Got a broken heart and your name on my cast And everybody’s gone at last
June 30, 2024 10:29 AM   Subscribe

40 Saddest Albums of All Time (slDiscogs)
posted by box (62 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Gosh so many of these were theme songs to my 90s. I do have to give an honorable mope mention for this song, however (not on the list)
posted by jessamyn at 10:45 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


I knew there would be a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album but I was expecting Boatman’s Call not the more recent Ghosteen
posted by dis_integration at 10:47 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


if you want a 41st try Splinter by The Sneaker Pimps.
posted by supermedusa at 11:06 AM on June 30


Only one Elliot Smith album, which ok I guess because otherwise it'd be a good chunk of the list.

No Julien Baker! C'mon. C'MON.

Shocked to not see Death Cab. Plans could be on there for most of the album, but "What Sarah Said" should cement it for that song alone.
posted by curious nu at 11:17 AM on June 30 [5 favorites]


Two of the albums that sprang immediately to mind, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s I See a Darkness and Nico’s Desertshore, were on the list, so I’m happy, and several artists have different albums than the ones I expected, but mostly they make sense. The two albums I’m surprised didn’t make the list are Billie Holiday’s brilliant and heartbreaking Lady Sings the Blues and Skip Spence’s Oar. The latter is the sound of a broken down man falling apart in a studio.
posted by Kattullus at 11:19 AM on June 30 [3 favorites]


Checked to make sure that "Songs of Love and Hate" by Leonard Cohen was included, and was not disappointed.

Interesting to see "The Sophtware Slump" by Grandaddy on there. Absolutely one of my favourite albums, and it definitely has some extremely poignant and tragic songs, but I never really classified it in my head as a "sad album", per se.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 11:21 AM on June 30 [5 favorites]


I have a couple...

"Godless America" is a compilation of obscure country western songs from the pre Nashville era. "Eight Weeks In A Barroom" is a hell of a ride through someone's darkness.

The other is "Hank Williams as Luke The Drifter", which has some real dirges. A taste of Hank's alter ego; I can only take it in very small pieces, many of which are available on YouTube.
posted by cybrcamper at 11:29 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


No Gillian Welch? No Aimee Mann? No Lana Del Rey? Are you trying to make these sad girls sadder???
posted by rikschell at 11:29 AM on June 30 [12 favorites]


Sea Change is a breakup album, sure, but it also gathers some sinister context when you combine it with the scientology-hijinks surrounding him at the time

I'm not sure there's an all-sad Tom Waits album, but you could definitely compile a 10 Saddest
posted by credulous at 11:47 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


These all sound great, and I will bookmark the page for some lovely/lonely night of listening with a big glass of wine in the dark.

When I was in college my best friend and I were obsessed by Tears for Fears' first album The Hurting. Very very very saaaaaaadddddd.
posted by JanetLand at 11:48 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


I'd nominate O by Damien Rice
posted by gottabefunky at 11:48 AM on June 30 [3 favorites]


but "What Sarah Said" should cement it for that song alone

For some inexplicable reason unrelated to any of this I had this song stuck in my head last night all night.

Love is watching someone die.

So who's going to watch you die?


Oh.

Oh God.
posted by kbanas at 12:15 PM on June 30 [6 favorites]


On one hand, this is extremely presentist - like, do we really, really believe that virtually all of the saddest albums of all time were recorded after 1990? I think that's the sign of not enough listening.

On the other hand, this is a great way to do a list - pick something more specific than "the best" and pick something we all know is pretty subjective so that we can chat rather than fight. Unlike most curated lists, this actually made me want to listen to a bunch of the albums.

My personal saddest albums are PJ Harvey's Let England Shake and David Berman's Purple Mountains album. "The Color of the Earth" on the PJ Harvey is actually such a sad song that I skip it when I listen to the album - I think I've actually listened to it twice, and I've probably played the album fifty or sixty times.

The thing about sad breakups is that eventually you virtually always feel better, but if you died on the barbed wire in WWI you're still dead, if you're David Berman you're still dead, etc.
posted by Frowner at 12:21 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


I was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2015. I'm ok now but that Sufjan album - Carrie and Lowell - came out that summer and for like three months while I was waiting for surgery I would just listen to that album and sob. In my car. At home. At work. But I never stopped playing it. Sometimes it feels good to be sad.

