Whiskey Makes Me Mean

Some like their drugs, some like their gin
Nobody knows the shades of my sin
I’m going up to Lyman
there’s a still in the snow
where my Daddy made life
from a mash of corn
I asked him one time
why he don’t drink a thing. 
He said, “Your mama is gone
I don’t care to sing.”
He split another log
with a wedge in between, said
“The river is wild—whiskey makes me mean.”
Some like it quick, and some take it slow
Some folks pour bourbon in their morning joe
Now I can’t deny how I long for you
There ain’t no disease can cure these blues
I feel like the railroad men
when I stand on the bridge
watch the river flow from me to him
All his life was a roll of cash
and jugs of corn liquor he kept in the back
Now the only song that he’d ever sing
was a croon on a banjo
with five golden strings
Some folks are snakes, some lose their skin
Nobody knows the shape I’ve been in
So take off your shirt, boy,
and build me a farm
Drink up my rye and waltz in my arms
I feel like the railroad men…
I’m pining for the mountains
for to settle on the hill
I don’t need your saints; I don’t want your pills
I’m going up to Lyman
where the moonshine is clean
and the water flows wild
in the rocks in between
the place where I am
and the place that was me
Margarita is wise--whiskey makes me mean.
           (city ain’t satisfying) 
                            I said my Daddy was wise.

                                Whiskey makes me mean.

Pitchfork Blues

When your horses are aching
and your dogs won’t run
and you’re holding back on the gin
The wind blows cold from the north
and in the south
they’re holding back Pontchartrain
Turn your eyes to the lake
Put your hands to their toil
your sweet garden’s
your sweet garden’s toil
Friends won’t call you back
Girlfriend has stolen your hat
and she’s making fun of your shoes
And your songs are dead
and you can’t strike a match
and you sold your mandolin
Give your daffodils a kiss
pat your roses on the head
Swing your violets,
swing your violets on the swing
When the creeping vine
won’t share no wine
and it’s laughing at you from the fence
When your shovel’s broke
and all you have is a pitchfork
to bury your dead
Give your daffodils a kiss
Pat your soldiers on the head
Swing your violence,
swing your violence on the swing

Powder Keg

We parked behind the corn crib
and undressed just for fun
Your breath was hard with whiskey
I was not the only one
On the first day we made Jesus
On the second day we made stars
On the third day we made moonshine
On the fourth day we made fire
Baby, would you believe me, baby
When I say, my thirst is a weakness?
I will not fade away
But these dreams like a needle
are drilling in my head
There’s thorns on the children
and crosses in their beds

There’s storms after midnight
and flowers on the levy
They found Uncle Cecil behind the wheel of his Chevy
I must have come home sometime between 2 and 3 and 4
I stood there on the porch; you changed the locks on all the doors
There was some broken glass and the moon shining on the hinge
I tried so hard, I tried hard not to wake the kids
These dreams like a needle...
Now I’m working for Thompson, nailing shingles on a roof
It’s been 14 days since I last did have the juice
But it’s 95 degrees up here. I’m thirsty as a slave
Come Friday night I pray I can be saved
from these dreams like a needle…
Baby, would you believe me, baby when I say
I’m dry as a rattlesnake creek bed?
Dry as a powder keg

Strange as this Weather Has Been

I pray alone on Sunday
in the hills ‘neath Yellow Root
I hear the coal cars rumbling
hauling rock up from the tombs
And if our bodies let them
They’ll take every mountain top
Some kind of men don’t never
know when to stop
I wait here for a moment
the mountains come and go
You wait there for the foreman
to send you up on Cherry Boy
Will you be my cherry?
Will you be my candy cane?
Will you sing a song for the baby’s name?
I hear the children playing
on their bikes and witches’ brooms
I hear my father breathing
from his mountain living room
I hold my baby tightly 
when that dynamite begins
Feel that mountain shake
and shake and shake again
I gather roots on Sunday
like my mama taught me to do
I hear the prayers praying
in that chapel afternoons
Feel the wind on Sunday
blowing through the beechwood leaves
Hear the choir suffering to believe
And if our bodies let them
they’ll take every mountaintop
Brandy Creek and Sweeney’s Peak
and Old John Henry’s Rock

*Based on the novel
Strange As This Weather Has Been
by Anne Pancake

Wish I Was a Drunken Sailor

I’d close down the taverns at dawn
sing those sea shanty songs
and never admit I am a humble tailor
Oh, the stories I’d tell of the singing of the whales
I wish had the life of a drunken sailor
The afterlife doesn’t bother me
Throw my body to the bottom of the sea
It just might, it must might, float up and be free
I’d stumble onto the quay
drink up all my pay
then tie some lines with the wives of the fishermen
I’d stroll from the wharf to the hill
on the power of the devil’s swill
I wish I had the legs of a drunken sailor

The afterlife doesn’t bother me
Throw my dregs to the bottom of the sea
They just might, they just must might, float up and be free
I’d curse the mast and the ropes
memorize the dirty jokes
if only I had the tongue of a drunken sailor
And oh the stories they’d tell
of the killing of my whale
wish I had the soul of a drunken sailor

When I die don’t you cry for me
Throw your prayers to the bottom of the sea
They just might, they just might
Float up and be free