Jet Plane and Oxbow – Lyrics

Jet Plane and Oxbow
Cover image: Agnes Denes, Human Argument IV: Light Matrix, 1987/2009.
© Agnes Denes, courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York.
Agnes adds: In this work, philosophy is turned into light.


You were lying
    on your back in the grass
Counting backward
    from a thousand
To cool the rush
    of the blood in your veins
And the pressure of everyone,
    everyone, everyone, everyone

When I believed in that sound
I was kidding myself
Come on Come on

Well I followed you down in a dream
To the floor of a valley under siege
With a gunmetal moon,
    and a river like wire
And the ribbon runs on and on,
    on and on, on and on
And when I wrestle you down
Something blooms in the dark
So far back in me

I couldn’t live
    with your hands on my mouth
Watching ice growing
    over the waterfall
While the window crazes
    with heat
And as those fiery wheels
    spin and burst in the air
The light is so bright,
    the dark is so dark
And I dislike what I need
And I get lost in the dark
With such a violence in me
Come on Come on

Quiet Americans

I can’t help it
If all the world is ending
If all the life is gone
Still, you’re calling out this name:
Where are the Americans?

Our dimmed conscience
Our hands and eyes that wander
Stumbling down the road
Or collapsing on parade

Or lying alone in the eastern light,
Sleeping in the morning hours

And the only sound
From the lantern-covered hills
The only light
From a day yet to begin
The only signs
Of the guns in silhouette
Are only sound
Are only light
Only, only!

Our dull silence
Our disconnected lives
Pull out the lightning dust
At the mention of his name

And whither the Americans?

Shake the memories off
Hide the evidence under
Piss on the world below
Like a dog that knows his name

Where are the Americans?
All calling on their own tonight,
filling the remaining hours

And the only sounds
Are the bells up on the hill
The only lights
Are the lanterns in the wind
The only sign
Skims the rust off of the rails
The only sound
The only light
Only, only!

The only sound
Is the rushing of the wind
The only light
Is a day yet to begin
The only signs
Of the lives in silhouette
“The only life”
Is not the only life
Only, only!

A Long Time Away

Shuddering brakes
on the road to Jerusalem
It’s so easy to drift
    when your eyes are so tired
And in the rush to the scene
    you are one of the millions
In a dirty old town
    that some killing made holy

Crying, give us the last rites
Or give us our dreaming,
Or give us the thunder’s rolling—ah!

Well, look around, old friend
Nothing is laid to rest
It just grows unattended
And you’ve been a long time away

A break in the clouds
    like a crack in a cylinder
But now there’s blood on the beach
    and a wreck in the water
And as the shadow arrives
    on the face of your innocence
You feel the shock in your eyes
    and a shaking in your own hands

And look around, old friend
You live under house arrest
And you sleep undefended
And you’ve been a long time away
Riding a wild life
But you let go of the reins
And you answer to me now
And you’ve been a long time away

And it never goes dark
Under these lights
It never goes cold
Under fire
Bring the drums
Bring the lights
Bring the wires


Oh, when you whistle
    down the wind
When you needle the dark
    with your mind
When you’re firing volleys
    of words in an arc
When you’re snuffing out all
    that’s still alive

And a droplet falls
From the dropper’s eye
Blooms like a wave
That slowly overruns
    all of your days
And slips the caul
From off your eyes
You face alone
A fear
    that’s dragging us all
    in its wake

And you kill the lights

I know
You’re in the river now
And you yield
to the water’s embrace
And you lie like a stone
on the banks, giving out
As it carries off
    all of our names

I know that sound
I know what it likes
I know it feels
Like all the guns of a battery
Right at your eyes

Because it’s real
Because it pulls
A thread of
    slowly unraveling days
Your mother tongue
Your only light

But hold this sound
Follow it all the way

And put down the knife

The night is here
But still is
    spinning out stars in its wake
And that stubborn light
Pools in your heart
Warm and nacreous, baby
The milk of sighs
And dreams


The night is like a black stone
But it ripples in the wind
And you are shaking
    like a new slave
In an ultraviolet sun

Shiver at the night sky
From the ribbon of the road:
Hollow little diamonds
All embedded in the null

Head like a blank screen
A body alive
You are living in the last rays
Kicking up the nights

Oh, little stars—

In the center of the sun,
    in the stain
    spilling out into the light
In the calling of the gulls,
    in the river
    running out into the night
Some people run from themselves
Some chain the dogs to the gate
Some are living a lie

Daddy’s on the next plane
And he’s looking to survive
He is soaking from a long run
He is fingering a knife

Summoning a white lie
From the fingers to the mind
You were watching the horizon
But it was in you all the time

Like a worm in the bloodline
Like an urge wants release—
But you roll away the sun,
Throw it back into the east

Falling lights
    on the miracles
    of a golden age
Blackened sounds
    of the millions
    in the streets today
Where some people
    turn on themselves
Some hang around for an age
Some are paralyzed