I still can't listen to it without tearing up.

That's the top of my personal list.
posted by kbanas at 12:35 PM on June 30 [15 favorites]


JFHC! No Farewell Angelina recorded by Joan Baez right after she got dumped by Bob Dylan!? What universe do these faux mopers live in!? That has to be one of the saddest albums of all time. My dad would start screaming 'Suicide music! Turn off that goddamn fucking suicide music!' whenever I put it on. As did more than one girlfriend over the years. That has to be just about the most depressed album ever.
posted by y2karl at 12:41 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


I was prepared to whine about Lou Reed’s Berlin being ignored but nope, there it is. “Certain parts of the album still feel dreadful”, indeed. What a feeling…
posted by aquanaut at 12:58 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


Like 'They're taking the children away...' complete with crying babies in the background.
posted by y2karl at 1:06 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Some good stuff on here, but yeah, this is very recent stuff - would nominate Wish You Were Here, Tonight's the Night, Plastic Ono Band as some older candidates.

Or for more recent stuff, how about Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space or 69 Love Songs?

But IMO another weak point here is the concentration on stereotypically sad-sounding stuff - mellow acoustic guitars, slow beats, minor keys. Echo-y, somber, ethereal. While personally I have a weak point for music that sounds happy and bouncy, but has crushingly depressing lyrics. I might vote for Heavenly/Amelia Fletcher as the absolute champion of that genre.
posted by equalpants at 1:11 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


It has A Crow Looked At Me. The list is therefore complete; there can be no sadder album. I have listened to that Mount Eerie album precisely once, and I ended up on the floor emitting low sobs. And I was in a fairly good place when I started. (If you want to bookend the sadness, Geneviève wrote a children's book for her child, knowing she wouldn't live to see them grow up)

A personally sad album for me is The Caretaker's "Everywhere at the end of time". The album tracks the loss of memory, self and sensation from the onset of dementia, and my dad was sliding that way when I heard it.
posted by scruss at 1:14 PM on June 30 [5 favorites]


Needs more sad bops.
posted by signal at 1:24 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I was prepared to whine about Lou Reed’s Berlin being ignored but nope, there it is.

Lester Bangs wrote an article for Creem magazine on the occasion of Lou Reed's Sally Can't Dance entitled LOU REED! DEAD OR ALIVE -- WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE!?' wherein he wrote, in reference to Berlin, '...and then he puked up the most gargantuan slab of maggoty rancor ever recorded!' God, I loved Lester Bangs -- about as much as he loved Lou Reed.
posted by y2karl at 1:28 PM on June 30 [3 favorites]


I was ten choices into the list before hitting an album I don't have (I haven't heard of Susanne Sundfør, will have to check her out) but I just have to say that I strongly suspect a Richard-Thompson-shaped hole in this writer's music collection.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:42 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


I read about A Crow Looked At Me a few years ago and bookmarked it for when I thought I’d be in the right mental space to be devastated.

Haven’t listened to it yet…
posted by ejs at 1:50 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Oops -- re Lou Reed and Lester Bangs in Creem in 1975: I was wrong on the title. LOU REED! WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE -- WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE? was the headline on the cover. The article itself was entitled Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves: Or How I Slugged it Out With Lou Reed and Stayed Awake --and that's just the interview part.

CW: Just about everything you can think of -- as it was written in 1975 and details the conversation of two very pottymouthed men. And just now I realize that was almost 50 years ago. Oh, my.
posted by y2karl at 1:57 PM on June 30 [3 favorites]


coverdale/page is the saddest album, you could tell how much jimmy missed robert and it was breaking his heart
posted by logicpunk at 2:06 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


Oh god, I just found and have to add Lou Reed Meets The Press (1974) just because. Plus on my phone there is no end to similar YouTube clips of him at the time. What a goldmine. Again on all, CW: Everything.
posted by y2karl at 2:20 PM on June 30


I have a weak point for music that sounds happy and bouncy, but has crushingly depressing lyrics.

One, Two, Free Four!
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 2:23 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Lou Reed in Australia 1974 -- the whole interview.
OK, my work here is done. For now.
posted by y2karl at 2:27 PM on June 30


ejs: I haven't listened to it either, but just the quote in the article made me say "Jesus Christ" out loud. Woof.

As far as the list... not terrible, but some notes:

Sufjan's newest isn't exactly an easy listen either.

