Voices From The Right Brain

by Rob Siegel

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he loved her more than water more than music more than most he slept hard up against her he had driven off his ghosts they made noise that bugged the neighbors they bought cases of red wine they had kids approaching college and everything was… fine 'till he was speaking at a conference in their mutual line of work he caught her glance at the reception what an unexpected perk she crossed the room to greet him but he met her halfway there he was flattered the remembered and he tried hard not to stare and as the novel opened and the tangled pages turned when was the point of no return is the rubicon accompanied by the sign on Dante’s gate do you hear the quiet cracking of the thin ice that you skate do you have to take the plunge or does it count if you just yearn when was the point of no return they hit it off so easy they grabbed their coat and hat they were only having dinner I mean what’s the harm in that at the end of the evening as he dropped her at her room a handshake pressed with meaning and the rocky chasm loomed he thought I work like a dog why shouldn’t I enjoy a professional interaction I don’t buy myself big toys a big TV or a sports car I can keep it on the road I can keep it out all together It won’t careen it won’t explode and as he wrote the second chapter of the book he should’ve burned was this the point of no return is it apparent when you stray without the chance of a reprieve does the sea-change swamp the shore or do you get there by degrees the road is closed the bridge is out when’s the last time you can swerve when was the point of no return it’s not what you imagined the shades of gray don’t glow the sirens on the water they’re just people that you know it’s not what you expected it’s not part of the pledge the signs on the mountain stay well back from the edge at first he thought that he could hide it the jumpiness and pep as if jogging or a diet put the spring in his misstep compartmentalize his feelings little boxes in his head but it ate at him concealing and his dreams were dark and red after the eruption the boat up on the rocks the landscape black and bitter the jack out of the box the cork out of the bottle the wine spilled in the snow the things you never thought you’d do you did and now you know about the strange and sad unraveling of the peace you thought you’d earned before the point of no return when you look back on the road that ran you straight into the wall can you pick out the one wild curve that made you drop the ball skip some stones across the water for the ice is never firm south of the point of no return
In The Song 04:05
when it’s snowing on the boundaries and the crowd is getting tense and the heat from flaming arrows is enough to melt the fence when the bankers of emotion say the offer is withdrawn maybe then you’ll find me in the song when the zoo expels its contents when the creatures choose their words when the squirrels run for office when the nuts are cracked in thirds when the swallows have forsaken Capistrano for Hong Kong maybe then you’ll find me in the song it’s a mess you’ve blundered into it’s two eyes for an eye you fed the hand that bit you it’s a sharp stick in the eye the unseen artist paints with people fashioned from red clay in the pleasure dome even Rome wasn’t ruined in a day when the nursery rhyme reverses when the dish becomes the spoon when the cow misjudges badly and eradicates the moon when they hunt down moose and squirrel just because they’re badly drawn maybe then you’ll find me in the song when the bride is on the barrel the margins have been shaved every back has got two monkeys every dog has got two days Clytemnestra’s out of Prozac and she’s babbling until dawn maybe then you’ll find me in the song you’ll find I’ve had my filling you’ll find I can’t be found Elvis left the building he’s fled for higher ground the oracle spews bile while it grins from ear to ear in the castles of the west the best and brightest have a beer when the listless hold the levers and the righteous reel ‘em in when the snipers nail the angels that are dancing on the pin when there’s every indication that it’s going horribly wrong maybe then you’ll find me in the song when it’s snowing on the boundaries and the crowd is on a roll and you follow your own footprints to the bunkers of the soul when there’s no one home inside you and inside you you’re still drawn maybe then you’ll find you in the song
the little tin ponies line up at the gate the big boys throw horseshoes the small ones bake cake a disturbing murmur shoots through the crowd one jockey must weigh almost 400 pounds the flag it is dropped the action begins the big jockey’s tin pony breaks both its shins but he struts to the victory circle and grins thanks for your support looks like I win again and we’re off to the races off to the fights off like a prom dress on Saturday night off on a bender often unwise half off our rocker and out of our mind the mother of battles and the father of time slipped out of the party and drank too much wine shitfaced and stumbling they found their way home smashed all the windows and ripped out the phone and we’re out for a good time out for a stroll out of our league and way out of control out for the duration out like a light half off our rocker and out of our mind truth doesn’t require such twisting of words as we slide in lockstep downhill I always thought hawks were such beautiful birds at least they eat what they kill the blue and the gray thundered in from the past the red right and blue advanced far forward fast big things got broken small things were missed while demagogues dangled a detailed script so how do you ride this cynical slide when Huey and Dewey and Louis all lie don’t build a wall don’t build a fence and don’t believe things that don’t make any sense and we’re into the next thing into the blue in over our head and in love with the view infinite justice stars in our eyes half off our rocker and out of our mind and we’re off to the races off to the fights off like a prom dress on Saturday night off on a bender often unwise half off our rocker and out of our mind
