1. Warm Blood Rush
That little kid wronged him for the last time. Took away his Father and ran away like a coward. “Why don’t you just own up to what you did? Instead of running away like a little yellow-belly? Just afraid of being hit, god damn him...” A little blood on someone’s hands never hurt no one.
“Dear God, what have you done?” Those words ring loud in the back of your head. That bottle lies in a thick, blood red. “I ain’t no forgiver, forgetter.” Our mother waits in vain for a God that never loved us. As much as she prayed, he never showed up. “Dear God, where have you gone?” Your brother is gone in the blink of an eye. That January night, our father lays cold. “Where are you going to go? You’re only seventeen years old. I ain’t no forgiver, forgetter.” Those cold steel tracks beneath your feet, those same rail ties where you dodged those trains. When we were just two kids, it still feels the same; that warm blood rush when the train comes. “I ain’t no forgiver, forgetter. I will find you, and put that vice to your head. Again, and again, and again.”
2. Dear Father
He put their father into the ground. Watching his mother cry over the man that provided for the three of them cut into him. Made him into the working man he was.
Bury him in the cold wet ground. Familiar faces would have made him proud. The military and the working man, the history of the life he lived. “Can you feel that soil covering your coffin?” So what are you going to do? Be the hero that your father was, be the man he made you to be? The war-torn stories that he told you, you’ve got a hell of a lot to live up to. An airborne man with a scar and wound, “Never make a promise that you can’t prove.” You are your father’s son, dear father. “Where are you?
3. Waves Crash, Clouds Roll
Before work he would just sit on that dock and watch the ocean. Waiting for his little brother to come home so he could put a couple bullets in him, put him in the ground with the father he’d wronged. His hands hurt every day after towing those lines in- they cracked when the winters came. Every night he’d come home to his mother passed out because of the junk she put in her arm. He’d pick her up and lay her in bed, kiss her forehead and close the door. He hated seeing her like that. He knew the only reason she started on that stuff in the first place is because she couldn’t deal with how his father drank. But that ain’t no reason to hurt yourself.
As the waves crash, the clouds roll. Sit on the dock waiting for the sun. Wait for the coward but he never comes. Pray for revenge on him. Steam rises as the boats come in, one by one. You know she is gone and there’s no saving her. Her cheating, her weak will, the addiction, that needle. When you come home to find her on the floor, you’re reminded of those sleepless nights that will haunt you for the rest of your life. Blue collar shipyard, any way to keep her alive. Sun up to sun down, blistered hands and a parched mouth.
4. Empty Glass
Him and the boys at work went out afterwards to this place called the Copper Coin. The old wood and brick walls made it feel like home. He found himself down at the Coin more that he would have liked. Staying later and later with each visit, even after the boys would go home to their girls. That’s all he wanted, a pretty girl to come home to. A familiar face that wouldn’t leave. And one night she was just sitting there, alone and unaware. He had never seen a prettier thing in his life. That was that, he had made up his mind. After a few drinks they walked home, and that’s the way it was for years.
The way she looked at you, tears streaming down her face. You felt the brush of her dress as she walked away. And that’s all it took, sat down to buy her a drink. An empty or a half full glass, it all goes down the same. And that’s the way that it’s been, years later she took your name. Hopeful and now unafraid. Your gut sinks each time you see her. Another night at the Copper Coin. Tell me about the old days. Another night at the Copper Coin. Put the sun into the sea. Because there ain’t nothing like your smile, your legs and those eyes. And I will beg and steal and borrow to keep you safe for your whole life.
5. No Kind of Home
One night, they fought harder than they ever had. They had always settled things with a ‘sorry’ and a kiss. But not that night. He had started going at the bottle much more than he used to. He’d go out to the Copper Coin after taking care of his mother and her addiction. He hated her for never backing him up when that bookie would talk to her. He thought she humored him. And after that fight, he did the same thing. Went out to the bar and drank himself into a stupor.
