A Crow Looked At Me

by Mount Eerie

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deadite_237
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deadite_237 A truly fantastic album about love and loss. The lyrics are written more like stories than songs, and I appreciate that. Gives them a very intimate and conversation-like tone. Favorite track: Crow.
jakebornheimer
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jakebornheimer Amazing and sad and perfect. Thank you Phil for everything over the years. Favorite track: Real Death.
Swainy
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Swainy "Death is real." This first statement set the tone perfectly, and remained so throughout the entire listen. Brutal, honest and real. One of the hardest and most emotional albums I've put myself through. Sombre instrumentation, soft yet broken vocals, mixed with some heartbreaking lyricism. Hauntingly personal, hauntingly beautiful. This is not entertainment, this is turmoil personified. Favorite track: Real Death.
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about

WRITTEN AND RECORDED
August 31st to Dec. 6th, 2016 in the same room where Geneviève died, using mostly her instruments, her guitar, her bass, her pick, her amp, her old family accordion, writing the words on her paper, looking out the same window.
Why share this much? Why open up like this? Why tell you, stranger, about these personal moments, the devastation and the hanging love? Our little family bubble was so sacred for so long. We carefully held it behind a curtain of privacy when we’d go out and do our art and music selves, too special to share, especially in our hyper-shared imbalanced times. Then we had a baby and this barrier felt even more important. (I still don’t want to tell you our daughter’s name.) Then in May 2015 they told us Geneviève had a surprise bad cancer, advanced pancreatic, and the ground opened up. What matters now? we thought. Then on July 9th 2016 she died at home and I belonged to nobody anymore. My internal moments felt like public property. The idea that I could have a self or personal preferences or songs eroded down into an absurd old idea leftover from a more self-indulgent time before I was a hospital-driver, a caregiver, a child-raiser, a griever. I am open now, and these songs poured out quickly in the fall, watching the days grey over and watching the neighbors across the alley tear down and rebuild their house. I make these songs and put them out into the world just to multiply my voice saying that I love her. I want it known.
"Death Is Real" could be the name of this album. These cold mechanics of sickness and loss are real and inescapable, and can bring an alienating, detached sharpness. But it is not the thing I want to remember. A crow did look at me. There is an echo of Geneviève that still rings, a reminder of the love and infinity beneath all of this obliteration. That’s why.

- Phil Elverum
Dec. 11th, 2016
Anacortes

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Available in physical form, very nicely made, from
P.W. Elverum & Sun
box 1561
Anacortes, WA
USA 98221
www.pwelverumandsun.com/store

catalog no. ELV040

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released March 24, 2017

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Mount Eerie Anacortes, Washington

Mount Eerie

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Track Name: Real Death
REAL DEATH

Death is real.
Someone’s there and then they’re not
and it’s not for singing about.
It’s not for making into art.
When real death enters the house
all poetry is dumb.
When I walk in
to the room where you were
and look into
the emptiness instead
all fails.
My knees fail.
My brain fails.
Words fail.
Crusted with tears, catatonic and raw, I go downstairs and outside and you still get mail.
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. You were thinking ahead to a future you must have known deep down would not include you though you clawed at the cliff you were sliding down, being swallowed into a silence that is bottomless and real.
It’s dumb
and I don’t want to learn anything from this.
I love you.
Track Name: Seaweed
SEAWEED

Our daughter is one and a half.
You have been dead eleven days.
I got on the boat and came to the place where the three of us were going to build our house
if you had lived.
You died though
so I came here alone
with our baby and the dust of your bones.
I can’t remember.
Were you into canada geese?
Is it significant,
these hundreds on the beach?
Or were they just hungry for mid-migration seaweed?
What about foxgloves?
Is that a flower you liked?
I can’t remember.
You did most of my remembering for me
and now I stand untethered in a field full of wild foxgloves
wondering if you’re there
or if a flower means anything.
And what could anything mean in this crushing absurdity?
I brought a chair from home.
I’m leaving it on the hill
facing west and north
and I poured out your ashes on it.
I guess so you can watch the sunset
but the truth is I don’t think of that dust as you.
You are the sunset.
Track Name: Ravens
RAVENS