"'Daydreaming' is the saddest Radiohead song ever." I mean... "How to Disappear Completely" exists, so.
posted by papayaninja at 2:30 PM on June 30


Wah, a listicle that doesn't suck about a topic that interests me.

I could kick in for Lorca by Tim Buckley, but I know it leans kinda obscure.
posted by ovvl at 2:55 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Interesting to see "The Sophtware Slump" by Grandaddy on there. Absolutely one of my favourite albums, and it definitely has some extremely poignant and tragic songs, but I never really classified it in my head as a "sad album", per se.

Yes; The Sophtware Slump is melancholic; Just Like the Fambly Cat is sad. (This Is How It Always Starts just wrecks me.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:59 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I disagree with much of this, but that's probably because I can't really consider any great song to be a sad song because how can you be sad about something so beautiful?

That said, I Called You Back is sadder than any song on I See a Darkness. So is New Partner and Weaker Soldier and I Gave You. Hell, I See a Darkness isn't even truly a sad song, when looked at another way.

I'll agree with Frowner that the absence of Purple Mountains is a puzzler. What an extraordinary beautiful sad album that is. Berman was always one of the great songwriters of his generation and he really hit that final record out of the park. Nights That Won't Happen ("Death is a black camel that kneels down so we can ride ... The dead know what they're doing when they leave this world behind"), Darkness and Cold ("The light of my life is going out tonight as the sun sinks in the west / the light of my life is going out tonight with someone she just met ... Darkness and cold rolled in through the holes in the stories I told"), and I Loved Being My Mother's Son is even more devastating when you're aware of how much Berman hated his father. And of course the brilliant All My Happiness is Gone ("Lately, I tend to make strangers wherever I go / Some of them were once people I was happy to know / Mounting mileage on the dash / Double darkness falling fast / I keep stressing, pressing on / Way deep down at some substratum / Feels like something really wrong has happened / And I confess I'm barely hanging on // All my happiness is gone.")

Other absences for me would be something by Mojave 3, Bobby Birdman's Born Free Forever, and The Rapture's extraordinary In the Grace of Your Love, which is filled with sad songs set to dance beats, each song alternating between being about the singer's mother who committed suicide and his wife who divorced him.
posted by dobbs at 3:02 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


I was sure your Mojave 3 link was going to point here..

I'm not sure if I think After the Gold Rush belongs on the list but if for some reason you want to bring me down, this song is ironically the way to go..
posted by Nerd of the North at 3:18 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I’m interested in following some of these down. For whatever reason, a lot of them are in a post-me indie category so I have either not heard of or not heard a lot of them. I don’t think of Portishead as really sad, just mellow. For me #1 is Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks. The melodies and amount of detail in the breakups and relationships take me to a really rough place.
posted by caviar2d2 at 3:27 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


His son Jesse would agree.
posted by y2karl at 4:08 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


"Dummy" is sad? Not buying it; too much of a bop. On the other hand, even thinking about The Sophtware Slump makes me sad.
posted by phooky at 4:08 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I'd also like to suggest Frightened Rabbit's The Midnight Organ Fight for a very sad album. Sure, it's got an uplifting track (Old Old Fashioned), but the rest is bleak, especially:
Am I ready to leap is there peace beneath
The roar of the Forth Road Bridge?
On the northern side there's a Fife of mine
And a boat in the port for me
posted by scruss at 4:31 PM on June 30 [5 favorites]


I don't know if I'd call it one of the saddest albums of all time but I was shocked when I sat down to listen to Carole King's Tapestry all the way through again recently.

I think all of us know the hits, and the hits are good, but they lead one to believe this album is going to be fun.

Nope, it's about an incredibly lonely woman wanting a connection with people in her life (romantically or otherwise) and usually not getting it. I sat down for a good time and found myself crying over the story this album told. There is so much genuinely painful longing!

I do love Tapestry (I own two copies for reason, but it's always good to have a backup) but I don't think I ever gave it more than a casual listen until I did so recently. Honestly, the sadness of it made me love it even more.
posted by edencosmic at 4:37 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


but I never really classified it in my head as a "sad album", per se.

