Songs About Books (selections from the Bushwick Book Club)

by Sweet Soubrette

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1.
Cherries are ripening all over Pennsylvania All that month there is heat and wild rain Strange hot land of elegance and anger A windblown vacancy, a breathless pain There is not much time, beware, prepare Never, forever, never, forever Never, forever, never, forever Hour of decision, enemy on soil Without so much as a drop of brandy Emergency ration against snakebite and bad dreams Not even a spoonful of save the baby There is not much time, beware, prepare Never, forever, never, forever Never, forever, never, forever He dreamed of his wife in the steamy morning "I lie here dreamyly" She was suddenly there, hot candy presence She the only vacancy O hast thou forgotten how soon we must sever oh hast thou forgotten how soon we must part it may be for years it may be forever Never, forever, never, forever Never, forever, never, forever Bow down thy heavens o lord come down Ewell’s weakness and Hill’s illness And the union army blossoming darkly Across the field like a bristly fungus
2.
Have you seen a hummingbird up close? Its wings, its heart, its monster ambition To the people who are still open to the world Kisses are a better fate than wisdom Look around Take photographs What you know is yours But it won’t last Learn to walk over water And learn to dance We're on an island Stop moving so fast This city is a diamond iceberg A brass chest of coins that you bury and find We make it up together You can call it New York or whatever you like Look around Take photographs What you know is yours But it won’t last Learn to walk over water And learn to dance We're on an island Stop moving so fast This is where we say goodbye Home all the more when you leave and return All that you love and don’t want to lose This map is a way you can keep them for good Look around Take photographs What you know is yours But it won’t last Learn to walk over water And learn to dance We're on an island Stop moving so fast
3.
If you want to be a pilot Better learn more than you ought to be Allowed to know Learn every town and every island Every point and every crossing Every day or so Keep an everlasting measure Of the banks of the river Twelve hundred miles Alluvial the river changes overnight It’s never the same river twice And it all looks so different from up here Can’t recall the last time that I let go of the wheel Now when the sun sets I don’t see the blood and gold Mastery costs beauty that’s the way it goes Here’s how it goes To get this river set to heart You have to know it just like ABC Read it like the morning paper And learn to understand all that you see And it’s hard to imagine that a day will come When you’ll know what it means When you’ll shut your eyes And trace it from St. Louis Down to New Orleans Here’s how it goes You’ll recognize shoal water and the countless crossing marks You’ll know the waterway’s shape on gray nights and in the dark And every shift it makes oh yes you’ll be one step ahead You’ll pilot when you’re sleeping you’ll pilot when you’re dead And it all looks so different from up here Can’t recall the last time that I let go of the wheel Now when the sun sets I don’t see the blood and gold Mastery costs beauty that’s the way it goes Here’s how it goes
4.
We sit in the godswood beneath the heart tree Just me and my direwolf my direwolf and me Some milk of the poppy would help ease the pain It’s not a brief tale but I’ll try to explain Go take the black said the king in the north Join the night’s watch and prepare to set forth A raven will carry a message to you Dark wings bring dark words you’ll know what to do At the edge of the world is a wall made of ice And if you are wise you will take my advice Run for your life flee the sight of the wall For winter is coming to bury us all Blue eyes and black hands live on after death Beasts in the forest will stop all your breath You’ll need a good horse and you’ll need a good sword Your friends are all rapists and bastards and whores Try to remember a couple of things You owe your allegiance to cripples and kings At the edge of the world is a wall made of ice And if you are wise you will take my advice Run for your life flee the sight of the wall For winter is coming to bury us all My mother said I should not have been born Will I be redeemed by the oath I have sworn Or will I betray all that I hold most dear Will it even matter when winter is here At the edge of the world is a wall made of ice And if you are wise you will take my advice Run for your life flee the sight of the wall For winter is coming to bury us all
5.
