In Tongues

by French Letters

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Post-punk poem blues.


released December 3, 2011

Recorded & mixed by Adam Prairie at Hoot House Recordings.
Mastered by Vincent LaBelle.
Artwork and CD design by Ali Cushing.

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Track Name: When It Mattered
When It Mattered

So thirty came
but the record deals didn't.
Scrambling for a Plan B, frantic before you retire
from the MTV demographic.

So we assigned ourselves new titles of self-importance to get laid.
Rock star became... Singer slash songwriter.
Literary sensation became... Quirky cult poet.
Downtown 91's next Basquait ended up with a felony criminal damage record.

Plan B didn't quite work out as planned either
because the drugs weren't good enough to overdose on
and you haven't built up enough of an audience yet to be
eligible for profitable eulogies.

The younger, newer artists moved into our old studios
while we worked quietly out of the kitchens of our apartments
and while the newer artists can't afford the lack of credibility ghetto living gives them
we can't afford a credible life outside of the ghetto.

And so on now...
With the self-produced
the self-published
the independent releases completely independent of
distribution, promotion, and attention.

So we drink liquor in the coffeehouses while the sun is still up
leering at the girls we know we would've been fucking had they been there then.

"Where were you in '92?"
We form an insular liars club telling each other how brilliant we all were
or still are.
"Where were you in 2002? Huh?"


Where were you when this mattered?
Track Name: West Ashley Crosstown
West Ashley Crosstown

I take the Crosstown to West Ashley... I just wish she would talk to me.
Charleston, South Carolina,
she sees the 843 prefix on the phone,
she won't answer my calls.

Reduced to fluid soaked voicemails on the pay phone by the bar.
Drunk and on a dare I tell her I went surfing,
there were no waves to speak of and I was worried about sharks
until someone finally told me that I wasn't in the ocean to begin with.
I picked up a two pack-a-day habit
among the casuals, the usuals, the used.
I picked up the rather handy talent of not speaking a word
through the first few pints.

Charleston, South Carolina, man... this place is paradise...
All Spanish moss… iron gas light.
They sell beer down here, iced and by the bucket,
Southern Comfort kamikazes all lined up on top of the bar
and awaiting their cheers.
They sell phone cards down by the station
but she won't answer my calls.

I want to call her, tell her that it ain't so bad no more,
that the constant need seems to have finally subsided and
washed itself clean with the tides.
I want to call her and tell her
that I met a red-headed girl,
that I met a young girl,
I met a girl from Michigan with Southern lips
and a very complicated girl that has her eyes.

I want to call her and tell her that I am finally happy,
so happy I could puke,
but she won't answer my calls.

So I take the Crosstown from downtown, all the way home to West Ashley.
I just wish she'd talk to me.

New blues in the Old South, a new word in her young mouth,
it's not even a question of quality anymore... just give me quantity.
Track Name: The Less Girls You Know
The Less Girls You Know (with a nod to R. Pettibone)

She's sitting sulking on the barstool,
made up in make-up,
a persona painted on for the pink of a good time.
She craves the attention one would usually reserve a good novel,
the problem is that she reads more like a fortune cookie,
one simple stanza for the stars she seeks so sincerely.
Intoxication for the sake of a conversation,
do you think she even sounds sincere?
A cat with human teeth,
a smile stained red from wine.
So far she has managed to keep up appearances,
that in itself is impressive,
I suppose.

Girls are never as good as you hope they'll be,
drinks are usually better than you think they'll be.
The less girls you know,
the better they're apt to be,
and the more time you devote to drinkin'
the less time you have for girls.
And it works
if you work it.
And even when you don't work it,
sometimes it works well enough anyway.

Sometimes well enough is enough.

You can tell by the way she punctuates his every line with a little laugh,
she won't be going home alone tonight.
You can tell by the way she avoids your gaze in the back bar mirror,
she won't be going home with you tonight.
Bewildered, and tilted at the tipping point,
somewhere between heartbroke and still hopeful.
Perched precariously on the edge of her barstool
and teetering
and teetering
before coming finally to the only logical conclusion.
Track Name: Southern Streets
Southern Streets

You Golgotha, you ghetto,
you're killing me, can't you see that?
Haven't you yet noticed my horns
you mad matador?
Briskly shaking crimson flags in my face,
taunting me with a red wealth
then pulling away...
You jest, I'm through,
fuck you, Sugar.

