Shaker Chair

by Rob Siegel

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1.
Elemental 04:22
freight trains once ran down my street noisy gods of iron and heat rain and steam and sound and speed all moving possibilities now the tracks are overgrown the trains don’t roll past here no more endings should be sharp and clear I hope some kid waved to the engineer in a world where trains don’t matter and changes push things faster or rip ‘em from the ground because they move too slow you’re elemental like a woman you’re essential like the sea you’re delectable like an avocado and I’m insatiable that’s me the buildings drift in through the fog ancient horses drag the log I tell myself it’s just the job but it’s real life the accident can happen then the wreckage that becomes the man the movie screens inside my head I hope I sleep well when I’m dead in a life thrown out of balance with screeching noise and silence time plays the joker when only time will do a nation built on excess buys glaciers melt but stocks still rise weapons fire people die and it’s only Monday politicians puff their chests dominant males take what’s best men in white coats raise the bar Einstein’s brain is in some jar I don’t know how he could’ve figured time gets small but space gets bigger ‘cause years are whipping past me like days used to do freight trains once ran down my street now the tracks are clogged with weeds soon they’ll pour ‘em with concrete noisy gods are obsolete
2.
Like a Feather when I was a boy I studied the sky wondering who’s up there and how long and why but the more that I looked the less that I heard sometimes I still glance upward expecting some word Moses he walked 40 years in the sand looking for something he might understand god it must have been hard at the end of the day to go to his flock and find something to say they call them dreams because they might come true it’s important to me how about you we careen through this life on the edge of control like a feather aloft when the wind starts to blow now I’m all grown up it’s not what it seems I still glance upwards I have the same dreams the one I like best is where I rule the world I buy everyone snickers and kiss my best girl in my next life I don’t know where I’ll be I might be a candle I might just be me but something simple and restful white clouds in the air I know I’ll still be smiling if I’m still somewhere Shaker Chair I’m just a plain shaker chair propped up in the corner I don’t know who put me there no pad straight legs straight back stripped to bare essentials but there’s nothing that I lack I may be very simple but form follows function fine it’s been 200 years but I’m in fashion at this time and I’m just a plain shaker chair well I’m a naugahyde barcalounger and I live to recline I hold your fat white butt in comfort while you channel surf and dine I’ve got potato chips and pretzels in my crevices and cracks spilled lite beer and pizza and other nasty snacks you might laugh at my morphology but I am just what I see I’m a naugahyde barcalounger lay your sweaty flesh on me well I’m a king size heated waterbed and I don’t get no respect people think I’m only good for cheesy motel sex but mister I’m here to tell you I hold a family of five while mom and dad read stories to the little ones at night and I’m so warm and comfy oh they tell me that I am that dad can’t stay awake while reading green eggs and ham they ride on gentle waves of vinyl ‘till they all fall fast asleep then daddy carries the little ones from the waterbed to the other bed it’s a bunk bed it’s so functional so impersonal not like a waterbed then mom and dad make sleepylove in the waterbed well I am just a pair of sox behind the bedroom couch I know that I’m not furniture but I just felt left out I’m just a plain shaker chair god I wish that you would sit on me you don’t even know I’m there I know I can’t compete with mister naugahyde barcalounger or a waterbed with heat but maybe 50 years from now when the waterbed’s run dry the barcalounger’s come unstuffed and it’s just you and I you’ll sit in a plain shaker chair
3.
when I was a boy I studied the sky wondering who’s up there and how long and why but the more that I looked the less that I heard sometimes I still glance upward expecting some word Moses he walked 40 years in the sand looking for something he might understand god it must have been hard at the end of the day to go to his flock and find something to say they call them dreams because they might come true it’s important to me how about you we careen through this life on the edge of control like a feather aloft when the wind starts to blow now I’m all grown up it’s not what it seems I still glance upwards I have the same dreams the one I like best is where I rule the world I buy everyone snickers and kiss my best girl in my next life I don’t know where I’ll be I might be a candle I might just be me but something simple and restful white clouds in the air I know I’ll still be smiling if I’m still somewhere
