Junebug versus Hurricane


The Stank of Visibility

rotting flesh, stinking pride

Taylor Black

2/25/10

Probably suffering from exhaustion from my most religious dirge on the holy power of Mr. Dylan’s voice, my thoughts on this week’s entry were slow going. Having said that, I hope you’ll forgive me, kind reader, for beginning this week’s entry in such a way that makes me sound just the kind of horrible human being I am: a grad student.

At any rate, with that business cleared up, my mind began to perk up during my readings of an Adorno essay on the rise of regressive listening during this last great century as well as a more contemporary one by Judith A. Peraino on the performance and distribution of queer identities and images in gay pop music. Focusing on songs by roots-rock icon and #1 Lesbianinthewholewideworld Melissa Etheridge, Peraino does an impressive job of digging into Etheridge’s catalogue and showing the many ways in which her melodramatic, confessional style is what sells her music most. Because of the bland way in which this all gets presented in the songs, however, Etheridge’s self-touted “honesty” and “grit” are an empty well. Even worse, the icon of everyman’s lesbian melodrama and radio-friendly queerness that Miss Etheridge is hocking puts her and her music to work as disciplinary gay icons, who, as Peraino puts it, “signify while leaving the signified at a distance. . .[publicizing her as] the lesbian phallus.” (133-134).

So, the problem with Etheridge’s brand of mainstream confessional music is that it’s too loaded, too marketable and, ultimately, utterly political. Likewise, counter-mainstream, post-modern, queer music of late strives—perhaps in good faith—to blend performance with politics. And it usually, in spite of itself, gets too confessional too quick. Don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly nothing wrong with performers, or anyone else for that matter, talking about themselves. The problem these days is that, try as they might, many queer performers, writers and artists who claim to be utterly free of the confines of singular identities seem to have convinced themselves that self-expression amounts to talking about and proving the realness of your identity. When there’s singing to be done, it’s only ever done in praise of collective identity for a liberatory cause—one that not only can’t be won, but also can’t even be fought.

Take, for instance, a musical work written by Le Tigre’s J.D. Samson called \”Viz.\” Here, Samson celebrates her wonderful butch, genderqueerness, testifying to its capacity to shock and liberate. After an arduous few seconds of introductory beats, this genderqueer anthem begins, and we find our heroine out on the town trying to have a good time, armed to the teeth with her shimmery genderqueerness and looking for a fight.

Walk in,

Give him my name,

Looks up and down,

Takes a good look at my pecs.

Puts down the clipboard,

Opens the rope for my ‘stache

Walk in with my duffel hangin’

Hat is tilted on the side,

My eyes dream of bedroom surprise.

Finally, with that out of the way, the chorus begins:

They call it climbing and I call it visibility

They call it coolness and I call it visibility

They call it way too rowdy I call it finally free

This refrain is repeated over and over during the course of the song. While it’s sung confidently, I just don’t really get it. It’s one thing to be pleased with yourself, nay, in awe of your own social and physical appearance.  But is it visibility that makes Samson free? Really? Haven’t we been warned duly about the trap of visibility, especially in racial formation? Besides, by indexing her fabulousness and her freedom to her butch/queerness, Samson sells herself short. You can’t be proud about being queer because it’s not something you did. Songs shouldn’t be sung in the name of our identities, but ourselves. Is anyone really listening to the content of the song or are they too busy being queer, deafened by the clamor of all their tiny revolutions?

None of this matters to the knee-jerk, “regressive” queer listener, intent on consuming a comfortable notion of liberatory identifiction. For one, for people like this, lyrics don’t really matter much, and verses certainly don’t. It’s all about the chorus and “the beat.”  But you can’t simply beat in a message of liberation through personal visibility and representation.  Why do queers insist on this deafdumbandblindness?

Coming from a band that’s famous first and foremost for being queer and feminist, anything Samson, or any of the other members, sing is accepted as inherently political and fiercely queer. But is this so? For one, Samson is probably more famous for her moustache than any of her musical creations or content. So, then, does it make sense for me be holding the content of the song against poor J.D. Samson? She just wants to be seen, I know.  But I can’t help getting frustrated listening to these sorts of queer anthems that get so fashionable in all the counter-cultural circles I bum around in. How do you sing in the name of a thing that doesn’t—or shouldn’t—exist? How can we sing in praise of, and not in spite of, ourselves? Without the rotting smell of excessive freedom lingering over our contrived protests?