Sing your sweet reprise no more
you Moloch,
you whore,
you frail marrowed martyr.
What do you think you're dying for this week?
Shorter lines at the food stamp distribution window,
cheaper drinks at happy hours,
free delousing,
and showers?
What a mockery you have made of our condition
you shiggity Shyster,
you saggedy lackster,
you buster of luster...

Oh baby, where am I now that mania knows my name?

I am the long gone song of the terminally rotten,
I am the glassy-eyed gaze of the easily forgotten.
Oh baby, I need my sleep to come easy,
I need these southern
streets to release me.

The gutters fill with discarded mar,
the rain beads down her face,
her mascara paints a clown there.
Pinches her ass and makes her a joke
standing outside of that old Kentucky bar
waiting for a car
which never came.
Left her only wet in the breaking light of day.
It started raining, she started walking
when she swore she heard the pigeons talking,
making jokes of her dismay.
Baby's come a long way
as she pulls a slim cigarette from her pocketbook
and strikes a dampened match.
The street lamps go out and leave her in the gray,
a damp dawn so far from reckoning,
so voluptuous in its pain,
her hair now marred, now matting in the rain.
Cursing over her shoulder the
car which never came.

Oh baby, where am I now that insomnia knows my name?

I am the long gone song of the terminally rotten,
I am the glassy-eyed gaze of the easily forgotten.
Oh Lord, I seek my retreat
from these blighted southern streets.
Track Name: Fried Chicken
Fried Chicken

O, you got a junky smooth
like razor burn
and that laugh was broken glass
with all of the shards still stuck up in there.
Up there,
where the only nightmare is
not knowing the name of your own demise,
what color it might come in,
what shadows it has dealt, or who it had
in last night's bed.
GOD DAMN, MAN, I mean...

I stuck it in the same place for months,
I didn't think that vein would ever collapse
but eventually the bastard did, I had to move down
and start hitting myself in the wrist.

Do you really think that it was a most uninvited violation
and not this mix of egg and flour? My sweetest invocation.
My biggest mistake to date was not noticing this desolation
as I tip-toe-tapped into the neon lit chicken joint across the street
and stood in gaping awe of the menu offered before me.


So, this chicken is that good, huh?
You bet.

Yeah, you got your junky shuffle down pat,
smash your piggy bank daily to achieve
That highly enlightened state where you ain't got to say a word,
the absence of your pupils says it all kid,
and even after five years clean I'm still stuck up in this shit
and we both still walk up to Seventh Street every day to score.

You, for Morphine.
Me... Fried chicken.

And Colonel Sanders came down from Mount Sinai holding two stone tablets
depicting his thirteen different spices and flavors and gave forth to the peoples of Israel
a wax paper bucket of chicken and said,
Change not my recipe, nor abbreviate my name to KFC
for I AM Kentucky Fried! And ye shall not create any brazen images before me!

O, you got your junky smooth, so smooth
like spreading mayonnaise on wheat toast,
borrowing your blues from a lone saxophone.
You find a vein.
You call that art.
Junkies like to eat their eggs over easy or over quickly, whichever.
I like my chicken fried
spicy hot pop rock melody.

And Israel loved its chicken
as America loved its heroin.
Learned to accept its rape. Learned to count its loss like so many pennies tossed
into a well, and eventually there lied a copper fortune of spent wishes. One thousand
used syringes piling up in the gutters. One thousand more chicken bones picked clean
and thrown to trash cans. You spent your dreams, spent your money, spent your whole
God damned life.

Now I sit in Kentucky
eating chicken which is not "Kentucky Fried,"
although it was fried in Kentucky,
because the Colonel took his patent with him
to franchise the River Jordan.
And Israel exiled me like I exiled myself
from junky-forced bulimia.
Colonel Sanders learned to accept his fate
and quietly obliged his barren cross in

Heroin is still cheaper than chicken,
recipe is still a potent gospel.
hey man,
hey man,
I'm chewing on her thighs,
I'm biting into her breasts,
and my fried angel
Track Name: Dead Letter Office
Dead Letter Office

Just another note
for the dead letter office

I'm drunk again, talking
while you're hanging up the phone
This is a theme
I visit over and again
the one where you're not there
yet it's just as effective
to explain to the dial tone why I'm in love with you

Every message
every letter
every poem eventually
ends up here
in my dead letter office