In the center of the sun,
    in the hole
    in the belly of the light,
In the shudder in the hull,
    in the river
    running out into the night
There is someone in the room,
    there is someone in the darkness

I’m taking everything back:
When I led you down to the lake
It was the thrill of my life

Pale Kings

Summer’s blood
Breaks a winter’s composure
And I’m in love with your daughters
I’m in love with your sons
And a flush of rain
Floods the banks of all reason
Turns your memory golden
And it hides how it was
In the ordinary light

You know how sometimes,
You’re so tired of the country
You could run to the ocean
And surrender your life
But in the same breath,
A light burns through your dreaming
And blows holes in the ceiling
Till there’s nothing but sky

Run out
like a ribbon unreeling
head down and careering
colors drained from your life
But listen
Just the sound of your breathing
Blows the cover of silence
Blows the cover of lies
With incendiary light

You know how sometimes
You’re so tired of the country,
Its poptones and its pale kings
And its fences like knives
But in the same breath
Your heart breaks with the feeling
With love and with grieving
For its irrational life

Only Child

Your mother’s milk
Your father’s anger
The razor wire surrounding him
And far below
Their droning engines
You lay in bed
Blowing out stars

The masters of
Your lonely kingdom
Pulled you along
With red-rimmed eyes
Through endless hours
Of drill and harness
Until you fell, surrendering

But still they never
    laid the gun down,
    only child
They sit like
    lions in a sunbeam,
    only child
And never came down

Remember all
The roads descending
To who you were,
    for blurred-out miles?
You smolder now—
Coals and embers
Under the frost of indolence
I see you
    never lay the gun down,
    only child
You live your life
    behind a window,
    only child
And, dreaming,
    barrel down a bloodline,
    only child

Rise in the air over the mountains
Run like the days that cut them down
I see you now
As you relive them
Break like a wave, dissembling,
But when you’re lying
    down among them,
    only child
There is no sound
    to fill the silence,
    only child. Forgive them
When you lay the gun down,
    only child, it’s not surrendering—
It feels like running back through time
Only you know how

Glass Bones

West of the fields
Out on the lam
Riding a calm between rages
Anchored in rust
Erasing the wilderness
Chasing an alien feeling

Are you suddenly blind?
Come on, miracle child, come home

Burrowing down
Bury your heart away
Look at you now that you’re older

Under the stars
At the scene of the old parade
Leaning out over the railing

Are you suddenly blind?
Are you frozen in time?
Were you nearly betrayed again?
Is it hard to swallow?

Are they luring you back
    with old glories?
Drunk on the dregs
    of some darkened paradise?
Lulled by an alien feeling
Till you’re suddenly blind
Till you’re barely alive
With glass bones

Wildlife in America

Back before
Back in our school days
You were wild-eyed
Before the damage was done
You tasted that fear
    in your mouth on Sundays
But you know
You know it’s not living

When the wildfires
Were burning out on the lawn
You held your arms out
Primed for the ready line
With your crusader cross
And your small-dose amphetamine
Gunning for the hours
    when the sparks rain down
But you can’t remember
Which was the last war
Or who it is now
When every shadow is a Saladin
Look at me

You must be dreaming
We must be dreaming

Now they’ve gone,
Scaled up and on the roads
They roll their heavy ranks over,
With an ancient song:
“Stay away from old thoughts
Old doubts and old feelings.”
But keeping it so far down isn’t easy
And you know it’s too late
late for a last war
And it’s too late
To back out of (your) real life
Into firelight

You must be dreaming
We must be dreaming

Billy’s in position
He’s rolling into town
Kicking in the doors
That fucker’s never coming down
You feel the slightest murmuration
A shiver in the heat
Skinny dogs and safety glass
    that’s shattered in the street

It looks like diamonds

You must be dreaming
We must be dreaming

You’ve got your mother’s eyes
You’ve got your father’s heart
Look what it did to him

Radio Silence

Sliver of sundown, glimmer of daylight
Running in place with trembling knees
Vision of lightning, vision of sunrise
Overlay worlds
    on the grid of our dreams

And knock ’em all down
With a last looming wave
Black as old blood
With a warm, steady rage
And the crack of old bones

Yankee, go home.

Choking on signal, sucking on silence
Sodium lights on the monument’s face
Radio London, Radio Cyprus,
Where the Lincolnshire poacher’s
    shaking his cage

He’s sold for a lifeline,
    sold for a crown
Singing an old lie
    down the repeater—
But the radio lapses, the radio dies,
The sky is a blank screen,
    an open receiver;
Summon an old sound, rattle to life
Spin on an axis, fly into pieces

In disarray

Stray Light at Clouds Hill

What can I tell you?

I wasn’t anyone’s son

I jump over mountains
I vault over islands
I roar through the houses
I skim on the oceans alone
And see only outlines

I was the last king

I was a blaze in the sun

I climb to the cloud base
I ride on the crosswinds
I sleep in the open
I slide through the fences
I hide in the hallways
My armor is frozen
My pulse is arrested
My eyes are a glittering stone

I move in starlight

Oh, mama
The light is so bright
The dark is so dark