Home › Category Archives › Creatures

The Reluctant Angel

Music and lyrics: M.L. Hammond

This song began as some lyric ideas about two years after my sister died, but at the time I didn’t have the heart to complete it, and filed it away so well I forgot about it. When I found the file ten years later, I was surprised when I got to the last part—I hadn’t remembered where the story was going. I think I must have been influenced by Wim Wenders’ beautiful film, Wings of Desire.

 

So now I know the truth
it’s almost like they said it would be
and though at times I only half believed,
the Great One still decided to deliver me

It’s very peaceful here
no war, no drama, no hint of strife
and that’s so great, and yet I can’t help thinking
this place really doesn’t have much life

Oh how I miss the world
I miss the senses and emotion
the pulse of blood and sun on skin
wild laughter and the green, green ocean
I miss wine and pomegranates
their ruby seeds bursting in your mouth
I miss poetry and city lights
dappled fawns and swallows’ flights
and spring winds with their promise of the south

Oh how I miss the world
perhaps because I had no thought of leaving
mine was, I know, an ordinary life
but still I’d say I had more joy than grieving

and then one late and rainy night
a sudden curve, a blinding light
a roaring sound and falling fast
then all my present turned to past

The great one sits sublime upon his throne
the seraphim surround him in that pearly light
their singing is, well, heavenly and sweet
but you could never dance to it
it doesn’t have a beat

Oh how I miss the world
I miss the senses and emotion
the pulse of blood, and sun on skin
wild horses and the green, green ocean
I miss wine and pomegranates
their ruby seeds bursting in your mouth
I miss Beatles songs and fiddle tunes
and flirting under full moons
and spring winds with their promise of the south

So now I’m going to return
I’ve put in for a tour of guardian duty
they say that’s common with the ones like me
who came here without warning unexpectedly
and still hunger for the earth and all her beauty

Of course it will be different
I will not taste or touch or feel
but I’ll watch over others as they do
and though it’s not ideal
it may just get me through

So now I’m standing on the edge of in between,
my brand-new wings unfurled
I’m waiting for the word and my instructions
I’m waiting for my new map of the world
oh how I miss the world

Do You Remember

Music and lyrics: M.L. Hammond

Everything seemed golden in that long-ago light…

 

Do you remember
I think I remember
we were young
and it was all so long ago
the light it was golden
the light it was holy
time was secret and time was slow
sun-warmed walls embraced us
held us present in the past
but nothing can remain the same
nothing can last

It was fall and we were falling
I recall the trees were turning
in the distance someone calling
and the scent of dry leaves burning
we were burning

do you remember
I can’t remember
who said “Stay,”
and who said “I don’t know”
the light it was flickering
the light it was fading
time was secret and time was slow
drifting words and glances
until finally no one spoke
shadows on the walls made patterns
then dissolved like smoke

It was fall and we were falling
I recall the trees were turning
in the distance someone calling
and the scent of dry leaves burning
we were burning

Do you remember…I think I remember…

Stormy’s Song

Music and lyrics: M.L. Hammond

Stormy was a real dog, a terrific dog, that I knew. He was black, and fairly big: did you know big black dogs are the last to get adopted at pounds and shelters? He was one of the lucky ones. Listen at  http://is.gd/EsQvJQ

This song is dedicated to all the huge-hearted folks who do animal rescue.

 

Trapped in a pound in Ohio
frozen in terror on death row
but someone saw beyond your fear
to your spirit burning bright and clear

You were taken north to Buffalo
then across the border to the land of snow
and the land of love, as you quickly learned—
because the love you gave, we all returned

Big black beautiful boy
with your happy grin and your squeaky toy

But your right front leg was this shrivelled thing
tucked up and useless as a broken wing
so you hobbled along as best you could
and your wagging tail said “Life’s still good, good, ah—so good!”