You said I’d wake up dead drunk
Alone in the park
I called you a liar
But how right you were.
posted by Huggiesbear at 4:50 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


Not a Mt Erie fan--nothing against him, Microphones/Mt Erie just never made it to my short list--but "A Crow Looked at Me" lends this list credibility. That is the single most effective "reduced to a tearful puddle on the floor" thing I have ever heard. It hard to explain, like is it even music? I guess. But it's incredibly direct and effective and there but for the grace of God.

I'd have swapped "Didn't It Rain" for Ghost Tropic" though.

And yeah Purple Mountains belongs here.
posted by kensington314 at 5:15 PM on June 30


No Hello Rockview? Sure if you just listen to the horns and ska upbeats, you'll be forgiven for not realizing it's one of the most depressing albums of all time.

But I can forgive them for ignoring/not knowing about such Spanish Love Songs records like Schmaltz and Brave Faces Everyone (which, jesus, I mean, I love them, but god they are sad.). But they should be on any such list.
You might wake up, but you’ll never be better
You might come through, but you’ll always second guess
You might breathe free, but you’ll never stop pacing
You might find love, but you’ll always be depressed
You might change your hair, but you’ll always look awkward
Your back might heal, but you’ll never get your rest
You might move on, but you’ll never feel important
You might be fine, but you’ll never be your best

So when you wake up
And know you’ll never be better –
Hide under your sheets
Your room will always be a mess.
posted by General Malaise at 5:44 PM on June 30


The saddest album I have ever heard, and one of my all time favorites, is from a little known Australian band called The Apartments. Hell, the title of the album is "A Life Full of Farewells." Here's the track list:

Things You'll Keep
The Failure Of Love Is A Brick Wall (You Prayed For Me To Hit It)
You Became My Big Excuse
End Of Some Fear
Not Every Clown Can Be In The Circus
Thank you For Making Me Beg
Paint The Days White (about trying to bring someone out of their darkness)
She Sings To Forget You (probably the saddest one on the album)
All The Time In The World (about his dad retiring, a father he rarely saw as a boy because his dad was always on the road)

The band was really one guy, Peter Milton Walsh, who was briefly in The Go-Betweens before forming The Apartments in 1978. He obtained a large following in France but never had wide success. After his 3 year old son died of a rare disease in 1999, he stopped playing music until 2015. On a bright note, a few years ago he was reunited with the original tapes from the above album that he thought were lost because the studio went out of business many years previous.
posted by perhapses at 6:28 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Surprised not to see Sigur Ros. Maybe that’s not sad music but music for being sad to?

Matthew Good’s Hospital Music, maybe a little niche, is heart wrenching.

I never got into Carrie and Lowell but a couple songs off Illinoise hit right in the feels.

All of Frightened Rabbit’s catalogue is full of tragic 20/20 hindsight.
posted by simra at 7:47 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I would love for there to be a Spotify playlist of this entire collection, all 40 albums end-to-end, but in the absence of that I'll give this post a rare favorite and hope that I remember to come back to it. So many of these are longtime favorites but I also don't have a clue about some of them.

I'm pretty sure Codeine's Cave-In has rung in my head every single day for over 30 years.
posted by intermod at 8:13 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


All of Frightened Rabbit’s catalogue is full of tragic 20/20 hindsight.

Yeah, I can't bring myself to delete "Floating in the Forth" from my music collection, but I also can't bear to ever listen to it again. I managed to get through one listen of the cover version The Twilight Sad did for the covers album that was recorded before Scott Hutchison's death, and that was emotionally devastating enough. The song is otherwise just going to sit there in my digital music collection like a tombstone in musical form.

Anyway, the album I was going through this list waiting for was The Antlers' Hospice, so I was satisfied when it appeared towards the end. That album has multiple absolutely brutal gut punches. If you've got the emotional fortitude, I do recommend giving it at least one listen all the way through, because it's very good at telling a story, and it works on both the straightforward level of the hospice worker/patient conceit, and the metaphor for an emotionally abusive, imploding relationship level, and both feel equally true.
posted by yasaman at 10:34 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


Was going to complain that there was no Benji, but then saw it got mentioned under Red House Painters. Because, man, Benji is intense.
Also Low is so amazing and losing Mimi makes me sad almost every day. If you can listen to In Metal right now and not cry you have a lump of coal for a heart.
posted by misterpatrick at 11:10 PM on June 30


I’m not ashamed to say I’ve sobbed a good few times to Painting of a Panic Attack by Frightened Rabbit. What a colossal loss his death was.
posted by grumblemf at 11:22 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


Pretty cool list. I am not familiar with a lot of the music here though I have come across a lot of the names in passing.