In October 2015 I was out in the yard.
I’d just finished splitting up the scrap 2x4s into kindling.
I glanced up at the half moon, pink, chill refinery cloud light.
2 big black birds flew over, their wings whooshing and low.
2 ravens
(but only 2)
Their black feathers tinted in the sunset.
I knew these birds were omens but of what I wasn’t sure.
They were flying out toward the island where we hoped to move.
You were probably inside.
You were probably aching, wanting not to die,
your body transformed.
I couldn’t bear to look so I turned my head west
like an early death.
Now I can only see you on the fridge in lifeless pictures
and in every dream I have at night
and in every room I walk into like
here where I sit the next October, still seeing your eyes,
pleading and afraid
full of love
calling out from another place
because you’re not here.
I watched you die in this room, then I gave your clothes away.
I’m sorry. I had to
and now I’ll move.
I will move with our daughter.
We will ride over water
with your ghost underneath the boat.
What was you is now burnt bones
and I cannot be at home.
I’m running. Grief flailing.

The second time I went to Haida Gwaii was just me and our daughter
only one month after you died. My face was still contorted.
Driving up and down, boots wet inside, aimless and weeping.
I needed to return to the place where we discovered that
childless, we could blanket ourselves in the moss there for our long lives
but when we came home you were pregnant
and then our life together was not long.
You had cancer and you were killed and I’m left living like this.
Crying on the logging roads with your ashes in a jar
thinking about the things I’ll tell you
when you get back from wherever it is that you’ve gone
but then I remember death is real.
And I’m still here in Masset. It’s August 12th, 2016.
You’ve been dead for one month and three days and we are sleeping in the forest.
There is sand still in the blankets from the beach where we released you from the jar.
When we wake up all the clothes that we left out are cold and damp just from the air permeating.
The ground opens up.
Surrounded by growth.
Nurse logs with layers of moss and life, young cedars, the sound of water, thick salal, an god-like huckleberries.
The ground absorbs and remakes whatever falls.
Nothing dies here
but here is where I came to grieve, to dive into it with you, with your absence
but I keep picking you berries.
Track Name: Forest Fire
FOREST FIRE

The year moves on without you in it.
Now it is fall without you.
I had to close the windows and doors without you coming through.
I kept them open for as long as I could
but the baby got cold.
I watch the calendar bulldoze.

This whole past summer was a lingering heat wave and I remember late August, our open bedroom window, going through your things with the fan blowing and the sound of helicopters and the smell of smoke from the forest fire that was growing billowing just on the edge of town where we used to swim.
They say a natural cleansing devastation, burning the understory, erasing trails. There is no end.
But when I’m kneeling in the heat throwing out your underwear the devastation is not natural or good. You do belong here. I reject nature. I disagree.
In the hazy light of forest fire smoke I looked across at the refinery and thought that the world is actually constantly ending, and the smell and roar of the asphalt truck that was idling just out the window, tearing up our street.
I missed you, of course
and I remember thinking that the last time it rained here you were alive still
and that this same long heat that I was in contained you
and in this same heat I opened the window next to you on your last morning
so you could breathe
and then so you could ghost away
and now so the room will hopefully
stop whispering.

The grind of time I’m not keeping up with
the leaf on the ground pokes at my slumbering
grief walking around, severed, lumbering.
But slowly
sovereignty reasserts itself.
I don’t want it though
and betrayal whines
who and how could I
live?
Track Name: Swims
SWIMS

I can’t get the image out of my head
of when I held you right there and watched you die.
Upstairs in the back bedroom of our house
where we’ve lived for many years,
your last gasping breaths.
I see it again and again,
as the breeze blew in.
The room I still don’t go in at night because I see you.
Your transformed dying face will recede with time
is what our counselor said
who we walked to every monday holding hands
slower every week with your breathing until we had to drive.
But then only 2 months after you died our counselor died.
All at once, her empty office with no light on as if her work was done.

