Lyrics: If You Go Away

One of the first songs I heard Neil Diamond do, and it is still my favorite of his songs, is “If You Go Away.” That album was not the first time I had heard the song, one based upon the French song “Ne Me Quitte Pas”, written by Jacques Brel. I heard two guitarists on one of the late night talk shows perform it, one sang the words in English, the other in French. I was enthralled. In a writing exercise in which I was writing down the favorite songs of my life, I noticed this one on the list. As I like to post lyrics at least once a week on my blog, I thought I’d use this song too.
I found the lyrics here:

If you go away on this summer day
Then you might as well take the sun away
All the birds that flew in a summer sky
And our love was new and our hearts were high.

When the day was young, and the night was long
And the moon stood still for the night bird’s song

If you go away, if you go away, if you go away

But if you stay I’ll make you a day
Like no day has been or will be again
We’ll sail on the sun, we’ll ride on the rain
We’ll talk to the trees and worship the wind.

But if you go, I’ll understand
Leave me just enough love you fill up my hand

If you go away, if you go away, if you go away.

If you go away, as I know you must
There’ll be nothing left in the world to trust
Just an empty room full of empty space
Like the empty look I see on your face.

Can I tell you now as you turn to go
I’ll be dying slowly ’till your next hello.

If you go away, if you go away, if you go away.

But if you stay, I’ll make you a night
Like no night has been, or will be again
I’ll sail on your smile, I’ll ride on your touch
I’ll talk to your eyes, that I love so much.

But if you go, I won’t cry
Though the good has gone from the word goodbye.

If you go away, if you go away, if you go away.

Battlefield Louisiana: My Last Session

Well, my six-week program with the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is over. Last night, we evaluated The Civil War in Louisiana by John D. Winters. An excellent book. We were fortunate to have one audience member who had actually studied under Mr. Winters. All of our reading group agreed that it is a fine book, chock full of information. Some of us felt it would be a better reference tool, or if it were used in this pilot program, it should be the first book read in advance of the series. Of course, the history fanatics in our group absolutely loved the book, but most of the lay readers felt it a little technical for what we were trying to do in our series. My mistake was using this book on the last week instead of the first week. Once again, several participants brought stuff for our little show and tell session. I brought a few Civil War Relics (Yes, I’m a digger) and I also played and sang a few tunes on my Guild guitar. Our wonderful librarians fed us a first class meal of pork loin, baked beans, cole slaw, and fruit salad.
Well, now that the class is over, I’ll have Thursday nights again. Yet, I’ll miss the time I spent with these devoted readers at the Winnsboro, Louisiana Public Library. I learned so much from facilatating this series. I hope I’m able to present it again. Hopefully, I can present it even better. Now I must organize my books, notes, and visuals I used and file them away. I also have a self-evaluation of the course and books I must turn in today. As always, too much to do and not enough time.

The Ghost in the Poem

I’m working on a novella with a working title of The Ghost in the Poem. My story is set in this decade, originally in New Orleans, but I think I’m going to change it to Charleston, SC. (Due to the hurricanes so changing things in New Orleans) The storyline is based on  an incident in Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s life. This influential Pre-Raphaelite poet and artist had married his model, Elizabeth Siddell. According to: Rosetti, “true to his offbeat beliefs, however, he continued to seek his pleasures with prostitutes, whilst portraying his wife as the pure, unattainable, almost divine beauty; his comments that his overwhelming love for her could only be increased by her death struck a cord with Elizabeth, and she obliged him by taking an overdose of his favourite laudanum, at the age of just 31. Rosetti’s reaction was, as usual, over the top; he collected up the manuscripts for all his unpublished poems and had them buried with her in her coffin. However a few years later he had her dug up, rescued his works, and sent them off to be published. This action seemed to have jolted away the last of his sanity and he spent his final years as a depressed recluse, tormented by a persecution mania. An artist’s soul is mirrored in his poetry . . .”

My idea is for a modern day poet to find a poet in the madhouse who went through a similar experience and interview him, seeking for some lost poems. I’ll have to give the plot more thought. I may use a female protagonist to be the poet who is looking for the lost poems. To help me get into this story, I wrote this poem today:

My Ghost

My ghost will haunt you,

There’s too many places

Where we were together,

And each one will prick your heart

And you’ll drink both bitter and sweet

Memories from those wells.

Those places, and us, will

Never be the same.

You could totally reconstruct

Your life and change your schedule,

But you won’t.

Even though you’ve embraced

A life without me now,

You would miss my ghost too much.

There’s certainly a ghost in the poems you hide,

You can sense him in the blood-ink lines of his verse,

A love-sick specter chained and tortured,

Begging you to be released from his coffin,

But you know you can’t let him out again.

My ghost will haunt you

Whenever you’re with him.

