you’re vision’s still blurry and close
And our stories are flames of beeswax and shame
As real and transparent as smoke

Tell me why, tell me why, all these riddles and lies
And delicate threads of disguise
When we’re all just the same, slightly organized rain
Well why do we still choose to hide
Track Name: Esmee By The River
Esmee by the river, a face like a blue jay
A kiss for a shiver was a pretty brave trade
Knowing too little, but hands know their own way
And hoping that the river might just purr a bit more
Hoping that the river might just purr some more
Now it’s been ‘most a year and I still sometimes wonder
Did I step too far or run too soon?
Til you chased both our fears off with rose-petal thunder
And lit up the river with a heart-sized moon

Esmee by the river, a face like a rainbow
Butterflies growling, but what does the gut know?
Bourboned and prowling for faces or footholds
But I could see through your eyes like the storm-pane was gone
I could see through your eyes like the storm-pane’s gone
And I knew I was moved that you stood so open
And I saw I was drawn to peek inside
Was the glass so pure or the window broken?
But the river reached up and it carried me on

Esmee by the river, a face like a memory
Patient and pissed like a black man’s song
I carved you a poem from rosewood and ebony
And threw it to the river to carry along
I hope when she brings it all slinky and sly
That you’ll slide on in it and taste of its verse
You ask will I write you, and of course the reply
Is that rivers of honey they sing “Honey, of course”
Rivers of honey they sing “Honey, of course”
Track Name: Stained Glass
It was thirty days til Easter when the elm tree hit the church
Thank God it fell on Friday cause at least no one was hurt
But there was fear it might delay the second coming of the lord
Cause the stained glass crucifixion was in stains upon the floor

They spent a day of cleaning and a day to board the hole
Where the stained glass once had cast a godly light upon the fold
But come the Sunday service all the faces now were gray
And they commenced to take donations as the faithful knelt to pray

But on Monday they discovered that the man who’d built the glass
Was the only man in town who could and sadly he had passed
But his father who was ninety said the tools were in the shed
And he’d kindly try and resurrect the window from the dead

The congregation argued, but the wise ones all rejoiced
In the one hand was solution, in the other was no choice
And they gave the man their blessings and they gave his hand a shake
And they gave him all the coins they had collected on their plate

It was seven days til Easter and they’d seen a hide nor hair
So they came and knocked at suppertime in hopes the man was there
But a banging from the basement was ‘bout all that they could hear
And curses that might make the devil blush and wash his ears

Come first thing easter morning and to everyone’s good grace
The man was up on ladders with the window nailed in place
It was covered in black velvet like a hood or like a veil
He pulled the sheet and there it hung apocryphal and frail

The seams had melted jagged, they were crooked like a spine
The glass was rough like hands of man against the hands of time
And there was bloodstains in the red and there were teardrops in the blue
He said: It may not be the best but it’s the best that I can do

The chapel fell to silence, it was more than just surprise
As the monstrosity of color slid its tongue across their eyes
And they shivered from exposure like babies born again
Cause in every pane of glass was all the joy and pain of man . . .

There was every fearful smile, there was every joyful tear
There was each and every choice that leads from every there to here
There was every cosy stranger and every awkward friend
And there was every perfect night that’s left initials in the sand
There was every day that filled so full the weeks would float away
And there was all those days spent wondering what to do with all those days
There was every lie that ever saved the truth from being shamed
And every secret you could ever trust a friend to hide away
There was the fortune of discovering a new face you might adore
And the thrill of coming home to find her clothes upon the floor
And the prideful immortality of children in the home
That the storm can’t grind the mountain down, it can only shift the stones
And there was everything your mouth says that your lips don’t understand
And every shape inside your head you can’t carve with your hands
And every slice of glass revealed another slice of life
Emblazened imperfections in a perfect stream of light
It all flooded through the window like rapids made of fire
And then God rode through on sunshine and sat down cause he was tired
He was tired.

As the thunder and the hardwood settled back into its place
God removed his veil and there were scars across his face
And some folks prayed in reverence and some folks prayed in fear
As all the shades and chaos in the glass became a mirror
Track Name: Ghosts
Swing swing, gallows swing
From anger back to sorrow
Morning gets what midnight brings
And I’ll be dead tomorrow
Just another ghost

My wife left me last wintertime to join another man
I lost her love forever and I lost my mind right then
When I tried but couldn’t picture her sweet face inside my head
I could only see her lover’s grin, it’s true I killed him dead

But I’ve always been an honest man, as crystal as the sea
I’ve always said when I’ve done wrong, and I’ve said when wrong’s done me
So listen to my warning though I know it might sound strange
To those who cast condoning eyes upon me when I hang

