Lyrics

For the past few months, I’ve been meeting with my friend, Brandon, to hone my skills at writing for theater. It’s fascinating to learn the business behind the curtain and I’m surprised at how fulfilling and enjoyable it can be to distill stories down to dialogue and extrapolate lyrics from presenting a character with a realization, desire, or emotional transition. A song, as Sondheim says, must be based on one succinct “want” from a character and is different from a poem in that it relies on music to buoy it up. A poem, on the other hand, suffers when sung.

“One difference between poetry and lyrics is that lyrics sort of fade into the background. They fade on the page and live on the stage when set to music.”

Below is a collection of lyrics that I’ve written in the past few months. They’re unfinished and mostly the result of exercises where Brandon asked me to imagine a context, build a “want” from the character’s exact position within that context, and write the lyrics that would satisfy it. They’re free for you to enjoy, repurpose, plaigarize, steal, claim as your own, publish, profit from, and criticize. Keep in mind Sondheim’s distinction, however, on how lyrics themselves, devoid of music, fall flat:

Lyrics, even poetic ones, are not poems. Poems are written to be read, silently or aloud, not sung. Some lyrics, awash with florid imagery, present themselves as poetry, but music only underscores (yes) the self-consciousness of the effort. In theatrical fact, it is usually the plainer and flatter lyric that soars poetically when infused with music.

To Be A Man

Just shut your mouth. Just drink your beer.
For half an hour we’ve been sitting here.
You’re fixing your hair. You’re scratching your face.
You’re telling me reasons that she’d hate this place.

The light doesn’t flatter. The curtains are tattered
And you have no clue but to ask what’s the matter?
Will you just speak English? Will you just speak plain?
I don’t care that peroxide would help with this stain!

Let women remind you we’re diametrically opposed
The man is the fertilizer, if the woman’s the rose.
You reap what you sow. You must understand.
When you start to be a woman, you cease to be a man.

Just watch the game. Just tell me the score.
Just scratch your crotch and spit on the floor.
Stop speaking in poetry. That’s not how you think.
You’re lifting a pinky each time that you drink.

Your shirttail is tucked. Your collar is pressed.
No one in the bar cares how you’re dressed.
While I must admit, though it’s impeccably worn,
The man that’s inside is a disgrace to the uniform.

You’re more than just brain-washed, I really must say.
You’re also brain-dried, brain-folded, and brain-put-away.
Just mirror her actions, take the opposite stance.
Let that remind you what it means to be a man.

Take me for example though I know you won’t hear it.
No woman’s so perfect that she’d bridle my spirit.
She may have charm. But me I’m immune.
She may sing like a siren. But I’d hear no tune.
She may waltz with the best. I know only to march.
She may be enlightened. But I bear the torch.
She may look quite heavenly. But I never blaspheme.
She may be cunning and coy. Now I’m onto her scheme.
To be the steel of the blade! To be a rock of the land!
Unchangeable, impenetrable! Is to be a man!

Bridge:
Though I suppose…
Even weapons may melt in the warmth of a touch.
And boulders may crumble if the passion’s too much.
If a woman exists that may master these arts
Maybe changeable, Maybe penetrable, maybe my heart…

Just drink your beer. Just shut your mouth.
Just try to forget that you’re feeling some doubt.
Is life left unlived when women you withstand?
Is the question how to be, or not to be, a man?
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I Haven’t Forgotten

I can’t believe how long it’s been since you passed
I guess when you’re feeling numb*, time travels fast
There are things I thought the years could not erase
Still, each time I close my eyes I struggle for your face

The thought of forgetting you
Is like losing you again
After what I’ve been through
And after where I’ve been
I haven’t forgotten

What was the taste of your lips when we kissed?
Even the sound of your snores have been missed
The smell of your skin on the pillowcase
How you dared to dance despite an ounce of grace

Of all love’s silly joys
and the things that have endured
What’s lost is what destroys
all hope of getting cured
I haven’t forgotten

I can’t recall sharing your love with the bar
The hair in the drain, doors and drawers left ajar
Your icy feet in bed, your coffee too strong
Though our life was yours, you let me come along

Of all love’s silly pains
While the edge may recede
The memory that remains
Can still make you bleed
I haven’t forgotten

I can’t recall weeks running the bar alone
Mixing cocktails of codeine and oxycodone
That second of bliss when I wake in the sun
Before remembering cancer had finally won

Of all love’s silly vows
I take all but one to heart
All the sickness, all the health
Forget the “death do us” part
I haven’t forgotten

Of all love’s silly times
It’s time you knew the score
Love’s not a victimless crime
I’ll play the victim no more
I haven’t forgotten
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Powerless

What would make somebody go
The path of our young Claudio?
What would bring about this manifestation?
What is this love? An addictive drug?
A vicious, cruel, deceptive bug
That splits & spreads into an infestation?

