Dispatches From the Well

by Fiona Chamness

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about

Now through October 5th, $7 from each album sale goes to support Ann Arbor, Michigan's teen center The Neutral Zone in The Great Write Off, a fundraiser for six Michigan literary arts nonprofits.

credits

released October 3, 2012

All songs written and performed by Fiona Chamness
Harmonic Guitar on "Chocolate and Bourbon": David Tisel
Produced by Ana MeiLi Carling on Insister Records

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Some rights reserved. Please refer to individual track pages for license info.

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about

Fiona Chamness Ann Arbor, Michigan

Fiona Chamness is a poet and songwriter from Ann Arbor, MI. She is coauthor, with Aimée Lê, of Feral Citizens, published in 2011 by Red Beard Press. She belongs to the poetry ensemble Ann Arbor Wordworks and two bands, Helicopter Parents and The Cutting Room Floor. She has performed poetry and music in Ann Arbor, Chicago, Oberlin, Hanover, Boston, St. Louis, Berkeley, and Sevilla, Spain. ... more

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Track Name: Demonfeed
Go 'way from me, smoking god
Get out of my eyes
You fill my sight with ironwood
You fill my sight with flies

Go 'way from me, ragged claws
Get you off my back
I am not your one true love
& you are not my haversack

Don't come knockin' at my window
Don't come rattling my door
Don't sit down across the table
I can't feed you anymore

Go 'way from me, heavy heart
Pull the anchor in
Make me like the marble snake
Let me shed my skin

Go 'way from me, sleeping bear
Let me out this cave
I am not your winter's meat
& you are not my buryin' place

Don't come knockin' at my window
Don't come rattling my door
Don't sit down across the table
There ain't nothin' here no more

Get away o devil's tongue
Won't you shut your jaw
I am hoarse & hollow from
Abiding by your law

Get away, o get away
You socket wrench, you thunderstorm
I am not your furnace coal
& you have never kept me warm

Don't come knockin' at my window
Don't come rattling my door
Don't sit down across the table
Don't you wait for me come morning
Don't you follow down the alley
Don't you dog me down the road
Don't you poison all my coffee
Don't you tread upon my throat
O my blindfold, o my bloodhound
O no lightbulb, o no sound
O no welcome, o no white noise
O no ocean, o get out
Get out, get out, get out, get out
Track Name: Good
If I'm old enough to give up drinking am I good enough for you
If I'm ship enough to keep from sinking am I good enough for you
If I'm eye enough to stare without blinking am I good enough for you
If I'm stupid enough to do my own thinking am I good enough for you

If I'm mother enough to protect my own am I good enough for you
If I'm honest enough to have no home am I good enough for you
If I'm sinner enough to cast the first stone am I good enough for you
If I'm rude enough not to leave you alone am I good enough for you

Cuz I am not too good, no, I am not too clean
You don't get to say you don't deserve me
That is not my scene

If I'm fast enough not to bother running am I good enough for you
If I'm fox enough not to use my cunning am I good enough for you
If I'm electric enough not to care that I'm stunning am I good enough for you
If I'm truce enough to keep on gunning am I good enough for you

If I'm stomach enough to throw up my fear am I good enough for you
If I'm glass enough to be perfectly clear am I good enough for you
If I'm daily enough to make up a year am I good enough for you
If I'm in it enough to still be here am I good enough for you

& yes, I am a noble girl, I believe in what I give
& my thoughts are as evil as everybody else's
That's what noble is

If you're hungry enough to ask to be fed you're good enough for me
If you're blanket enough to share my bed you're good enough for me
If you're sane enough to lose your head you're good enough for me
If you're fool enough not to wish you were dead we might still get ourselves free

If you're broke enough to declare the break you're good enough for me
If you're tall tale enough to admit you're fake you're good enough for me
If you're stuck enough to still have a stake you're good enough for me
If you're scared enough to shiver & shake you're good enough for me

