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angels turned thieves

imagine if you will a consumptive young man
set sail from galveston to the northland
downed a shot of whiskey and chewed on a lime
and leaned into the microphone for the last time

he sang “years ago” but he meant it right then
it was all he could do not to choke on his phlegm
propped up on pillows in an easy chair 
they warned to stop but he kept suckin’ air


angels turned thieves
where did you go astray?
there is a point where you can’t go home
if you let too much slip away

the last tour was ugly – they played the worst rooms
his lungs torn to pieces – his voice filled with doom
one night in dallas he fell to his knees
opened his mouth and started to bleed

alcohol rubdowns for fever relief
thumbs up mean nothing when you’re down in the sheets
this clinic won’t do – rules and meant to be bent
i won’t spend my last days in an oxygen tent


let us now shift to a man named ray hall
convicted of murder in wichita falls
ten years before at a fireman’s dance
handed you a tape – said “give it a chance”

i never got shit for “moonlite and the skies”
that royalty contract was nothing but lies
consumption is bad but this prison is worse
the only way i’m leaving’ is with my feet first



now we return to east 24th street
he’ll sing a few more, then his work is complete
he even sang a tune for ray hall, his old friend
still doing time in the texas state pen
he tried to spring him once with political clout
his friends said “forget him – this man is a louse”
they let him out in seventy he could barely wait
hired a lawyer and sued the estate


* * * * * * * * * *

ask me to stay

was i your friend
was i your foe
you invited me up
i couldn’t say no
when you held me near
i thought i’d won
then you cut me loose
left me undone



let me back in
ask me to stay
if you let me go
it’ll curse the day

i stood in the hall
with my hands on fire
does your old man know
that he wed a liar
it’s a different place
or so you say
when i touched your neck
did i go astray




these desert sands
will cloud your dreams
your man of law
ain’t what he seems
your man of law
stands at your door
prays for new years
to level the score



* * * * * * * * * *

broke tv

whatcha gonna do with a broke tv
whatcha gonna do with me
dust on the screen, lust in my brain
if i stay or i go, is it really all the same?

you can leave it in the street
you could take my keys away

if you'd only take a moment to hear the things i say
only got three channels and the picture was blue
what in the world is a boy to do


don't you ever tire of the same routine
same damn clothes, same blue jeans
same old jokes make me wanna yawn
what time did'ya say that your show goes on


maybe goodwill 'll take it or the neighbors down the stairs
or we could leave it in the dumpstair, i really don't care
ain't like it's a baby -- never made that mistake
ten years on the job -- christ i need a break


whatcha gonna do 'bout the spots on my lungs
i remember a time when our love was young
your ma and your pa gave us a t.v.
i promised you my heart -- i guess it wasn't meant to be ...

* * * * * * * * * *

down in the draw

once this water ran so blue
now i’m down in the draw with you
once this true love flowed and flowed
now you say you don’t know
love’s like that water
it just floats away
down in the draw with you today

little froggie jumped so high
then his lungs went bad and froggie died
sizzlin’ now on the river floor
little frog won’t jump no more
love’s like that frog
jumps from red to blue
now i’m down in the draw with you

pretty little flowers – green and red
got no water now they’re dead
them flowers bloomed on the river shore
drought came about – now they don’t bloom no more
love’s like that drought
man, your throat gets dry
down in the draw – you and i

wilted flowers, wilted dreams
we’ll never leave the draw it seems

ever wonder how that river went dry
did something happen or was it just time
maybe too much sun – not enough rain
or a lack of faith that made it drain
whatever it was – makes me cry
now we’re down in the draw – lookin’ up at the sky

* * * * * * * * * *

float away

if i could float away
and never have to say
the things i’ve been meaning to so long
like a balloon up in the sky
i’d drift way up high
in the clouds and find myself a song

it’s not you, so just relax
it’s only time that’s made me crack
into the pieces on the floor at your feet
so step light, be aware
pull back your falling hair
if only now it’s important that you see

in the morning i’ll be changed
the night will make me sane
and i’ll be ready to soldier through another day
so sound your trumpets, roll your drums
your day of truth will never come
‘cause i’d rather live a lie than move away