And let me tell you what I’ve learned, what my guilty mind has seen
Of life and then of death and then how ghosts get stuck between
There’s no slamming doors, no rattling chains, no long black veils at night
But you’d wish there was cause then you might could die to put things right

But ghosts have got no bodies left, and ghosts have got no will
There just etchings on your conscience by the hands that had them killed
And the world it all looks yellow now, and every breath is foul
And the water tastes like rancid oil, and the mockingbirds just howl

And you can never touch someone you love, it’ll burn them if you try
And the face inside the mirror stares back with goldfish bowls for eyes
And the only dream you ever have is of lying there awake
And it never rains upon your head, it spits into your face

A ghost has haunted me -- and worn me thin
I got what I deserved a thousand times again
Oh listen please -- my final words
Before you bring yourself to watch the final length of cord

Cause ghosts don’t die when hands take hands, and ghosts are not released
It’s ash to ash and dust to dust, or beast and back to beast
I hope your heart is large and that there’s room enough in you
For the ghost you choose to make of me and the ghost that haunts me, too

Swing swing, gallows swing
From anger back to sorrow
Hide your eyes and wash your wings
Cause I’ll be dead tomorrow
Just another ghost
Track Name: Beggars & Mules
I always did like music, and I always did like wine
I always liked em best when they was mine
I’d heard enough of Nashville to give a happy man the blues
So I took a job for nothing as a beggar and a mule
And I hauled my cart and guitar
And I stood outside the door
Singin: Listen to me, listen . . .
Won’t you listen to me, sir?
Well fuck that cause I’ve got too much pride
Fuck that cause I got clear
And fuck them that got no heart at all
Or the balls to trust their ears

And I sat upon the sidewalks and I saddled up my sides
And I chewed my cud and washed it down with pride
Catnip and barleycorn, and made ready for the show
And I lost myself in stories of the hard luck and morose
And the people pitched me pennies
And they pounded on the glass
Then they left to see the painted man
And I left to pack my ass
Well good goddamn another empty town
Goddamn another shell
Goddamn cause when I ride back home
I’m a stranger there as well

And I can’t say they weren’t good to me, can’t say they weren’t kind
It’s more the way they weighted down my mind
And it’s more the lack of dignity and the hustle and the hounds
To take your hat off while you’re playin’ -- just to lay it on the ground
It was never for the money
Or the whistles and applause
And I will not tip my hat
Unless you sing me back a song
God bless the sound of music
God bless the golden rule
That’s why all my friends are beggars
And all my friends are mules
Track Name: A Circus Of Clowns
The day the circus came to town half the town rejoiced
The other half was sick in bed, and sure they’d lost their voice
Atop a great white elephant rode a monkey on a leash
They led the grand parade but when the monkey tried to speak
Trumpets blared and sparklers flared and thunder shook the ground
As the elephant split open wide and out poured all the clowns

A circus full of circus clowns -- all somersaults and flips
With pie upon their faces and with riddles on their lips
The children all got peanuts and the grownups all got checks
And everyone agreed it was the greatest circus yet
The tigers cracked their whips until the trainers jumped through hoops
Then the clowns declared the cage unfair and turned the tigers loose

One clown juggled fire while he swung from the trapeze
But he smacked and hit the tent post with the greatest of dis-ease
The fire took the tent post and the tent came crashing down
The fire truck came quickly but the back was full of clowns
And they filled the hose with righteous prose and gasoline and gall
“Relax, we’ll fight the fire back with human cannonballs”

The spectacle was gripping -- a circus show indeed
That no one took a notice as the clowns took to the streets
On tricycles with wagons and with toilet paper spools
They tee-peed all the neighbors’ homes and pissed in all the pools
“Oh look, Oh look, it’s festive now -- a three ring Marti Gras!”
Folks looked up to see the fuss, and watched in shock and awe

The crowd had gotten weary -- it was time the clowns should leave
But the clowns all played a desperate game of hide without the seek
But they were easily discovered in the shadows where they hid
Cause every clown was pointing out the clown right next to him
Let’s load em up in circus trucks and drive them out of town.
It’s not that they are bad, per se -- it’s just that clowns are clowns
Track Name: Parables & Primes
When Once Upon a Time was real
We’d paint upon the walls with words
And call upon our doubts to kneel
Then fall upon their tongues with swords

If I might suggest to you
That all the dreams we ever knew
Were more than real and more than true
They were stories we could tell

In broken rhythms, busted rhymes
And all good turns in all good time
Of primal pulls and passions
And in parables and primes

So dance with shadows, paint with flames
And cast as far as far can feel
Cause Once Upon a Time’s today
And once upon a time is real