Cuz I'm gonna scare you black & blue, gonna blast you til you grow
Gonna make you hold me accountable, I'm gonna make you hold me close
& I won't reassure you when I try to do what's right
None of us is a goddess, none of us is a light
None of us is a light no no no none of us is a light
None of us is a light no no no none of us is a light
None of us is a light none of us is a light none of us is a light
There's just the sweat that pools on our soft red armor
It glitters when we fight
Track Name: When I Finish Building My House
O my house is standing water
O my house is a broken bone
O my house is thread unraveling
O my house is a pumice stone

But when I'm finished building my house
It'll be nothing like you've seen
If you're lost you're gonna find it easy
Gonna take your cuts & it'll wash 'em clean, oh
When I finish building my house

You can hate your body, you can hate your mind
You can hate yourself & you can hate mankind
Your neighborhood is a fire pit
You grew up burned where the ashes lit
So of course we're starving & angry & mean
& bite the hands of our friends
But when I'm finished building my house
We're never gonna go hungry again
Oh, when I finish building my house
Oh, when I finish building my house

I get so tired of my fucked up heart
Can't let anyone leave, can't let anyone start
Can't wish you well without breakin' my teeth
Hammering hard at what's underneath
I'm a jagged girl with her windows out
& I let everything in
But when I finish building my house
My kids will kiss every inch of your kin
Oh, when I finish building my house
Oh, when I finish building my

O today I got nowhere to live my Lord
& no idea how to begin
& I can't seem to stop going out for blood
Just to fill my hollowness in
But when I finish building my house
I won't cause nobody else no sufferin'
O oh oh oh oh, o oh oh oh oh oh

Gotta pillage your lungs, gotta stretch your skin
Spit out nails so you can pound 'em in
Gotta say your dumb mantras & breath all day
Smash the system & make it pay
Gotta teach your enemies a better way
Gotta make 'em weep, gotta make 'em pray
Gotta sit with the bitter & stay stay stay
Gotta go to the ones I hurt & say

O my house is standing water
O my house is a broken bone
O my house is thread unraveling
O my house is a pumice stone
But I will welcome you to the table
Welcome in what power is afraid of
O my house my house my house
Too open to live in on my own

& you know what they say about building a house
You already got you a floor
So you put up your walls & you hold up your roof
& then you can open the door
So as soon as I finish building my house
I won't have to turn you away no more, oh
When I finish building my house
Oh when I finish building my
When I finish building my
When I finish building I won't have to turn you away no more
Track Name: Left-Footed Mood Disorder Blues
Woke up this morning, my head full of trouble & pain
Woke up this morning, my head full of trouble & pain
Lord I never did drink but the hangover feels just the same

Can't stay in this house, Lord, can't climb this long ladder no more
Can't stay in this house, Lord, can't climb this long ladder no more
I get up to the top, there's a window that once was a door

I went into town, Lord, my friends thought that they were on fire
Said I went into town, Lord, my friends all thought they were on fire
Wish I could think of some water, Lord, I never have been a crier

The up is so up, Lord, I just wish the down weren't so down
Said the up is so up, Lord, I just wish the down weren't so down
Can't stay in this house, gotta find me a new way around

Cuz it's a long shakin' ladder, & I never know which way I'm goin'
Said it's a long shakin' ladder, never do know just which way I'm goin'
& I'm scared to look down, Lord, & find I been climbin' it wrong

Woke up this morning, my head full of trouble & pain
Woke up this morning, my head full of trouble & pain
But don't worry your head cuz I soon will be burnin'
Don't know what I'll do til I think that I'm burnin'
Don't worry yourself Lord, I soon will be burnin' again
Track Name: The Inn Of Wayfarers
O hear & take warning, but spare me your pity
It's a spit-ugly city in the dark of the morning
You stumbled 30 paces to my doorway of all places
Lookin' like a traveler king who'd fallen from his throne

You hated to be charming, but you needed warmth & whiskey
& you came to me & kissed me like I needed your disarming
But oh your bittersweet talkin', the way you tried to keep on walkin'
I said This is the Inn of Wayfarers - make yourself at home

You were folded like a promise, like I hadn't seen the best yet
Like your soul was something precious you were squeezing in your fist
We filled the days with joking, you would sing like you were choking
A lullaby for flinty evenings wearing down to rain

