Slow and sad and striking songs: A playlist.

“All my best friends have passed away.” The elderly lady drops her pocketbook and apologizes. She feels bad about dropping her pocketbook on such a beautiful day when everyone else is running and skipping about with balls and picnic baskets not to mention the flowers. She really wants you to know that she is so sorry about that. When she was young, it never happened.

HELLO IN THERE – John Prine

“I didn’t love her as much as she loved me.” He lays under the weeping willow. You might think him asleep except for the slim line of smoke connecting his hand to a formless mass of willow branches which he believes appear in the shape of an hourglass and the sand is everywhere.

BURY ME BENEATH THE WILLOW – Almeda Riddle

“My heart is too bored to be broken.” It is tempting to be a stranger. Sometimes you have to choose the bar so seedy that ordering a drink requires a different language. Stars don’t actually cast any light in the thick black night. They are just specks. Or static. The way a girl leans on a stool trying to be more than a ghost.

STARLIGHT AND STATIC – Jeffrey Foucault

“My family is so far away from me.” The orchard trees, laden with fruit, promise prosperity. The migrant workers, hands stained with the soft pastel of peaches and plums, eat small sandwiches from wet bags of a brown that could never sprout seeds. The only difference between them is that one drinks his soda with a straw. Each thinks of somewhere else.

PASTURES OF PLENTY – Woody Guthrie

“I will never forgive you.” He finally decides not to title the CD because there is no such thing as a summary and she reads so much into words. They are the kind of couple that sparkles when lit. The truths they tell are not to each other. He finally gives the CD to her before he leaves to teach English in Japan. She reads so much into it.

LONELY OLD LIES – Neko Case

“I don’t know how to love you.” Though she feels safest in green, she opts for the blue dress because it hides the baby he doesn’t want to see. When she dances, she doesn’t care what he is watching. Every man’s arms are soothing. She likes what you like. The tenderness she shows to her houseplants makes grown men cry.

THE GYPSY’S WIFE – Leonard Cohen

“Thanks for nothing.” There are so many things to throw away, and so many which cannot be recycled. He is finally forcing her to break her principles– to become one of those sadistic fools who doesn’t care about the environment or the scarcity of water resources in a world where not even love can make up for the dying of it.

MERCI DE RIEN DE TOUT – Marianne Dissard

“I’ll never find that place on a map.” There was a convertible rental car, a cliff-trimmed beach in southern California, some strange blue lights flickering in the waves under a black sky and it felt like the bar had followed us there. There were stairs carved from stone and a pair of men in unidentifiable uniforms with detachable smiles. The sand felt cold on my toes. The neon in the water turned out to be algae. You made me promise never to come back to our beach with anyone else.

SURRENDER IS TREASON – Crooked Fingers

“It’s not the same without her.” Just got back from a cross-country-all-American road trip. Still abuzz with sights, smells, and sounds that will drift away with tomorrow as quickly as a paintable sunset. There was always a something tucked behind every experience that is best accompanied by “wish you were here.” Yet I wonder.

AT MY WINDOW SAD AND LONELY – Billy Bragg and Wilco

“If I stop drinking, I will wither away and die.” Stale cigarettes and familiar songs. How often must the same old beginning and end come between a poem of original beauty and pause? The tides seem to bring the same torrent onto the shore. But surely this little bit of foam at the base of a day drawn sand castle can find a resting place to quit its inevitable break. Morning brings mouthwash.

MOONSHINER – Uncle Tupelo

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