Powder of the stars

by John Meed

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Heading cross the blue lagoon Where the pink flamingos fly Straight lines to the horizon Rose wings against the sky Across the plains where Hannibal Led his elephants in line Along the shores where Ulysses Sailed through dawns as red as wine And the train goes on for ever From the frontier in the west We sail like Argonauts On the train de grande vitesse Marcel looks out the window Like he did in ’68 While others manned the barricades All he did was hesitate He drank the wine of revolution On the streets of the Sorbonne But now he drinks cold cynicism And the students march alone And the train goes on for ever And though the wine is not the best Marcel’s still breaking promises On the train de grande vitesse Juliette’s from Calabria Though she now lives far from there She talks to me of blue skies In this second tongue we share Her Romeo bakes pizzas Underneath her balcony While she looks out over slate-grey roofs To these Elysian fields And the train goes on for ever From Valence to Bourg-en-Bresse Romeo waits for Juliette On the train de grande vitesse From New York to Tokyo From Waterloo to Avignon Speed is everything today And time waits for no-one Like Juliette and Marcel We all must travel on While moss grows on the sidings And the slow train is gone And the train goes on for ever And it’s anybody’s guess Where we might be going On the train de grande vitesse
This song is for Charly We meet up in this shingle beach each evening And we talk and talk for hours In this land of wonder Where the sweet spring water trickles down into the sea And pigeons drink from showers Charly brings me rocks and stones he’s stolen from the ocean They glitter in the evening light like pearls And aren’t we just like rocks and stones, fashioned out of minerals Rearranged by each wave that unfurls Charly is an artist Though his eyes are tired from trying to catch the setting sun And his fingers hold no pastels He still paints his pictures out of words And the clouds race south across the sky and the sun sets By the tour de la Massane Charly says these rocks and stones are powder of the stars Gold and silver in the hands of artists And aren’t we just like rocks and stones, we fell to earth so long ago To twinkle on this shore like stardust And Charly tells the story Of the local man who laid the dry stone terraces Around these mountain vineyards Who was woken by the crying of a misfit stone So out of place that it could not hold the hillside Charly says these rocks and stones have stories they would tell us If we would only take the time to listen But aren’t we just like rocks and stones, packed so tight yet so alone We wait for someone to see us glisten
She listens to the talking book in the fading light She knows it almost by heart but the end still brings tears to her eyes She doesn’t go out much these days, in fact hardly ever at all And she moves around her apartment by numbers She puts on the TV for the company The flickering lights in the corner tell her the evening news And the government minister for pensions tells her to tighten her belt If we all pull together, he says, we will somehow get through But she can see through him without even looking She doesn’t need eyes to see And she smiles, even though he’s not listening She’s dreaming of Rio When she was young she fell for a travelling salesman Together they watched the fighter come down in flames on the edge of town And after the war he taught her to samba And he promised one day he would take her to Rio He left her and he left their two daughters He went back to travelling, she got on with life, and their paths never crossed again The fifties brought washing machines and Elvis And a two bedroom, two up, two down in the rain Her children grew up and she went back to dancing The bossa nova, the samba, she could do them with style And now on the days when there’s no one to talk to She closes her eyes on her sofa for a while For she can go there without even travelling She doesn’t need wings to fly And she smiles, even though nobody’s listening. She’s dreaming of Rio
La brise estivale caresse le rivage Le papillon virevolte du lis à la rose Les hirondelles sillonnent le ciel du sud Mais, voleront-elles encore quand se lèvera le vent? Amours d’antan, ces émois les plus doux au souvenir Tu voudras croire à tout ce que l’amour prétend Mais, quand viendra novembre, penseras-tu ainsi Souriras-tu encore quand se lèvera le vent? Le vent mauvais balayera tout sur sa route Tu échoueras sur quelque rive inhospitalière Tes espoirs, tes rêves d’enfant, toutes tes réussites Tu les abondonneras, le vent te dira que tu n’en auras plus besoin. Les plages tant desirées de mes souvenirs vivants Disparaissent sans bruit avec la neige du Nord Les jours d’été déclinent, leurs reflets s’évanouissent Et je frémirai quand se lèvera le vent.
The daffodils tumbling Down the city walls The sun on the minster And the market stalls On the jukebox Roberta was singing All of our lives with her words And who would have cared if we missed the last bus to Leeds So many inns in Otley But still we did try That Saturday night to drink Half of them dry Still eight miles to go when we heard The nightingale sing in the reeds It’s a long walk home when you miss The last bus to Leeds We’ve travelled so long And we’ve travelled so far And who knows who we then were Or who we now are Who cares what’s up and what’s down What’s black and what’s white Get me a ticket on that bus tonight Time has gone faster Than this National Express Life’s been a long walk home Down pathways that I miss I travel this broken land And my tired heart that bleeds And who’s going to meet me tonight, on The last bus to Leeds.
