Sleepwalker

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I wrote this on the same day as “Music Box” and was strongly influenced by Anthony Bourdain’s death for both.

“Sleepwalker” feels closer to the soft alt sound of Svrcina and Fleurie to me, but harsh it a little and you get Christina Perri, I think.

SLEEPWALKER

Give you all my time.
Give you heart and soul
My attention on the line
Every part and every whole

My last stitch of spirit
Until tapestry unwinds
Threads fringe and split
Wrap into the ties that bind

Chorus:
Running in place, sinking under high tide
Masks on my face, I’m living inside
Making up stories and worlds in my head
Because the world’s running wild and hard
And I’d rather be in my world instead
I’m never present, always away
Go where I’m sent, do whatever they say
They call me sleepwalker, the day’s living dead
Because the world’s running wild and hard
And I’d rather be in my world instead.

Go to bed, sleep awake
Mornings wake up weary
I offer the devil my soul to take
But pay the piper too dearly.

Waiting between work
Life’s a series of lines
Living dark to dark
Time’s slow but life flies.

Chorus

Bridge:
We fill ourselves empty, health ourselves sick
Tear out foundations, brick by dead brick
Swear on our tomes we’ve not even read
Unable to speak until we have bled.
We give up our freedom, small sacrifice
We give up our virtues for taste of a vice
Running around without any heads
We lie on the train tracks, making our beds.

Chorus

The Valley of the Shadow

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If you’ll permit me a moment of what is probably blasphemy, my mind went a weird way while thinking about the valley of the shadow of death (Psalms), conflating it with the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel) and Gehenna (valley of Hinnom, also the word used for hell in the New Testament). And then with a little Silence of the Lambs memory mixed in. Because why not?

As song styles go, it probably bears resemblance to Sarah McLachlan in her Possession period.

THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW

The shepherd leads me into the valley
Warm green pastures and clear cold streams
Sparrows of the air, lilies of the field
Land of plenty, land of peace and of dreams.

Yea
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow
I will fear no, I will fear no

And as I watch the emerald fields
Turn black as coal ash all around
The shepherd leads flock to a slaughtering barn
Until blood of the lambs seeps into the ground.

Yea
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow
I will fear no, I will fear no

The life-giving stream beds crackle and dry
Bones pile to the sides well over my head
The shepherd, he waits at the end of the valley
Leading me to where all the others were led.

They call it the valley
Of the shadow of death
The shadow of life
Cast by every last breath.

Yea
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow
I will fear no, I will fear…

No, I will fear.

Review: TEETH

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Teeth_poster[Spoilers threaded throughout the review]

Based on my last post, you may wonder whether horror is the genre for me if sexual assault wears at my soul. But romance makes me sad, I find most comedy awful, and misogyny is everywhere. I like horror because sometimes women have or get the power.

In a film-making sense, I wouldn’t say that TEETH is great. It’s clearly low-budget, but more than that, something about it feels amateur, even naive, which is occasionally charming? I pose that as a question because the sometimes tentative/sometimes deliberate direction and the indie not-acting done by a lot of the actors in the movie didn’t bother me, but it was something I noticed, and I feel I shouldn’t notice things until the second viewing. But the naivete could also mirror our protagonist, Dawn, as she discovers herself. I’m a sucker for female self-discovery films like TEETH and RAW. RAW is better, but TEETH has its own qualities.

I can’t speak to how it is for guys, but women’s self-discovery is intrinsically difficult, because unlike cis guys, our junk is well between our legs and inside rather than convenient for viewing up front and center. Despite being raised in the far end of the Bible Belt, both my schools and my church made every effort to keep us informed. Ironically, our fifth grade puberty course at church was more comprehensive, but health classes going forward were more than adequate when it came to anatomy, for the nineties–which means there was and probably still is a dearth of information about variations in anatomy and queer genders and sexualities. Had to wait until college for that, not that I was really paying attention to variety until then.

