Parables & Primes

by Danny Schmidt

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1.
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
2.
Neil Young 04:28
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
3.
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
4.
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
5.
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
6.
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”
7.
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
8.
Ghosts 05:11
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
9.
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
10.
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
11.
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

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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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