9 poems by the American poet
Patrick Phillips set to music by the
Brazilian composer Vinicius Castro
Let them be vain.
Let them be jealous.
Let them, on their own earth,
await their own heaven.
Let them know they will die.
And all those they love.
Let them, wherever
they are, be alone.
And when they call out
in prayers, in the terrible dark,
let us be present, and watching,
and silent as stars.
I can hear her through
the thin wall, singing,
up before the sun:
two notes, a kind
of hushed half-breathing,
each time the baby
makes that little moan-
can hear her trying
not to sing, then singing
anyway, a thing so old
it might as well
be Hittite or Minoan,
and so soft no one
would ever guess
that I myself once
sang that very song:
back when my son
and then his brother
used to cry all night
or half morning,
though nothing in all
the world was wrong.
And now how strange:
to be the man from next door,
listening, as the baby cries
then quiets, cries and quiets
each time she sings
their secret song,
that would sound the same ten thousand years ago,
and has no
meaning but to calm.
Praised be friends. Praise enemies.
Praise the dark above.
Praise hangovers. Praise cigarettes.
The vulture and the dove.
Praise all music. Praise the harp.
And the amplifier’s buzz.
Praise the days we’d live forever.
And loneliness. And love.
Praise even death. Or at least the dying,
who teach us how to live.
Praise you, living, reading this.
Praise light. Praise the wind.
It came with those scratches
from all their belt buckles,
palm-dark with their sweat
like the stock of a gun:
an arc of pickmarks cut
clear through the lacquer
where all the players before me
thumbed these same latches
where it sleeps in green velvet.
Once sang, as I sing, the old songs.
There’s no end, there’s no end
to this world, everlasting.
We crumble to dust in its arms.
Let the leftovers rot.
Let the last candle burn.
Let the clocks think
whatever they want.
This is the night,
says the night, you were given.
The hour, each hour,
So lean into me, love.
Kiss the blue children.
Come cast our brief
Let the wet branches lash
the black windows like death.
Let me lie down
beside you forever.
Touched by your goodness, I am like
that grand piano we found one night on Willoughby
that someone had smashed and somehow
heaved through an open window.
And you might think by this I mean I’m broken
or abandoned, or unloved. Truth is, I don’t
know exactly what I am, any more
than the wreckage in the alley knows
it’s a piano, filling with trash and yellow leaves.
Maybe I’m all that’s left of what I was.
But touching me, I know, you are the good
breeze blowing across its rusted strings.
What would you call that feeling when the wood,
even with its cracked harp, starts to sing?
This is for everything left out in the rain.
For all that rusts in the dew.
For the light of the long-extinct star and the hole
in everything, everywhere it shines through.
This is for the splint and the chock and the shim
always offering their wings, their faint prayer.
For the bucket of limbs at Shiloh. For the boy
clutching a wound in the air.
This is for whatever, foredoomed and forsaken,
makes and then fails to make do.
For my child’s stick-figure-filled-heaven.
For the heavens we believed in once too.
This is for everything, everywhere turning to nothing.
For the sun, and for me, and for you.
The truth is
that I fall in love
so easily because
it’s easy. It happens
a dozen times some days.
I've lived whole lives,
grown old, and died
in the arms of other women
in no more time
than it takes the 2-train
to get from City Hall
which always brings me
back to you:
the only one
I fall in love with
at least once every day—
there are no other
lovely women in the world,
but because each time,
dying in their arms,
I call your name.
It will be the past
and we'll live there together.
Not as it was to live
but as it is remembered.
It will be the past.
We’ll all go back together.
Everyone we ever loved,
and lost, and must remember.
It will be the past.
And it will last forever.
Para a minha avó Odete
Recorded by Vinicius Castro on location in several apartments across Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens
Mixed by Vinicius Castro in his bedroom in Astoria, Queens
Mastered by Luiz Tornaghi at Batmastersom Studios, a.k.a. his attic, in Rio De Janeiro, Brasil
Cover Art and Design - Fabiano Araruna
Photos [NY] - Tiago Chediak
Special thanks to my wife Ana, my family, friends and the amazing musicians who made this project possible.
Arrangements, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar: Vinicius Castro
Accordion on tracks 7 and 8: Vitor Gonçalves
Bass on tracks 1, 7 and 8: Ryan Dugre
Bass on tracks 2 and 5: Ian Wexelbaum
Drums: Jordan Rose
Electric Guitar on track 1: Justin Mayfield
Hammond on track 1: Eric Finland
Tabla on track 5: Jonathan Singer
Trumpet on track 3: Alex Nguyen
Upright Bass on track 3: Eduardo Belo
Viola on track 4: Pedro Vizzarro Vallejos
Violin on track 4: Delaney Stöckli
Violin on track 4: Francesca Dardani
Violoncello on track 4: Caleigh Drane
Wurlitzer on tracks 2 and 6: Devon Yesberger