to the god I don’t believe in let’s get something straight I don’t believe in destiny I don’t believe in fate I don’t believe in holy wars like chosen people do so it will not surprise you that I don’t believe in you to the god I don’t believe in you haven’t been here for a while did you leave a valid imprint is your credit card on file are you just reticent by nature in your robe and beard of white or a hung over bystander trying to avoid the light to the god I don’t believe in quit playing with the crowd cut the tricks with weeping statues healing waters and that shroud I think you’re not behind the curtain I think you’re impotent as well I think Moses had some issues and he torched that bush himself to the god I don’t believe in I give you a mixed grade for giving us John Lennon and then blowing him away but thanks for Louis Armstrong Jimi Hendrix and John Prine you don’t need loaves and fishes when your best work is divine would you smite me down a sinner would you sanctify my bluff or maybe all of this will have to be enough to the god I don’t believe in it just gets so complex why do people scream your name when throwing up and having sex well all right we pray to porcelain and to temples of the flesh but you must have some sense of humor to have made eggplant and John Tesh to the god I don’t believe in look me up if you’re in town you know I’d make the time to see you if you actually came round you know I broke one of your window panes when I was 23 I really thought I saw you but I don’t think that you saw me to the god I don’t believe in are you too good to be true do you see us in the mirror maybe we created you maybe we made that stone so big that we can’t roll it in reverse but at the end of every day if you don’t obscure the way when I look upward I can say I clearly see the universe
look at all the funny people climb out of the little car see the clown see the juggler see the princess on the bar see a man shot from a canon in a splendid starched white shirt see the spectacle the greatest show on earth the kids aren’t paying attention to the woman on the wire the clown will get the safety net he’s tended all his life he’s there to stem the bleeding in case someone gets hurt provide distraction from the greatest show on earth see the juggler try to keep a dozen items in the air balanced with great care while running up the stairs the freak show is still scary though you’ve seen it all before there’s a pinhead living just next door underneath the big top the elephants display their noses up each other’s butt like business on parade trained tigers jump through flaming hoops to increase their net worth it’s a sellout at the greatest show on earth higher go the juggling knives misjudge one and you’re gone I always thought these safety nets were built from tax-free bonds but you’ve got to grab that golden ring to fill up your silk purse long term savings for the greatest show on earth I guess I’ll be the strong man see the load that I can bear you can beat the beasts back with a bullwhip and a chair preoccupied by shadows in the cave against the wall fearful that the fire’s growing small preoccupied by patterns and berated by the light and pissing in the wind (whistling in the wind) won’t make it right look at all the funny people climb into the little car I don’t like to wear this clown suit I’m more at home with my guitar when they shoot me from the cannon I hope I land unhurt performing daily the greatest show on earth she enters the arena in her bathrobe and bare feet she’s still the main attraction even odds she goes to sleep it’s time to dim the house lights let the curtain come down first private engagement of the greatest show on earth appearing nightly the greatest show on earth for my eyes only the greatest show on earth
Crop Circle 04:41
gonna build a crop circle in the shape of my own brain gonna mystify the experts they’ll ask how’d he do that with corn and grain gonna reproduce each synapse every neuron every fold because I know what I look like on the inside man it’ll look beautiful in snow I’m shoving something up the incline a broken compass that I trust I might be spinning my wheels but ain’t I kicking up some dust gonna build a crop circle in the shape of my heart but the pattern won’t be stable ventricles twitch acres of amber blood will pump time will come time for harvest they’ll take the tractor out to plow but my heart it’ll jam up the machinery they can’t mow it down my brain won’t be so lucky they’ll plow it under ‘cause they can but in the spring they’ll find a million little 12 strings like ears of corn each playing cowgirl in the sand I’m shoving something up the incline a mass of words and hair and rust I might be spinning my wheels but ain’t I kicking up some dust gonna build a crop circle random angular and sparse you won’t discern it from the background but it’ll look just like me gonna build a crop circle in the shape of my butt I’ve always wanted to moon the moon from montana I’ll crack the hubble’s lens I’m shoving something up the incline a broken compass that I trust I might be spinning my wheels but ain’t I kicking up some dust I’m shoving something up the incline something fragile small and dark I might be spinning my wheels but ain’t I throwing off some sparks
The Game 04:26
when you first play the game you’re so sure you can beat them set up your defense rearrange keep your hands where they can see them and then run like a rabbit chase your tail like a dog cover ground and pick up bad habits and then stumble through the fog when you play the game when you play the game there’s rules they don’t tell you take something for the pain wash it down with what they sell you and then you’ll bloom like a flower or crash and burn like a plane you’ll stretch out roots and search for water or they’ll sift through your remains when you play the game I’m no good at the game I guess I lack that killer instinct but I don’t smell the blood in the waters that I swim in mom can we please go home I’ll pick up all the pieces I’ll forfeit the game to survive the game keep a piece that you don’t show them what they don’t know they can’t change hidden gardens try to grow them and then swim like a salmon spew your seed into a cloud you’ve come where no one can touch you now vanish in the crowd and you’ve won the game
