Peter Hammill - "From the Trees" 2017

  1. My Unintended
  2. Reputation
  3. Charm Alone
  4. What Lies Ahead
  5. Anagnorisis
  6. Torpor
  7. Milked
  8. Girl to the North Country
  9. On Deaf Ears
  10. The Descent


  11. My Unintended

    I've no regrets as to how it went,
    it's a relief when the time is spent;
    my unintended, here's the letter that I never sent.
    
    I gambled it all on a single shot
    I found myself in an awkward spot...
    this psychodrama, was that really the best that we'd got?
    
    It was another time, another place:
    my unintended caught me staring her full in the face,
    	...a close shave and a saving grace.
    
    Call it bad karma or misplaced trust.
    such a bright future awaited us,
    my unintended, how we ground all our dreams into dust.
    
    I've no regrets as to how it went,
    it's a relief now the time is spent;
    my best intentions couldn't change what the auguries meant...
    
    
    I can't pretend I knew quite what I'd do;
    though something's planned it doesn't mean it's completely thought through
    and accidental actions come our way
    till unintended consequences are all we have left in the game.
    
    In another's place I might have played a better hand,
    all that's gone to seed but still I didn't understand.
    In another time I'd reap such wild oats as I'd sown.
    Oh, my unintended, where did our bright future go?
    

    Reputation

    And there's the hidden bogeyman you fear
    in wait beneath your bed
    You might as well surrender
    the advancing years are coming up ahead
    All your pledges and promises,
    every action constrained
    by what's been said.
    You might as well admit
    that in the final reckoning
    fame and fortune
    are falsehoods that'll leave you for dead.
    
    Reputation you've traded on
    is a fragile thing 
    that won't last long
    Buried treasure you banked upon
    now you've lost the map and the key.
    You were offered the cup,
    and drank so deep
    on the cult of your personality.
    
    But none of that will matter come the day
    when all the psychic armour you wore falls away
    
    Reputation you traded on
    is a fragile thing 
    that won't last long
    Buried treasure you banked upon
    but you've lost the map and the key
    That reputation you traded on
    no longer means very much to me.
    

    Charm Alone

    This public face I'm prepared to wear,
    my private thoughts, I keep them all well hidden.
    I set myself up for a fall.
    It was all that I owned
    so I relied on my charm alone.
    
    I backed away from the untoward,
    I'd stacked the odds, I thought, in my favour.
    The tables turned, it's all given away -
    he who pays for the piper
    gets to call in the loans.
    You don't get far on your charm alone.
    
    Over and over,
    again and again
    I'd play it by ear
    till the short straw was drawn,
    then lie in the bed
    I'd made my own
    a lucky man trusting charm alone.
    
    I took you into my confidence,
    I bared my soul in all my doubt and weakness.
    I never thought I'd be overheard -
    my words were meant for your ears alone.
    I revealed all my secrets
    so my cover was blown
    in whispered words through a megaphone.
    
    Inaction and motive
    in practised behaviour
    I sought out advancement
    I thought I was blessed
    I thought I was special
    but now nothing's left
    
    and so I sold my soul,
    I bought the farm -
    you only get so far on your charm alone.
    

    What Lies Ahead

    Deface, devalue,
    delete, defer, downgrade...
    Underplaying expectations
    has become my stock in trade.
    
    The excuses growing weaker,
    final settlement is due.
    We've all come here in search of transparency,
    hoping only to see this through,
    making light of the work we shouldered
    while remaining in the dark
    about the energy we've expended
    in maintaining the vital spark,
    keeping alive the vital spark.
    
    Something's best left unsaid,
    no telling what lies ahead.
    
    You'll experience some slight discomfort,
    you might feel a small, sharp scratch,
    further side effects are most unlikely,
    and any damage can be patched...
    but every cure comes with a catch.
    
    Let's leave the truth unsaid
    about all those lies ahead.
    

    Anagnorisis

    In a papered house
    the lights are going down.
    In blissful ignorance the king
    makes a hash of repairing
    his papier mache crown.
    
    The treasure in his grasp
    the part he was born to play,
    have led him up the garden path 
    with his hopes and his broken heart shown on open display.
    
    He doesn't understand,
    they'll never let the talent know
    that the shaking in his hand
    is a sign-off: goodbye and not hello.
    
    So much for awareness
    of the crooked nature of the deal.
    In a papered house there's no big reveal.
    
    He doesn't understand,
    so much he'd rather not know,
    but he caught a glimpse of the seating plan
    and so the story's blown.
    
    Grandees and groundlings, they've seen it all before
    and there's no sense of romance left at the artists' door.
    Anagnorisis,
    it's all given away;
    in a papered house
    there's hell to pay.
    

    Torpor

    Torpor rolls upon me in a fog,
    settles like a sweat upon the skin,
    hungers for the lungs to empty, breathe the darkness in.
    
    Heavily, the day hangs, on a thread,
    loaded on my shoulders hour by hour,
    each unfolding moment holds me deep down in its power.
    