What once was man, predictable
Abandon his core principles
Becoming something close to abomination
Morals twisted, ethics converted
Focus drifted, passions perverted
Is all the good that comes from infatuation

CHORUS
Man o’ war, it fixed your sting
Man of the world, it clipped your wing
This so-called many splendored thing
Tenders soldiers and renders kings
Powerless

But I, an Italian, a Fiorentino
Prevail the stallion, not palomino
Shall not be broken by love’s domestication
No women posess the qualities
To tame, not part, but all of me
Snip my manhood in love’s decapitation

Some may be wise, intelligent
Some may be fair, quite elegant
Some may be pious, disciple of [her] theology
Some may be posh, and well-refined
But one who’s all? Don’t waste my time!
Shakespeare [Dante?] would scoff such [absurd] mythology!

CHORUS
Man o’ war, it fixed your sting
Man of the world, it clipped your wing
This so-called many splendored thing
Tenders soldiers and renders kings
Powerless

BRIDGE
To be a don relies upon, the power to resist attraction
Should she exist, who’s all of this, I’ll admit to some distraction

But strong of heart…
and frightfully smart…
and sumptious lips…
and curvy hips…
and from the altar…
I begin to falter…

and statuesque…
and ample chest…
and disarming laugh…
and peerless craft…
and keen with quips…
I start to slip…

and resplendent eyes…
with willowy thighs…
and virtuous smile…
a lips beguile…
a gentle flower…
I’m losing power…

and trendy taste…
and slender waist…
and delicate fit…
and whip-sharp wit…
and valued trust…
I fear I’m lost…

an entourage…
of décolletage…
and embracing arms…
and ceaseless charm…
and all together?
I surrender!

CHORUS
Man o’ war, it fixed your sting
Man of the world, it clipped your wing
This so-called many splendored thing
Tenders soldiers and renders kings
Powerless
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Click

Talk to me
See the man I want you to see
The person I’ve always wanted to be
The perfect version of me, if you
Talk to me

Reach for me
Hold your light out a little more
See much better than you could before
You may find what you’re looking for, if you
Reach for me

In the darkness of this life
We can harness a little light
Together we’d burn so bright
Connect with me, tonight

Walk with me
Discover our place in the world
Far greater than a boy and a girl
Together, we could give it a whirl, when you
Walk with me

Be with me
Allow yourself a little romance
Pretend your life is in your hands
Surrender to your heart’s demands, when you
Be with me

In the darkness of this life
We can harness a little light
Together we’d burn so bright
Connect with me, tonight
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Click (revised)

You got a light inside of you
But you hold it in your heart
If you held it out, let it shine through
Others could see who you are

The things that make you afraid
Letting people see your soul
In darkness you’ll be safe
But you’ll also remain alone

Light up for me
Let me see, the person you are inside
What could be, when you show me who you are
Touch me with your light, together we could ignite
And burn brighter than the brightest star
Light up for me

Trust me I know just how you feel
I think of the pain I’d be spared
In love, pain is part of the deal
So I’m done with feeling scared

Open my arms to show the world
A man imperfect but true
Hoping, in light, I’ll find the girl
Hoping, in the light, I’ll find you

Light up for me
Let me see, the person you are inside
What could be, when you show me who you are
Touch me with your light, together we could ignite
And burn brighter than the brightest star
Light up for me

Defenseless and flawed, I will shine. Though it may
Be senseless, but God, there’s a time you gotta say…

Light up for me
Let me see, the person you are inside
What could be, when you show me who you are
Touch me with your light, together we could ignite
And burn brighter than the brightest star
Call out to me…
Reach out for me…
Light up for me
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Prelude to a Kiss

[awkward dialog]

The heat of her body as she walks by my side
The smell of her skin as the breeze blows
The casual touch, with so much implied
Each moment I’m with her my nervousness grows

Butterflies settle, try to act natural
She’s cold, “take my jacket!” Look at her hair…
Now’s your chance, here’s the spot, stop being bashful
With a glance, take a shot, there’s no time to spare

First kiss, it’s a story you share for a lifetime
Her friends will coo, just tell it once more
Do this! Let this second last for a lifetime
You’re the man! Right now! Don’t wait anymore!