Poor Emma She never had a chance Longing to live in town and dance A polka every night She knew it wasn’t right Poor little woman Gasping for love Like a carp on a kitchen table She wanted a lover Who knew how to play On her weakness for words sentimental Just what was making her unhappy Where was the enormous calamity When you’re a woman you make your own bed And you lie in it lie in it up to the day that you’re dead Poor Emma Dressed with no place to go She could run away but even so There’s no other life She’s always a wife Bored little woman Pining for pleasure She wonders why she ever married him She buys fancy things And she changes her hair She decides she will take up Italian But nothing gives her satisfaction She wants to feel drunken with passion When you’re a woman you make your own bed And you lie in it lie in it up to the day that you’re dead She tries to transcend The monotonous days With the dedication of an addict There is no escape From her dreary fate But the drug of adulterous habits Poor Emma Wasted on country life The velvet she covets cuts like a knife She’ll beggar herself She’ll squander her health Poor bitter woman No one will save her She’s gone beyond any man’s power Her almond-shaped nails And her dove-colored silk And her mouth full of arsenic powder What was it that was always missing Maybe if she had to earn a living When you’re a woman you make your own bed And you lie in it lie in it up to the day that What was it that was always missing Maybe if she had to earn a living But nothing gives her satisfaction She wants to feel drunken with passion Just what was making her unhappy Where was the enormous calamity
6.
I married a cold fish My cousin’s my lover Now I am rich We still see each other The price that I pay Is my husband’s derision But everyone knows That you can’t trust his vision chorus: My first is a fiery feeling My second’s a beast My whole is a beast My heart isn’t lying My ardor my lion My lover’s an artist He’s kind of a drinker But all of his flaws I could count on one finger His paintings are good Though he mostly draws still lifes To pay for his rent How could he afford a wife (chorus) My husband is blind to what’s Under his own nose I do what I like And I like anything goes I can’t stand his touch But he doesn’t much either He leaves me alone That’s what makes him a keeper (chorus) He sees me on my lover’s bed In a rumpled slip half dressed Or swimming with him in plain sight Our underwater limbs entwined Denying or oblivious He doesn’t notice what’s amiss This state of affairs Is a delicate balance Maintaining it takes A particular talent I know that exposure would be something awful But somehow I find I am less and less careful (chorus)
7.
She wears red head to heel A long loose gown Of silk as bright as fire Copper hair and scarlet eyes Make men mad with desire Many call her beautiful. She is not beautiful -- instead She is red and terrible and red The night is dark and full of terrors Lord of light protect you Too much light can hurt the eyes But fire burns to cleanse you The ruby pulsing at her throat It fills your mind with dread She is red and terrible and red Chorus: Do not cross her The red woman Will grind your bones To make her bread She won’t think twice She’ll throw you on the pyre Do not trust her The sorceress Is terrible and red red red The only thing she Loves is holy fire The shadows come to dance my lord Dance my lord dance my lord The shadows come to dance my lord Dance my lord dance The shadows come to stay my lord Stay my lord stay my lord The shadows come to stay my lord Stay my lord stay Watch the fire tonight You’ll know some lights Can cast more than one shadow It doesn’t take much more than that To make woman a widow Blood red velvet robes reveal You’re just as good as dead She is red and terrible and red (Chorus) Her god is bright and dangerous He’ll burn you to a cinder She’ll take your carven idols Smash into a million splinters She’ll bring about your downfall Heavy doom upon your head She is red and terrible and red (Chorus)
8.
Believe me I know that things can get bad Sometimes I feel like I’m over my head Since the day I was born my life's been so absurd The one thing that saves me is something you said Chorus: It’s all a bad idea that I’m about to do The future’s meaningless but I will follow through I will follow through I pray for the strength at the end of my days To strike the match that will set this place ablaze I've missed every moment to just walk away When the whole world's on fire I'll have to be brave (Chorus) I drive in my car and I talk to myself Alone on the road with the gas and the brakes I stay on the highway until I can think Three thousand miles is all that it takes And one day you and everyone will start to see the way I’m a driving prodigy I don’t care what you say The cops can try to catch me I can try to get away The peak of evolution or a self-destructive game One night I drove to the side of a bridge The Hackensack river was waiting below I saw my reflection it made me feel sick But I couldn't manage to let myself go (Chorus)
9.