    Torpor has us tight within its grasp,
    studied in inaction day by day,
    painted in a corner by the gifts we give away.
    
    I find it hard to breathe,
    I can't maintain the pace,
    feels like I'm slowing irreversibly
    and there's no knowing where this leads.
    
    For torpor has us tight within its coils,
    strangled in inaction day by day,
    painted in a corner, all adrift we slip away.
    
    Deceleration down to walking pace,
    circling in search of a safe space.
    I find it hard to speak,
    the words remain unformed,
    feels like I'm slowing imperceptibly
    and there's no knowing where this ends,
    no, there's no knowing where this ends.
    

    Milked

    As he milked the applause,
    basking in the radiant glow
    of a limelight that burned out some time ago,
    to the dropping of jaws
    his familiar slipped his side,
    made her way to the wings
    and stepped down from the ride.
    
    He didn't know which way to turn
    for she'd been with him from the start -
    and in her absence his careful demeanour
    and his well-structured schemes fell apart.
    
    There's no comfort or safe haven to be found in the stormcloud night,
    no friend for him now as he keeps holding tight to what might have been.
    
    On another day he'd fix up his brave face so no-one knows
    the depth of the chill that's set into his bones, but it's only here
    that he knows for sure,
    thinking not to question why,
    all the milk of human kindness has run dry.
    
    Nobody told him when the floodtide was coming then
    it was suddenly over his head all too fast 
    and he was swimming for his life through the jetsam of his past
    and all the driftwood of memory held in transitory, temporary measure,
    none of that can buoy him up now in the bursting of his lungs,
    in the blabbing of the tongue once so slick, once so proud.
    
    Now he's counted out the time, he's fed out all the lines
    that once charmed the birds from the trees...
    You want jewels? He's got these,
    empty words and empty deeds,
    not much left of the man to see...
    

    Girl to the North Country

    Draw your chair up to the fire,
    lay your burden down,
    you've come so very far
    from where it all began.
    
    That doomed romance, long expired,
    it's all behind you now.
    She was once your lucky star,
    you went and let her down so hard.
    
    A place of safety
    is that within her reach at last?
    
    I heard she headed for the borderline
    to bury all her memories underneath the drifting snow.
    In the nick of time, in a trick of light you let her go.
    
    All the squandered time adrift, how'll you ever find her now?
    Far out beyond the treeline, still in search of a magician
    she can serve for better or for worse.
    She always made a beeline for the one who'd give her
    less than she deserved
    in the service of the fable.
    
    Was she ever your true love of the long ago?
    And did she think of you at last or would you really rather not know?
    
    All that's so very far   away from now, today -
    if she was once  your lucky star
    she was never going to stay that way.
    
    So it all ends up at the borderline,
    she never was the girl that you once glimpsed behind the glass.
    This boat is holed below the waterline,
    this story stands no scrutiny at last.
    How strange that everybody bought the line
    you invented to romanticise the past.
    
    And just like that she's gone...
    

    On Deaf Ears

    A lost apostrophe's
    come all adrift,
    suspended in mid-sentence
    so the sense is all skew-whiff
    and nobody's listening now.
    
    The art of persuasion
    sifting fiction from fact,
    diversion, smoke and mirrors,
    it's all part of the act
    so no-one's really listening
    in the audience.
    Time will tell
    just how much is soft soap
    and how much hard sell.
    
    In the audience
    the five minute bell
    toils underwater,
    this won't end up well.
    
    Here's the one-trick pony
    with all the gift of the gab.
    You never know the worth of what you have.
    He's sold his stock of baloney,
    giving it one final stab -
    he never entertained the slightest doubt.
    You never know when time is running out.
    The words are falling on deaf ears
    all sense and meaning disappear,
    no language of precision lasts in these declining years.
    
    A breath I've been holding in, 
    a pregnancy of pause,
    a phantom punctuation
    in an inconclusive clause...
    well, nobody's listening now.
    
    You put the words together, no-one's listening now.
    They clap their hands together, no-one's listening now.
    

    The Descent

    Only yesterday you were pegging out your tent.
    You stood pitch-perfect at the centre of the floe;
    although nobody could know quite where you went
    we were sure you were intent on the descent.
    
    At the border post all the documents were stamped,
    you had clear passage to go onwards to the peak,
    knowing conditions on the journey would be cramped.
    Bit by bit jaw muscles tensed up as they champed...
    
    So the moment passed while you were sitting on the fence,
    become light-headed in the thinning of the air,
    although you'd carefully prepared for such events.
    For all you care about it, here's ten pence 
    to make a call, forever henceforth
    you'll be saying how your back was bent in the descent.
    
    Starved of oxygen, something had thrown you off the scent,
    molecular particles are scattered in the wind.
    Although you sensed something beginning, in the end
    for all the chances given, heaven-sent,
    you'd trade them all to pay the rent 
    and now you no longer remember what they meant in the descent.
    
    Only yesterday you were pegging out.
    Your tent stood abandoned where you left it
    in your attempt at the descent.
    





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