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Rare Weather

by Jack O' The Clock

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Don't look now, just lock the door There's someone on the porch outside. Brazen-eyed and sallow, looking in. Her right hand holds an abacus. Her left hand holds a golden star. And through her paper temples the black blood whispers: better call all your children in, better call all your children back, better call all your children in or paint the windows black. A holt of wooden markers grew upon the roadside overnight and queasy in the third-shift dawn I found I couldn't bear the sight of such a claim upon the dead within the view of Crawford town and that is why I jerked the wheel and with my truck I mowed them down. She is like a baby her hands are soft like a baby her eyes are wide like a baby her tears are free like a baby and there are Arabs in the corn.
Aspen 08:45
When I heard them testing the gallows and then pounding on the chime, I was ill in the courthouse and I begged them for some time to digest the strange injustice in the name they gave my crime, so thy pointed to the mountainside and instructed me to climb. I had one night ‘til the dogs’ release. They assured me I’d be tracked. Understand, son, I’m a human, and I felt I’d been attacked. Understand, son, nothing’s clear to me, but in time you have to act, so you spill some blood and a paper trail and the blood is just abstract. I was a king before the coup. I had the same disease as you, I only saw it through. Like a hatchet down the sidewalk, he split his bloody way. We were partners then in the charge of men who would do anything for pay. But when I called on him to join my climb, he laughed at me and told me he would stay. And when I turn my back upon the court, I know what he will say: He’ll say he doesn’t know the first thing about no horseplay and he doesn’t know the first thing about no seventh day and he doesn’t care for fields of goldenrod or bullion spun from hay, but if they’ll follow him up the mountainside he’ll show them where it lay. He took us to jungles in the East, he made us ride the backs of beasts, he had the bellows of a priest ruffling the flock before a feast. I was a king before the coup, I had the same disease as you, I only lived it through. When the sun set on the mountainside my heart began to race. I thought that if you waited out the fall of night, night itself was its own place with its own boreal gardens and its own celestial face, but my heart gave out. My heart gave out. August Houston and its swirling sands, call off your curs. I will bury my face in its secret place among the firs.
All last night the wind was howling through the asylum behind our wall. It’s halls are lightless, its rooms abandoned. I think it’s time that we forgot about it all. You know I did my time up there. I played a lot of solitaire. And while my doctor combed his hair I read all of his cards. Horrible, but it returns you to your childhood. Not the girl who brings the firewood but the one that burns it. ‘Cuz when it catches, her hands start shaking. There is a prayer we use to keep them still but she never learns it. My little daughter’s eyes eclipse. She only speaks with the corners of her lips. She’s already burned, wretched little clown, slamming doors in the attic while the sun’s going down. You’ve plucked the wrong thorn, robin, ain’t no deliverance, I fear, only sustained temptation: Lord, deliver us! All last night the wind was wailing through the asylum upon the hill. For half a lifetime now it’s stood there empty. The healing touch is just a little pinch I feel inside a pill. You want to keep the poor folks straight, underpaid and working late, then preempt their demands: take their feelings in hand. I have no summer, I feel no winter, I get no honest-to-god sleep, and no wide-eyed waking, but it’s not the shell shock of all that acid that pursues my senses when my hands start shaking– and isn’t it an easy ruse to fill your eyes with breaking news and to simply refuse what you sense is there but you cannot use? You’ve plucked the wrong thorn, robin, ain’t no deliverance, I fear, only sustained temptation: Lord, deliver us! You’ve got the wrong thorn, robin, ain’t no deliverance, I fear, only this fierce temptation: Lord, deliver us! Bill is hungry and she’s still up there slamming that door and Bill is livid, he’s terrified. Says “she don’t know her own father now, she just keeps shrieking. The floor is soaking. Her eyes are wide.” Well, Bill is fishy just like me. He’s hung upon that bloody tree, but he’s always looking West. You want to see inside the crow? Take a break from what you know, don’t go auguring all “black murder!” Have some dinner, Bill, she’ll be all right.
Fire At Noon 03:47
Here’s a beach numb with sun, flanked by dusty rose hips. Two men, two women, a guitar, some bottles, all strewn across the scorching sand in a collapsed conversation round the fire –yes, a fire! You can just make out the twist in the lady’s arm as she reaches for a cigarette. White on white, a fire at noon. Were you living in no direction? Yes, I was living in no direction: 1968, you know, we had just suspended judgment. It was a windless place. We had Times there. We drew a circle in the sand and we burned wooden objects that we found at the back of our parents’ garage, and the Times combusted in their circles while the future waited patiently like an heirloom in the attic of the old house.
Half Life 08:57