4.
5.
you and I we threw things at the sky we never told a lie we laughed in a pig’s eye oh what delight all that groping in the night all that love and sex and rhyme all that energy and time we closed bars we made love in cars we broke strings on guitars a love that knew no shame was it a dream was it really you and me mad dogs dancing in the rain you and I watch these years go by we’ve seen some old friends die but oh what fun child number one one and three look just like me two looks like you we don’t get out much we’re too tired end of day I’ll go and rent a move how’s that sound a foreign film may by Luis Bunuel with mad dogs dancing in the rain and so I can control these wanderings of my heart but life explodes as art and art exposes pain I don’t recall the ticket that I bought to ride this train with mad dogs dancing in the rain you and me make a cup of tea maybe watch some bad TV god we’re such bores but you still play your drums while I read about mutual funds because we don’t want to be standard or poor when I can’t sleep I pour a drink and watch your face your perfect female form ecstasy and grace tonight it’s cloudy crack of thunder in the air baby I’ll be Fred Astaire you can just be you but wear that pretty cotton dress that made me learn your name we’ll burn every red light out south of memory lane I hated gardening but now I can’t complain mad dogs dancing in the rain
6.
Dave 06:07
Dave was wild and crazy of that there is no doubt he partied hard and talked too loud and threw his weight about of all my friends from high school Dave was voted most likely to die young in a car crash or a drug deal or with a gun but it wasn’t speed that killed him it was cancer’s harsh unbroken glare that stopped him cold and bony god knows it just wasn’t fair he’d just pulled his life together gotten married and went back to school found his peace and laid aside the dual he could be loud and obnoxious he could be sweet and kind he was often full of bullshit but I never heard him lie he lived his life so full it sometimes spilled back out on the ground there was never any doubt when Dave was around when I think what happened to him he was just one year older than me the wheels turn and the highway burns the black crow in the tree he died with grace and spirt and strength but he died just the same I doubt I’d do as well if cancer came but oh you swear it ain’t fair it ain’t fair it ain’t fair well who ever said it was fair and oh you do what you can to get by to get by to get by and you hope that you survive well I think about him often my old friend who is not here when I’m fixing cars or throwing darts or sitting round drinking beer in a way it makes me grateful for each new day that comes but it’s like looking down a loaded gun well I don’t believe in Jesus and I don’t believe in sin and I don’t believe that he paid a price for the wild life that he lived but if there’s a god who cuts these deals and decides who lives and dies then there but for the grace of god go I
7.
born on Long Island 1958 prefabricated living outside Grumman’s gate the cold war was heating up the space race was too aerospace was booming dad engineered the moon mister middle class suburban what sustains your dreams is it just this slice of paradise and the stability it brings are you thinking ‘bout insurance and barbecues and bikes do you like suburban life the house on Long Island bought on the G.I. bill nineteen five at four percent behind a great big hill stingrays and stick shifts American design longer lower wider hear those turbines whine mister middle class suburban what sustains your dreams when you were a child didn’t you lay awake and dream what did you think of all my rocket ships and candy bars and toys or was it all just too much noise we knew the names of astronauts the Beatles and the Mets McCartney screamed Swoboda slugged Grissom burned to death Cronkite told the truth Johnson told the lies lit the tunnel with his light and vanished in disguise I’d ride my bike past potato farms that practically sprouted track housing another week another subdivision I’d glide past rows of slab ranch houses Mustangs and Impalas in the driveway color tvs and dishwashers inside everything so new it practically squeaked I’d run inside for meat potatoes and situation comedy then run back outside to play in the insular lily white warm dark Long Island night where we’d play stickball ‘till nine and walk to school the next day without fear man there must’ve been eighty kids my age on my street alone beehive skinny tie white shirt white bread winner postwar baby boomer melting pot of other white people different but not different enough to frighten anyone was it really all that bad? when I went back to Long Island the little house looked good something was of value there some good things took root the big hill looked much lower though perspective’s a funny thing age might make you higher but it’s all dead reckoning mister middle class suburban what sustains your dreams can you walk that final mile or are you cracking at the seams if it all went south tomorrow would you have chosen right when you look up at the night can you see your rocket’s flight you gave your kids a good life