born October 20th 1931 the pride of Oklahoma Spavinaw’s favorite son with his onomatopoeic name he shouldered young boy’s dreams Branch Rickey said that Mickey Mantle was the best he’d ever seen the last iconic Yankee talk about big shoes he switch-hit record homers he paid record dues helping out DiMaggio his spikes caught in a drain he tore out his tendons and he never was the same during Mantle’s final season as I watched my father die spring of 1968 the pregnancy of time his body beat by cancer nearly jumped out of his chair “mantle beat out a bunt… and with his legs!” I remember it so clearly ‘cause most things he didn’t care Whitey Ford and Billy Martin always liquor always fun it must be hard on athletes ‘cause when you’re done you’re done without the game to ground him he drank a river down cancer got his second liver and by summer he was gone but oh Mickey the way you took that final base the greatness of your flaws your Okie aw shucks grace you might have pounded 80 homers if you hadn’t gotten hurt you were superman in pinstripes but you landed in the dirt I first heard the music must’ve been 1972 Jerome John Garcia’s band and the windows they slipped through the universal constant that would never sound the same connecting to that place of shared experience and pain songs that flowed like storm clouds no direction just like me let’s all get there together wherever that might be a light that stood for where you could belong like others lost the ripple from left field that kept the faith and shared the cost oh Jerry I miss your reedy voice the big tent of your smile your angular sweet noise pied paper father Christmas to those who followed you around but the years of smack and cigarettes put you in the ground nothing much in common nothing here to see just Mantle and Garcia tangled up in me August 1995 somewhere out on the road the radio played ripple and in the darkness I just drove obituaries big time for the Mick and Jerry who? as if dying’s always the most important thing we do the mantle of redemption crucifixion for the freak yeah death to those damned 60’s it was just a lucky streak I thought about my father I thought about that bunt transcendent grit and muscle or just an acrobatic stunt I thought about the times that I played dead songs all night long feeling part of something and knowing it was gone oh people just a druggie and a drunk the error in the bone like gemstones in the junk like the flaws that make us human like the heroes that we pick I’ll say goodbye to Jerry and the Mick
Wake Up Dead 03:54
sometimes I feel like I was born strapped to the table with the buzz saw heading right between my knees sometimes I’m standing in more water than I can bail and there’s one door and I’m fumbling for the keys I hoe the road I live the code I never know I shovel coal into the mouth of the machine and then I go to bed wake up dead beat myself about the head lose it out on dead man’s curve cut myself to show the nerve shake my flaccid empty fist run screaming from the premises take it on the chin and then get up and do it all again when did this world of possibilities grow narrow I thought I was on track now I’m locked in sometimes I wish I’d throw that switch and just derail watch those tracks just twist into a grin I’ll do some damage walk away from the linear array to the dissonant clear blue but now I’ll go to bed wake up dead beat myself about the head see the mirror shifting red more days behind me than ahead drive this ancient tired train into the hail wind and rain take one for the team and then get up and do it all again when you die do you get back the things that you lost dreams and time and that morning you looked at me your eyes all over me come hither stay with me I had to go to a meeting what was I thinking sometimes I swear I must still be an adolescent no different now than when I was 15 thin skinned then turning toward translucent incandescent and craving deviation from the mean but I see the world through the same eyes it ain’t no different people lie when they’re older they just do it while they smile but now I’ll go to bed wake up dead beat myself about the head nudge the train back on the track give the goose a little smack pay the incremental cost invigorate my albatross put my game face on and then get up and do it all again
the snow never falls like they say on TV six to eight inches in the suburbs I’ll stick my head out the window if it comes back white they’re right but you can’t predict snow with just words I read the entrails of a goat once but I could not stand the smell I’ve got bumps on my own head that I can’t tell I had my palm read once but I prefer it blue I think it’s what I do let me find my easy right hand let me play one more song with the band just grant this one request let me learn what I do best let me find my easy right hand the snow came in the window and blanketed the bed I didn’t have the heart to grab a shovel so I turned the mattress over and pretended I was dead some things just aren’t worth the trouble Robert Johnson at the crossroads Robert Frost’s untaken road Robert Hunter’s box of rain eyeball to the grindstone and jawbone on the ground sniffing like a hound trying to find my easy right hand let me play one more song with the band just grant this one request let me learn what I do best let me find my easy right hand the snow was always deep when I was a kid but now the trees are taller so cut me down cut me open you’ll see my growth rings is that why these dreams seem smaller I’ve got a seat now at the table but I don’t like what they serve I juggle broken glass to find the nerve something scary’s at the window so I guess I’ll change my tune and shovel snow off the moon with my easy right hand let me play one more song with the band just grant this one request let me learn what I do best let me find my easy right hand I made a jigsaw puzzle From a picture of myself the pieces on the edge were recollections I pushed one piece in ‘till I broke I could not make me fit I wish these things would come with directions
so I’m a little spacey I forget stuff all the time I’ve parked my car in places I nearly could not find I forget my anniversary my mother’s birthday too why do I still remember you I forget to put the seat up I forget to fold the clothes to wear my hat in winter bundle up against the cold I forget to slow for children ‘till they’re almost in full view why do I still remember you there was no agonizing moment where I should’ve but I hedged there was no picnic on the hilltop just me out on the edge I’ve forgotten Deuteronomy and capitals of states I’ve forgotten trigonometry and calculus and Yeats I forget who ran with Clinton In 1992 why do I still remember you I’ve forgotten grateful dead songs I used to know by heart I forget the national anthem at that line about ramparts I sometimes call the kids by the wrong name which one are you why do I still remember you when there’s nothing to regret here cause it wasn’t even close just a dream of a memory of a phantom of a ghost aging’s analgesic the sated vacant Zen I forget people instantly what was your name again what were your moments made of that the neurons turned to glue why do I still remember you why did I laminate a memory of a thing that did not be neither drink nor time and distance can expunge your thing from me you’re my dirty little secret you’re the thing I can’t forget you’re the rare unopened bottle you’re the unsmoked cigarette you’re the click that’s quietly ticking and you haven’t got a clue that I still remember you
Shaker Chair 04:05
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