When he makes love to you,

When’s he’s nice and when he’s not,

My apparition left a trail of his past life with you,

Love tokens–books, songs, clothes, jewelry, scents.

My ghost is not malevolent,

Only heartbroken,

The most haunted kind.

The kind that never come back to life.


My Musical Life: Country Music TV

As a child, every Saturday night was spent in my Dallas home (3103 Lanoue Street) watching the long stream of Country Music shows—I believe it was Channel 11. All my life I’ve known of Ernest Tubb, Porter Wagoner, Charlie Pride, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, the Wilburn Brothers, Loretta Lynn, Roy Clark, Buck Owen, Merle Haggard, and the many other country singers who were popular in that era. Listening to that music and those songs had a subtle yet permanent effect. I learned many of the Classic Country songs by heart, and to this day can still recite them word perfect. It also gave me insight into the music business. In addition, my father—who worshipped country music—would tell me stories of many of the performers.  As a result of this childhood experience, I have so much country music trivia in my head that I’m sure I could easily win Jeopardy if country music were a category.

The country music muse–no doubt a hard-drinking, dancing, sexy one—must have been at work on me. My brother, Jimmy, paid little attention to those shows, but I sat there week after week mesmerized. Some of the songs were so sad that I cried in my iced tea. (We had no beer in our house). Sometimes I admit, the music was bad, but I still sat there, perhaps because of the fascination of the horrible.

My exposure to country music was constant, beyond Saturday night TV. When in the car, only country music on the radio was listened to. When my father returned from work, he usually worked on his race cars—he had a roadster, then a dragster—and he raced (and won) quarter mile drag races. After that, he would clean up, eat supper, and then play and sing country music till it was time for bed. Enough for now. I’ll pursue more of my musical life in future blogs.

Don’t Speak by No Doubt

When I’m depressed, there’s one song that’s guarranteed to make me feel worse: “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt. Great, moving song. I understand it was #1 on the charts for three weeks when it first came out. I listened to it a half-dozen times while driving to work. Here are the lyrics I found at:

You and me
We used to be together
Every day together, always
I really feel
That I’m losing my best friend
I can’t believe
This could be the end

It looks as though you’re letting go
And if it’s real, well I don’t want to know

Don’t speak
I know just what you’re saying
So please stop explaining
Don’t tell me ’cause it hurts

Don’t speak
I know what you’re thinking
I don’t need your reasons
Don’t tell me ’cause it hurts

Our memories
They can be inviting
But some are altogether
Mighty frightening

As we die, both you and I
With my head in my hands I sit and cry

Don’t speak
I know just what you’re saying
So please stop explaining
Don’t tell me ’cause it hurts
No, no, no
Don’t speak
I know what you’re thinking
And I don’t need your reasons
Don’t tell me ’cause it hurts

It’s all ending
I gotta stop pretending who we are

You and me
I can see us dying, are we

Don’t speak
I know just what you’re saying
So please stop explaining
Don’t tell me ’cause it hurts
No no don’t speak
I know what you’re thinking
And I don’t need your reasons
Don’t tell me ’cause it hurts
Don’t tell me ’cause it hurts
I know what you’re saying
So please stop explaining
Don’t speak, don’t speak, don’t speak
Oh I know what you’re thinking
And I don’t need your reasons
I know you’re good, I know you’re good, I know you’re real good
Oh la la la la la la la la, don’t, don’t

Push push darling
Push push darling
Push push don’t tell me ’cause it hurts
Push push darling
Push push darling
Push push don’t tell me ’cause it hurts


The Apathetic Student and Grades

At Bastrop High School, we are entering the last six weeks of the school year. It’s hard to believe that the year is nearly gone. I’m contemplating what I’ve actually done for my students. I know many have learned much, actually learned more than they intended to, but for others, what I and they have accomplished is hard to measure. Several of my students have won money and recognition from winning essay contests—some appreciate this more than others—some I feel have barely made any progress. In fact, some may have regressed.

I must turn in grades today or tomorrow. The number of failing grades in my sophomore classes is mind bogling. I assure them that it’s nothing personal on my part, just simple math. Many of those failing are good kids, and I like them, but it’s rather sad to know that I care more about their bad grades than they do. I really do try to set them up to succeed, but I can’t do it for them, and I certainly can’t give them a grade they haven’t earned. That wouldn’t be fair to the ones who expended the effort to make decent grades. I think that sometimes the system feeds their apathy. For example, when I taught in Dallas, we weren’t allowed to record a grade lower than 50.

What am I to do about these students with these failing grades? I suppose I must give them what they’ve earned, then be ready for the fallout from the whining children, the few concerned parents, the several angry students and parents who can’t understand how an F is actually now part of their permanent records. I hate report card time. After they come out, I must plan a very busy class. A teacher really shouldn’t use class time to explain the grades given. These discussion always degenerate into a yah-yah and arguments. I don’t argue with students. I do say, “It’s nothing personal. It’s just simple math.”