8.
Religion 05:29
I was raised Jewish it was not my choice I asked the four questions but it was not my voice I went to hebrew school stared at the walls I was bar mitzvahed I hated it all so it’s no surprise I married my wife she’s a lapsed Catholic the church changed her live a nun with a ruler her knees black and blue twelve years of Catholic school she marries a Jew oh religion what are you for I’m an iconoclast in a life that’s soon past a confirmed agnostic in a world that’s so sure for our wedding we gathered before the powers that be no priest no rabbi just a justice of the peace then a short hebrew prayer a quick Irish toast and my uncle Herbie sang my wild Irish rose now we got kids and they want the truth what about santa? some guys in red suits but we do christmas and chanukah with candles and lights it’s an orgy of presents I guess that’s all right oh religion is there anything more presents are fine and I like the red wine but still I’m agnostic in a world that’s so sure so what do we tell them when the big questions roll what about god and faith and a soul I can’t just dismiss these like santa’s sad lot maybe faith is a present that I never got I’m just one parent I’m not Jesus Christ but I don’t need religion to teach wrong from right you just tolerate difference respect everyone if there’s family values then hate isn’t one at least not in our house oh religion what are you for I’m an iconoclast in a life that’s soon past a confirmed agnostic in a world that’s so sure oh religion best examine your core because mountains of hate have been heaped on your plate Jerusalem Lebanon Ireland on and on way too much pain still gets done in your name and so I’m agnostic in a world that’s so sure what will the kids think about mom and dad will they tank us for the Sunday school they never had or will they damn us for raising them so rootless and barren and spiritually hollow I don’t know I was raised Jewish It was not my choice but it’s who I am now it’s part of my voice my children can find their way home through the night until they find god I’ll leave on the light oh religion I’d crack open your door but I’m an arrogant ass with big questions to ask and so I’m agnostic in a world that’s so sure oh religion what are you for I’m an iconoclast in a life that goes fast a confirmed agnostic in a world that’s so sure
9.
Montana 04:40
I guess I jumped without a chute I was drunk and she was cute I saw her and my soul began to bleed goodness knows what she saw in me the first time was like you dream about hair flying clothes lying all about a love like that could kill a man it never happened that way again I think Montana just might be just the thing I need for me love comes like a swarm of bees you’re red and stinging when it leaves I won’t see you in a cloudless sky as eight hundred miles roll by out of the corner of my eye she must’ve been just testing out her wings young girls do that kind of thing young men dream of being where I was when I caught that first upward gust the random element and timing’s chance flaws in the crystal brought us to this dance love like a flash flood like snow in may came out of nowhere and went away I think Montana just might be just the thing I need for me winter comes in her pretty white dress why’s it leave such an awful mess I won’t see you in a cloudless sky as eight hundred miles roll by out of the corner of my eye maybe we just need the pain of something offered and pushed away love the needle love the blade love the damage you have made you can’t hold time you can’t hold fire you can’t hold truth if you’re a goddam liar you can’t hold dreams if you don’t dream bold she wasn’t ever mine to hold there’s some things I should see but my hindsight ain’t what it used to be look there on the edge of tears you look right at it and it disappears I think Montana just might be just the thing I need for me comfort comes in strange degrees isolation if you please I won’t see you in a cloudless sky as eight hundred miles roll by out of the corner of my eye
10.