[he balks. awkward dialog]

You’re stupid, So stupid! The moment is passed
Did she notice? Did she see? Maybe we’re fine
How’s your breath? Did you smile? Don’t speak so fast
Relax, have a mint. Just take your time.

Did you put on cologne? Did you bring protection?
Get out of your head! It’s nothing, just pretend
Did she see you shaking? Did she see your erection?
Oh God, this moment. Please make it end!

First kiss, it’s a story you share for a lifetime
It’s gotta go right. What if it’s all wrong?
Stop this! Let this second last for a lifetime
If it were any more perfect, they’d play a love song…

[streetlight turns on, accordionist starts to play, he gestures. awkward dialog]

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Labels (Lullaby)

The nurses did insist, a blue band around your wrist
The first of many labels life would soon apply
I’ll find no greater joy, then just calling you ‘my boy’
It’s one they’ll never remove, just let them try.

Little boy blue, no matter what you do
You’ll always be my number one
Whatever you decide, I’ll be by/on your side
You’ll always be my darling son

They may call you liberal, because you care about the poor.
Or tag you as a patriot, because you choose to fight the war.
They’ll burn you with religion, for whom you give your soul.
They’ll brand you as unholy, a love you can’t control.

Little boy blue, no matter what you pursue
You’ll always make your father proud
Whatever flags you fly, I’ll be by/on your side
The loudest voice among the crowd

Little boy blue, whatever you go through
Choose the labels for whom you want to be
I’ve no greater wish, cut the bracelet from your wrist
And let you live a life that’s label free
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No One But Me

It’s the wingman who’s hung up his hat
and traded it for a ball-and-chain
It’s the fact that my longest relationship
has been with Ophelia — my Great Dane

Before each Christmas Eve with family
When they ask if I’ll be coming alone
It’s my sister’s new engagement ring
And her excitement to me on the phone

Che sara, sara. Whatever will be, will be.
Just one tragic flaw: With fate in the driver’s seat, there’s…

No one but me — to blame
No one but me — to love
No time like now — to change
It’s time to give fate a shove

Being with someone — is better
Ask anyone and they’ll agree
Being with someone — together
Is better than no one…
…better than no one but me.

It’s the single ticket for the movies
It’s the plus-one on the save-the-date
It’s the double-bed that’s far too empty
On the weekends I sleep-in late

It’s the two-stool kitchenette
The double-serving Taster’s Choice
No fighting over the TV remote
Or sections of the Village Voice

Live in let live, is that what some people say?
The alternative? While fate make’s it’s play, there’s…

No one but me — it’s been
No one but me — once more
No time like now — again
It’s time to show fate the door

Being with someone — is better
Ask anyone and they’ll agree
Being with someone — together
Is better than no one…
…better than no one but me.
Bridge:
I’m convinced that fate, you’re a woman,
you favor the famous, the rich
You fall for the jerk, not the good man.
‘Cuz fate you can be such a b—witch

I’ve been faithfully waiting,
But fate you’re missing your mark
I’ve been patiently dating,
Without feeling the tiniest spark

Still I tirelessly meet with the friends of my friends…
The neighbors, the roommates, who work recommends…
The favors, the blind-dates, on nights and weekends…
And every single time it’s the same in the end…it’s…

No one but me — to win
No one but me — to pass
waiting for fate to kick in
Fate needs a kick in the ass!