Not going to simplify gonna tell it like it is If you don’t like it find another place to live It’s all photons and electrons over and over again The laws that apply are self-evident don’t make any sense There’s a lot of stuff we don’t understand See the universe in a grain of sand But our theories don’t explain gravity Or the things we see when we go to sleep An electron emits a photon, travels backwards in time Richard Feynman writes a letter to his dead wife He says: I tried to show you the tapes that I made But there were delays and I was too late It doesn’t matter if you like this game More in heaven and earth than any scientist can name The great mystery of life is how can any body know Of all the paths it could take where’s it gonna go honey even though We can calculate probabilities We imagine the possibilities But the gods they play their celestial chess We don’t understand we just take a guess An electron emits a photon, travels backwards in time Richard Feynman writes a letter to his dead wife He says: Please excuse me for not mailing this But I don’t know your new address Now write this down in indelible ink What do you care about what other people think What seems impossible is just a state of mind An electron emits a photon travels back in time Travels back in time travels back in time...
10.
Keith says let’s jump in the Bentley And go to Morocco Where they cover the children in honey And run them through fields of herb naked To harvest the powder Keith says he thinks about the women How maybe he opened their hearts Just a little to realize Their lust and desire unleashed Was incredible power The girls close in like maenads Or a river of piranhas Their bouffant hairdos Coming undone in the rain Their teeth and claws Gleaming like the frets of his guitar They know what they want Give them what they want Keith says they were a pirate nation With lawyers and clowns And attendants to pick up the pieces When he would get busted All traveling under one banner Keith says he gave away his daughter To live with his mother Since he was too wasted to be a good father And he knew he’d prob’ly End up in the slammer The girls don’t seem to mind the way The guy needs saving from the world They kiss and bless and bathe him They’d keep him if they could A brigade of Red Cross nurses Whose feelings don’t get hurt They know what they want Give them what they want Keith says the room just caught on fire While the babies were sleeping A mouse it came creeping and chewed on the wire The house and hotel Where they stayed for the trial Keith says let’s jump in the Bentley And go to Morocco Don’t you worry 'bout getting Your fix cause the stash in the secret Compartment will last us a while.
11.
They never intended for us to exist They didn’t anticipate our will to live But even a songbird can learn to survive The rebels they sent us home loaded with lies The blood of the capitol it should run cold At the emblem I wear in a circle of gold It’s not just a brooch and I’m not just a girl
 It’s a badge of defiance I show to the world CHORUS
: The bird, the pin, the song, the berries The watch, the cracker, the dress that burst into flames I am the mockingjay The capitol it is a poisonous fruit A people who hunger will fight to uproot Its power is strong but the secret we’ve found Is a handful of berries can bring it all down An image is stamped on a wafer of bread It means we are ready or better off dead The bird that’s baked into the loaves that we eat Will never surrender to cage or defeat They clothed me in feathers and told me to sing They didn’t expect me to spread out my wings Now every canary is ready to fly We’ll harness the power that comes from the sky
12.
red lips, green lawns and Bobby Vinton’s song see a lonely ear lying in a field paint the picture till you can believe it’s real but you need more wind more wind, more wind, more wind and you seek more wind more wind, more wind, more wind better do your work, that’s all you can control gotta feed your family but don’t sell your soul you’re on the threshold as you wait for more someday later you’ll be coming through that door but you need more wind... don’t fight the darkness just build a red room of your own learn how to unlock it the wind will tell you if you let it blow you don’t know the box and you don’t know the key but something is unfolding into mystery like a rush of air brushing against your skin is it a secret message, you can smell the jasmine in the storm that’s rising on the vast horizon there are forces wilder in the world inside you but you need more wind...

about

A selection of songs inspired by books, created for the Bushwick Book Club in 2012 and 2013. Most are live recordings from Book Club shows, with a few bedroom recordings thrown in.

Check out Sweet Soubrette's Anais Nin-inspired "What's My Desire?" to hear what a book-inspired song sounds like when it's recorded in the studio with the full band: www.youtube.com/watch?v=gp1Sz39tKW0

Most tracks are also available at bushwickbookclub.bandcamp.com, along with more songs about the same books by other artists.

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released August 10, 2013

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Sweet Soubrette Brooklyn, New York

Sweet Soubrette features the songwriting, vocals and ukulele of Ellia Bisker, whose dark, edgy "existential indie rock" has won fans' hearts and critical praise since the release of debut album Siren Song. She is joined by a talented backing band, often featuring as many as 8 musicians onstage. Sweet Soubrette's fourth album, Big Celebrity, was released in 2016. ... more

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