I think the saddest thing I have ever heard is Names by Cat Power off her wonderful 2003 album You Are Free.
It hits differently than things like Cash's version of Hurt or Joy Division's Decades because of the underlaying current of hopeless despair and Marshall's amazingly moving vocals.
Decades has a frozen quality to it that comes closer to capturing what clinical depression feels like to me more than anything else I have ever heard. Very subjective, I know, but there it is. And like Names it is amazingly beautiful as well.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 11:32 PM on June 30


Surprised not to see any Bright Eyes or Mountain Goats on the list, both artists who reliably make me feel feelings. Though maybe they share something in common with notable omission Lana Del Rey, in that they all produce sad songs but there isn't necessarily one particularly sad album to focus on for this specific list, and all of their work contains a strain of hope that tempers the sadness.

If I had to pick one sad album for each, for Bright Eyes it would be Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was even over something like Fevers and Mirrors, because for me the sads of hitting your 40s and your brother dying are more complex sads than the sads of being a sad teenager who drinks too much to deal with social and romantic problems.

For Lana it would probably be Honeymoon, the string intro on the title track is so keening, but there's still emotional range within the record - she also wants to get high by the beach, and that's profoundly relatable.

And for the saddest Mountain Goats album I'd probably go with Get Lonely, even though The Sunset Tree is also sad (but, again, with a strong vein of hope and acceptance). Transcendental Youth should probably be one of the saddest on paper, but damn it if all the wildly fucked up people that record is about aren't also clinging to an absolute shit-ton of hope! Like how does White Cedar manage to be such a desperate and profoundly hopeful song at the same time?
posted by terretu at 4:18 AM on July 1


A week after you died, a package with your name on it came, and
Inside was a gift for our daughter you had ordered in secret, and
Collapsed there on the front steps. I wailed.
A backpack for when she goes to school a couple years from now.


Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuccccccckkkkkkkkk…
posted by Thorzdad at 5:59 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


I want to add the song I thought of when I saw this thread. It was one of my favorite songs in college(88-92ish) - it's quite catchy. I thought it was hopeful, back then. I don't think that anymore.
This is the Day, The The
posted by Glinn at 7:37 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]


My vote is Pedro the Lion - Control

It should come with a warning label. Has nearly sent me off the coil. A depressed person who just got divorced should not listen to an album about divorce by a depressed person.
posted by thedaniel at 11:30 AM on July 1


yeah Thorzdad, that is a doozy. In a song full of equivalent doozies. It is an inconceivably sad album!
posted by kensington314 at 11:58 AM on July 1


I don't know about full album but "Marie" by Townes Van Zandt is the saddest song I've ever heard by a long shot. I'm not gonna link it but holy fuck...
posted by downtohisturtles at 12:44 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


Only one Elliot Smith album, which ok I guess because otherwise it'd be a good chunk of the list.

If you had to pick just one, Either/Or is a solid choice—No Name No. 5 is the closest thing I've heard to depression in music form. Still, I'd be tempted to go with his posthumous album New Moon, which is a mixed bag but has some staggeringly sad songs on it. Placeholder in particular has a vulnerability to it that is subtly devastating. It's gentle while it hurts you.

And for the saddest Mountain Goats album I'd probably go with Get Lonely, even though The Sunset Tree is also sad (but, again, with a strong vein of hope and acceptance).

IMO the saddest Mountain Goats song is one he snuck in on one his earlier non-thematic albums: Orange Ball of Pain.
posted by dephlogisticated at 5:23 PM on July 1


Yes; The Sophtware Slump is melancholic;
My lead-in and favorite song by Granddaddy is MGM Grand, which is a fantasy (?) song about (murdering?) a lion (or a person dressed as a lion), which is sad I guess but the monotone makes the lyrics funny.

I guess I'm not a full sad album kind of person, but if I had to rank 'sad', the effects of depression/suicide/etc on others vs the subject are far sadder to me, and the longer they have to deal is sadder. So John Prine's sad songs like Sam Stone and his death album Summer's End hits far harder than an album of Johnny Cash covers, but Prine's not a full sad album guy.