I hide away 03:55
When you close your eyes and count to ten, I hide away Behind the curtains, under the stairs, I hide away I hide where no-one else can ever find me I hide away When you come to me asking questions I hide away Where do I come from, what am I doing here, I hide away I hide from anything that might cause me pain I hide away Like a butterfly growing its wings, I hide away Like a blackbird learning the songs it’s going to sing, I hide away I hide from anyone who might let me down again I hide away Don’t ask me what I do or what I do it for Don’t ask me where I’m going or where I was before I hide away from eloquence I hide away from innocence I hide from anybody else But most of all I hide from myself When you close your eyes and count to ten I’ll be gone
The sun was shining brightly one September afternoon And the ant was busy gathering his autumn harvest home When he heard somebody playing a merry dancing tune It was the grasshopper and he was singing (The ant said) ‘Your coat of many colours is a beauty to behold And you dance with all your body and you sing with all your soul But what will you eat when the winter winds blow cold You should be working instead of singing’ (The grasshopper replied) ‘My friend, life is too short for all this aggravation We both of us will die be it from stress (in your case) or from starvation And I have to father the coming generation It may be tough but I’ll die singing’ Just then a dainty princess came by as if by chance And the grasshopper jumped up and they both began to dance And they went off hand in hand in search of hopeless, doomed romance And in the distance the ant could hear them singing The winter wind blew cold as the ant had well foreseen And his bones ached from arthritis, and his brain from the routine Of the endless round of chores in the service of the queen ‘Why am I working’, he said ‘when I could be singing?’ He stormed out of the anthill and he laid his burden down He came to where the grasshopper lay buried in the ground And with all his fading strength he danced and danced and danced around ‘My friend’, he said, ‘can you hear me singing?’ The moral of the story I would tell with apprehension You could twist it anyway you like to suit your own contention Like the ant I should be working to pay the mortgage and the pension But like the grasshopper I’ll keep on singing
Andalucia 04:09
Just one more glance One final sigh before I turn the corner Your olive groves stretch out before me, Andalucia Your shimmering towers Your trembling fountains and your quiet courtyards I turn my back on all these memories, Andalucia For seven centuries We shared a land, we shared our learning We kept the flame of tolerance burning, Andalucia Now in the distance I see the riders of the inquisition Soldiers burning for superstition. Andalucia Against the guns, against the ignorance I brought you gardens Against the cruel summer sun I brought you fountains I turn away now No more for me the Mesquita in Cordoba No more the palaces of the Alhambra, Andalucia You will not see me You will not read about me in your schoolbook histories But you will hear me sighing in the segurya, Andalucia
I don’t know what hurt you the most The times when we rowed Or the times when all we said was pass the tea or the toast And I was far to busy growing To really care or to notice anybody else’s pain Or to see the love that you kept So deeply hidden Is there anybody home? Are you sitting in the dark on your own? Did the lights go out alone? Are you all alone? You wore your fireworks on your sleeve And you exploded into life In pursuit of what you thought was right and what you believed And after all the sound and fury I came in to find you here in this darkened room Sitting in the twilight So far from heaven
Reef the sail, step the mast, sail away Sail away, never to return to Wildcat Island Untie the painter, lower the boom, summer’s gone Run close hauled before the wind, childhood’s done From Swallowdale to Dunkirk beach with an engine in a metal box Watch the wreck of innocence off duty’s rocks Around the Horn from the China Seas all the way to Rio Bay Life has made a roaring passage and regrets are ocean spray Beating against the northeast wind, make the halyard fast Windward the Point of Darien, home at last
Je dédie cette chanson à Charly On se retrouve sur la plage chaque soir Et nous parlons pendant des heures Dans ce coin magique Il me montre où la source jaillit dans la mer Et où les oiseaux se désaltèrent Charly m’apporte des galets volés de la mer A la lueur du soir ils brillent comme des perles Ne sommes-nous pas comme ces galets, faits de minéraux Déplacés par les vagues qui déferlent ? Charly est un artiste Bien que ses yeux soient las d’avoir trop peint le soleil couchant Et qu’il délaisse ses pinceaux Il peint maintenant ses tableaux avec des mots Et les nuages s’envolent vers le sud Et le soleil descend derrière la tour de la Massane Charly dit que ces galets sont poussière d’étoîles De l’or et argent dans les mains des artistes Ne sommes-nous pas comme ces galets Tombés jadis sur terre Scintillant sur la grève, reflet des astres ? Charly raconte l’histoire de l’artisan Qui avait construit le mur d’un vignoble Qui, en pleine nuit, fut réveillé par le cri d’une pierre Trop mal placée pour soutenir le côteau Charly dit que ces galets ont des histoires à nous raconter Si seulement nous savions les écouter Ne sommes-nous pas comme ces galets Entassés et pourtant si seuls Espérant qu’on nous verra briller ?


released January 12, 2006


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