my earliest memory was when they shot John Kennedy the year was 1963 I was five I know that I was much too young to realize what had been done but I remember ‘cause I saw my old man cry it was a multimedia tragedy it was blood and guts on live tv it was death in living color what a scream now I see his face everywhere I look on the postage stamps and matchbooks and I think that he could explain to me why we need a sense of history the next ten years jumped and twitched like somebody hit the fast forward switch it was hard to be a hippy at thirteen but I tried and I tried I was no one’s fool I drew peace signs on the walls at school while I watched them count up bodies on tv it was an Indochinese tragedy it was Chet Huntley on NBC it was death in living color what a scream all our heroes went the way of MLK and RFK and I think that they could explain to me why we need a sense of history you know the media loves a political assassination and I wonder who the next one’s gonna be I’m as young as I can be and still remember John Kennedy but history repeats itself I’m afraid that somebody must’ve seen me cry the day I learned that John Lennon died I got mushroom clouds and needles in my dreams it was a multimedia tragedy it was blood and guts on MTV it was death in living color what a scream now I’m scared of guns and I’m afraid of the dark and I see his face in Central Park and I think that he could explain to me something about a sense of history
11.
middle class middle aged middle of the road mister wonder what they done to you center right center stage center can not hold senses what they took away from you I can tell just by your talking I can see it in your eyes no one lied but no one told the truth I can smell it in your destiny I can find it out tonight I can look until I scare myself for you tell me secrets tell me lies tell me what you will take me to the surface of my smile moving pictures moving parts never standing still I wonder what’s gone all here all the while there’s poetry emotion a soliloquy of tears there’s strangers in the shadows that I knew there’s time to find the answers if you want to do it right and look until I scare myself for you it’s still life with roses now no matter where you turn you can’t escape the boundaries of your being I spend too much time seeing things evaporate from life and staring as my television screams there’s an answer to your questions if you keep them to yourself there’s a way out of these tunnels that are you if intransigent suggestions become the relics of the fight then I’ll look until I scare myself for you
12.
Benediction 01:49
I woke up again today so I guess that I’m still here the anvil did not fall down on my head as I had feared oh god I love my wife these kids but I can’t stop the train can we all come back tomorrow and play with these toys again oh god don’t take it away from me oh god don’t take it away from me I’ll do anything that you want me to anything but believe in you oh god don’t take it away
13.
14.
I am an old man who dreams about trains red and black railroads that visit my brain I can’t explain how I don’t know just why but I sometimes hear voices that call from the sky we ran in the rain we swore at the sea we walked out of time and we sang out of key now I’m just an old man who dreams about trains and you’re just a little boy lost in the rain don’t ask me no questions I’ll tell you no lies but the seasons spin ‘round as we stare at the sky but the moon still goes down the sun still gets up so you’d better chase rainbows and go fall in love I slept well last night I dreamed about tracks I saw a red freight train who’s boxcars were black it ran ever on I started to cry then I woke up laughing and I did not know why

about

My first (1999) singer-songwriter CD. It sounds young and uneven to me, and a bit hobbled by my playing all the parts except for the piano on "Mad Dogs Dancing in the Rain," but "Elemental," "Mister Middle Class Suburban," and "Sense of History" still have a lot of resonance.

credits

released June 1, 1999

Rudy Borkowski: Piano on "Mad Dogs Dancing in the Rain"

Recorded and engineered by Steve Friedman at Melville Park Studio, except for "Dave," "Sense of History," and "Until I Scare Myself" which were recorded and engineered several years earlier by Eric Kilburn at Wellspring Sound.

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Rob Siegel Boston, Massachusetts

Rob Siegel is well-known in Boston folk music circles as an innovative songwriter who draws from his idyllic yet stressed- out middle-class suburban existence and produces memorable, intelligent, well-crafted songs.

His first new CD in 14 years, "A Landscape of Ghosts," will be out in April, with a CD release show at Club Passim on Monday April 30th.
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