* * * * * * * * * *

the air of gettysburg

we came from far and wide
and we stood ‘neath clouded skies
and listened to the band played a dirge
the work of guns had been done
the work of words to be sung
only words could clear the air of gettysburg

the dwarfed and helpless son
lee’s army on the run
no ordinary coin did he speak
burning nerves and boiling veins
he was crazy in brain
union tears folling down widow’s cheek

he said it all, he said it clear
the truth ran in our ears
under rocks and autumn leaves
some repose

no weakness no contempt
money earned money spent
could it be only the honor that we know?

the restless dead, bluebottle flies
per diem days, official lies
will i ever have the strength to run from you?
long distance calls, unburied bones
a thousand miles away from home
could you spare this dying man a shot of booze

repeat bridge
1st verse

* * * * * * * * * *

i know

good god i know
good god i know
good god i know
good god i know

little one come here
little one come here
little one come here
good god i know

don't move down there
don't move down there
don't move down there
little one come here

you stay with me
you stay with me
you stay with me
don't move down there

good god i know ...

* * * * * * * * * *

looking for hints

you’ll find you said too much
she’ll say its not enough
she’ll ask you who you are
you’ll never get that far
the old school line just makes me wince
looking for answers... shoulda been looking for hints

you’re playing run and hide
she sits alone inside
you’re reaching for the door
what did you come here for?
she’s asking you to share the rent
looking for answers...shoulda been looking for hints

i’ll tell you what i need
let’s see if you agree
there’s always someone else
or whiskey on the shelf

she wants to hold you down
you’ll spin her round and round
she wants a man so true
instead she’s stuck with you
she’s begging you to make some sense
looking for answers...shoulda been looking for hints

you think i sit at home
wait by the telephone
don’t hold your breath i say
i’d be here anyway
don’t pretend you know what i meant
looking for answers...shoulda been looking for hints

don’t give me books to read
i like the life i lead
it’s filled with mystery
and hours of contempt

you’re going out tonite
i hope he’s mister right
his hand against your skin
go on...invite him in
i can’t believe the time i spent
looking for answers... shoulda been looking for hints

* * * * * * * * * *

take you home tonite

one man in search of a time or two
christ i don’t know the first thing about you
but i suspect that when you give yourself away you exact a price
call me ready, call me able, make me on the breakfast table
call me brave, call me stupid, call me satan, call me cupid
but please mama please mama please never call me nice


everyone thinks i’m settlin’ in
did i mention that ain’t right?
‘cause i think you’re pretty and i like the way you grin
and i wanna take you home tonite

with a crescent moon in one hand and a snake in the other
who needs a woman to treat ya like a brother
what in the world do ya think your family is for
let’s do it fast, let’s do it slow, in the sun and in the snow
give me grief, give me joy, come on and make some noise
act like matters or act like a five-dollar whore


susan sat in jail and held her tongue
would you do the same, would the word remain “mum”
or would that pretty mouth start talkin’ at the drop of a dime
look at the soup we’re in, look at the hole we dug
man, we had a time rollin’ round on your rug
now ya wanna shut me off as if i did a crime


you pulled me to your breast in the parking lot
i thought it meant a little but apparently not
but i won’t fault you for stickin’ to the terms of the deal
pull me in pull me out, baby fill me up with doubt
call me brave, call me stupid, call me satan, call me cupid
but please mama please mama please never let me feel


