Imagination, Inspiration, Music, Words, Writing

Seeing the music

I sometimes forget to view song lyrics as writing—stupid, I know. This morning I had a nearly ninety-minute “commute.” By that, I mean I drove my husband to work, my granddaughter back to her house, and then drove myself back home. On my return trip, I plugged in my iPod and listened to Suzanne Vega’s Solitude Standing. (Yes, it’s old—1987!)

For several months back then, I listened to this and her debut album (on repeat) while I worked in my art studio. For the first two songs, I was lost in memories of that place and time, but then I clued in on some of the lyrics for the third—”Ironbound/Fancy Poultry.”

Instantly, the same mental picture of the scene I conjured long ago popped into mind. That visual effect always happens when I reread a novel or story, but usually when I listen to familiar music, I only have the memories associated with the time or place I heard it before—like in my art studio circa 1987. Why was this song different?

I restarted the song and listened closely. Here are the opening s:

In the ironbound section near Avenue L
where the Portuguese women come to see what you sell
the clouds so low the morning so slow
as the wires cut through the sky

The beams and bridges cut the light on the ground
into little triangles and the rails run round
through the rust and the heat
the light and sweet coffee color of her skin

Such beautiful description. Is it any wonder I “saw” this song? Today I have housework and more driving to do. I think I’ll listen for more description.

Note: There is an interesting subtext on the subjugation and objectification of women to this song. Here’s a video with lyrics. (Warning: a few words are wrong.)

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