Then they said ghosts were singing through you, I said
Who needs that kind of glory, you said It makes a damn good story
So it might as well be true
You'd laugh like you were haunted, run away from what you wanted
& from the Inn of Wayfarers - who knew if I'd hear from you again

But I'm as much a child of the highway as you
I sing as much as I get sung to
& I couldn't sit & wait to see if you'd be passing through
I closed up the Inn of Wayfarers with my own wayfaring to do

I roamed through the country, grew strong as nails & leather
Glad & sorrowful together, like vinegar & honey
Til one day I heard you playin', all that bullshit you were sayin'
About the kid you'd left behind, a crying china doll

I said Hey there, Gypsy Davy, you're as cruel as you're unfair
Sure, I've been tearing out my hair & having thoughts of going crazy
But I'm no teller's tale, I'm not ended, not for sale
Don't make me sound like someone's jail, the Inn of Wayfarers
Was never that at all

You said I was cold & hungry babe & it showed you your own hunger
Is it really any wonder we both starve unless we're free
There's nothing beautiful about it, if it hurts then live without it
I'm King of the Amnesiacs & I don't need your blame

I thought my heart was breaking for the way you could forget me
Then all at once it hit me & my fingers started shaking
Your scorn is how you cower & my memory's my power
& you're as trapped as I am in the tales that make the game

I said It cracks me up to hear you, you're one stupid lucky bastard
That I love you when you're plastered, but I've no need to be near you
You'll never know what you were gambling, I've done my rambling
& I did it without forgetting your name
Track Name: Radiator
You laid down halfway on my bed
& you said, I can sleep on the floor
I shook my head
You stretched out along the radiator

I asked, is this something that could get you in trouble
Are you sure, you said We're just going to sleep
I said I know, I just don't wanna be that girl
You said I understand & I laid down

& I stayed, even though my arms were cold
Even though my feet were cold
I was safe with my back against your hands
I put on some socks
I put on a sweater
I listened in the dark to your lungs & the radiator

You got up & went out of the room
When you came back you headed for the floor
I lifted my head
& you changed direction

You waited til my breath went slow
You had an arm over my side
I let go of how my muscles hold themselves
You said I'm sorry as you climbed quietly out
I woke up sick to my stomach thinking I had overstepped

When the sun rose I stood over your feet to make the coffee
You got up & stretched & we stood there

& you said Yeah, so your radiator's really really hot
Like really hot, I'm sorry
& I said Oh, & you reached your arms out to me
& I could've cracked up
I knew you weren't kidding
I knew you would've stayed
Track Name: Chocolate and Bourbon
My mom is sleeping, she's sleeping on the couch
Heartbreak day's a long cage & she's not crawling out
I'm worried that she's sick because she's sad to be alone
& worry makes me sick, I gotta gnaw that bone

I had one great-grandfather worked in a candy store
The other drank himself corroded & blamed the Civil War
Oh chocolate & bourbon & however you get free
My grandmother had a little dog named Whiskey

& she says Here's some fudge for the road, for the road
But she means Be careful what you're carrying
We like to say Dynamite comes in small packages
But we mean Watch out don't explode

Mom says moderation is gonna keep us safe
But I've seen her leaning towards him, I don't think she's escaped
We still got that looming night-brain, you just hide it where you can
In the salt, in the sugar, in the glass, in the hand

& I gotta watch my fuses, I gotta watch the chords
This bloodline's a tripwire, I was born through a trapdoor
We like our chocolate & bourbon & our dangling over hell
I took my first sip & said Oh I'll sleep well

& we all need our sleep, gotta ease off the load
But you can't be too careful what you're burying
We say If you can't say something nice don't say anything
But we mean Watch out there she goes

& every family's got its curses, got its sparking choke & copper
But I don't think ours is the bottle, no, I think it's the stopper
I wanna care for my black hole, wanna let it howl & holler
Wanna yell Get off the couch, Mom, stop wearing that collar

