Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Poetry of Rock n' Roll: Rickie Lee Jones

In honor of National Poetry Month, each week I am featuring poetic lyrics of rock or pop songs.

And is there any artist who exemplifies a poetic sense in their work more than Rickie Lee Jones? She has written a mountain of majestic, awe-inspiring lyrics (and prose!) over the course of her (thankfully) long career. I had a hard time choosing one poem (song) to present, so I give you three. I am deliberately not including the actual songs in this post because I want the focus to be on the words.

by Rickie Lee Jones

There are wounds that stir up the force of gravity
A cold that will wipe the hope from your eyes
Young girl standing underneath the "L" train
Standing there, watching the trains go by ...
You think that nobody knows where you are, girl
You think that nobody knows how this feels
Alone, in a world of your own
There you are girl
The small things float
To the top of gravity
I'm telling you where it is

We walk in easy snakes
Through the roulette rattling of the ethyl
And now the arson smell of moon
Polishes a newsstand
They empty the gas can
They watch the fire
If there are three girls running
There are three girls running nowhere
From remedies
That you call random
We call by name
And ask them to explain why

Oh, no I heard somebody
Hush up
Don't say nothing
I thought I heard someone
Well we walk when we want to go
Nobody's gonna be there
Seen somebody, somebody
Be quiet
Nobody's there ...

I could not say no to the light of my desire
I'm not asking so much
But you roll-call the passion
His lips ?
His back ?
His face?
No, no, no
I'm not asking so much!

I try to imagine another planet, another sun
Where I don't look like me
And everything I do matters
Where you are, girl
In your green paint
With a pin to pull
At the fingertips of gravity
I'm telling you where it is

We Belong Together
by Rickie Lee Jones

I say this was no game of chicken
You were aiming your best friend
That you wear like a switchblade on a chain around your neck
I think you picked this up in Mexico from your dad
Now it's daddy on the booze
And Brando on the ice
Now it's Dean in the doorway
With one more way he can't play this scene twice
So you drug her down every drag of this forbidden fit of love
And you told her to stand tall when you kissed her
But that's not where you were thinking...
How could a Natalie Wood not get sucked into a scene so custom tucked?
But now look who shows up
In the same place
In this case
I think it's better
To face it ---
We belong together
We belong together

Once Johnny the King made a spit ring
And all the skid kids saw a very, very proud man
And he entwine her in his finger
And she lay there like a baby in his hand
Climb upon the rooftop docks lookin' out on the crosstown seas
And he wraps his jacket across her shoulders
And he falls and hugs and holds her on his knees
But a sailor just takes a broad down to the dark end of the fair
To turn her into a tattoo
That will whisper into the back of Johnny's black hair
And now Johnny the King walks these streets without her in the rain
Lookin' for a leather jacket
And a girl who wrote her name forever
A promise that ---
We belong together
We belong together

Shall we weigh along these streets
Young lions on the lam?
Are the signs you hid deep in your heart
All left on neon for them?
Who are foolish
Who are victim
Of the sailors and the ducky boys who would
Move into your eyes and lips and every tear
That falls down on the neighborhood now
I said "Bird, we just gotta tell them"
And they turn and ignore us
And the only heroes we got left
Are written right before us
And the only angel who sees us now
Watches through each other's eyes
And I can hear him
In every footstep's passing sigh
He goes crazy these nights
Watching heartbeats go by...
And they whisper ---
We belong together
We belong together

The Last Chance Texaco
by Rickie Lee Jones

A long stretch of headlights
Bends into I-9
Tiptoe into truck stops
And sleepy diesel eyes
Volcanoes rumble in the taxi
And glow in the dark
Camels in the driver's seat
A slow, easy mark

But you ran out of gas
Down the road a piece
Then the battery went dead
And now the cable won't reach...

It's your last chance
To check under the hood
Last chance
She ain't soundin' too good,
Your last chance
To trust the man with the star
You've found the last chance Texaco

Well, he tried to be Standard
He tries to be Mobil
He tried living in a World
And in a Shell
There was this block-busted blonde
He loved her - free parts and labor
But she broke down and died
And she threw all the rods he gave her

But this one ain't fuel-injected
Her plug's disconnected
She gets scared and she stalls
She just needs a man, that's all

It's her last chance
Her timing's all wrong
Her last chance
She can't idle this long
Her last chance
Turn her over and go
Pullin' out of the last chance Texaco
The last chance

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