“Where were you every night that I woke up alone?” Cold sweat keeps you up. “This ain’t no kind of home.” “Come pick me up.” “Damn those boys at the bar, damn the way that you drink.” Cold sweat, sleepless nights, when your hands start to shake. “Damn that pier where you sit, damn your vengeance for him. There’s no bringing him back, your father is buried and dead. But you can’t let go of that hero’s death. And you’ve been left with debt. You couldn’t fight for your country and your mother is an addict. “How dare you?” “This ain’t no kind of home.” “Damn that man that you humour, he only wants one thing from you. Damn those looks that you give him. Parlour tricks and I’m played for a fool.”
6. White Knuckles
The bookie his dad dealt with when he’d go to the tracks always gave him the eye when they would see each other there. He wanted to knock his jaw right off his face, tell him his father’s debt ain’t got nothing to do with him, and “if you’d like we could settle it with our fists.” That bookie never did a damned thing about it. But that night was different, that bookie was there and he gave him what for. Told him, “You ain’t never to look at my wife like that again.” He landed one good punch, but that man’s lackeys took him to the ground faster than he could hit, and he was out.
He woke up in the street and walked home, trying to put together the pieces of the night before. The shame he felt for all the drinking he had been doing and the way he walked out ran so deep. He knew no husband should act the way he did. He made it to the doorstep much quicker than he thought he would, the door was already open and that’s when he saw her. The love of his life, passed in his own home because he wasn’t there to protect her. Because he was out drinking all night. Because that goddamned bookie took her life as a settlement. He put his fist through every wall of that house. Every light smashed and chair overturned. He sat there next to her for hours and couldn’t cry, just held her hand and pulled her ring out of the blood.
You’re going to find him, and make him pay. Stumble out to the bar. “Take one more look at her, and it will be the end of your days. You low-life bookie, you don’t scare me. I ain’t settling no debt, I ain’t saving no face. One more drink then I’m gone and then I’ll drag you out of this place.” Put it down for the courage, your fists clench with the blood rush. White knuckles when the hit lands, cold concrete and blurred vision. Stumble home from the bar. Stuttered steps home to your front door. On the tip of your tongue, your remorse. Shamed by the loss and defeat. Shamed by your let down to her. The same walk as that first night. Now alone you know that this ain’t right. Better days and the promise you made, ain’t no man supposed to walk out that way. Her ring lies in the thick red, your tears swell, and the room spins. “Dear God, what have I done?” You left her, and he took her, he laid with her. You bastard’s son. With the blackout and the bloodstains, your teeth clench, then the pain comes.
7. Cemetery Walls
After she was in the ground, he didn’t know what to do. He still towed those lines at work, he still took care of his mother, but nothing was the same. He had lost everything. So he did what they always used to, go sit at their booth at the Copper Coin. Now it was just him, alone. Now he would just get blind drunk, hop the gates to the cemetery and just sit and talk to her.
Climb those cemetery walls again; leave these flowers at your headstone. Climb those cemetery walls again, every night; you can’t stand the sight of yourself. “Now that you’re gone, what am I to do? But get lost in this bottle thinking of you.” You drink until you’re sick. “I trace the grooves in your stone.” Plot where you’ll bury him, the man that left you alone. You drink until you’re sick, and feel the dew in the grass. As the sun’s coming up, watch a funeral pass. You think to yourself, “That should have been me.” Two in the family plot, when you wish it were three.”
8. Quiet the Longing
He got her the nicest headstone he could afford- anything for his girl. He would tell her about mother, about how his hands shook without her. How if he don’t drink they would shake even worse. She would have never wanted to see him this way, and he felt ashamed each time he brought it up. One day, he just stopped going. He couldn’t stand himself any longer.
