Listening can be a daunting prospect because you know the reaction it brings will require everything from you. An upheaval, a complete change of life, or at least the feeling that you should be changing your life if you were as true to the music as the music is true to itself. A heraldic figure gets your hackles and deepens the silence that follows it. A wet black horse in an unexpected place looks up in terror and gallops away on muting moss. Laughter is the only response. To get up above the gloom you board the battleship. Watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon with the same eyes that you looked around from on the gangway. It’s late. Looking at the reflection there in the gloss of the eyes. Turning off the TV but the audio continues—cartoon noises and the eyes still reflect the images. In a small, cold apartment, away away. Trying to find those noises, smash them with a hammer, Bugs Bunny in the eyes. Smashing up the place. Neat as a pin, usually. Books splay like axed-at trees. The library, the dictator’s library. They say his band plays drums of the skin of dissenters. You don’t want to know how the flutes are made. But what about those that feel good and don’t want to feel bad. He’s like a dictator in exile. Not a dictator. The dictator’s right-hand man who woke up one day and split, maybe lover. Ashamed of behavior. Making amends now.
When you hear a few dirty words, you start to hear everything as crude. Mishear, maybe. Or does it just tune you into the depravity. Rumsfeld does this, too. Touches a part of me. Where a finger is not supposed to go. Absentmindedly squeezing my vena cava, he says, “Solitaire, eh? Well, two can play at that game.” Then he just stands there watching you play. Like something is happening that he’s never experienced. Always with the glint of drool. Vile smile.
There is no beauty described as beauty because he knows fly eyes. Deranged cousins of “Mairzy Doats” shake him up at night. He found a shocking calm. Once-per-year heroin. It’s unclear whom I’m talking about. I should have been doing this all along. A canvas where absolutely anything can be said and it fits. All the walks put together. All the walks represented by one. Nothing from daily life touches the music and yet it is of the goddamned moment like a pair of eyes staring at you. Waiting for your reply. Well?
The music drops away to reveal a voice without a body. Floating like oil and a fine tire on the ocean. All the times you ask yourself, “But where is the voice for this?”
—Bill Callahan is an Austin-based musician and writer. Before 2005, he recorded over a dozen albums as Smog; since then he has recorded four albums, all on Drag City. He is the author of Letters to Emma Bowlcut, an epistolary novelette.