But your other legs took all the weight
and in time they didn’t work so great
until one day you let us know
that we finally had to let you go

Big black beautiful boy
with your happy grin and your squeaky toy
big black beautiful boy
with your big brave heart and your boundless joy

And now in your canine heavenly home
you’re free at last to run and roam
you got four good legs and an endless store
of squeaky toys forever more

And no one who met you
will ever forget you, Stormy boy
with your endless courage
and your boundless joy

Chorus

Silver Boy

Music and lyrics: M.L. Hammond

Moki was my feline soul mate. I will always miss my silver boy.

 

He’s not the child that I never had
he’s not an ornament, not a fad
he’s not just a plush, living cuddly toy
he’s his own little creature, he’s a singular joy
he’s my silver boy

He’s a feline athlete, all muscle and grace
with a kitty-cat happy face
’cause his mouth turns up in a permanent smile
just part of his winsome charm and style
he’s my silver boy

He’s got a coat like satin of platinum hue
wise round eyes of golden green
he rides on my shoulder ’cause he likes the view
and makes me laugh with his latest comic routine
but he sticks like glue whenever I’m down
I can tell he senses how I feel
’cause he whimpers when I cry till I come around
hell, I’ve dated men with far less appeal!

He started to fade in the early fall
there was nothing we could do at all
and after fifteen years he just slipped away
in my arms on a grey November day

And I cried and I cried and I cried and I cried
but when I finally looked outside
in the fading light something caught my eye
a silver gleam in the low grey sky
my silver boy was going home
now the whole wide universe is his to roam
and I’ll never forget that singular joy
he was my silver boy

 

All instruments, DW; all vocals, MLH

Electric Green

Music and lyrics: M.L. Hammond

Way back I used to write songs about men disappearing; now I write songs about Nature disappearing. I currently live on the Oak Ridges Moraine, which runs across southern Ontario for about 160 kilometres. No surprise: it’s under pressure from urban development. The species in the song are just a few of the hundreds found there that are rare, at risk, or endangered.

 

Fifteen thousand years ago
ice and glaciers, ice and glaciers
time rolls on and ice starts melting
water flowing, water flowing
silt and sand and clay and gravel
kettle lakes and river valleys
marsh and fen and forestland
and time rolls on

Stones and shells for tools and beads
bow and arrow, woven willow
time rolls on and trails are blazed
land surveyed and roads are laid
axe and saw to fell the trees
for farms and churches, general stores
villages grow into towns
and time rolls on

Two hundred twenty-five acres for sale
zoned industrial
two hundred twenty-five acres for sale
zoned industrial

Purple cress and holly fern
pasture rose and prickly rose
silky dogwood, little bluestem
foxtail sedge and silvery sedge
white oak, black oak, spruce and hemlock
burning bush and trembling aspen
dragon’s mouth and panic grass
and time rolls on

Chorus

Stars still shining above
wires humming below
crumbling asphalt and grey cement
showing through the melting snow
and in the shrinking spaces left between
the spring shoots grow
electric green

Hooded warbler, loon and raven
Cooper’s hawk and broad-winged hawk
snowshoe hare and river otter
water shrew and smoky shrew
blue-spotted salamander,
Blanding’s turtle, ribbon snake
sleepy duskywing butterfly
and time rolls on

Chorus

And in the shrinking spaces left between
the spring shoots grow
electric green

Children of Peace

Music and lyrics: M.L. Hammond

For Susan Lawrence, 1946–2013, who made a joyful sound

A breakaway Quaker sect, the Children of Peace, built the unique and beautiful temple in Sharon, Ontario, then called Hope, in the late 1820s. I set the song in 1914, when the temple was derelict (it has since been restored), and invented an elderly female narrator, the last living member of the community. I then found out there had in fact been such a woman, and I gave my narrator her name. The haunting instrumental at the end is “Egypt,” one of the hymn tunes on the temple’s 1820 barrel organ, and the musical inspiration for the verses of this song.

