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Song for the First of May

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I've been haunted lately by this beautiful song from Kris Delmhorst, formerly of Redbird, a roots-folk group whose work I love. It’s one of those rare ones where the melody and lyrics mesh perfectly. It captures that gentle and overwhelming obsession when your every thought is filtered through your feelings for someone you love. I can't get it out of my head.

So many love songs celebrate the obsession of infatuation, the fun, first part; the fire whose own heat gradually but inexorably melts it into something quite different, more complicated. It's so easy, so alluring, to run with infatuation, which is so uncomplicated, so unburdened by history, shared experience or disillusionment. It's tricky and demanding to abide with its aftermath, to stick around for the long train ride into the unknown. Listen to country radio if you want to hear about infatuation. Listen to Kris Delmhorst if you want something approximating real life.

I’m thankful for artists like Kris Delmhorst, who walk on the uneven ground.


Birds of Belfast Kris Delmhorst


The field grew wild all that buzzing summer
We dozed a while, woke a little younger
Hung your clothes, waited on the weather
Thorn and rose twine and grow together

When did all the birds of Belfast learn to sing your name?
When did all those silver ashes breathe into flame?
Who are you without your sadness? Who am I without my shame?
When did all the birds of Belfast learn to sing your name?

Which was right, the fight or the surrender?
You my light, my solitary mender
Still the sun will rise on every weeper’s mourning
Tearstained eyes, pearly light adorning

When did all the birds of Belfast learn to sing your name?
When did all those silver ashes breathe into flame?
Who are you without your sadness? Who am I without my shame?
When did all the birds of Belfast learn?

Who am I to sing a love song? Who are you to do the same?
With our weary little hearts full of broken little claims?
Will they even recognize us? Should I give you a new name?
And then all the birds of Belfast would sing it just the same.

4 comments:

Spoken truly, Julie. I like the way the song harks back to the old ballad line, of rose and briar twining together. Thanks for sharing this.

Posted by Granny Sue April 30, 2008 at 7:28 PM

"It's so easy, so alluring, to run with infatuation, which is so uncomplicated, so unburdened by history, shared experience or disillusionment."

You know when you're reading a book and now and then the author expresses something so perfectly? You just did it. That's exactly what infatuation is, but I would never have been able to explain why. Thanks Julie!

Thanks for pointing me to those artists. My iPod will be fuller now! :)

I've been a Kris fan for quite awhile. Thanks for sharing these lovely lyrics.

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