But I know there are schools, churches, and homes where anatomy is undiscussed, as though if they don’t talk about it, nothing will happen (which has been true precisely never in the history of time). I was armed with all kinds of fascinating information–and I’m still fascinated–yet everything happening to me was so difficult to talk about, and it was all happening in places I couldn’t see and it all felt so much bigger and scarier than me. I used a mirror to look things over, but it’s not the same. Things you see in the mirror don’t feel connected to you–it’s a secondhand image.

So suffice it to say, I really identified with the wonderful, scary act of female self-discovery in TEETH, in a society that seems to prefer leaving woman mysterious (seriously, we didn’t know the clitoris went beyond the external glans and hood until 1999, people, and I will never let our scientists off the hook for that). Granted, I don’t have teeth in my vagina. At least, I don’t think I do.

Jess Weixler, who plays Dawn, is expected to carry the film, and with an otherwise uneven cast, her earnestness and raw skill elevates the rest of the movie. She’s endearing, engaging, and even when she’s the vice president of the purity doctrine, you still like her. She’s innocent, and you believe it, even though real innocence feels hard to come by.

But innocence arises from ignorance, and at her age, it’s really only a matter of time, even with the big censorship sticker on the cis female anatomy page in their school’s health book–and no, there’s no accompanying sticker for the penis. It’s just the vagina that’s icky and obscene (same principle that makes cock, dick, or prick less offensive for the average person than cunt, pussy, quim, or twat, not that there’s any real good name for genitals, for some reason). I’m not sure whether there are actual health classes that censor only one gender this way, but I hesitate to say it’s unbelievable.

You’ve probably heard of the premise of TEETH before. Teenager espouses purity culture (for those unfamiliar, it’s a primarily American Christian phenomenon that emphasizes saving sex until marriage, usually foregoing all forms of sexual activity, sometimes even going as far as forbidding kissing or any kind of touching at all). Purity teenager meets cute guy. They try to maintain the purity boundaries, though it’s clear she’s tempted and feels guilty because of it. However, cute boy pushes past those boundaries and forces himself on her–with the (intentionally) hysterically awful line “I haven’t jerked off since Easter!”

Well, turns out that power plant we saw from Dawn’s childhood did more than give her mom cancer. In that sense, TEETH could be considered a comic book origin story–villain or hero, take your pick. Dawn has vagina dentata, the myth (sadly) that women have teeth in their vagina and that a woman must be pleased in order to survive PIV sex with her. As a myth, nothing shows the fear of the mysteriousness of women’s parts quite like wondering whether her vagina’s going to bite your dick off. Why men aren’t more afraid we’re going to do that with our actual mouths, I don’t know, and given the prevalence of sexual assault even in places with variations of the myth, it couldn’t have been that believed.

But Dawn’s got it. Good for Dawn. And so begins the also hilarious castration motif. Seriously, though, penises are always funny-looking. Seeing them bitten off just emphasizes their ridiculousness.

Of course, it’s not funny to Dawn, who is traumatized twice in one afternoon. She’s blaming herself for the assault. She’s disenchanted with a purity script that now sees her as impure forever (previously chewed gum and dirty sticky tape analogies burn). She’s disenchanted with her fantasies of a pure wedding that culminates in sanctioned marital sex with a perfect gentleman from the same community. All her life, she’s defined herself against her stepbrother, who got bit as a juvenile offender fingering her in a kiddie pool and grew up into a ‘hardcore’ delinquent who now only does anal with his girlfriend while obsessing over Dawn, though unsure about his motives for either–but frankly, he’s not much of a thinker.

Dawn was the good girl. Dawn was never the problem child. Dawn was Little Miss Sunshine, Princess of Purity, and now she can’t see herself like that anymore. She tears down the childish purity propaganda she taped all over her bedroom walls–as a counterpoint to the porn plastered over her stepbrother’s room.

Thus begins her period of self-discovery, even though she’s afraid of herself, of being judged by her purity community, of being caught for what she did. She patiently soaks the sticker off the health text to try to understand herself and finally meets a vulva for the first time. She goes to a shady AF gynecologist, who finally gives her the name that’s been the stuff of jokes and legends: vagina dentata.

Traumatized once more–sex and puberty is honestly terrifying–she reaches out to someone who she thinks is a friend, and the cycle of men taking advantage and getting poetic justice continues, but she’s also gradually adjusting to her sexuality and–more important–the power she has because of it.