You who grew up diagonally under the power lines with a cat, a couple of drunks and a backwater library, straight enough to stand up without holding on and shake a couple hands–if a little crookedly– Did you think if you stuck right to the blueprints in their books, you could ply them with your eyes? A wink and a nod opens the door but they wouldn’t have you! What did you think? When you laugh, you show your teeth. The rainy streets are changeless. You can trace them to a childhood asleep except for the hands. A wink and a nod opens the door but they wouldn’t have you! What did you think? When you laugh, you show your teeth. So you took a class or two in a cell under the city like it made sense to do on a wage unduly shitty and they spit on you for attempting something pretty with a couple tons of marble and some kitchen knives. So you took to the parks, with a view to taking things apart handing out marks to the attendants of the Valu-Mart, the check-cashing sharks, and old Chinese ladies pushing shopping carts with their own ideas about their lives. And it felt like you’d been given a ladder that you knew could hold a million if you could only find a few to lean it against. After dark, you turn into your father. When you drink, you pull upon his beard, only to wake up next day in repentance before the clean hard word that freed you. And he knows that you steal his voice sometimes. You were wrong to think he minds. He says, “Scrap all your plans for the world, my groveling son, I hate to hear the dry snap of the cord. There’s a room with a bed and a table halfway down the hall.” A wink and a nod opens the door but they wouldn’t have you! What did you think? When you laugh, you show your teeth.
Come in, sit with me for a while and watch the dusk, I’ll put this thing on mute. It gives a view and lays a claim on life that’s harder and harder to dispute. Sometimes I open up the blinds and put the set to rest so I can watch those evening stars descending in the West. Haven’t you played long enough by now? Every town bends or breaks in the same gale. It didn’t take me thirty years to discover that, you know, and I didn’t have to read a lot of fairy tales. You’re not going to find a river that runs any wider than the first your little eyes gazed across, and you can’t help but drag your feet, doff your hat and turn around once you see the sea and realize your loss. Your mother is a holy, selfish princess always trying to get something from me. Your father is a lazy furtive gawker. You wonder why he’s aged so rapidly? Two plagues are issuing through this country’s veins although it hasn’t fallen yet. I can see them both from this armchair, can’t I: The TV and jumbo jet. And neither you or your dreamy parents have any sense that something’s dead. You’d give away the apple in your pocket just to gain the tree in your head. You can’t know strength through aspiration, you simply do what must be done. I served filets on silver trays– I never thought of having fun. I carried stretchers for the navy, I buried bodies in the ground, I kneaded bulky rolls at midnight– I never thought of leaving town. And when you start to lose your grip on things, take down your tools from the shelf. There is no future in an old age of telling stories to yourself.
Mountains 10:12
Turn away if you’ve heard this one before: morning headlines rarely bear a mention in the night. In the night there was a flood. It made a mess of all my best intentions and gave the world the crazy tilt of Sabbath days devoid of guilt and washed the plain with black abundant silt. Heading home. Sleeping at the airport gate. Shrinking from the needling morning sun spots. In my dreams I am always heading home. I am always sneaking through the same lots, through heavy fog on Boston streets, through San Francisco shocked with sleet. The mountains rise above this tireless circumstance. There will never be an end to this half-birth, no rest for the kidneys or the palms of the hands. Like a king, I wake up immaculate, I resist the telephone and windows. I try to breath, try to take the time I need, but my heart is beating like a mole’s. I can’t accept that vast belief, that mountain range without relief, the trappings of a mind that shoots its messengers. There will never be an end to this half-death, no rest for the kidneys or the soles of the feet. When we were driving west, you told me your head was a balloon in the thinning air bursting under the pressure of the raw interior scenes, the clamber of your genes, and the basic lack of means that blazed up before the mountains of the skyline like delirious refinery flares– they’ll show you just what all this wasteland’s good for. Drive, I’m pulling over. I’ve got no nerve for deserts anymore. Hum a sleepy road song for Selene. But mountains change their shape as you approach, make you think you’ve never really seen them. Your thoughts distend, seeing hardens into needing, openness becomes an empty craving– and then there’s all this rock and space to take the mirror from your face, to lay out all your loss for you in one place. There will never be an end to this half life, no rest for the kidneys and the back of the mind, so I repeat myself. I repeat myself.


released January 29, 2009

All songs by Damon Waitkus, except track 1, by Damon Waitkus and Nicci Reisnour.

Recorded by Damon Waitkus in Oakland and Alameda, CA, 2006-2008

Damon Waitkus - vocals, acoustic guitar, banjo, hammer dulcimer, flute,
bass, percussion, piano, bells, Musical Fence, wine glasses, field
Emily Packard - violin, baritone violin, Musical Fence
Nicci Reisnour - harp on track 1 and psaltery on track 3
Jordan Glenn - drums and percussion on track 1
Shauna Laurel Jones - vocals on tracks 2 and 3
Art Elliot - vocals on tracks 6 and 8
Kris Drickey - vocals on track 8
Dave McNally - Arp Odyssey on track 7
Andy Strain - trombone on track 7

Produced by Damon Waitkus
Mastered by Michael Romanowski


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Jack O' The Clock Oakland, California

JACK O' THE CLOCK "presents a fine lesson on what it means to write songs that are at once approachable and human while simultaneously being incredibly profound in terms of timbre, depth of emotion, and harmonic complexity," Progulator.

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