This is what I meant when I said that I'm not finished
This is what I should have said when I didn't say anything at all
When I let you run to snap that deadbolt locked behind me
and I receded slowly down your hall

An accumulated library of personal loss
this drawer
overstuffed with the muck that I scribbled down on paper for you
when your voicemail couldn't record the urgent sentiment I had tried to convey

Eleven letters
nine poems
two people
one thing

I count these down on my fingers
until there are none left
Left to ripen
unread and unopened

In this deep and overstuffed drawer gathering dust
Here lies the remnants of us

I'm not a writer
just a typist

Just another voice on the verge
or one more jumper on the ledge

I pirouette over the sharp edges
and mister, I can tell you
that's the only time I ever dance

Not a poem
just a jammed up scramble
of misinterpreted metaphor
A stripper for a blind man
a dollar for your time, thanks
Words get wet and beget their meanings
they get drunk and never listen

Mother warned of men with misaffection
but Mama, I am
I am that man

Never again
at least not in a metaphor
Sent words scrambling across the page
while my pen comes down like a bird of prey
Track Name: One For Buddy Holly
One for Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly,
he holy,
his tremolo go
blue style Negro.
but he
was barely twenty,
and he
knew how to speak
that true tone honey tongue
with every chord strummed
and sung in perfect
tough-as-Texas tenor.

Affecting asphyxiated tremolo,
I tremble
when him baritone so low.


barely twenty,
the patron saint of Lubbock
crowned with laurels of hollies in my heart.
In my rock

Buddy Holly,
he holy,
in arid landscapes
as vast and as vapid
as East Texas
in my heart.
In my rock
Track Name: Wallflower Among Women
Wallflower Among Women

All of my go go girls... went.
Left me alone to face the ashtray gray of a newly breaking dawn,
liquor sick and lingering on the chorus of some sad song.
The remnants of her fragrance
settled over the pillow like a fine dust,
a completely new crisis for my olfactory circuitry.

-O you girls
-O you girls
always so clever, so cute.
You come over and you drink with me.
You unzip me because I'm easy like that
but you never bother to zip me back.
-O you women
-O you women
with your wonderful names, your spectacular outfits,
your boring ex-boyfriends and your always intriguing pain.

No one can create or destroy a man quite as well as a woman can
and I've been bondoed and duct taped,
moon-faced and heart raped.
I've howled at the moon until it began baying back,
stood stone tongued through her rejoinders
and drove the hurt like a Cadillac.

cashes out at the end of her shift,
demanding restitution. Didn't know that serving tables
would be tip prostitution.
You know, you don't seem world weary
when you're hitting on your waitress,
you just look tanked and kind of

You know, it's funny, she said, I took this gig for the money
but I've never felt more cheap in all my life.
You know, it's funny, she said, how your eyes quickly undress me
right here in front of your wife.
It's funny, she said, you're so certain, you're sure that I'll sleep with you
if you just tip a little more.

Walking dazed around the dining room
tied to twenty tables,
he drops hints when she drops his check.

These hours aren't so happy
and it seems like eternity to me,
they either come on too strong or they don't come on at all.
He reaches out to grab my ass as I walk past his table.
He says he's got a tip for me. He says he's got some tips for me.
The pratfalls of this industry,
cartoon wolves gawk sheepishly
with their tongues all rolling out towards me.

When we're drunk on whiskey
wilting like wall flowers,
writing our phone numbers on guest checks,
we don't seem cool or mysterious
hitting on our waitresses,
we just seem lonely and desperate.
Hey, we should get used to it,
predatorial desperate.
Hey, we should get used to it,
boring sort of dangerous.
Hey, this ain't so glamorous,
drunk and over amorous.
Hey, this don't enamor us.

-O you girls
-O you girls
always so cute, so coy.
You walk past provoking heart attacks,
my eyes burned out like cataracts,
like what Mick Jagger sang in "Paint it Black."
Track Name: American Skeleton
American Skeleton

I walk these streets a yellowed skeleton,
all alone, so American.

She pulls at her skirt,
she shows a petty peek
at pure pathos,
a scant hint of the grandiose.

To be driven to drink or worse,
to remain a solitary skeleton.
So star spangled, so American.
She calls for her lover
but her lover ain't home,
now she wants to make bed posts out of your bones.

She gets you alone
yet lonely you'll stay.
Stark reminders to her glass-eyed gaze.
You were created in her wanton image,
a product in progress
never to be finished.