The problem for me is that I wonder what in the hell there is to sing about. You can’t proclaim your queerness, can’t construct anthems to your (post-)identity: queer is not a thing, it’s a description. Queer is a mistake that sounds a whole lot better as a mistake. Yet the queer consumer can really get into a tizzy over what or whoever happens to be today’s hottest, most subversive identity. None of it sounds good to me, and it sure doesn’t turn me on. I don’t know about you, but all this visibility is makin’ me want to stay inside and hide.

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Rubbernecking Disaster—Liz Phair’s “Take A Look”
February 23, 2010, 11:54 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Take A Look

Elena Glasberg

02/23/10

Rubbernecking Disaster—Liz Phair’s “Take A Look”

When my brother died on his Yamaha on I-94 in North Miami Beach, I had no idea what hit me.

It was 1999 in sun drenched southern California.  I was uxoriously ensconced, fully employed.  I can still hear the sounds of my now dead mother’s wails emitting from the handset, “My children, my children.”  I had always feared my brother would die as a result of motorcycles and drugs or some criminal combination.  As I had worried that my mother’s smoking or drinking would do her in.  I think I feared they would die my whole life.  And they did.

When does self-defense end and wish fulfillment begin?  Was it an accident that four months after David crashed my mother was diagnosed with cancer of the soft palate?  Does it matter that my brother wasn’t high that night a panel truck swerved and catapulted him into the concrete highway barrier?  That his helmet couldn’t protect his chin, the point of his instant death?  That my mother had, to use the medicalism, “insulted” her throat for so many years, even after surgery?  Were these deaths predictable or preventable?

In between these actuarially calculable deaths I earnestly drifted into my own social suicide.  I gave up control of my life and then had the bad form to become resentful.  I remember dreaming of a picture postcard winter hillside.  Like in a Buster Keaton film, I watched two trains silently steam towards each other, helpless to avert the collision – or to avert my eyes.  People on a roll of bad decisions and self-destruction get called train wrecks.  I’ve never known if I could have predicted it all – if, as I have been accused in absentia, I orchestrated the case of in flagrante that apparently lives on in the hallways of academic absurdia — or if I was just being a predictable middle aged whothehellknowswhat acting trite with a grad student.

Perhaps it was these associations around accidents, public, private, and preventable that predisposed my sympathy and even identification with Liz Phair’s slow career suicide.  Since her 1998 Exile in Guyville — appreciated but also fetishized for its ultimately flattering fury against the studs of rock n roll — those boys and their followers just thought her music was getting weird.

But with 2003’s slick Matrix-produced pop rock album Liz Phair, the boys were no longer in on the joke.  They just didn’t get the shift from imitative fury to mockery.  And it’s true that the songs are hard and empty.  But not like the suburban anomie of The Cars.  As the eponymous naming suggests, Phair was also aiming to be seen directly and to have her point of view incorporated into rock’s generic stances.  The cover, of her in a bland girly outfit straddling (or wielding?) a neck up electric guitar, makes that conflation clear.  The denizens of Guyville thrive on envy and abjection – not on being ignored.  Almost all the reviewers called it career suicide.  I, being middle-aged and bitter, loved it.  Especially “Take a Look,” a song from the dead middle of that album.

I don’t know what you’re after

Wanna know details of my disaster

Like an accident on the side of the road

When you’re driving past slow

But there’s nothing to see here.

Wanna take a look?  Take a look.

No paramedics come to the rescue in “Take A Look.”  It’s about dead loss, or what isn’t covered by foresight or retrospect — the dead air.  And it is not a well-wrought song.  I tend to ignore the second verse in which the accident is construed as a one-night stand.  Instead I catch on to the emptiness of the aftermath and the fulsome bravado of the supposed victim who dares to be judged.  Take a look — at nothing, “there’s nothing to see here.”  Nothing but bravado in the space of narrative.  The dead space of disaster.  The bravado of the walking dead.  Of social death.  Of an accident waiting to have been predicted.  These problems of sequence and sense and emotional vacuity between the chords are what I’m after.

“Take a Look” is the sound of bravado, the mask over loss.  Now when I hear the defiance of the first line, “I don’t know what you’re after” I put the stress on the word after.  Sequence.  The calculation of timing without meaning.  “I don’t know what you’re after” means to me now a whole set of disorientations, things that have changed since I grew up, since I left my surities and made my mistakes.  Trying now to deal with how I am perceived, all I can say is I don’t know anymore about sequence, progression, chord changes (power or not).  In rock n roll a look only takes 3 minutes of sound, and you can be in that moment of pure balance, of rightness, between premonition and retrospect.  Between living and survival; bravado and shame.