* * * * * * * * * *

trains rollin' by

i could get used to the trains rollin’ by
your window late at nite
and you askin’ me “honey, what’s wrong?”
and me sayin’ it was all right
your little boy asleep in his room down the hall
listening to his mama cry
i could get used to holdin’ you tight
and wipin’ the tears from your eyes

in a world you don’t believe in you can do most anything
join the circus or work in a store
but hang around too long, you’ll find your spirit gone
that little angel won’t be there anymore
maybe you’re the one, i should let you hold me down
but that train outside you window’s naggin’ me
hey, i could get used to wakin’ up next to you
i could learn another way of being free

this town has changed a lot since the curfew came about
only orphans hang around after ten
but there were crazy times before, picking fights and slagging whores
there were twice as many women as were men
but i’m backing off that game or at least i’m trying to
i had a dream i died with no one around
better get used to settlin’ in and taking it on the chin
ain’t gonna let that whistling engine drag me down

when you gave me the slip i thought it was a joke
figured i’d be staying here for a while
but your shoulder’s still so cold, you’re seeing someone i’ve been told
man, i miss that crooked tooth in your smile
you gave me a run, i suppose we had some fun
i really shouldn’t sit here and complain
so show me to the door and kiss me once more
maybe there’s still time to catch that train

I could get used to the
sound of the wheels rollin’ down the line
I could get used to the
idea of you and giving you all of my time

* * * * * * * * * *


it comes in so many shapes
often times it eludes your sight
it’s a filthy film in a darkened room
it’s a beautiful girl at the end of the night
underside don’t wanna go

i was stumbling along with my head bowed down
talking to myself like i sometimes do
i was feeling trapped and downward bound
eyes getting tired of seeing you
underside don’t wanna go

cardboard boxes filled with 33s
there were songs i heard brought me to my knees
them very songs made me feel alive
gonna drag me to underside
underside don’t wanna go

* * * * * * * * * *


wait until spring

we can act like russell and whoever it was
and hold hands in the hall and pretend were in love
or we can act our age and not let it mean a thing
i'm not sure about me ...

you come to the table with so much i don't know
is your smile for real or part of the show?
your ideas and impulses -- is that what you are?
what makes a girl throw a ring from a car

off the cuff remarks and plans made in haste
lines 'neath your eyes -- virtue and grace
ready to step out -- take chances tonite
leave a key 'neath you mat and i'll wait for your sign

and we can act like russell ...

i could tell another joke or i could try to be straight
too much has gone down -- all that's left now is fate
press your knee against mine, put your hand on my wrist
tell me your name and blow me a kiss

and we can act like russell ...

hold on a minute -- that wasn't the show
don't act surprised or like you don't know
just because my wedding vows came undone
that doesn't mean that you're the next one ...

and we can act like russell and whoever it was
and hold hands in the hallway and pretend we're in love
or we can act or age and not let it mean a thing
i'm not sure about me ... could you WAIT UNTIL SPRING?

* * * * * * * * * *

you and yours

here's to you and yours
here's to me and mine
here's to those in the know
and those we left behind

i'd imagine you'd imagine
how much i think of you
you may be right 'cause i lie awake all night
with my head turned towards truth

here's to you and yours
a little boy a little girl
here's the lesson a child sees
gonna make them hate this world

i'll consider if you'll consider
the pleasure we will miss
watch as those tears come tumbling thru the years
under the burden of a kiss

here's to you and yours...

* * * * * * * * * *


you come to me

when you’ve had a few
you look prettier than you are
when i’ve had a few i fall for you
when you’ve had a few
you like to take me home
during the week, i lie alone

i’ve had enough of this boozing game
my eyes get weary and i cannot see
i run around west philly into town
now i’ll stay at home, you come to me

you come to me
you come to me
i’ll stay at home – you come to me

when i wait for you to get off of work
it makes me crazy when you don’t come home
you talking shop with your soda jerk
i just want to be alone

i’ve had enough of this back and forthin’ game
my heart goes wild and skips a beat
i run around west philly into town
now i’ll stay at home you come to me

you come to me...

* * * * * * * * * *

Jon Houlon, Hillside Blue Music, 1999


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