Thursday, March 26, 2015

John Mayer and Me writing: Lyrics to "Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967"

Did your dad like swimming? She knows this answer, but finds it funny or playful to ask all the time. Yep. You know that, hon. 
Was he good at it? she asks me, also knowing its answer.
He was amazing. He saved Aunty A and I at least once or twice in Hawaii, but you know the story about him punching the shark? He was an incredible swimmer. The ocean was home to him.
 She said nothing more, but just nodded as if approving my passing a test she gave. 


I turned in my chair; the squeaking swivel sound now triggers me to be creative. It feels as if the first step of launching a mechanism. The second step is to light my candle, (always cactus and sea salt) and lastly, for this month anyway, I go to iTunes music and put John Mayers album Born and Raised. Something about it is quiet and calming enough but still floating lyrical waves and emotions around me.

Strangely, my favorite song from this album that I play straight through is "number 9." I looked it up to see what it was called and to both my dismay and excitement it is a horrible, non-assuming name: Walt Graces Submarine Test, January 1967.  It is the beat and the slow intro of a song you think it will be, and then the song that it actually is. Juxtapositions of preconceptions vs reality are my favorite chocolate in the box of humanity. 

It was the beginning that still surprises me, that beginning with a shift always livens emotion in me, good or bad, but either way my feelings, as if little cilia in my heart, all stand at attention and begin to sway to the bouncy sound of it. Words from the title that stick out to me are Grace January and the date 1967. I cant, however, for the life of me remember a single word from the song I have listened to over two hundred times as I write this. I shall look it up now:


Holy shit balls! John Mayer can write poetry! The layers upon layers of meaning wash over me, and I'm stunned. 


Desperately hating his old place
Dreamed to discover a new space and buried himself alive
Inside his basement
The tongue on the side of his face meant
He's working away on displacement
And what it would take to survive

'Cause when you're done with this world
You know the next is up to you

And his wife told his kids he was crazy
And his friends said he'd fail if he tried
But with the will to work hard and a library card
He took a homemade, fan blade, one-man submarine ride

That morning the sea was mad and I mean it
Waves as big as he'd seen it deep in his dreams at home
From dry land, he rolled it over to wet sand
Closed the hatch up with one hand
And pedaled off alone

'Cause when you're done with this world
You know the next is up to you

And for once in his life, it was quiet
As he learned how to turn in the tide
And the sky was aflare when he came up for air
In his homemade, fan blade, one-man submarine ride

One evening, when weeks had passed since his leaving
The call she planned on receiving finally made it home
She accepted the news she never expected
The operator connected the call from Tokyo
'Cause when you're done with this world
You know the next is up to you

Now his friends bring him up when they're drinking
At the bar with his name on the side
And they smile when they can, as they speak of the man
Who took a home-made, fan-blade, one-man submarine ride.


Nothing surprises me anymore. Nothing. I'll say no more of this point, but it is astounding and yet elicits a hushed "Of course." spoken with a turned mouth, into a smile. 

.....and everything was shaken yet again, like the snow globe of my life in a bubble, on display to be seen.

So I wrote on, until the single digits of this morning,
I wrote. 

( Thank you, John.) 


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