The Spur

Joan Shelley
The Spur

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I want to explain these songs / I want to leave them unexplained. We’ve all been working with a lot of silence.

I hide from the world / Because I don’t know where I end.

Our bodies were tired from touring. Remembering driving across the midwestern plains at dusk, against the pale yellow sky seeing the black outline of the horizon with the occasional silhouette of a little farmstead, a corn crib or windmill, beyond, a breaking society, beyond, the aches of a world in pain. A powerful tugging between apparently opposite things, hopelessness and resilience, isolation and togetherness, all at once.

Am I losing you?

A deep connection to our homeplace, to staying, a complex reckoning with family, with the past, with the rubble, with the wind taken out of everyone’s sails, with new life and constant death. Returning to the feral tree farm.

Raising goats, chickens, listening to birds, watching the river, growing a child. A deep clean spring.

Home overgrown.

So I started reaching out. Bringing in.

Sap settling into the roots again
To redesign

I wanted these people I admire to be close to me in the game, in the tangle of my emotions, in my unaddressed fears, I wanted them woven into my tapestries, which are songs, because I am only a bird on a branch echoing others, embellishing the present with past inventions.

Let the new world come around.

Together we shook these things out of the rug, our shared anxieties, our guilt, our joy, discomfort and heartbreak. We asked and were asking of each other:

Give a breath. Give a breath.

Dying breath, wind-breath, singing breath shared beyond the language song, strings and brass, heartbeats and drums, wooden and stone breath, water and light, non-human breath, written breath, the little breaths of a newborn thing.

Now I sing some of these songs to my daughter. Soothing her discomforts. Especially “completely,” she likes to hear that one. How it goes from low to high.

How it goes from song into silence, and back again.

Do you know that line of Wendell Berry’s “make a poem that does not disturb the silence from which it came”?

If the song keeps playing, darling sing along.