So yeah, take a look.

I don’t know what you’re after, or where you’ve been, or where I’m going.  We’re all rubbernecking some disaster.



Ring Them Bells: Bob Dylan’s Bloody Voice
the mountains are filled with lost sheep

the mountains are filled with lost sheep

Ring Them Bells

Taylor Black

02/17/10

A few nights ago, out making the late-night media rounds in support of his new solo record, Nick Jonas was asked to comment on his recent participation in the latest “We Are the World” project, a re-hashed version of Michael Jackson’s production by the same name from 1985.  Aside from to-be-expected remarks about what an honor it was to be involved in all this, Jonas described a few of the differences and similarities between the 2010 and ’85 versions and noted that it made sense that rapper Lil Wayne had been given the part originally assigned to Bob Dylan, since, apparently, as we all know: “Bob Dylan can’t sing.”  Now, while I’ll admit, that out of all the members of Jonas Brothers, and probably all the teeny-boppers out there right now, Nick is the one I’d probably most like to meet up with in a back-alley and do dirty things to, this was still a nasty thing to say.

One bitchy response I could make to Mr. Jonas is that he’s the one that can’t sing.  I can only say that I know what his face looks like and can’t really conjure up his sound.  But, I won’t go there.  Further, I really would not like this entry to devolve into some high-handed reprimand of Mr. Jonas.  Yet, I do feel the need to intervene—especially considering that the subject of Dylan’s voice—singing or otherwise—has always been one of great controversy and misunderstanding.   From comments about Dylan’s songs from his early, Woody Guthrie years (the ‘60s) constituting the voice, or the conscience of his generation all the way to more recent complaints about the moans and groans that he likes to call music—people just can’t seem to get it.    So, in my own humble, imperious way, I’d like to take advantage of this little incident as a chance to set the record straight on the power of and the purity in Bob Dylan’s voice.  There is a charismatic component to his music.  His songs are only objects, moments in time, vehicles for his voice, which, like a holy ghost, inhabits them.  His singing raises them up, brings them to life.

But what does all this mean?  What is, or is there even, a fair way to qualify a voice?  To describe its depth, color or texture in a meaningful way?  I want to think of some of the ways in which to characterize a voice as rich, of how a color voice might sound.  To be honest, though, phrases like “he can or can’t sing” seem kind of empty to me.  Even something like: “they can’t see it,” or “…can’t hear it,” seems tricky, too vapidly self-referential.  Of course, there is the whole concept of Synaesthesia to borrow from when characterizing the various capacities of music and sound to instigate visceral feelings—and to paint pictures.  But, still, like Jonas’ comment, and even my initial defenses of Dylan’s voice, the logic behind and characterizing Synaesthesia seems to be too subjective to really mean anything and, on the other hand, too objective and confident in how it considers individual feelings work.  I mean, what does it mean to see sound or to hear color in music? Aren’t all emotions, affective responses—especially to music—a combination of sensations?  Are we really so sure we have a handle on our emotions as discrete entities, logical concepts?  These kinds of statements are comparative without being associative, descriptive without being creative—they’re just too scattered for me to consider.  They’re too complicated, not pure enough for me, they don’t seem to be really listening to music’s magic.

There’s a line in a song from Dylan’s album Together Through Life, released in the summer of 2009, that has always stuck in my head by itself, out of context from the rest of the song: “Some people they tell me//I’ve got the blood of the land in my voice.”  Obviously there’s a biblical reference here that I learned in Sunday School the blood of the lamb—meaning the body and the spirit of Christ—that Dylan is telling us he’s got down deep in his soul, emanating from the sounds he makes and the music he creates.  So, lest I be accused of taking an ironic approach to Dylan’s religiosity or not saying what I mean, I will admit that there’s something to his voice that’s different, more inspired and more complex since his conversion to Christianity sometime in the late seventies.  I prefer his contemporary work not only because I think it is always improving, but also because it’s the only way to approach Dylan musically.  His songs and his voice alike are “good,” rich and powerful because they’re still at work.   Like faith and wonder themselves, this voice of his is always changing, never fully complete and full of human triumph, failure and doubt.