We are all always so close to not existing at all
except in the confusion of our survived bys, grasping at the echoes.

Today our daughter asked me if maman swims.
I told her “yes she does, and that’s probably all she does now.”

What was you is now borne across waves, evaporating.
Track Name: My Chasm
MY CHASM

I am a container of stories about you
and I bring you up repeatedly, uninvited to.

Do the people around me want to keep hearing about my dead wife?
Or does the room go silent when I mention you, shining alive?
I live with your absence and it’s been 2 months since you died.
I’ll speak to your absence and carry our stories around my whole life.
But when I’m in public I don’t know what’s that look in their eyes.
I now wield the power to transform a grocery store aisle into a canyon of pity and confusion
and mutual aching to leave.

The loss in my life is a chasm I take into town and I don’t want to close it.
Look at me. Death is real.
Track Name: When I Take Out The Garbage At Night
WHEN I TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE AT NIGHT

When I take out the garbage at night
I’m not with you then, exactly.
I’m with the universe
and with the lightning and thunder coming in over the mountains
but when I walk back into the house
looking up at the window from the back step,
the dark window of the room that you died in
the big empty room on the second floor
cold because I won’t close the window
just in case something still needs to leave.
I stand in the yard and look up
and the dark rectangle blares your face,
all of our moments condensed into a thunder clap.
When I take out the garbage at night and then have to go back in and live on.
Track Name: Emptiness pt. 2
EMPTINESS pt. 2

The feeling of being in the mountains
is a dream of self negation
to see the world without us
how it churns and blossoms
without anyone looking on.
It’s why I’ve gone on and on
and why I’ve climbed up alone.
But actual negation,
when your person is gone
and the bedroom door yawns,
there is nothing to learn.
Her silence is a scream
saying nothing.
Conceptual emptiness was cool to talk about back before I knew my way around these hospitals.
I would like to forget and go back into imagining that snow shining permanently alone could say something to me true and comforting.
Track Name: Toothbrush/Trash
TOOTHBRUSH/TRASH

Today I just felt it for the first time
three months and one day after you died.
I realized that these photographs we have of you
are slowly replacing the subtle familiar
memory of what it’s like
to know you’re in the other room,
to hear you singing on the stairs,
a movement, a pinecone, your squeaking chair,
the quiet untreasured in between times,
the actual experience of you here.
I can feel these memories escaping
colonized by photos, narrowed down, told.
My mind erasing.
The echo of you in the house dies down.

October wind blows.
It makes a door close.
I look over my shoulder to make sure
but there is nobody here.
I finally took out the upstairs bathroom garbage that was sitting there forgotten since you were here
wanting just to stay with us
just to stay living.
I threw it away.
Your dried out bloody end of life tissues,
Your toothbrush and your trash,
and the fly buzzing around the room, could that possibly be you too?
I let it go out the window.
It does not feel good.
Track Name: Soria Moria
SORIA MORIA

slow pulsing
red tower lights
across a distance
refuge in the dust

All my life I can remember a longing.
Looking across the water and seeing lights.
When I was 5 or 6 we were camping in the islands in July. The tall yellow grass and the rosehips fragrant after sunset. Island beyond island. Undulating and familiar. Not far from home, with my fragrant whittled cedar driftwood 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 24 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 13 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 while 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 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 live 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
Track Name: Crow
CROW

Sweet kid, what is this world we’re giving you?
Smoldering and fascist with no mother.
Are you dreaming about a crow?

In the middle of November we went back into the woods right after breakfast to see if we could see this past August’s forest fire zone on the hill above the lake. The sky was low and the wind cold. The trail was closed.
At the barricade I stood listening.
In my backpack you were sleeping with her hat pulled low.
All the usual birds were gone or freezing.
It was all silent except the sound of one crow following us as we wove through the cedar grove.
I walked and you bobbed and dozed. Sweet kid.
We were watched and followed and I thought of Geneviève.
Sweet kid, I heard you murmur in your sleep.
“Crow” you said.
“Crow”, and I asked
“Are you dreaming about a crow?”
and there she was.