Being with someone — is better
Ask anyone and they’ll agree

Being with someone — together
Is better than…

Living as lovers — together
Is better than…

Spending our lives — together
Is better than…

8 syllables: __ __ — __ __ —___ ___
Rewards from every other endeavor
Is better than…

Living wherever, living forever
Is better than…

The richest treasure, the greatest pleasure
Is better than…

Is better than no one…
…better than no one but me.
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Pick Me Up

It was ten after three, I couldn’t get to sleep,
That you came into my life, when I clicked “meet”

It was a quarter past, you finally confessed
Greenwich Mean Time, meant it’s time for class

It was half past nine, you popped online
And we shared our day and a bottle of wine

I found perfection
My second life
A shared connection
By satellite

Take my minutes
They’re not enough
Just drop the call
And pick me up

It was fifteen to five, your signal came alive
And your pictures sent a spark though my old hard drive

It was just after one, we saw the rising of the sun
When you whispered to me to turn the webcam on

It was twenty to eight, I asked you for a date
And you turned from me, said it was getting late

Technology
Brought us here
But synergy
Keeps you near

Take my evenings
They’re not enough
You heard my call
And picked me up

It was three weeks after nine, we signed off Skype
You booked a ticket for a transatlantic flight

It was six months to four, I knelt to the floor
We laughed about the band-width in the diamond store

It was a year past five, our daughter first arrived
How such a little click could create new life

Powered off
Escape, delete
With you close by
I fall fast asleep

(or:

On the keyboard
I now know why
They placed the U
Right next to I

)

Bridge:
In the chaos of electrons, the chaos of the world
Among the idle chatter, you’re the one thing that matters
In the ratio of signal to noise, found a girl…and a boy…
…and a girl

Take my lifetime
It’s not enough
Just drop the call
And pick me up
Pick me up
Pick me up
Pick me up
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Time To Go (Lullaby)

Verse I:
Sleep deep, my little man, on your daddy’s chest
Listen to my heartbeat, take comfort in my breath
Right now the world’s too big for you,
There are so many things you want to do,
Tomorrow is another day, just try to get some rest

My little buddy’s changing almost every single day
I know that there will be a time you’re going to go away
You’ll choose to live a different life
From now until that day arrives
I’ll hold you gently in my arms and keep you warm and safe

Refrain I:
There’s time to go, before I know, we’ll both be on our own
I know someday, not far away, my baby will be fully grown
This melody’s, less for you than me, to remind me it’s not yet so
I know that I need this lullaby, for when you tell me, “It’s time to go.”

Verse II:
Be still, my little man, take the weight off your chest
Allow your heart some ease, try to take a breath
If she loves you she’ll return to you
For now there’s nothing you can do
Give her space to think things through, let time resolve the rest

Refrain II:
There’s time to go, before she’ll know what the heart decides
I know you’ll hurt, without her, you’ll feel so alone inside
This melody will help you see that if it’s true then love will show
I pray you’ll find in this lullaby, listen when she tells you, “It’s time to go.”

Verse III:
Don’t cry, my little man, just hold me to your chest
My heart is feeling week, it’s hard to take a breath
Of all I’ve accomplished in this life
What fills me with the greatest pride
The man I see before me, is worlds beyond the rest

My time is nearly over, with so much left to say
To a husband, soon a father, a baby on the way
Soon you’ll live a different life
But even after your child arrives
You’re still my little buddy, and that will never change

Refrain III:
There’s time to go, before I know you’ll think of me less and less
I hope some time I’ll come to mind when you lay him to your chest
This melody and your family may remind you of years ago
We said goodbye, with this lullaby, you told me, “Dad, it’s time to go.”
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Forgetfulness

The only reason that I thought of you
The last time I said the words “I love you”
Was it this Summer last?
No, it was two years past
How I settled, now I reach far above you

You were tall, and your voice, but what’s your name?
I recall, you liked Joyce, is it still the same?
What color was your hair?
Blond? Well, I don’t care
You left my life just as quickly as you came

It was a fling, that was all
Just a thing, through the Fall
Another mark, on my bedpost
Just a lark, not even worth the boast

It’s a laugh, I remembered your scent
Just a gaffe, cuz of how little you meant
I wonder where, you’ve gone off to
Not that I care, who’s now stuck with you

Romeo? No. You were no Juliet
I’d forgotten you, even before we met
For no reason, none at all, a waste of time
Just a season, just the fall, when you were mine
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Speed Round

Hi. I’m Brad.
Before you say a thing, I bet you’re wondering
About the total number of lovers that I’ve had.
You know, it’s true. I can see a lot in you.
Add me to that list? Trust me you’ll be so glad.

Take a tip from a dude, no one likes a pretty prude
Ladies want it just as much as guys
Let me give a little push and stop beating ‘round the bush
So let’s both dispel with all the lies

You look mad.

