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What It Takes to Move Forward

by Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate)

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City lights graced interstates, the way you move your hands through your hair when you feel alone. Remember the flowers you picked when we crossed over Madison? You were so sure you found yourself that you branded it into an oak- the one you swore reached through the sky and swallowed the city line. You had yet to hit twenty-three (an age that would swallow you). Then, every breath made you confess you did not know what to do with your hands. This is a new side of you- so full of fear.
Oh no! I thought you’d changed; take back all the things you said. I remember thinking this evidence you left was damning enough but you took all the words from my mouth and pulled them out. How could I not see you for what you are? But you turned all the words from my mouth into doubt. And I wish I could tear your heart out! Break meter and release, and still the voice it keeps and I wish that your lungs would give out, And finally give air to breathe but I know better now. No words can weed you out when your back’s against the wall, you’ll be crying out, “I’ll take all the words from your mouth and leave them out.” And your hands are shaking. Finally, call out! And the silence breaks your heart, finally. Oh, I almost pity you now (I almost pity you now). Finally, call out! Oh, I almost pity you now. And I wish I could tear your heart out! Break meter and release, and still the voice it keeps and I wish for your lungs to give out, finally.
You settled into uneasy sleep, a subtle hint that things were changing and every breath of labored rest brought new designs of old regrets. And how they aged you! How they took your strength away! (When they entered your body and pinned fear to weight) Pull out! Pull out! Lead your weak cells to oxygen, and sew your skin to bone. You can hold on! Hold on! Lend dead weight to stronger hands. You are not alone. (You are not alone) If you’re weighed down, I’ll lay your fears to rest You are safe now. (You are safe now)
In fall, the year you grew to be six feet I tempered my fear into haste, a worry that dogged our mother. She, the baby of three, asked how so many things could take flight at once. There are no easy answers, and even at thirteen, I could not think of a sure reply. At the church where I was baptized, our father refused to park near the crowd At that time, I still believed in god, or faeries, or that the air could catch on fire. When you and your friends took off on separate routes, I wanted to follow you. But our mother said I was not allowed to. You had not yet learned how to fill such a broad frame. That winter you said you hated your body, but when spring came, you’d learned how to speak, and you moved out west to watch the ocean eat the coast away. I can still remember that day you left, Thoughts spilling out from my chest, Like, “who will you be when you come back” Or even, “Will you come back?”
It flew out your mouth, “you can drive me anywhere- just drive me anywhere but here.” Tonight, the length of your neck is a lonely parapet; you are armed to the teeth and looking for a fight. It was in your mothers dress that the temper finally showed signs of slowing down. Your fingers traced the route of the seam (like a map of your body that landed just shy of your knees). It fell the same way on your mother- as she was, at that age, the same height as you. She never faced a fear quite as sharp, but her sister did and it broke her heart What came out your mouth next was a series of mistakes- you had taken all you could take, and here tonight, the weight of their stares, well they could bury you alive. You are worn to the bone, and looking to disappear. And who could blame you? It was in your mothers dress that the temper finally died out, and gave way to the fear that keeps its company with such a loud mouth! (Like the sound of an earthquake tearing out terra firma’s mouth). You must not let it in, and keep your head up on top of your body. There are far, far worse things than this, so we must move with purpose and do what has to be done.
All of this time I should have known, but we buried our hopes in our throats. And though it spared us from honesty, it could not deny anything else. After the air cleared and the anger left our bodies, we slept more soundly. We slept more soundly! On Denton, where you realized the full weight of what you had done, you felt ashamed for the first time. But still refused to admit that you were wrong! I swore I would not carry your weight for you anymore when, at twenty-one, you cannot help yourself. But in the time you were making up your mind, we still held our breath. So history repeats, and the feeling that I will one day wake an old and empty man only drives me harder. Even if you will not sacrifice your youth, it will grow to resent you. Like a body of water, it will yield only to entrenched earth. I swore I would not carry your weight for you anymore when, at twenty-one, you cannot help yourself. But in the time you were making up your mind, we already knew.
On a late spring day, when summer began to take shape, you lowered your head to bear an uneven compromise. How your voice held steel, make sharp by the sound of it aloud! You were drunk on each syllable; you could not even hear what it sang. When you were young, you spent your summers in Maine. And stripped of the friends you made, you gorged yourself on Frost and Hemingway. When you came back to Michigan, you would walk with words you did not speak and dress yourself with an air we couldn't reach. So when you go back to Maine, I hope that you stay (where you have cornered truth and beauty). And each borrowed refrain you sing, you sing, you sing will sound the same to the lonely, lonely sea.
I knew that you wouldn’t change, but I bit my tongue and swore, resigned myself to carry on despite you. But you would not match my stride and cried, “Foul! Foul! How could you expect me to care about somebody else?” And after all, who would expect anything else from you? You would not apologize for what claimed you’d never do. You guard your hand like there is something brilliant waiting to play itself off. And when you move to strike, everything will fall into place. But I’ll call your bluff. I know you’re all talk. And when the words come out there will be nothing left but promises. I wanted it to be different, to see truth where it did not fit. But the harder I looked, the farther you seemed from it. There is a cadence here, I guess, for every measured misstep. I put one foot forward and you take two steps back. So just say what you want.
You wore a hand-me down dress that never fit quite right. Your mother’s frame did not favor you. The summer she passed you were born, and your father lost his job. He could not handle it (or you). You wore the saddest smile that never fit quite right. Your mother’s smile felt that way too. The summer she gave her life for you, and your father blamed you, was the summer you began to blame yourself too.
The long days piled into weeks before you’d speak, as the storm crawled to meet the shoreline. And it began to rain at once! I tried (I tried, I tried, I tried) to keep the awful things at bay from you. But it was on the air and useless, I might as well have tried to prove the words I fought to purchase would comfort you. Like, “There was nothing more that we could do.” Or that I still loved you (when nothing could be further from the truth). Will your hand fall out of mine? Your shame lives on its own, trying to reach the depths down where it belongs. Will it find rest in your bones? Aching and pulling muscles to act out against you! So stay your pity now. If it reaches the heart, we all pull out. And let the beat slow down. (There’s nothing that we can do for you now) Are you sorry or are you just scared? There will be no false comfort here. Oh, I ought to tell you the truth! I did not come to plea for you. Where was your heart when your words led the truth anywhere else from you? You’re not sorry, you are just scared, I have not come to calm your fears. I am sorry I hid what you are. But everyone else but me already knew! Already knew! And would not come to plea for you. Where was your heart when they never appeared? Anyone else would care. But you would not shoulder the weight you should bear. I will not shed a single tear.
Will the same mistakes haunt you like they used to do? Or are you afraid that your body won’t let you choose? You are your father’s son, and the same disease that holds you held him once! And I know if you push this hard it will still take hold. You cannot accept the things you can’t control. And I know your mind is young but your body’s old. And you can’t forgive yourself (though no one else could blame you for this). But hold on! Hold on! Hold on! And already I can’t remember if the heart was ever aware that the body it kept alive was wearing out, was shutting down. And tonight, when it realized, you gave up, it cried out, “Only now, I realize I always knew.”


©2009 Count Your Lucky Stars Records


released September 29, 2009


all rights reserved



Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) Fenton, Michigan

Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) is a band from the tiny town of Fenton, Michigan that started in 2006. Keith plays guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, cello, etc and sings. Cathy plays guitar.

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