Much to the dismay of many of his most faithful fans and critics, his songs too never seem to sound the same more than once.  They are events in and of themselves, beholden to their power to effect and communicate in the present and future.  They don’t rehash the past.  They’re not owned by the past and yet somehow they are overflowing with and steeped in the blood of American musical and literary history.  The kind of power and focus that Dylan puts into the singing of his songs, as well as the total devotion he seems to have to them, seems evangelic to me.  The reason why I, and so many other people, treat Dylan with a kind religious awe is the same reason so many people go out their way to criticize and dismiss him—his songs and his voice have affected them, moved them to speak.

In my last two pieces I have also addressed the magical power of the voice and of song.  With respect to Emmylou Harris’ “Red Dirt Girl,” I ruminated on the cathartic, living power of the voice that memorializes death; in my response to Lucinda Williams’ “Pineola,” I drew out the ways in which the sounds of mourning carry haunting powers with them as they dissipate into the earth and echo up to she sky.  So, while both of these songs have dealt with the ways songs cast spells on life and on the living, there is passion in Dylan’s voice that works more like a prayer, that brings something that feels like dreaming into existence.  His songs are offerings, he lays them down for us, His voice falls down like roses at our feet.

Although I can’t really explain it in discrete musical or even affective terms, this evangelical zeal that I hear and that I’m describing in Dylan’s voice—especially of late—can be translated, in a certain way, to its focused musicality.  First of all, there’s an organic component to his recorded voice that not only transports me to the event of recording the song, but also the bodily expression of it.   Listening to, for instance, something like “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” or “Ain’t Talkin’,” from his more recent albums, and you can sense, hear and feel the saliva—the blood—rising out of Dylan’s mangled throat into the microphone as he makes he brings his songs to life. He sounds like a needle scratching over a vinyl disc, the rut and friction of pure pre-digital sound, somewhere between tickling and stabbing the words that emerge from his lips onto his faithful listeners.  He sounds like he’s got all the thorns and the flowers of all time locked inside his throat.  Even though, in my old age, my relationship to (the idea of) God has been bruised and battered, worn out and sucked dry I believe when I’m listening to Dylan.  At least until the song’s over.

There’s also a way in which the feeling and the history of a song are all clear when I listen to Dylan.  On the one hand, his “blood of the land” line refers to the musical and social traditions that he has placed his songs in that themselves become reborn through him.  On the other, his songs never sound the same more than once.  His delivery is always in the moment, always emotionally accurate and truthful; the charismatic nature of Dylan’s voice is to convey these feelings, to infect listeners with them. There’s the endless, pulsating weariness of songs like “High Lands,” loneliness and geographical emptiness in “Thunder on the Mountain” and isolated abjection in “Love Sick” that gets expressed in me even before I’ve comprehended lyrical content or context.  To say he sings with blood in his voice is to say that his voice is alive, breathing, pulsating.  The enigmatic strength of songs, indeed of Dylan songs, lies in their ability to draw listeners in, to possess and to live in them.

Listen to recordings of “Ring Them Bells,” the song that has itself been ringing in my ears as I sit here and write this, and you’ll hear how Dylan makes his voice an instrument of praise and of song.  During the musical interludes preceding the final few verses of the song the pedal steel comes in and plays the melody that Dylan’s been singing up until that moment.  If, by that moment, you are as lost in the music as I become listening to it—you will forget that Dylan’s voice has stopped ringing, that the sound of the pedal steel isn’t really him.  Like his voice (and also his harmonica in different songs), it is pure musical expression.  In the end, whether or not you, or young Mr. Jonas, are able to hear what I hear, to see what I see, I would like to close by saying that Dylan’s voice is beautiful because it is something he’s authored himself.  It’s no use wondering whether or not Bob Dylan can sing, it only matters that he does.  His voice is already ringing off the stony walls of the bell tower and echoing across the hills and valleys, always changing and forever in debt to the music it calls forth.



Dirty Drunk

"Girl sitting on her bed with her shirt off," Diane Arbus

Elena Glasberg

02/05/10

Sober Girl
–Amy Ray

I’m a sober girl

not for any good reason

I found myself on this road I’m on

It felt a lot like treason

To my last girlfriends

Who could never understand

When it comes to love I wanted ….. purity

I felt alone in this world in the city so I got out of there

I found myself at the end of a long dirt road

It felt a lot like nowhere

To my last girlfriends……..

When I was young in every camptown song I sung

I was aching just to be …… with someone

Who could lay me down, where rivers run

who was able, who was free…….