(ding)

Call me. – Brad

Hey. It’s Bill.
Before you begin to talk, you should know that I’m hot stock
The partners at my firm think I’m heading straight uphill
And yet, you smirk? But no girl of mine will ever work.
All I ask in return is that you cater to my every thrill.

If you want to be a spouse, then your place is at the house
Be a real housewife for all I care
Make the place look good in the richest neighborhood
And that’s my only bill of fare
Get your fill?
(ding)
Pick me. – Bill

Peace. I’m Joel.
Before you start to feel ignored, can we talk about the Lord
Who has dominion over each and every living soul?
You believe in baptism? And your son’s circumcision?
Let’s cut to the quick: will you let the devil take his toll?
Do you ask ‘how great thou art?’ And let the Lord into your heart?
Do you walk the straight and narrow?
Do you believe in abstinence? Or face plague and pestilence
The way that Moses smote the pharaoh!
That your goal?!
(ding)
Bless you. – Joel

Hell-o! I’m Lou.
Before you get off and running, baby, you look stunning!
Turn around and let me get a good look at you!
Hope this doesn’t sound weird, but I’m looking for a beard
And honey with that rear of yours you’ll do!
(ding)
Toodle-oooh!
(ding, ding)
Sext me! – Lou

Sup? I’m Stan.
Before your panties are in a bunch, who is paying for this lunch?
You should know I’ll only date another Redwings fan.
I watch TV when I screw, and sometimes play Halo 2.
Don’t try to change me, don’t you want a real man?
(ding)
That’s the plan.
(ding, ding, ding)
(answering phone) Go for Stan.

Yo. I’m Todd. (pulling phone from pocket)
Before you start acting like a chick, you should see my massive –
(ding, ding, ding, ding)
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Martian National Anthem

May those who spot the orange dot
Amid a galactic debris
Recall those who stood to protect the good
So that we may always be free

From majestic dawns on Olympus Mons
And all the lands inside
To the valleys terraced, of Valles Marineris
Never jettison our pride

Let klaxons blare, ye Martians
Let victory hymns be sung
And gladly shed, green blood for red
Glorious fourth rock from the sun

Our naval devotees (although we have no seas)
Perpetually prove their worth
Our elders, still rattled, by those lost in battle
With extraterrestrials from Earth

And without regret we’ll not soon forget
The blood spilled in our red sands
We’ve landed their rovers, and overed their landers
When they invaded our peaceful lands

Let klaxons blare, ye Martians
Let victory hymns be sung
And gladly shed, green blood for red
Victorious fourth rock from the sun

With incurable parasites, zero kelvin (not Fahrenheit)
And gravity that’s at best topsy-turvey
A love/hate relationship, home’s where you park your spaceship
Hey, at least we’re not living in New Jersey

Psst! Men, just between us, the women are from Venus
Our genders aren’t equally weighted
Red Rover, Red Rover, send the ladies on over!
(And pretend we did nothing while we waited)

Let klaxons blare, ye Martians
Let victory hymns be sung
Here, it ain’t gay, to entwine antennae
Rock on, the fourth rock from the sun
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47 Calls

Static rings on the PA
The darkened wing of JFK
Your voice singed yesterday (or your ETA)
Said you booked the flight

I confess I didn’t believe
It must’ve been a dream
A friend trying to deceive
You Skyped me that night

A million lights blinking in the digital world
Came into my life, the voice of a girl
A tabloid magazine
A romance movie scene
How impossible it seems, that you’re real
47 calls

The moment I heard your voice
The ratio of static to noise
I replayed it for the boys
They said someone was playing me…

If it’s just a game, then okay
It’s just fun, why push you away
“Could we meet for real some day?”
Arrival at a quarter to three

A million stars sparkling across the nighttime sky
All my prayers rely upon one of those little lights
What if it’s not really love
What if I’m not good enough
Could I simply hang-up without saying goodbye?
47 calls

Bridge
I know it sounds cliché, but how else can I say
You fell from the sky, an angel of the airwaves
Illuminate my screen, and turn from red to green
The love I feel for someone I’ve never even seen

A million little feelings it’ll lead to more despair
Leave the airport, now, before I’m beyond repair
Something holds me here
Silences all my fear
The voice came in the night, answering all my prayers
47 calls
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