War Songs

 

“Making Pies”

-Patty Griffin

It’s not far
I can walk
Down the block
To TableTalk
Close my eyes
Make the pies all day
Plastic cap
on my hair
I used to mind
Now I don’t care
I used to mind
Now I don’t care
Cause I’m Gray

Did I show you this picture of my nephew
Taken at his big birthday surprise
At my sister’s house last Sunday
This is Monday and we’re making pies
I’m making pies
Making pies
Pies

Thursday nights
I go and type
Down at the church
With Father Mike
It gets me out
And he ain’t hard to like
At all

Jesus stares at me
In my chair
With his big blue eyes
And his honey brown hair
And he’s looking at me
Way up there
On the wall

Did I show you this picture of my sweetheart
Taken of us before the war
Of the Greek and his Italian girl
One Sunday at the shore

We tied our ribbons to the fire escape
They were taken by the birds
Who flew home to the country
As the bombs rained on the world

5am
Here I am
Walking the block
To TableTalk
You could cry or die
Or just make pies all day
I’m making pies

 

 

“Song for Jeffrey Lucey”

-Meg Hutchinson

You would’ve made a great dad
If you’d lived that long
Your eyes are warm and kind on the evening news
There was a big celebration when you walked off that bus
With all your limbs intact we thought you’d made it back to us
And no one knew, what you’d been made to do over there

You were almost twenty-two when they shipped you out
With the sixth motor transport battalion
Operation Freedom, also known as the war
No place for a good kid just trying to pay for school

And no one knew, what you’d be made to do over there

Yellow ribbons still fluttering from the trees beside the house
Memory was a cancer that you could not live without
But you could not live with it
Oh… no you could not live with it

In the dark you held your flashlight, still listening for spiders
In the days you drank alone in your old room
Haunted always by the voices, by the jingling of the tags
Holding on to one little corner of that flag

And no one knew…

Yellow ribbons still fluttering from the trees beside the house
Made a pillow for your head and they laid you down
Oh they laid you down
Oh… oh they laid you down

And no one knew
What you’d been made to do
And all their love couldn’t keep you

 

War is an interesting animal. It carries a variety of symbols. Its images are powerful. Patty sings from the perspective of a loved one, first person. Meg takes it to the second person, as if conversing with the returned soldier who took his own life. Both artists incorporate ribbons. Reminders. Both remind us of the feelings involved, that human beings fight in wars and they confront other humans, many of them innocent. And how do people deal? How do they handle the loss, the trauma, the agony? Go and type. Make pies. Self-medicate into a funnel of depression. The woman feels helpless. Jeffrey Lucey felt helpless.

I guess you can push through the day until enough time passes and it doesn’t hurt as much. I guess you can write songs and sing sadly. I guess you can petition the military mental health organizations to improve their PTSD programs. I guess you can mourn for the little bit of yourself that has died inside when someone you love has died way too young fighting a war that seems to have no end. Pies were her end; getting to the end of each day moved her along. Jeffrey Lucey, though, he could only see one ending. It had gotten to be too much.

When I went to the Pomegranate Gallery to look at Iraqi art, my mind spun with curiosity and a strange sympathy. Almost all the art were portrayals of war and divided nations. All dark, solid, jagged lines and aggressive strokes with thick, unhampered textures. A lot of intertwined themes involving the colors of Iraq’s flag and the idea of stitching together the Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds. Walking through that gallery moved me. I couldn’t understand the history and the bloodshed and the tradition. I don’t get the oil and the power and the politics. This isn’t going to end anytime soon.

mind procession

looking back

following the trail

looking down

they keep attacking

looking out

but we bury those

looking up 

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