But at the end of the day, you know, you're in charge of your own cup
& she looks almost peaceful, I don't wanna wake her up
Just give her chocolate & bourbon, make her feel at home
Every family's got its poisons, every family loves its own
Track Name: How I Got Pregnant (On the Arizona Woman's Health and Safety Act, and Other Absurdist Theater)
I read a banned book I watched the news
I went to a party I didn't wear shoes
I touched a girl I touched a nerve
I touched a boy I got what I deserve
I drank the Kool-Aid I drank the booze
I paid for dinner I paid my dues
I didn't get married in my christening dress
I thought about sex I thought about sex
My baby left my baby stayed
I'm 27 I'm in 7th grade
I'm in the basement I'm on TV
Said I was blind but now I see
I cursed my parents I cursed the Lord
I fucked a ghost on the bathroom floor
I didn't bleed I bled like hell
Didn't plant no seed didn't stem no cell
I was a stupid slut I had a PhD
I went to 3rd base got the 3rd degree
My baby's an anchor my body's a boat
My cunt's a butler lemme hang your coat
You can call me monster you can call me Mom
I birthed an army I birthed a bomb
I fell down the stairs I ran into the door
Don't ask what these bruises are down here for
I'm a heap of trash a precious pearl
I'm the Virgin Mary I'm a miracle girl
I didn't go to church I didn't go to church
I made love second got pregnant first
I'm in the stirrups I'm center stage
Centerfold I'm the opinion page
I'm radioactive I'm ready to blow
They say look at you I can see you glow
Track Name: What's Wrong With Us
Let's talk about girls & boys again
Let's talk about jokes about sandwiches & knees
Let's get a little bit ridiculous
Used to be fun when we were little kids

I have a cunt, that's a funny word
All this stuff's pretty funny, let's be stupid, it's funny
Me & my friend we laugh so hard, we
Mess up our stories & we almost fall over

& what's wrong with us laughing
We met when we were 11
& some part of you is always 11
& some part of you is always 19

& some part is always on the attack
Like the demon in back of your head that's always screaming
Girls, Girls, Girls
We're the best of friends, friends, friends

She played Helen Keller in the middle school play
I was her mom & we practiced
Eating lunch with our eyes closed & silent
Couldn't see what we were trying to swallow

Ask me why couldn't Helen Keller drive
This man when the class trip to Washington tried
To make us let him touch our heads with a head massager
& I was like no thanks & the teachers called to us
Girls, Girls, Girls
& we ran to our friends, friends, friends

We dressed in drag, National Pirate Day
Captain Jack Sparrow & Will Turner
I can look a lot like Johnny Depp
Under certain circumstances

They put our picture real big in the yearbook
Even straight girls came for a second look
The closest we got to being Ferris fucking Bueller
Almost except Girls, Girls, Girls
Or close enough, yeah, friends, friends, friends

& she was always braver than me
Or else she couldn't stop herself
From knives & tacks to blacking out
At parties full of wild hyenas

It was there if you knew how to look for it
If you'd asked me I'd've told you it was there
Wanna know why we're so strong & laugh the hardest
Well I don't care

When she told me we were 11
I couldn't make pictures out of the words
When she told her parents we were 19
I hate the things that men do

11 in a church basement
Nobody asked for specifics
& I didn't know what to ask her
So I shut my mouth & hid her blades for years

& they called her whore in the boys' bathroom
They'd never say those things about me
They were busy egging my garage door
I hate the things that you laugh at

Let's talk about cunt, that's a funny word
I hate the things that men do
Let's talk about knees & keeping quiet
I hate the things that you laugh at

No captain going to turn up
I hate the things that men do
So blind & deaf in the Capitol
I hate the things that you laugh at

Let's talk about Girls, Girls, Girls
I hate the things that men do
We mix up our stories, I almost
Fall over some part of you

Let's talk about girls & boys again
Let's get a little bit ridiculous
Used to be fun when we were little kids
The things we tangle up
Track Name: Elegy For the Flying Machine
In 5th grade we practiced running
Out beyond the fence behind the gravel yard
We weren't supposed to go out there
Keep your heads where we can see them
But we'd gather to a sprint, a leap, keep count, how long, how far
I once stayed up 12 seconds in the air

Call it what you will, a cheater's tally
But I will call it proof
Orville & Wilbur's first attempt, 12 seconds
Breathless, no higher than the roof

& they're building a flying machine
A little gliding thing straight out of Miyazaki
Like a seagull you can ride
& maybe if I'm small enough, I can test the flying machine
No stop at 12 seconds
Cast the earth aside