Free of this man made world

And all the bargains we made with fear

They slowly whittle us down to nothing

It felt a lot like despair

But I found someone who was still standin when it was done

And with the purest heart she said these words to me:

When I was young…..

Purity.  That word that just doesn’t fit in this song and I could never hear it, had to have Taylor translate it for me, several times, in fact.  The lyric, its rhythm, just doesn’t make any sense in the context of the song – it always ends the line so awkwardly, against the driving beat.  The word is musically unintelligible.  It seems to exist on another register of meaning altogether. Who but a lesbian would end a rock lyric on love with the non-rhyme “purity”?  But then Taylor’s got to translate so many of Amy Ray’s lyrics for me – I’m trying to get into their heaven, but I seem to live in a far distant psychic world.  I’m a Yankee, for one.  And a terrible lesbian.

I’m never sure to what extent I care about those sobriety narratives.  Or lesbian music culture, which everyone knows exists, if only in some idealized, non-commercial form.  Personally, I never listened to lesbian music – no Melissa Etheridge pressing her nose to the heterosexual window, threatening to seduce those straight girls.  No Indigo Girls!  Only Amy Ray solo for me.  These days Amy Ray makes true, complicated butch music.  Love her contralto, and her mixedness.  I’m interested in the way “Sober Girl” mixes hard rock n roll and the “camptown” songs Amy Ray was subject to in her southern religious upbringing.  Funny how the music that accompanies even the most oppressive dogmas probably saved more people than the teachings themselves.  Even in my heathenish way, I often feel saved by religious music. I might even say that all music is based in religious practice – in parables and incantations (spells).  It can lead to ecstasy — like the twinned guitar solos taking off at the song’s fade out.

“Sober Girl” is the moral-religious soundtrack of contemporary lesbianism.  What does it mean to be sober?  As a goal it lacks “reason.” And leads to isolation: “treason.” Sobriety requires social revolt and risk.  The singer moves from alienated religious childhood, to the bar girls of her young adulthood, finally to achieve self-possession.  The song collides on its divergent origins, the church organ entering the ripping guitars and stuttering, free drumming at the “bridge.” Here, the lyrics about wanting to find “someone who would be still standing when it was done” fold into themselves, rondo-like, and it turns out that that “someone” was you all along.  The alienated church girl turned into an equally alienated righteous lesbian.  Those last girlfriends, “who could never understand” are only the latest exemplars of the ‘man-made world” she needed to flee. I guess you could say, Amy’s (and my) “life was saved by rock n roll” without choking on the irony that a man wrote those lyrics.

The song describes the way I feel about lesbian righteousness and the sub culture’s sad tendency toward censoriousness (that would include a lack of appreciation for lou reed, the rock n roll animal).  You know, the identity wars, butch-femme drama, enforced folksiness and general culture of political earnestness that continues in different dress today. Sober is such a loaded term.  I’ve always been the sober one at the party.  But that’s not the same as being righteous or the one “standing when it was all done.” No, all those drunks can weigh you down.  Once (an obviously very castigating) girlfriend even suggested I was a “dry drunk,” a person who, without actually having the fun of boozing manages to display all the pathologies of unsobriety.  Well, talk about high and mighty!  Sometimes escaping back out that long dirt road seems less like victory than, well, treason.  And does treason sort of rhyme with the last word, “free’?  Freedom can be more isolating than alienation – at least alienation’s an identity.  Freedom can just feel like lost.

For a sober butch in a lesbian culture drunk on righteousness… being the sober butch has always felt a lot nowhere.  And now there’s a new substance – testosterone.  Everyone’s drunk on masculinity in a bottle, whether they’re taking it themselves or just rubbernecking.  For a middle aged butch this is one more scene that “feels a lot like nowhere”…..



Elegy for the Living

Subiaco Cemetery Blues

Pineola

Taylor Black

02/03/10

Last week, I dealt with Emmylou Harris’ eulogy to a red dirt girl named Lillian and ended with the line: “We don’t sing to die, we sing because we’re not dead.”  While I can’t exactly say what I meant by this line, or why—aside from the strain of melodrama that weighs heavily on my personal style—I decided to end my piece with it, I can say it was intended in part as a sort of hopeful way out of this particular eulogy to failure.  Can singing ever really fall on deaf—or more pointedly—dead ears?  What sorts of spells do funeral songs cast over the living?

