Fertile Crescent Blues

by Harrison Lemke

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nine songs about the generations of Adam & Eve


released May 27, 2016

All songs ©2016 by Harrison Lemke

Recorded in late 2015 and early 2016 in a duplex in Austin, TX

THANKS BE TO GOD, without whom there would be nothing to sing about;

THANKS AS WELL to Troy, who let me use some of his stuff, and Magdalene, without whom this album would be worse, maybe nonexistent.




Harrison Lemke Austin, Texas

tape-hiss symphonies to God

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Track Name: Garden Incident
I knew then that I had lost you,
and lost you for good,
half-eaten apple loose in your fingers
by your thigh under the trees where you stood.
And the white myrtle petals fell down
like lace onto your shoulder.
There was a brand new look in your eyes right then,
and the day was getting colder.

I knew then that I had lost you,
once and for all,
and the world was turning inward
and the leaves began to fall.
And the red myrtle petals sprang up
like new blood out of your shoulder.
Now we're never gonna get any wiser,
but we're gonna get much older.
Track Name: Fertile Crescent Blues
There is warmth in the fire
but not enough to keep us warm
and the shriveled ground needs tilling
but some days I just get bored
and you sit under the date palm
and you mend my clothes
and there's a longing in your eyes, I think,
but what do I know?

It's you and I,
it's you and I,
its you and I,
it's you and I:
from the morning
to the evening
to the black, black night,
it's "you" and it's "I".

The rain comes in fits and starts
and the thorns push through the ground;
try to make up songs to soothe
our howling memories by the sound.
And I know I shouldn't blame you
but I blame you anyway,
and the air between us stretches tight
with things we never say.

It's you and I, etc.

Last night I had the same dream
as every night before:
we were lying under pomegranates
misty-wet and warm
when our old friend cried out to us
in a language I didn't know;
then the vision tore in two
and then I violently awoke

and saw you breathing softly on the mat
of intersecting reeds,
long hair across your features
all inscrutable with sleep,
and the cave mouth sucked the cold air in
and it filled our little home,
and i hugged myself and trembled
and was utterly alone.

It's you and I, etc.
Track Name: Evening in Nod
The sky drags the sun down
and its blood spills on everything
in this little world we made
where nothing happens.
Take a little of the grain we've stored up
to make an offering
and gather carob husks
to use as kindling,

but the warmth of the fire
only leaves our bodies
colder than before.

The earth is hard and taciturn
and endlessly refuses us
so we dig channels in the dirt
to the river Tigris.
The figs grow pink and fat
with the sun inside them
and we cut slits in their sides
to help them ripen,

but the sweetest fruit
only leaves our mouths
sourer than before.

And our songs reverberate
with the same curse as everything:
the lyre & pipe,
the feasts at night,
the fire dwindling —

but the sweetest notes
only leave our throats
as empty as before.
Yes, the sweetest songs
only leave our hearts
more empty than before;
more empty than before.
Track Name: Enoch
our fathers founded cities
and named them for their sons,
but now that we're older
we wonder how come.

The grave only looms bigger now
for all we've done.
The grave is only colder now
for all we've done.

It goes to show,
it goes to show:
you can fill a leaky vessel
but it won't stay full.
Track Name: Postdiluvian Homesick Blues
Turned up another cache of human bones
down in the wet dirt, where the sweetest grapes grow,
skulls still adorned for their last festivals,
so cruel but so beautiful
when last they sang with life.
when last they sang with life.

Found the steps to some high place
jutting up into infinity, then dropping off halfway.
Remember when they said we'd surely die
if we ever were to climb this high?
Well, the joke's on them.
But it isn't very funny now.

Do you recall them marching in the street,
bronze gleaming volcanic in the evening heat?
And the women dancing up and down the street?
And the hands clapping? And the strings bending?
Do you remember what it sounded like?
Do you remember what it sounded like?
Do you remember?
Do you remember?
Track Name: Sodom Valley
The valley dead-silent
after the events of the evening,
you standing there shivering
whispering about how you wished you brought a coat or something

and no man
left to go in to us
after the way of all the world.

Smoke clinging to the tresses of our hair,
scraping our eyes under our eyelids.
I could hear your every movement
in that terrible silence.
Those two awful visitors,
their faces on back to front;
blood streaking across the sky,
the end for us, the end of everyone

and no man
left to go in to us
after the way of all the world.
Track Name: Sister Song
Do you love me, love my only?
Will you kiss my head and hold me?
I can pay you well for your time.
You only come to me in darkness;
I wish I knew how not to notice.
Is it well with you, love of mine?

See, the pomegranates are all filled up with blood:
shall I bring you one?
And in the fading light
of some distant night
(God willing and all)
I will bear you a son.

I am a detour to a promise
whose fulfillment is upon us.
It's like watching myself disappear.
Your love is shot through with conditions,
and I have tried my best to meet them.
I am drowning in here.

When the mandrake roots are all fully grown,
I will bring you one.
Though things can never be
the way that we
might have them to be,
I can bear you a son.
Track Name: Yisra'el
I confess, I confess:
I have mainly done whatever thing pleased me the best.
Send my family on up ahead.
Find a spot among the thorns and rocks to be my bed.

I confess, I confess,
and I have never done anything that pleased me any less.
See his face in my memory, blood-red.
Search the skyline from the cold edge of the riverbed.

I'll raise you a pillar,
I'll build you a shrine
if you just show up on time.

I'll raise you a pillar,
kill a ram on the height
if you do your thing alright,

alright alright alright.
Track Name: Brother Song
Will you forgive me for the things I said?
Will you forgive me for the things I said?
Will you forgive me for the things I said
when we were young, and dumb, and quite prepared
to wreck each other's lives?

Will you forgive me for the things I did?
Will you forgive me for the things I did?
Will you forgive me for the things I did?
When the blood pounded in my ears,
I shouldn't have listened.

Will you forgive me for the things I didn't say?
Will you forgive me for the things I didn't say?
Will you forgive me for the things I didn't say?
There can be no going back now
but I can sing you a song.