Seriously, though, there’s not a single castration you’ll regret. And in the midst of the horror, TEETH is at its heart a black comedy about female sexuality, so it’s okay to be horrified, and it’s okay to laugh. Even the poster is fantastic, evoking the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET bath scene and JAWS in equal measure, because it’s a supernatural horror movie and a creature feature at the same. One thing’s for sure–you will be entertained by this indie gem, which has already reached cult status among horror fans.

The Female Revenge Fantasy

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On a weekend this April, I watched three movies, two horror, one mystery thriller. The two horrors I watched Friday night, KILLING GROUND and DEMON INSIDE (ESPECTRO), both featured sexual assault, raw but off-screen for the first and on-screen for the second. The rape element in KILLING GROUND especially, though off-screen, was particularly brutal–psychologically painful to endure because the movie was human horror rather than supernatural. But that’s not to minimize the rape in DEMON INSIDE, where the entire premise is Paz Vega’s trauma due to the assault and the paranoia that arises from her rapist being released because they don’t believe her.

On Saturday, I decided to take a break from the violence of horror, which is so often sexual or sexualized, to watch suspense thriller WIND RIVER, because it had Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olson. I probably should have known better, because there’s a direct line between human horror and suspense thriller on the genre wheel. But there I was, subjected to yet another brutal rape and murder.

And people, I’m tired. I need to face my fears now and then, deal with it through supernatural lenses, confront some painful realities. Sexual violence plays a part of some of my fiction because of that. So yeah, I’m even a part of this, because like it or not, these fucked-up power dynamics are a part of our world. But God, I’m so tired of it.

Guys, this is why women who enjoy horror sometimes need female revenge fantasies. This is why we need movies like AMERICAN MARY and THE WOMAN. This is why we need TEETH.

I’m not playing the suffering Olympics here. In reality, there’s all sorts of iterations of sexual assault, some which are woefully underrepresented in media. But as far as  numbers and in terms of representation in the horror and thriller genres, the sheer amount of sexual and sexualized violence is stunning, and while women have their own way of sharing that part of the horror world–through sexual fantasy, through female-led and/or female-directed horror–and though both the horror and thriller genres have tried to make up for it with the Last Girl and Female Law Enforcement Officer in a Man’s World tropes, the fact is that most horror/thrillers are made by and/or for men.

The industry is catching on that half the viewership is female, and not just because guys bring their girlfriends, and there have been some wonderful movies in the new millennium that represent women as more than bimbos for the slaughter, breasts to slash. But the only LAW & ORDER still running is SVU, and rape is still used as a trial by fire for damaged women and a trigger to action for male heroes, often without consideration for how real and personal this trauma is, and how real the fear is. It’s helplessness. It’s being born with parts that other people think should belong to them (see DEADGIRL, which is NOT a black comedy, no matter what the back of the DVD case says). It’s an understanding that there are those who don’t see you as a person, only as the empty spaces you offer.

I’ve been fortunate all my life not to have suffered this particular violence, but I’m still a product of my culture, because I still have to arrange my life around the fear, consider how my actions would be perceived by a jury of my rapist’s peers.

So for fuck’s sake, sometimes I need movies like TEETH, and if it makes men cross their legs and wince, all the fucking better. Men could stand to be more afraid of women, and not just because they think menstruation is gross. But what about male revenge fantasy, one might say? First of all, there’s plenty of that in the action genre. For another, there’s literally nothing that women do to men in such overwhelming numbers that deserves gendered horror-genre revenge. “Lovesick teen” as a justification for terrorism, my ass. The worst thing a woman did was reject him. The worst thing he did was kill her. Women are getting kidnapped for marriage, trafficked and criminalized for it, burned with acid and raped and shot just because they say no, because someone thinks women don’t own their own bodies.

Men could stand to be a little afraid of women in such a way it doesn’t lead to burning or hanging witches. Maybe one day they will be.

In the meantime, I’ll watch AMERICAN MARY, and I’ll watch TEETH.

(TEETH review to come.)

