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Giving Life Leaves Marks

from Clothe Yourself in Righteousness (2011) by Jon Watts

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Living in the wilderness is wild,
and I lost it as a child
with my father
and the long december,
and i've got reason to believe in belief,
like having faith in reason
or a seasonal grievance
that encapsulates my grief.

I'll be brief but my words probably won't.
I wrote them when the air was clear
and fair and full of hope
and I've been living in between defeat and growth,
with faith my locomotive,
Quakerism hitches,
and a whole lot of baggage cars to tote.

And it's been a long time since childhood.
I spun around five times to get lost in the woods
and now I spin ten.
Now I know where I've been.
It doesn't matter where I'm going,
all that matters is the way that I walk.

I'm not soft spoken
but I'm gentle when I talk,
'cause I know we're all broken.
We're all in pain.

I'm witness to the suffering
in front of my face.
The symptoms can diminish
when i give them a name.
I call it "pain”.

But this is what we're born into,
so this is what we'll love.
We'll love it with our eyes open,
knowing that it's rough.
We'll love it full of hope,
knowing loving's not enough,
it's just a plausible way to stay focused.

And for your hopelessness,
I prescribe love,
as the first motion.
We're sowing seeds into this ocean,
planting trees and then hoping
that their leaves will open
and they'll bear fruit
like I'm bearing now.
My elders can look upon this song and smile.

I can't live without my breath.
The second best
is when i give into the settlement.
I'm sediment's guest.

The reason that
I've let myself be delicate
is that I've listened for what's needed
and become, as best as I can,
a man in this culture.

Instead of a dance, I'm the band
and an adult.
Young, and with unsung songs
slung over my shoulder.

Simple and solemn,
sometimes sad before I'm over
all the guilt and the pain
that this living life can give us.

Before I was born,
I was addressed to be delivered
to a midwife in crisis
down in Richmond, Virginia.

I can still feel the power of that room,
the comfort of the womb,
the realization that I wasn't facing
all this pain and all this loneliness alone.

And still I can call up
my mother on the phone.
Listen for the dial tone.

Listen, Mom, my teenage years were hard
and I'm sorry.
I hope that I didn't leave you too scarred,
but I know that you were ready.

Giving life leaves marks,
when you brought me into your arms
out of the darkness.

It took me fifteen years
to really open my eyes
and then ten more
to get over all the surprises,
and in ten more years
I'll be taking care of you
and I'm ready.
Anything you need me to do,
I'm there.

I see pictures with your long straight hair
when you were younger than me
and I'm glad that you were happy.
I'm glad that you had me.
I'm satisfied with the present
and with everything that's passed me.

And as we move into this sad universe
I keep remembering you
and our connection since birth.
I keep remembering what
our connection is worth.
I keep remembering.

And to all my elders,
reaping the harvest:

Max Carter
Scott Pierce-Coleman
Niyonu Spann
Walter Hjelt-Sullivan
Deborah Shaw
Frank Massey
Mr. Tom Fox
Michelle Levasser
Jackie Stillwell
Frederick Martin
Sheila Garrett
Robyn Josephs
Bob Butera
Tema Okun
The Esser-Haines
that's West Philly, Y'all
My mother Peggy O'Neill
My father Al Watts
My brother Coleman Watts
The community that raised me
The people who made me
to do what I'm here to do
even though it seems crazy


from Clothe Yourself in Righteousness (2011), released September 23, 2011
Written by Jon Watts
Violin by Marina Vishnyakova
Cello, Mixing and Mastering by Jake Thro


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Jon Watts

Quaker songwriter & video maker. Inspired by mountains, deep silences, and love.

Founder QuakerSpeak and Thee Quaker Project.

Clothe Yourself in Righteousness.

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