Neither is the Loud Family, who can write a suicide song with the lyrics:
"But what I need is not cut costs
What I need is a life where I've won all the times that I've lost
What I need is not ways to go on
What I need is to slit my wrists and be gone"
but also include fun songs about Jim Morrison and Bonanza tv show characters.

Belle and Sebastian deserve some kind of honorable mention, with songs like Lazy Line Painter Jane, about a young girl facing hard choices alone, which could negatively effect her entire life or String Bean Jean, a jaunty song about poverty and an eating disorder.

James Sometimes (suicide in a hurricane), Radney's Foster's Angel Flight (the plane that takes dead soldiers back to the US, and Samiam's Factory (child abuse) deserve honorable sadness mentions.

Taylor Swift writes a pretty good sad breakup song, but IMO they don't hit hard because she'll be mooning over someone new the very next song, but a compilation album could have 40 sad songs on it.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:18 AM on July 2


It’s not the Songs:Ohio that I would have chosen, but it is enough for me to know Jason’s work was not omitted or forgotten.
posted by zenon at 1:48 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


For my money, the saddest Loud Family lyric is now this one from It Just Wouldn't Be Christmas: "I see myself in 20 years, begging for Avalon"

One day while listening I realized that indeed, he died by suicide ~19 years after that album release - so probably very close indeed to 20 years after writing the song...
posted by equalpants at 4:04 PM on July 2


No Name No. 5 is the closest thing I've heard to depression in music form.

Julien Baker, "Appointments"

(a lot of this album, honestly. again I cannot believe that none of her music made this list)
posted by curious nu at 4:22 PM on July 2


I'm not sure there's an all-sad Tom Waits album

I'm not sure Tom Waits is ever all-sad.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:08 AM on July 3


Mod note: This post makes us happy, so we'll add it to the sidebar and Best Of blog as we sink into various memories.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 6:26 AM on July 3


Well, I was looking for Hospice and A Crow Looked At Me. I remember recommending Hospice to a friend and seeing him months later, and he told me how he listened to it once and was moderately interested, and then listened again while reading the lyrics and bawled his eyes out.

Anyway, from A Crow Looked At Me, the lyrics to Soria Moria:

Slow pulsing, red tower lights
Across a distance, refuge in the dust
All my life I can remember longing
Looking across the water and seeing lights
When I was five or six, we were camping in the islands in July
The tall yellow grass and the rose hips fragrant
After sunset, island beyond island
Undulating and familiar, not far from home
With my fragrant, whittled, cedared drift wood dagger in the mildew canvas tent
I saw fireworks many miles away but didn't hear them
And I felt a longing, a childish melancholy
And then I went to sleep
And the aching was buried, dreaming, aging
Reaching for an idea of somewhere other than this place
That could fold me in clouded yearning
For nowhere actually reachable, the distance was the point

And then when I was twenty-four
I followed this ache to an Arctic Norwegian cabin
Where I said "fuck the world" in a finally satisfying way
I stayed through the winter and emerged as an adult
Holding a letter from you, an invitation
So I flew back and drove back
And when we met in person it was instant
It didn't matter where we lived as long as we were together
And that was really true for thirteen years
And the whole time still
Slow pulsing, red tower lights
Across a distance, refuge in the dust

In January, you were alive still
But chemo had ravaged and transformed your porcelain into some other thing
Something jaundiced and fucked
They put you in the hospital in Everett
So I gave the baby away and drove up and down I-5 every night
Like a satellite bringing you food that you wanted
Returning at night to sleep in our bed, cold
I went back to feel alone there
All past selves and future possibilities on hold

Well I tore through the dark on the freeway
The old yearning burning in me
I knew exactly where the road bent around
Where the trees opened up and I could see
Way above the horizon
Beyond innumerable islands
The towers on top of the mountain lit up slowly, silently beaconing
As if to say "just keep going
There is a place where a wind could erase this for you
And the branches could white noise you back awake"
So I went back to feel alone there but cradled you in me

In the National Gallery in Oslo
There's a painting called Soria Moria
A kid looks across a deep canyon of fog
At a lit up inhuman castle or something
I have not stopped looking across the water
From the few difficult spots where you can see
That the distance from this haunted house where I lived
To Soria Moria is a real traversable space
I'm an arrow now
Mid-air

Slow pulsing, red tower lights
Across a distance, refuge in the dust
posted by neuromodulator at 9:35 AM on July 3


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