She takes them home and hollows them out,
sells them as forlorn skeletons.
All alone, so American.
All you crave is a separate peace,
now she wants to carve jewelry out of your teeth.

You imagined it was your idea.
It'd be so nice just to see her.
Maybe fill the blankness
of your stark white page.
You're only there to fill the void in her gaze.
A prayer to parry, seal it with a kiss.
Joan of Arc never burned like this.

In Victorian squalor, drunk as a lord
or a gilded skeleton.
All alone, so American.
Emaciated with pain until the feast begins,
now she's going to make hosiery out of your skin.

A drunkard's craft
to stack dry words like bones,
now she's trying to make pussies out of your poems.
Piled like kindle wood
a maudlin skeleton,
all alone, so American.
Track Name: Secret Meaning of a Girl
Secret Meaning of a Girl

Down on the bottom of a dead end drunk.
Didn't you hear the rumor that I was dead? Or dying?
Heroin in my heart and I lost another girl, scratched her initials
out of my arm with a linoleum knife.
Heard I got drunk and hit by a truck last week, none of the girls
looked depressed down at the bar.
I heard the latest one was even kind of smiling...

About a mile up from the river, right past the Bay Horse
where the old men drink Pabst Blue Ribbon from aluminum cans
on a cold and soulless Ohio morning.
Down at the dead end of a bottomless drunk.
I had a pocket full of Klonapins, couldn't even remember
the first half of the week
(I think I'll buy a motorcycle and just keep riding until the road ends).
I spilt Captain Morgan's down the front of my reputation
while the girl I used to love tried to make a joke about me.
I just ordered another drink, man.
She will never make me feel anything

A beer, a shot,
an immaculate heart,
six Vicodins in a box of matches,
a sackful of sarcasm,
a pewter plug from a filling that fell out.

A beer, a shot,
a long goodbye,
no goodnight kiss, no best wishes,
no cards in the mail for birthdays or Christmas.
An aching bone stuffed with rancid marrow,
a dull thud,
a weak palpitation.

Red lipstick on a cigarette butt,
a ring of condensation from your glass,
a beer, a shot.

A bar napkin with a phone number,
two twenty dollar bills and seventeen cents,
a good intention,
a skewed interpretation.
An idiot's laughter, an empty book of matches,
a couple arguing at the corner table,
a telephone ringing,
a choice, but not an option.
A gutter filled with rain water and oil,
a watch that keeps ticking,
a reason.

A beer, a shot,
the flight of a frantic housefly,
the sound of human lives.
An ordinary Wednesday,
accidental Feng Shui.
The scent of basil,
the feel of sweat on your forehead.
Outside the passing sirens,
inside the passing out.

A love song on the radio through the static of bad reception,
a glance from a stranger,
a vague desire.
A first date
or an anniversary?
The last in a package of cigarettes,
the first in a long string of explanations.

A beer, a shot,
the burn of bourbon,
a changing season, the indifference of pigeons.
A constant yearning,
an awkward flirting.
A kiss that tastes of her cigarettes,
a familiar flaw,
it's just the sound of her leaving.

Forgive the repetition, someday I might just get this right
but how many songs on the radio are going to make me sick today?
Outside it's raining and the sidewalk never stops to wonder why it's
drenched. It would as soon stay wet just to annoy me.
with its bindle on its back,
just stepped out of my doorway, again.

How many times is this not going to work before I finally get the point?

Sometimes I can't
so I just stopped trying
and she just stopped calling
and I can't get it lit because of the rain on my matches.
It's one last time I descend this staircase,
scared of the dark in her heart,
knowing damned well I'll take
whatever it is she hands me.

I don't wish to press the issue,
I worry about overkill
but how much do I have to take
before I start to get ill?

Just one more time on the linoleum floor,
one more time out by the dumpster,
one more plunge into the binge,
one last message on my voicemail,
just one last time...

After one last taste I swear I won't even try,
I'll keep my eyes on the sidewalk
averting every crack which wishes me back to my level.
My intentions turned to perversions
which fail.
A loss that all metaphors pale.

I will slide my jeans back on,
button up my shirt.
I will concede to this hold you have over me
and flee from your bedside,
no longer trying to sell you this mess that you could barely afford.

My mistakes fill a box of old photographs
that stack for miles,
spilling out over the edges like evidence left
from a futile binge of the heart.

The next time I tell you that I love you,
remind me I'm drunk.
Hang up the phone.