CAUGHT OFF GUARD
“God, there are guns growing out of our bones
God, every road takes us farther from home
All these men that you’ve made
How we wither in the shade
Of your trees, on your wings
We are carried to the sea
God, give us love in the time that we have”
Those lines appear in the first song on the album pictured above.
Have you ever heard a new artist, someone you were not aware of before, and felt like the music reached out, grabbed you by the collar, and demanded your full attention? Have you ever held your breath through a whole song because you wouldn’t want the noise of the air being expelled from your lungs to interrupt the music?
I have had this experience a few times before. You youngsters may laugh, but The Doors hit me that way. Jim Morrison mesmerized me with his haunting, anguished, testosterone-soaked poetry sung in his deep, spookily detached voice.
Now it’s Iron and Wine, the performing name of Sam Beam. He’s an ordinary guy, a dad with a job, who started recording his tunes from his home. He writes poetry and croons it in a hushed voice on top of a caressing guitar. Listening to this disk I get the impression he is whispering in my ear. I haven’t yet experienced it via iPod, through ear buds, (so he will literally be singing in my ear) but I am savoring the anticipation.
Lest anyone who’s been reading me for awhile wonder if I’ve gone and got religion, I assure you I have not. Much great poetry is god-inspired, and that’s fine with me. Could there be a better, more reverential way to explore the intricacies of life and death?
Something else caught me off guard. I accidentally got a job. I wasn’t looking for a job but one landed in my lap and it seemed like a good idea to take it.
I work for an agency that serves people who are edging near death. People with AIDS who can no longer live on their own. New drug therapies that prolong life have changed the public perception of AIDS so dramatically that we no longer view it as a fatal disease. But it is. People die from it every day, and, though I don’t work with them directly, some of those people have now entered my consciousness in a very concrete manner.
The job and the collar-grabbing music happened to me at the same time. If the song I quoted were mine to give, I would dedicate it to the AIDS patients at my workplace. I hope they each have at least one more collar grab left to them.