 

My name is Emily McArthur, I am old but I remember
when our meeting flourished, one in spirit and in mind
and we named our village Hope, and thus we lived in Hope and prospered
but now I am alone, I am the last one of my kind

Now the temple stands deserted, peeling paint and broken windows
and the wind blows through the thistles growing wild beside the door
and cattle graze around it, their great brown eyes unheeding
that the Children of Peace are no more

Oh we made a joyful sound, and we dressed in colours gay
we were neighbour helping neighbour in the truest Christian way
sons and daughters standing equal in Jehovah’s holy sight
we were the Children of Peace, we were the children of light

David Willson was our prophet, God spoke through his hymns and teachings
and saved him and his family from a shipwreck in the storm
when he came to Upper Canada to build a new Jerusalem
and his dreams and visions showed him how the temple must take form

Twelve great columns rising upward and the Ark within its centre
forty windows streaming sunlight like a blessing when we prayed
and a wondrous curving staircase soaring up like Jacob’s ladder
to the gallery while the choir sang and the silver band played

Chorus

And we refused to take up arms, though we strove for what was right
and when Mackenzie* called for justice, some among us chose his way
but the peaceful march he promised turned to blood and death and grieving
so we struggled from then on to rise above the worldly fray

And now young men are dying on the fields of France and Belgium
but I pray a time will come when we shall put an end to war
and men and women side by side will seek the ways of peace and justice
and the Temple will shine brightly like a flame of hope once more

Chorus

My name is Emily McArthur, all my children died before me
and the Children of Peace have now all scattered or passed on
but when the wind blows through the temple, I still hear a distant echo
of the silver flutes and voices from those days forever gone

Oh may I join them once again when my soul finds its release
we were the children of light, we were the Children of Peace

 

*William Lyon Mackenzie, a leader of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion

 

Honorary Producer: Susan Lawrence

Le Cheval Sauvage

Music: M.L. Hammond Lyrics: Paul Savoie

Imagine a future in which a child asks her mother what a stork is, what wild horses are, what a whale is—but they’ve all become as mythical as unicorns and centaurs…

– Parle-moi, maman, dis-moi
connais-tu la cigogne?
– Il y a longtemps…
ma mémoire n’est plus très bonne
c’était, je crois, un grand oiseau
couleur de rêve, si grand, si beau

– Parle-moi, maman, dis-moi 
c’est quoi un cheval sauvage?
– Il y a longtemps…
cherche-le dans ton livre d’images :
des noirs, des blancs, et des dorés
le sol tremble sous la chevauchée

– Oui maman, je vois
le beau cheval sauvage
la licorne et le centaure,
l’hippocampe couleur d’or…
Ce sont toutes de belles images
Mais c’est rien que des images

Parle-moi maman, dis-moi,
décris-moi la baleine
– Il y a longtemps
elle chantait comme les sirènes
parfois elle dansait sur l’écume
avant de s’perdre dans la brume

– Parle-moi, maman, dis-moi 
c’est quoi un cheval sauvage?
– Il y a longtemps… 

Translation:

“Tell me, Mama, do you know what a stork is?”
“It’s been a long time…
my memory isn’t so good.
I think it was a bird, the colour of dreams, very big and so beautiful.”

“Tell me, Mama, what is a wild horse?”
“It’s been a long time…
look it up in your picture book.
Black ones, white ones, golden-hued ones;
the earth trembled under their hooves.”

“Yes, Mama, I see the wild horse,
and the unicorn and the centaur,
and the golden sea horse.
These are all pretty pictures—
But they’re only pictures…!

“Tell me, Mama, describe a whale for me.”
“It’s been a long time…
they would sing like the Sirens.
Sometimes they’d dance on the ocean foam
Before vanishing into the mist.”

“Tell me, Mama, what is a wild horse?”
“It’s been a long time…”

Piano, Marilyn Lerner; guitars, bass, percussion, DW; vocals, MLH

Thomas Foster

Music and lyrics: M.L. Hammond

This song is true: there is a beautiful little building in Ontario called the Foster Memorial, built in the 1930s and considered by some the finest example of its kind in North America. It’s also true that I first saw it during a very dark time when I was grieving the loss of my parents and sister. I hadn’t written a song in years, but I went home that night, “picked up my guitar,” and wrote the first draft of this song.