Rest of Your Life

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“Rest of Your Life” is more freestyle than some of my other structured nuggets. No joke, I came up with it in the shower and kept having to leave the bathroom in the middle of drying myself off to write another few lines. Because I sure as hell ain’t going to remember it if I don’t get it down. This is why I keep notebooks everywhere.

I’m not even sure what the style would be or who it would sound like. Maybe it’s in the mode of Sara Bareilles? Maybe it’s just a poem instead of a lyric. And yes, the first verse is a nod to Hamilton.

Anyway, I’m just going to leave this here.

REST OF YOUR LIFE

I’ll admit that I thought I had time
They said I had time
Now I’ve run out of time
And it’s only harder from here.

All my life they told me you’re gonna be fine
Just follow the line
And watch for the signs
You’ll be just fine
And there’s nothing to fear.

But I look back on years of pouring the resin
And that doesn’t lessen
The pain of this lesson
To see my mistakes in all of their glory
And now mine’s a story
Heading near to the end before it begins.

This is the rest of your life
The fly caught in amber
The mammoth in ice
None of it ever really matters
The days pass, minutes by hours
And nothing ever changes
No risks and no dangers
Until no one remembers
You were here when you die

The hourglass is streaming down with the sand
I’m just the glass, the length of the strand
The more the clock ticks, the more I understand
Time falls and time flies, no matter what’s planned.

The mirror’s no clearer
And sand only gets dearer
As grain after grain slips through my hands.
And I’m the one turning the pages.
Sleepwalking through all of the stages
Playing someone else’s part in someone else’s band.

I don’t take my stand.
I remain where I land
Don’t know if I can still set myself free
If the chains are all coming from me.

This is the rest of your life
The fly caught in amber
The mammoth in ice
None of it ever really matters
The days pass, minutes by hours
And nothing ever changes
No risks and no dangers
Until no one remembers
You were here when you die

Fools

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Everything else is feeling too close to home right now, so I’m pulling out “Fools.” I wrote it while half-listening to Sandra McCracken’s “Fool’s Gold” (nothing like this song, just saying), but it’s always sounded more Patty Griffin in my head.

It was another attempt at an extended metaphor that ended up working in two directions. Because I can only talk about things that matter to me in the most indirect way possible, don’t you know.

FOOLS

They carve through the earth
Through granite and curse
Searching for something to make it worthwhile.
Under pressure and birth
The chisels all hurt
Cutting through veins with a wink and a smile.

The men are all strapped
They point and they laugh
Boasting that any time they’ll strike it rich.
The more cunning the craft
The more they rush past
Leaving behind nothing but holes left unstitched.

The girl don’t shine bright enough in the dark
In searching for gold, they’ve torn her apart
And when they move on, she still takes it hard
‘Cause only fools find gold after piercing a heart.

She tries so to glitter
But it’s all only glass
The soil tastes bitter
Down under the grass
The tools have all scarred her
Above and below
And Midas can’t touch
Where the red rivers flow.

For crystals and stone
They’ve left her alone
She’s cold and she’s empty with nothing to lose
The gold in their bones
She’ll save for her own
When everything they gain can no longer be used.

The girl don’t shine bright enough in the dark
In searching for gold, they’ve torn her apart
And when they move on, she still takes it hard
‘Cause only fools find gold after piercing a heart.

Vultures

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(I have a review of TEETH that’s been sitting in my notebook since April, but I just haven’t had a hot second to transcribe it. I’m going to try to get that in this weekend, maybe?)

“Vultures” is one of the first pieces I wrote, so naturally I wanted to do something ambitious by doing a full social commentary metaphor, because why ease into this new thing I’d never done before? But I do that a lot now to channel anger in an indirect way.

If I had to provide a style comparison for “Vultures,” it would probably lean early Sarah McLachlan.

(Apologies to actual vultures, who are awesome.)

VULTURES

Scavengers caught in cages
Different stages of difficult phases
Fangs filed, claws clipped
To the bone, wings snipped.

Ribs press against skin
As spectators stare in
At beasts who never stood a chance
And never stand a chance again.

Fresh apples in dead mouths
Fresh blood, draining down
Decaying flesh, begging hand unfurled.
When did vultures get to rule the world?

