Portraits

by ellen cherry

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1.
Penelope 03:08
39 years stuck on dry land bring me to the sea i was my own deadly Siren singing softly I drowned all my hopes easily 20 odd years waiting by the nightstand poor Penelope weaving and unweaving by hand and crossing her knees she untied knots so happily oh my love you know our bed is safe it was built by you you can trust me, it’s still there; it’s still living and you know that it can’t be moved let me run clear like a stream flushed with rain and always tell the truth let me lay down my shield and let in the pain we’ll be bulletproof even if we are black and blue oh my love you know our bed is safe it was built by you you can trust me, it’s still there; it’s still living and you know that it can’t be moved and you know, and you know that it can’t be moved. and you know and you know, it was built by you
2.
Mary Anne 03:37
Oh Maryanne, let’s ride on through the weather. We’ll make a stand; we’ll press our hands together. And you will say, “Now let us pray. Like we are lovers, to our Virgin Mother.” Oh Maryanne, you might have heard I stopped believing in the Word, but the repeating had left a trace and so I hail Mary so Full of Grace. Oh Maryanne, will you help me find her? You sing the prayer to serve as our reminder. I’ll steer the wheel in the right direction And maybe then, She’ll offer her protection. Oh Maryanne, do you think She’ll hear us with satellites clouding her receivers? And all the voices that we’ve flown to outer space-- the foolish hopes of our human race. Oh Maryanne, will you help me find her? You sing the prayer to serve as our reminder. I’ll steer the wheel in the right direction And maybe then, She’ll offer her protection. Oh Mother Mary give me your Grace so that the past can be erased. Oh Maryanne, let’s ride on through the weather. We’ll make a stand; we’ll press our hands together. Oh Maryanne, I am a liar: I let my mind be ruled by my desire. Mother Mary send me your Grace so that the past can be erased. Oh Mother Mary give me your Grace so that the past can be erased.
3.
Sarah 03:04
I have written in my diary So you’ll know just what became of me My loneliness and desperation will be the stuff of history You have wandered off to fight the war And misdirect the call of canons roar You said to lead a man’s life, you must do more And I hate you for it. You have sent no words to reach my ears For what is now so many silent years No whisper on the wind, no twinkle of the stars to calm my fears I have worked my fingers down to bone To make for us a happy home And now my soft and secret heart has hardened into stone And I hate you for it. Last night I dreamed that you came back to me And we lived on and on so happily Before I woke you said to me: “darling, this will never be.” And I loved you for that.
4.
Frances 04:30
Things were better for me at the turn of the century. I didn’t know what I wanted, but the future loomed in front of me. The city shimmered with steam, with smoke and with mystery. We pretend we don’t know that Life’s an exercise in futility. There’s a dog whining in the next room. Might as well be me, howling at the moon. Because for all the effort I make, I still feel my sad heart break. I bow before concrete and steel with humility. I just want to ride the big wheel into the sky. I just want to feel like I could fly. Like everyone else here, I just want to buy my ticket! Behind the gates is the whole wide world. And everything is new to the eyes of this girl. Crystal clear water and bright city lights, Dancers with costumes that light up the night. Machines the crackle and sparkle with utility. I just want to ride the big wheel into the sky. I just want to feel like I could fly. Like everyone else here, I just want to buy my ticket! When I left my family, I knew that I could do better. Now all they have is some unreturned letters. This is the story of my liberty: A cog in the grinding gears of the city. A line in a novel 100 years from now—that’s what’s left of me. I just want to ride the big wheel into the sky. I just want to feel like I could fly. Like everyone else here, I just want to buy my ticket And ride the big wheel into the sky!
5.
Violet 02:20
A cold clear night, we’re full steam ahead We’ll stretch her legs on the ocean’s bed Nothing spared; not even the time We’re the jewel of the White Star Line And the steam burns on As the quartet plays a song And we all go down in the ocean Who would guess, we’d sink like a stone Out at sea, so many miles from home In disbelief, we queue for a boat The ship she sounds her dying note And the steam burns on As the quartet plays a song And we all go down in the ocean We say goodbye and we say our prayers We drift all night in the cold spring air And then we see in the bright clear dawn There’s nothing now: the ship, she’s gone And the steam burns on As the quartet plays a song And we all go down in the ocean
6.
Florence 04:47
There’s no happy ending So don’t be holding your breath Not a word worth defending Bury me with my regrets This life has worn me down But God won’t take me yet I gotta leave this town I’ve got to place my bets California, you seem like promised land You feed my children and you work my hands When I lay down to pay the final toll Take my body; leave my soul We ride the rails at night We beg for food all day My heart is hollow and my belly’s tight I’ve got no money left to pay California, you seem like promised land You feed my children and you work my hands When I lay down to pay the final toll Take my body; leave my soul There’s no happy ending So don’t be holding your breath Not a word worth defending Bury me with my regrets California, you seem like promised land You feed my children and you work my hands Every line that I wear upon my face You can see the sorrow of our human race California, you seem like promised land You feed my children and you work my hands When I lay down to pay the final toll Take my body; leave my soul