let’s talk about Kandinsky let’s talk about De Carte let’s talk about the value of liberal arts let’s talk about the problems with the Russians and their views baby I’ve just gotta have some social intercourse with you let’s talk about the Bosnians the Muslims and the Serbs the Sunnis and the Shiites and the Coptics and the Kurds let’s talk about religion and the things that god won’t do baby I’ve just gotta have some social intercourse with you let’s talk about the situation you know I love adult education let’s talk until there’s something else to do let’s talk about technology the things that we embrace you can’t make contact on the web you have to do it face to face bandwidth’s overrated but human touch is true baby I’ve just gotta have some social intercourse with you let’s talk about Ulysses James Joyce was really smart all that polylingual punning what was your favorite part? Molly Bloom’s soliloquy? fancy that me too baby I’ve just gotta have some social intercourse with you let’s talk about the things that matter I like engaging your grey matter I like iambic pentameter, too you’re intrigued by my huge concepts I’m attracted to your verbs let’s interact substantially and have a frank and fruitful interchange culminating in meaningful stimulating intercourse on a diverse slate of social economic scientific and artistic issues which showcase the rich complex multifaceted nature of our personalities and highlight that we are so much more than just these vessels of flesh in which we are encased nice dress but please don’t be suspicious if the conversation VEERS I only want to titillate the stuff between your ears if it’s mental masturbation it’s way more fun with two baby I’ve just gotta have some social intercourse with you let’s talk about… architecture the empire state building the space needle the Washington monument the Eiffel tower last tango in Paris (god I loved that movie) and that coffee table book that Madonna did I found it truly intriguing I never fully appreciated her depth as an artist before uh… I sense that you’re uneasy Is it something that I said why did you dump your fine expensive meal on my head I try to interact with women but they’re such a mystery why won’t anybody have some social intercourse with me
I Met Myself 05:24
I met myself the other day I recognized me right away I was in my early 20s I looked good I was still in college at UMass chasing girls and smoking grass and figuring out how to stay another year I looked myself right in the eye one of me was good and high I said oh lordie what happened to you you used run that ragged edge now you look like such a veg I mean christ it looks like you own life insurance or something I said lighten up I’ve still got the fire I’m writing songs and squealing tires I’m not pining for the way it used to be I still satisfy my needs but now I’ve got four mouths to feed and when was the last time you washed those jeans if I could meet myself as a young man I’m not sure I could stand the smell there ain’t no harm in looking backwards there ain’t no shame in doing well I said you’ve mean you’ve done that whole married bit wife job house kids and all that shit are you completely out of your mind? I never could be a one woman man I’m seeing three women right now I said I know and if memory serves me right you’re about to get yourself into serious trouble I said very soon you’ll find true love you’ll come perilously close to screwing it up but trust me then you’ll have incredible sex for the next 20 years of your life and you can be faithful I’ll show you how which is why we’re having this conversation now you arrogant insolent conceited self-absorbed little shit why you pompous geezer windbag fart who the hell do you think you are I don’t want your damned hindsight I don’t even want to grow up and be you you sold out big and sold out fast I’ll kick your geezer windbag ass and well it all just kind of went downhill from there I threw myself down on the ground and I proceeded to try and pound the crap out of myself while simultaneously trying to beat some sense into myself but one of me was far too tired and one of me was way too wired so we called it a draw and agreed to go find a bar somewhere I said nice car I said thanks I always wanted one I said I know if I could meet myself as a young man I guess we’d raise a little hell… bartender would you please send another round for me and my friend we’ve got a lot of catching up to do I’m the happiest I’ve ever been focused balanced yang and yin I like where I’ve wound up at 42 and you need to lay off that “sell out” stuff maybe I ain’t sold out enough do you know how hard it is to keep the faith I’m still a registered democrat I voted republican once and that was for bill weld and he was running against that idiot John Silber so I think that was pretty defensible man, you are such a bag of hot gas admit it you wish you were me unfettered by responsibility you only like being 42 because you can’t be 21 and you need me here to play this part chasing women so you don’t start to regret all those crazy things you should’ve done now about that woman of our dreams what do you think about this scheme we won’t be unfaithful if we both go home and uh check her out nah I think that’d be a big mistake the kids are probably still awake besides I spent YEARS undoing the damage you did lay a finger on her and I’ll hit you so hard it’ll hurt me and you know something I love women too every bit as much as you but this swagger of yours gets a little old you blather on about running free but well I was you and I remember clearly the truth is most nights you slept alone well that just hacked me right off and I had to buy myself numerous rounds of spirits and libations in an attempt to calm myself down I tried to console myself but the truth was that in matters of both quality and quantity I was kicking my 21 year old butt I knew it and there was nothing I could do about it if I could meet myself as a young man some of those lies might ring a bell… well I didn’t think that I’d be able but I drank myself under the table I’m glad that I can keep it up with age ‘cause I’m a kinder gentler Rob Siegel all my vices are now legal but my coffee intake concerns me deeply so I called myself two cabs home one to newton where I belong and the other one back to 1978 I sure hope I grow up to be the person that I saw in me but if I didn’t grow up at all that’d be great I was pondering my mental health after spending all night talking to myself when a Harley pulled up with an old guy on it his hair was white as it could be and he looked an awful lot like me and he said hey sonny you got a minute? if I could meet myself as an old man oh the stories we could tell…