My friend and fellow musician, Tom McCandlish, introduced me to a new band: Albannach. The word Albannach is Scottish for “Scotsman.” I’ve enjoyed their CD very much, and found their music to have a savage, primal feel to it—in a Celtic way—driven by pipes and drums. Ah, it stirs the blood of one’s Celtic ancestors. You can learn more about this Scottish band here:

I woke early again, like at 4 a.m. without an alarm. It was three a.m. yesterday though. Perhaps because I have so much on my mind, so much stress at work, plus stress of trying my best to be a disciplined and fruitful writer.  Actually, it was the rain that woke me this morning. Fit my mood perfectly: As I was paid yesterday, the first thing I did was rise and pay bills. No happy sunshine days for me lately. A spring rain has a certain rythym to it, and the pitter-patter this morning cast a certain mood:
Wake me rain,

Wash away her memory,

And the dried salt-streaks of tears,

Soften the hard and cracked

Black earth of my heart,

Rinse the septic wounds clean.

Return from Swamp Celts Festival

Saturday night, after a soiree honoring the Ferguson clan, the festival slowly began to wind down. I guess it was about ten when Tom and I returned to our hotel. I met so many cool people. Tom and I spent a good amount of time talking to a Scotsman, Mark Fowler, and his wife. Great couple. I found Mark witty, knowledgeable of history and culture, and an expert on Scotch whisky. And there were so many others.

Sunday, we returned to Monroe, my head brimming with memories of the festival. I also returned with lists of things to do, names of people I had met who I needed to contact quickly, and photographs I need to download and develop. The festival was a reminder of how I need to get out once in a while. The work will always be there, and I learned and experienced much from my weekend that is bound to have some value to my writing.

I’ve taken a day’s break from Civil War reading and picked up White Oleander by Janet Fitch. I had seen the movie and that piqued my interest in the novel. (Yes, I know, one should never judge a book by its movie!) I find the novel’s language beautiful, poetic, and the tone engaging. Two other books came to mind for some reason as I thought about how the tone of a book affects my interest in it: The Weight of Water and Angela’s Ashes. Anyway, you can read more of Janet Fitch, her works, and her bio here:

Swamp Celts Festival: Saturday

This morning I rose at 7:30 a.m. Tom and I had a continental breakfast at the Amerisuites Hotel where we’re staying. We saw several in kilts in the lobby who were already on their way to the festival, even though opening ceremonies weren’t until 10 a.m. We arrived at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales in time to see the parade of the clans and the honoring of the seven Celtic nations: Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, Isle of Man, Galicia, and Brittany.

Tom and I visited with friends, listened to some great music, and watched some fantastic Irish and Scottish dancers. We strolled by the several vendor booths, examining and purchasing a little merchandise. After listening to the last public performance of Paisley Close, we visited with our good friends in that band, Sydney, Amy, Rabbit, Hobie, and Bernard, and wished them good fortune. We returned to the hotel around 3:00 p.m. to dress in our kilts and take a nap if possible. We had a few logistical problems, so there was no nap. We returned at 5:00 to the center, had a wonderful meal of white beans, jambalaya, boudin, bread, haggis, and King Cake. We heard some more music, participated in the Ceili after dinner, and visited some more with friends. Paisley Close was just beginning to feel the implications of this being their last public performance together. It was very much like a death: you feel it immediately, but you know the full feelings won’t register until later. I know they will grieve deeply, because it is obvioius they love each other deeply. Tom and I returned to our room by ten, our heads and hearts full of memories of the past two days.

We’ll rise early to return to Monroe tomorrow, returning to work and chores and responsibilities. Tomorrow night at 6 p.m. we’ll be on KEDM during Celtic Connections to raise money for the station. Wish us luck.

Swamp Celt Festival and Highland Games: Friday

Tonight, Tom and I met with the Scottish Society here in Baton Rouge at their meeting place, off Airline Highway for a kickoff dinner. It is a great facility, with ample parking and the building is in a good location. The Scottish Society has generously offered to allow me to use their grounds (and they have a beautiful small landscaped courtyard) as a writing/resting place when I’m in Baton Rouge doing signings.

The sponsors of this weekend’s event were all there for a good time. We had a meal of jambalaya and white beans. It was delicious, and so good that I was too full to eat any dessert.  Tom played his celtic drum and sang, and I played my Guild guitar and sang some as well. Our friends from Paisley Close (from Houston) were there, and we played some music with them. I found the Scottish Society here to be friendly and hospitable, and in true South Louisiana fashion, they were here to have a good time.  I had my first McEwans Scotch Ales tonight. A VERY potent concoction, about 8% alcohol. Tomorrow looks like a very full day. I can’t wait to see what lies in store.