7.
Betty 01:32
Dusting, cleaning, meals with meaning Perfect pastries, nothing’s wasted Soon I will buy a machine That will predict sun or rain Soon I can erase my will By the swallow of a pill. Mopping, sewing, children growing Tasty pancakes, throbbing heartache Oh my, the coffee’s done! Here’s a cookie, won’t you have one? If I never squelched desire I might have set this house on fire. Waiting, waiting, how I’m aging. My perfection—self rejection. Though I might have had a dream The loss of it might make me scream We never ever have those thoughts Here inside the Music Box.
8.
Angela 03:50
Got a thistle in my cap and a bullet in my gut Just so you can see what I’m made of Lips and bones and knees and elbows Teeth I’ve barely cut Thank god I’ve got these hips like my mothers I press them down in my saddle and I ride I steel against my own self, I ride high Spent the summer getting dusty The sun peeled away my sadness I pushed on like the weather Work made leather of my vision And callused up my fingers I linger for worse, I’d hoped for better So I press down in my saddle and I ride I heal with my own health, I ride high Dress me up, I don’t mind, I can be a paper doll for you But watch the wind, it can blind you, and that’s my cue My food, it isn’t free, I watch tv and read the magazines I see all that I’m supposed to be I press them down in my saddle and I ride I steel against my own self, I ride high
9.
Jezebel 03:28
I like a bath that almost burns I like a wheel that spins and turns I always like to entertain So there’s no time to be ashamed. I like sad songs about sad things Like silent films and wedding rings I don’t like sweet, I like to savor Those shiny, pretty party favors I like a lot of what’s around me but I love the thing that hasn’t found me the quiet and the waiting thing that keeps my hands upon the strings that cuts the seams of lovely dreams and then leaves i love that moment at the start the tease, the breath, the racing heart i may stutter; i may laugh I’ll play the fool on your behalf I want the thing that makes me high that first hello and the long goodbye I want to know what I don’t know I need to stop, I want to go go go I like a lot of what’s around me but I love what wants to dazzle and astound me the silent thing that dominates that mesmerized and fascinates and makes it hard to separate the quick from the kind the self from the mind it’s true, I might just slip and fall sometimes i like to spill it all i could tell you what it’s all about but now it’s time to shut my mouth I like a lot of what’s around me But I love the dog that howls and hounds me the fevered dream is manifest it sparks and scalds without a rest it rips my heart right from my breast and then smiles
10.
Katrina 04:27
I spent the summer in my favorite blue dress. I’m so tired, but I’ve still got this moment to confess. I’m just one soul, but I worry in a global sense: Earthquakes and shootings and general uprootings, how can I help but feel helpless? Newspapers and television In my derision, I change the station. In my ears and in my eyes, I have too much information In my mind, I think: surely things will change. Surely things will change, because they cannot stay the same. This woman smiles at me, her lapel wisdom says “Pray. Pray Until Something Happens” But nobody wants to do, yet they want to blame and I think: surely things can change Surely things can change, cause they cannot stay the same. I spent the summer in my favorite blue dress. I’m so tired, but I’ve still got this moment to confess. I’m just one soul But I think that surely things will change Surely things can change
11.
Gynaika 04:38
238,900 miles away; it was the year of our lord, 1968. And I’m willing to bet with a cosmic sigh, we encouraged god to avert his eyes when we dropped the bomb in ‘45. It’s not fair: I wasn’t here to apologize. I need to clear all this space trash circling around my head, and let in the heat of a star that’s long been dead. To bring down these thoughts that are satellites confounding my sense of wrong and right proving once again: I’ll dissatisfy. It’s my fault: Like the faithful, I was petrified. Rooted right here on the planet, for ages I’ve prayed to the Sun. To forgive and forget and remove the regret of the battle hymns still on our tongues, and grant us another whole day just to breathe and to run. Weightless, thoughtless, busy with nothing I’ve spent my days assuming my debts can be paid by the words on a page. Disguising my faults with a charming sound a trick that turns trite into profound. Maybe god is a player who won’t ever lay His cards down. That’s a joke, but I don’t feel like laughing now. I’ve cleared the clouds from eyes and I cannot be surprised. No matter how hard I have studied and yearned, I see we remain unconcerned. Politely, we say “no thank you, we’d rather burn.” It was luck: this Accidental Atomic Grandeur. It’s too late: on this stage, there’s no room for amateurs.

credits

released September 17, 2016

guitar, voice, piano, foot stomp: ellen cherry
Recorded in 4 fairly intense days in January 2016 by Scott Smith
at the Wood and Stone Room, Parkville, MD

www.thewoodandstoneroom.com

Artwork by Liz Downing
Layout and design by Katie Feild

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ellen cherry Baltimore, Maryland

Emmy nominated singer/songwriter ellen cherry (lowercase letters intentional!) is a full-time touring and working performer based in Baltimore, MD. In 2017, ellen presents a new touring project called Portraits in Song that marries her love of storytelling and her passion for history through songs and portraits of interesting women in history to increase love and empathy for all. ... more

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