In the north of Uxbridge township
amid fields of oats and rye
a temple rises like some mirage
against a blue Ontario sky

Thomas Foster grew up ’round here
his family hadn’t much
so he went to the city where all he tried
turned golden at his touch

But his only child Ruby dies at nine
and then he loses his wife
he prays and he works and his fortune grows
but grief still haunts his life

So Thomas travels around the world
and in India there he sees
The Taj Mahal, and he’s struck with awe
it almost brings him to his knees

And he’s so moved by its tale of love and loss
that now he has a goal
he will call on Art and Beauty
to remember his wife and Ruby
and to fill his days and soothe his mournful soul

So he plans a fine memorial
a little Christian Taj Mahal
he summons architects and craftsmen
and he hires them one and all

And the costs pile up and the bills pour in
Thomas grumbles but he pays
and Beauty like a siren leads him
through those weary, wondrous days

Oh Thomas I think I understand
though we never could have met
I too lost the ones that I loved most
and I’ve not stopped grieving yet

And I too called on Art and Beauty
but was not as blessed as you
for the muses all forsook me
and it very nearly broke me
for I had no other faith to see me through

Then I stumbled on your temple
when I was lost one autumn day
I entered through the great bronze doors
and it took my breath away

The bright mosaics glitter
and the stained glass windows glow
the arches curve and the columns soar
the way you dreamed them long ago

And you sleep in a bed of marble
next to Ruby and your wife
together now forever
as you never could be in life

And I read the dates carved on the tombs
felt sorrow rising from the past
but surrounded by that splendour
I could not resist the wonder
and I stayed there though the day was fading fast

And then I found my way back home
by the light of the evening star
and for the first time in seven years
I picked up my guitar

 

Life’s Like That

Music: D. Wickham; Lyrics: M.L. Hammond

One day as I was riding, my quiet horse got stung by a wasp and exploded into a bucking bronc. I stayed on for the first four seconds. In the next second, my life changed.

 

In the blink of an eye, in one heartbeat
things turn on a dime, knock you off yr feet
get stung by a wasp, get sand in your eyes,
next thing you know, one big surprise!

 

A light turns green, a light turns red
you get distracted or you turn your head
you miss that call, you take that plane,
and life will never be the same again

 

 

Call it fate or the will of the gods
call it chance or incredible odds
but crash boom zap—
life’s like that

 

 

Out of the blue, out of the park
Cupid shot an arrow and it hit its mark
now you’re in freefall, no net below
over someone you don’t even know!

 

 

Chorus

 

 

In the time it took to sing this verse
some things got better and some got worse
stars have fallen and worlds have turned
lessons were forgotten and other ones learned

 

 

Chorus

 

A Dream Last Night

Music and Lyrics: M.L. Hammond

One night I dreamed I was dreaming…which turned into this joyful, Möbius strip of a song.

I had a dream last night
and oh it felt so true
I dreamed of you and you were dreaming of me
dreaming of you
you were dreaming of me dreaming of you

It was a dazzling day
the air was clear as glass
we sunned ourselves like royal beasts
in the tender grass
then we drowsed and dozed in the grass

And the birds sang a feathery opera
and the butterflies fluttered by
and I watched you dreaming away
under a luminous sky

Then in the dream within the dream
you and I both awoke
and at the very same moment
both of us spoke, and we said—

“I had a dream last night,
and oh it felt so true
I dreamed of you and you were
dreaming of me dreaming of you
you were dreaming of me dreaming of you”

It was a dazzling night
the air was still as glass
we yawned and stretched like royal beasts
in the tender grass
then we slumbered on in the grass

And an owl sang a bluesy lullaby
and the fireflies glimmered away
till the night turned and swallowed its tail
and dreamed us into the day

Then in the dream within the dream
you and I both awoke
and at the very same moment
both of us spoke, and we said—

“I had a dream last night…”