You sit, and you stir. You grieve and you grieve. The same chair as your old man, your mother’s worse than you think. Sunken eyes and a withering frame, the needle quiets the longing. That poison it fills her veins. So quiet when the pain comes. Your mother’s rosary ain’t bringing father home. Blood rushes with cigarette burns. There ain’t no God coming to save her. So quiet as the clouds roll. Your mother’s rosary wrapped on the bed post. Blood rushes with cigarette burns. Sit on that dock every night until your head hurts. You sit, and you stir. You grieve and you grieve. The longer you sit at the ocean you lose more time than you think. Your blood runs cold, wind biting under your coat. Pull it tight to your chest. Your mother is praying for death much more than you know. “You coward, this is your fault. Our family has lost everything.” Look down at your hands and your lit cigarette. Put it to your lips and breathe it in. Everything starts to fade and your body is numb. And when you wake in the morning you’re in the house all alone.
9. At Peace
He just sat at home with the bottle. His mother had turned into a skeleton of herself, no longer even able to get out of the house to fill up her arms; he had to make the runs for her. He didn’t mind anymore, he knew how she felt. Anything to take away the pain of losing someone. She would just sit with her rosary, rolling the beads in her tiny hands. Every time he left the house for his mother, or for another bottle, he would stand on that dock and watch the ocean like he used to. Scream out to no one for the coward to come home so he could make him pay. And every night he would start to fade with every hour that passed. He would smoke his last cigarette and find himself in the house in the morning not knowing how he got home. And one morning he woke to his mother and her rosary beads no longer hanging on the bedpost.
You’ve got to find her. Your mother ain’t fit to be alone. Her rosary beads are gone, there’s only one place she’d be. The sun is nearly up, put your jacket back on and walk down the street. Feel the wind start to shift, cold and biting. Just like everything that’s changed. When you do find her, take the only family that you’ve got back to home.
Head down, walk through the crowds and the families downtown. You jealous bitter old man, it’s just yourself you can’t stand. The man that took away your wife, coward that left you behind, you would kill them both if you could. Head down, cigarette in hand. Concrete, cold brick and sand to the place where she prays, where she suffers her days. Sleepless nights with the dirt when the addiction hurts. Up to that old white oak door church. And that’s where you find her in that last pew.
You touch her cold hand, your mother is gone. In front of her God, needle in her arm. The family plot will be filled. The perfect ending to a tragedy. Put her in the cold wet ground. Finally at peace with her husband now. And you’ve lost all will. Hours strain, but months pass alone with your gun. Blue-collar shipyard, your days have gone.
Lost it all for the promise of a normal life. All taken from you when you lost your wife. So you sit in that chair, waiting for death, barrel to your head.
10. White Oak Doors
Lost in your own head, but then a knock at the door. Put down that drink, your steps creaking the floor. Go and get the gun, distract yourself from death. Back against the door, your hands are starting to sweat. Slowly cock the gun, slowly move to the side, slowly turn the handle, slowly open it wide. You catch a glimpse of his face. Your heart sinks in your chest; your hands start to shake because you know that it’s him. Just the coward and you standing silent, dead air. So you pull him inside into your father’s chair. “Your addict mother is dead, all thanks to you. Her addiction got worse after you left you damn fool. What you did to our father, I promised you’d pay up.
I’m going to take your life, but it don’t feel like enough.” Cold steel to his head, walk him to his death. Walk him down past the white oak doors. Walk him out past the boardwalk and your old shipyard. Your pistol in his side, make him pay. On the outskirts of town, pass the old quarry now. Walk him down to those cold steel tracks. You stumble drunk with the gun in his back.
“Now get down on your knees on the tracks where you shamed me. But this time, the dodge ain’t going to end so pretty. Either a bullet or that train steaming just ahead is going to end your days. You coward little kid.” You sit and you stir, while he waits for his death. You’ll never forgive him, and you never did forget. He’ll never see the sun again. Make him pay off his debt. Stand on those tracks, cold steel under your feet, barrel to his temple. “Your addict mother, you will soon re-meet,” you whisper in his ear, feel his whole body shake. In an instant he’s got your arm, he’s got your gun, you’re held down by his weight. You feel the cold steel above and below. You feel your stomach tie in knots as the train whistle blows. You feel the warm of the blood where the barrel digs in. From your cheek to your mouth, you taste the sweat and the tin.