Magically, “the rare haunting power” of funeral songs surfaced again during my reading of Phillipe Lacoue-Labarthe’s Typography, causing me to consider the ways in which singing in the name of the dead, or about death, casts a spell over life as it’s being lived.  Here, in one of his various readings of Theodor Reik’s autobiography, he asks: “What exactly links music to mourning?  What links it to the work or play of mourning—to the Trauerspiel, to tragedy?”   So, to continue my ruminations on death and sadness, I would like to ask why, if we sing to live, do we sing so much about death?  What are the residual effects of our mournful cries, our wailings, our keenings about the deceased for those that remain?

Lucinda Williams’ song “Pineola” was written in the immediate aftermath of the suicide of southern gothic poet Frank Stanford.    One afternoon in June 1978, Stanford got into an argument with his wife regarding some of the affairs he had been engaging in with some of the women—Lucinda herself one of them—in and around Fayetteville, Arkansas.  He then proceeded to go up into his bedroom and shoot himself three times in the chest.  The first lines of the song themselves do more than set the stage for this messy, confusing death—they emote and embody Lucinda’s feelings of shock and discombobulation upon learning of Stanford’s act.  In “Pineola,” silence itself is a sound, a spooky reverberation:

“When Daddy told me what happened//I couldn’t believe what he just said//Sonny shot himself with a 44//And they found him lyin’ on his bed.”  The whole song is one long response, a kind of primitive mourning.  It sounds something like the way you feel when you get punched in the throat or the stomach, like the moment just before you can cry when you feel like the wind’s been knocked out of you: “I could not speak a single word//No tears streamed down my face//I just sat there on the living room couch//Starin’ off into space.”

So many things about this song, and the way Stanford took his life confound me.  For one, while performed in its earliest incantations in a sweeter voice, more recent incantations of “Pineola” are more brash and anthemic:  it scares the hell of me.  In terms of the content of the story, I’m also staggered: How—not to mention why—in the world could someone fire three gunshots into their own heart? What is it about this song that’s so commanding when the only story it tells is of a singer’s lack-of-response to news of death?  The answer, it seems, is that it carries power in the noises it creates, and in the echoes of grief it produces.  There’s not much to “Pineola.”  It’s a simple song, really, but the ways in which it performs Lucinda’s loss of breath and response are heavy and clamorous.

The melody itself is a disembodied record as of Stanford’s death, but also of Lucinda’s feelings surrounding it.  As it is performed again and again, all of these things get brought back to life, as Lucinda conjures up the sound of her grief, in her characteristic affectless nasality.  Rhythmically, the song lurches back and forth in an a manic, speedy sort of way.  Listening to the song, I am haunted by both the image and the feeling of Lucinda sitting, dumfounded, on her family’s living room couch as she heard the news of her lover’s suicide.  The emotional direction of “Pineola” results in a eulogy, sure, but it’s also an aural record, a trace, of Lucinda’s spooky wailings – all that we can ever know of “Sonny.”
From red dirt to red dirt in Emmylou’s piece, “Pin-e-ola” drawls out the place of mourning and drops each rhythmic syllables like ashes all over her lover’s grave.  As the story closes inside Subiaco Cemetery, to the funeral proceedings for this man who made himself unfit for heaven, you can feel Lucinda’s emptied-out, hopeless presence standing like a ghost in the midst of Stanford’s grieving family members.   His mother who, as Lucinda tells us, “got the preacher to say a few words//So his soul wouldn’t be lost,” mourns only in order to absolve herself of any guilt regarding her child’s most unholy death.

Meanwhile, just as everyone around her mourns in unison, Lucinda begins to evaporate and then disappear.  The image I have of her at this moment is ghostly, vacant, abject and frightening—not so much because I can imagine it, but because I can feel and hear it too.  You see, this eulogy isn’t sung in the name of the dead, it’s sung by the spirit of the living.  It is Lucinda—not Stanford—that haunts me.  Every time I hear “Pineola,” my sense of Lucinda’s total numbness becomes more intense. Through my idea of her disembodiment I imagine what it must feel like to be a ghost among the living—sort of what it feels like to have someone touch a part of the body that’s fallen asleep.  You feel dead.  It’s all so wonderfully nauseating to consider.
In the end, Lucinda sings to sing.  She mourns to mourn.  The last lines of the song, on the other hand, echo Lucinda’s sadness lyrically—as well as thematically, as a casting off all the noises of her own silent sorrow, of her haunting us with them.

“I think I must’ve picked up a handful of dust//And let it fall over his grave//I think I must’ve picked up a handful of dust//And let it fall over his grave”