Gold glints in their eyes
Black velvet circling the skies
Safe from the kill, prey the predator’s own.
When did vultures get to rule the world?

Beasts of work, beasts of burden
Unburdened by strain of security
Best to stay low to the ground
Better to maintain the purity.

Hungry eyes, the grass is greener
Where it isn’t needed.
What’s a hare to do
With something to care for, my dear?
Just another bit of roadkill.
No one’s crying, my dear.

Carrion desiccation
Unrepentant desecration
Each poor dying soul strung like a pearl.
When did vultures get to rule the world?

Everything collapses
And dignity lapses
There’s always dissatisfaction
For them to feast upon
A battered, bloody violent reaction
For them to feast upon
As though it doesn’t matter
Which beast they feast upon.

And the predators know
To leave a generous share.
Let the thoroughfare war
Over whether it’s fair.

There’s always more dead to go around.
Always something to blame farther down on the ground.
When did vultures get to rule the world?
When did vultures get to rule the world?

Music Box

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Another simple lyric. Since it’s called “Music Box,” I’m guessing you know what it’s supposed to sound like. It’s been another hard week.

MUSIC BOX

I rise when they raise me
I sleep when they close
Round, Rosie, round
When I stop, no one knows.

Lullaby dancer, princess ballet
I turn and I spin, pirouette and sway.
Round, Rosie, round
Forever and ever I’ll stay.

My music turned on
By someone else’s hand
Wind me up, winding down,
Still as a statue I stand.

Silhouette on a mirror
Glitter trapped in my eye
Reflection ‘comes clearer
Too porcelain to cry.

I’ll dance to your music
And bow when you close
Round, Rosie, round
When I stop, no one knows.

I’ll guard all your treasures
For here I have none
No pain and no pleasures
My music is done.

My Captain

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A few of my friends know I was irrationally upset by the new Cap story line in the comics. Which is silly, because I don’t even read the comics. I’m a movie!verse fan.

I can’t imagine it was a symbolic way of dealing with other feelings I’ve been having or anything, since I process better through fiction. That’s just ridiculous.

Anyway, I wrote this because I just have a lot of feelings still, even after the storyline in the comics resolved itself. Must be nice.

MY CAPTAIN

O Captain, My Captain
Emblem of an anthem left long behind
The last living legend, ice and time confined
Willing to walk that harrowing line
O Captain, My Captain
She has your heart, so you can use mine.

O Captain, My Captain
Ideal icon of the land that I love
Is it too much that we’re asking you of?
Land of the warhawk, while you hold a dove
O Captain, My Captain
We don’t deserve, but you’re never enough.

Bridge:
You’re everything we dreamed we could be
You stand for all we should be
But until we know why we made thee
Fight for what we thought we would be.

O Captain, My Captain
Betrayal hurt more than I could have known
False idol, false friend, forging a false throne
The one in your place denied, to fight alone
O Captain, My Captain
Tell me, what have we done?
O Captain, My Captain
Tell me what we have become.

Anything But a Diamond

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I’ve decided to start sharing some of these songwriting pieces as I go, in part because writing wants to be shared. I’m also scared to share, but I need to get over that if I don’t want to be an absolute wreck every time I put out a book. (I lost it a few times while putting out Nocturne.)

So…starting small with one of my first pieces. The style is meant to be something quiet that Miranda Lambert might sing. If this is my version of romantic, I’m going to have a heck of a time trying to write typical love songs. That’s okay. Plenty of other people out there to do it better.

ANYTHING BUT A DIAMOND

Stay away from candlelight
Don’t get down on one knee
No violins serenading
Anything but a diamond, please.

No kiss under a bright full moon
No soft island breeze
I don’t need angels standing by
Anything but a diamond, please.

I never asked for forever
All I asked for was now
All I wanted was you and me together
I never wanted a vow.

At my best I was never romantic
I kept expectations low
When the fairy tale waits too long to come by
It’s too easy to choose the devil you know.

I don’t want a fairy tale ending
No happily ever after for me
If you love me, then just say it out loud
Anything but a diamond, please.