You don’t cry, you don’t beg. You’ve been waiting for this. For the coward, or for death, just to see your wife again. That train is so close, so loud and so clear. Your hands stop shaking and it’s all that you hear. Just like father. “You took him. If this is how it’s going to be then I would rather die at the hands of my own family.”
11. But Breathing
Unwanted, but breathing. In the next room, sleeping. My mother, she’s crying and my father’s been drinking. In our run down apartment, where the roof is still leaking.
He’s cursing and cussing, it’s just the whiskey talking. I’ve got lots of memories like this one. Of empty days and nights spent tired and lonesome. When I think back to all of it, it’s all too much when you’re just a little kid. My little brother, just a newborn baby. In the image of my mother, she says he’s a blessing. But not to my father, oh how he hates him. “An undeserving mistake.” He calls him a burden. I’ve got lots of memories like this one. Of picking fights and picking sides between them. When I think back to all of it, it’s all too much when you’re just a little kid. When I wake up in the morning it all feels like a bad dream, one that follows you and haunts you endlessly.
Broken and beaten from the abuse and the cheating, the addiction, the lying and the promise of leaving. While my old man was a bastard, I admired and loved him. Us two kids were born in to a family, not a fortune.
You need to get out of this house. I’ll walk you down to town. We’ll go act our age, kick rocks, waste summer days. Penny candy at the general store, I’d buy us a pop if I had more. Keep walking inland all day, spitting and cursing each other’s name. “Ain’t this what brothers are supposed to do?” The blood between us, makes it all but true.
So we roll on through past the quarries and sandpits too. Swim out among the rocks and cliffs, ignorant youth keeps us from death. Find our way out to the tracks. The sun, it beats down on our backs. Heaven help us if there’s a train, dodge it like the beaches of Normandy. We saw that smoke rising over trees and I swore that train was out for me. So I held him tight and felt those tracks rumble underneath. He swore if I didn’t let go he would knock me off my feet, and that’s what he did.
13. I Don’t Mind
Let’s talk about the old days, let’s talk about your friends. Let’s talk about the summer and how you wish it wouldn’t end. Did I forget to tell you how pretty you looked in that dress? And the first time that I saw you, you cleaned the mess from my head. And I don’t mind, if we take our time. Let’s go walking on the boardwalk, dip our feet into the sea. Let’s find ourselves lost for hours, until we find ourselves a drink. Let’s talk that sun into setting, just need the sound of your voice. I need that calming and the comfort, something to drown out the noise. And I don’t mind if we take our time, and I’m all yours, if you’re all mine. There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you, for about three years and a day. I’d very much like to get married and maybe have kids and move away. Because there ain’t nothing like your smile, your legs and those eyes.
And I will beg and steal and borrow to keep you safe your whole life.
Hello my dear. It’s so nice to see you here. How long has it been? Oh it feels like years, but I’m sure it’s just been days. I’ve been walking around alone, drunk and missing you at home. You know I’ll never feel the same, or ask another girl to take my name. I think I’ve been stopping by too much, I don’t want you to get sick of me. On my way home from the Copper Coin, it’s this or I jump into the sea. I will never forgive myself for not being there to protect you, I should have been at home instead out trying to forget you. Just one fight and I’m out the door. What kind of man am I? I swore I’d never leave your side. Hello my dear, it’s so hard to see you here. How long has it been since we put you in the ground? It feels like days, but it’s been years. “And please don’t call me baby, it’s just too hard to hear. Leave you flowers at your headstone and just sit and talk to you my dear.”