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Only Skin

This song is by Joanna Newsom and appears on the album Ys (2006).

Song of the Day
December 04, 2012
And there was a booming above you
That night, black airplanes flew over the sea
And they were lowing and shifting like beached whales
Shelled snails, as you strained and you squinted to see
The retreat of their hairless and blind cavalry

You froze in your sand shoal, prayed for your poor soul
Sky was a bread roll, soaking in a milk-bowl
And when the bread broke, fell in bricks of wet smoke
My sleeping heart woke, and my waking heart spoke

Then there was a silence you took to mean something
"Run, sing, for alive you will evermore be"
And the plague of the greasy black engines a-skulking has gone east
While you're left to explain them to me
Released from their hairless and blind cavalry

With your hands in your pockets, stubbly running
To where I'm unfresh, undressed and yawning
Well, what is this craziness? This crazy talking?
You caught some small death when you were sleepwalking

It was a dark dream, darlin', it's over
The firebreather is beneath the clover
Beneath his breathing there is cold clay, forever
A toothless hound-dog choking on a feather

But I took my fishing pole, fearing your fever
Down to the swimming hole, where there grows a bitter herb
That blooms but one day a year, by the riverside, I'd bring it here
Apply it gently to the love you've lent me

While the river was twisting and braiding, the bait bobbed and the string sobbed
As it cut through the hustling breeze
And I watched how the water was kneading so neatly, gone treacly
Nearly slowed to a stop in this heat in a frenzy coiling flush along the muscles beneath

Press on me, we are restless things
Webs of seaweed are swaddling
And you call upon the dusk of the musk of a squid
Shot full of ink, until you sink into your crib

Rowing along, among the reeds, among the rushes
I heard your song, before my heart had time to hush it
Smell of a stone fruit being cut and being opened
Smell of a low and of a lazy cinder smoking

And when the fire moves away
Fire moves away, son
Why would you say
I was the last one?

Scrape your knee, it is only skin
Makes the sound of violins
And when I cut your hair and leave the birds all of the trimmings
I am the happiest woman among all women

And the shallow water stretches as far as I can see
Knee deep, trudging along, the seagull weeps, "So long," humming a threshing song
Until the night is over, hold on, hold on
Hold your horses back from the fickle dawn
I have got some business out at the edge of town
Candy weighing both of my pockets down
Till I can hardly stay afloat, from the weight of them
And knowing how the common folk condemn
What it is I do, to you, to keep you warm
Being a woman, being a woman

But always up the mountainside you're clambering
Groping blindly, hungry for anything
Picking through your pocket linings, well, what is this?
Scrap of sassafras, eh Sisyphus?

I see the blossoms broke and wet after the rain
Little sister, he will be back again
I have washed a thousand spiders down the drain
Spiders' ghosts hang, soaked and
Dangling silently, from all the blooming cherry trees
In tiny nooses, safe from everyone
Nothing but a nuisance, gone now, dead and done
Be a woman, be a woman

Though we felt the spray of the waves
We decided to stay, till the tide rose too far
We weren't afraid, 'cause we know what you are
And you know that we know what you are

Awful atoll, oh, incalculable indiscreetness and sorrow
Bawl bellow, sibyl seacow, all done up in a bow
Toddle and roll, teethe an impalpable bit of leather
While yarrow, heather and hollyhock awkwardly molt along the shore

Are you mine?
My heart?
Mine anymore?

Stay with me for awhile, that's an awfully real gun
I know life will lay you down as the lightning has lately done
Failing this, failing this, follow me, my sweetest friend
To see what you anointed in pointing your gun there
Lay it down, nice and slow, there is nowhere to go

Save up, up where the light, undiluted, is weaving
In a drunk dream at the sight of my baby, out back
Back on the patio, watching the bats bring night in
While, elsewhere, estuaries of wax-white
Wend, endlessly, towards seashores unmapped

Last week, our picture window produced a half-word
Heavy and hollow, hit by a brown bird
We stood and watched her gape like a rattlesnake
And pant and labor over every intake

I said a sort of prayer for some rare grace
Then thought I ought to take her to a higher place
Said, "Dog nor vulture nor cat shall toy with you
And though you die, bird, you will have a fine view"

Then in my hot hand, she slumped her sick weight
We tramped through the poison oak, heartbroke and inchoate
The dogs were snapping, and you cuffed their collars
While I climbed the tree-house, then how I hollered

Well she'd lain, as still as a stone, in my palm, for a lifetime or two
Then saw the treetops, cocked her head, and up and flew
While back in the world that moves, often, according to the hoarding of these clues
Dogs still run roughly around little tufts of finch-down

And the cities we passed were a flickering wasteland but his hand
In my hand, made them hale and harmless
While down in the lowlands, the crops are all coming, we have everything
Life is thundering blissful towards death in a stampede of his fumbling green gentleness

You stopped by, I was all alive
In my doorway, we shucked and jived
And when you wept, I was gone
See, I got gone when I got wise
But I can't with certainty say we survived

Then down and down and down and down and down and deeper
Stoke, without sound, the blameless flames, you endless sleeper
Through fire below and fire above, and fire within
Sleep through the things that couldn't have been if you had not have been

And when the fire moves away
Fire moves away, son
And why would you say
I was the last one?

All my bones, they are gone, gone, gone
Take my bones, I don't need none
Cold, cold cupboard, lord, nothing to chew on
Suck all day on a cherry stone
Dig a little hole not three inches round
Spit your pit in a hole in the ground
Weep upon the spot for the starving of me
Till up grows a fine young cherry tree
When the bough breaks, what'll you make for me?
A little willow cabin to rest on your knee
Well, what will I do with a trinket such as this?
Think of your woman, who's gone to the west
But I'm starving and freezing in my measly old bed
Then I'll crawl across the salt flats, to stroke your sweet head
Come across the desert with no shoes on
I love you truly or I love no one

Fire moves away
Fire moves away, son
Why would you say that I was the last one?
Last one

Clear the room, there's a fire, a fire, a fire
Get going and I'm going to be right behind you
And if the love of a woman or two, dear, could move you to such heights
Then all I can do is do, my darling, right by you


Written by:

Joanna Newsom.

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