I don't eat - nobody said it
But in middle school I had to force my friends
To finish lunch each afternoon
They tried to sever all their ties but mostly they're all fine now
I believe we had a 7th sense
To keep us picking up that supper spoon

But sometimes when you wake up sick & sorry
It all comes back again
& where are you now, oh 7th sense, 12 seconds
Say it, you're useless in the end

& they're building a flying machine
A perfect bird in search of some imperfect pilot
You have to be 120 pounds or less
& maybe if I'm skinny soon I can test the flying machine
Start swallowing cirrus
It tastes clean, I'd guess

But who knows how the thought goes
Were our kid wishes heavy, is weightlessness wrong
Am I right in screaming Stay here, give us all of your years
No matter how ugly & ungodly long

& yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, I live now
In the Birthplace of Aviation
& that & the friends gathered round in the dark
Are my 12 seconds' consolation, yeah

& they're building a flying machine
& as we stand here helpless witness to its soaring
I think of all the counting losing brings
But maybe we'll hold tight enough not to need the flying machine
We will clutch one another's strings
We will wait for our coming wings

In 5th grade we practiced running
Out beyond the fence behind the gravel yard
We weren't supposed to go out there
Track Name: Brave Songs, Tired Songs
When things get really bad I make my bed
I get the covers neat, I bake some bread, I eat, I get my work done
I am very careful
I am quite efficient, I'm a good woman, I am simple

& it's a sunny morning though the winter come
I'll hang out the clothes & whistle some, who knows, it may get better
I am not resigned
There's a warm blanket, there's a glow of leaf-fall, there's enough time

But please, let's not sing any more brave songs, you & I, you & I

They leave & leave & leave & leave & leave
& you brush your teeth & hug your friends & grieve & shrug
& keep on thinking
Set the kitchen table
Say this one's not missing, think of almost losing & be grateful

For this is all that's left for me to do
We are warm & sturdy-armed & pulling through unharmed
& I am coping
I am drinking cider
They are here & gone, it is sweet & biting, it is quiet

But please, let's not sing any more brave songs, I am tired, I am tired
& please don't say you won't stay long, I am tired, I am tired, I am tired

& much of life is keeping very still
Staying by the windowsill until it's spill, spill, spill & then be empty
Til you take it easy
Then it's pick you up & it's dust you off & get you ready

& it's getting so it's dark at 6:00
I'd like to stay indoors & let us rock back & forth until we're sleeping
Wait out the season
Let's not say sorry, let's be rid of sorry til the sorrow lessen

& please, let's not sing any more brave songs, say they're done
Say they're down
Track Name: The Well
My dreams are full of apocalypses
My dreams are full of the violence of the body
Soldiers marching over the hill
I reach for the weapons I am carrying inside me

& I have been fighting for a long time
Deep water, decline
I take my pills, I try to treat myself kind
None of us is fine, fine

My friend she went to college
Where you have to watch your sleep
You say you got assaulted
They put you on medical leave

Come back when PTSD
Doesn't make it hard to think
Yeah come back when you're ready
To have another drink

They're more afraid of crazy
Than they are afraid of strong
Crazy says You don't own the truth
& this is wrong

In the army we drug soldiers
Stand guard against their memory
No one wants a broken brain
No one wants a broken family

No one wants a broken home
No one wants a broken country
No one wants a broken heart
No one wants a broken history

My dreams are full of electrical disasters
Haunted houses, doctors & locked doors
& I have dangerous information
I am smuggling my friends across the river from the war

& we are trying not to drown
Emotion & empire, chemistry & crown
We gotta get together, go underground
Pick ourselves up & take this down

There is no private hurt
There is no private hell
There is no private ward
There is no private well

I'm not saying I'm not unbalanced
I'm not saying I don't need care
But everything's unbalanced
I won't adjust to what's not fair

There's war above the counter
& it's hard to fight it blind
It's a miracle there's not a war
In everybody's mind

Oh write me a letter
Say what Adrienne said
Say I honor your truth
& I refuse to leave it at that

I honor your danger
I honor the tide
I honor the water
From the well we've been inside