This is my 2004 CD, mostly a single live show at Club Passim in Cambridge with a few additional live tracks at the end. It was recorded as a reaction to my first CD, the response to which was often "it's okay, but you sound a lot better live." At the time, the only way I could figure out to fix that was to record myself live. There were only minimal edits, just careful mixing by Steve Friedman. I was, and still am, very happy with the way this disc came out. It's still a very good representation of what I sound like live.

From the original liner notes:

"It’s little surprise that those of us who are singer-songwriters do the singer-songwriter thing better than the recording thing. After all, you spend years learning how to interact with a crowd, establish intimacy, and sing on-key through a PA. When you get it right and try to record it, it’s alignment-of-the-planets stuff. You play perfectly, and someone drops a tray. Or the guitar is out of tune. Or the microphone placement isn’t right. So you go into a recording studio, take away the audience, the room, the PA, and all the other familiar cues of a live show and put the emphasis instead on technical perfection. But for many singer-songwriters, when you switch to this left-brain approach, you lose what you do well live and don’t gain back something of equal value. After several unsuccessful attempts in the studio, I decided to tempt fate and try recording a real show in a real room. The folks at Club Passim were good enough to give me a Friday night all to myself, and I was able to grab a lot of material. The songs on this CD were culled mostly from that one live show, with some bonus tracks thrown in from other Passim dates. After spending a lifetime being overlay rational about everything, it’s nice to know that I can let go, that my right brain can speak up, and that the voices say some things that make sense."


released December 15, 2004

Rob Siegel: Guitar and vocals
Recorded and mixed by Steve Friedman, Melville Park Studio
Mastered by Brad Meyer


all rights reserved



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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