An old man and a house.

I started my life in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. Tagline: “The City of Beautiful Homes.” (Which feels a little bit like having a museum of beautiful frames — shouldn’t what’s inside matter more? I think I’d prefer “The City of Nice People.” But I digress.)

My family never quite fit in Fort Thomas and soon ended up in the neighboring, less pretentious town of Dayton, but we went to grade school in Fort Thomas. We were the poor kids who did not vacation in Hilton Head or have a house boat or play select soccer.

On a spacious corner right near my grade school was a beautiful, big, old white house. It oozed the promise of stories and stood stoic, a reminder that once this city had history that counted for something. As years went by, McMansions sprung up around it, but it remained honest and humble.

Often on the way to school we’d see a very old man walk out the front door, past the glorious big tree in the front yard, down the driveway to get his mail.

When he died it took less than a year to demolish the house, divide the land into three lots, and build more mansions on that corner. I’m talking the kind of mansions that are too close to the street, that eschew trees except small ornamental ones (lest the beautiful home be blocked from view) and that have spotlights on the house at night, to accentuate the beautiful home. Blargh.

When I wrote this song I was thinking a lot about that man and his house and how each piece of everything has history. How each different material in the house had once been forest or sand or raw ore, and how the man himself had once been quicker and lighter, and how a wife probably shared the house with him for a time, and how things that come together for a time to be something (a man, a house) all fall in time and go their separate ways again.

Lyrics

The trees inside my walls
remember when their only view was branches.
Now they creak just like my knees. Tomorrow (like me) they fall.

The mountains in my hearthstone
sing a requiem to spacious, silent skies.
Distant seashores fill my windowpanes.
Tomorrow, we all wash away.

The Ohio courses through my pipes,
tiny droplets of conscious, bridgeless past.
Steel faucet, cotton towel, skin and porcelain —
ritual, clean.

This bed, too wide for years, bends to embrace this tired structure.
Violins tell stories in vinyl. No one tastes, no one hears us dance.
(Thin grey socks, pressed trousers,
sacred breathing floorboards.)

And if we fall, it as the moon falls eternally around her dear earth.
They will say I died alone, but they mistake my body for me.

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