Not all poems are songs, just as not all songs are poems, but the crossroads between the two is often monstrously moving. Songs, like poems, span an enormous variety of genres, themes, senses, and tones. My favorite Jack White riff screams through my fury (watch out when I put on the White Stripes) the same way Noah and the Whale can fold my heart in half when it’s feeling hopelessly tenderized. Revisiting Rilke is nothing like Anne Sexton’s fairy tale poems, nor is either of these anything like picking through the strange and often hilarious narrative poems of James Tate. We experience poems and songs in an endless variety of contexts from an endless variety of moods. The best walk the lines of more than one complex emotion at the same time, which this song, “At The Hop,” by Devendra Banhart, does. The song plays on a child-like, light-hearted tune that weaves through a poem of hopeful hopelessness that knocks the knees out from under you. You’re left not only missing the one you’ve loved, but in love with indulging in the pain of that longing. In a song that embraces and laments simultaneously the fact that “you’re never comin’ back,” the final lines, “Write me in your marrow, stuff me in your bones, sing a mending moan, a song to bring you home,” leave you ruined and overjoyed in their sincere and shameless devotion. The song is playful and sexy, too, heaping a little more into the emotional charge. Who says the complexity of our feelings can’t be a devastating delight, anyway?
“At The Hop” by Devendra Banhart
Put me in your suitcase, let me help you pack,
Cause you’re never coming back, no you’re never coming back.
Cook me in your breakfast, and put me on your plate,
Cause you know I taste great, yeah you know I taste great.
At the hop it’s greaseball heaven,
With candypants and archie too—
Put me in your dry dream, or put me in your wet,
Oh if you haven’t yet, no if you haven’t yet.
Light me with your candle, and watch the flames grow high,
You know it doesn’t hurt to try, no it doesn’t hurt to try.
Well I won’t stop all of my pretending that you’ll come home,
You’ll be coming home, someday soon—
Put me in your blue skies, or put me in your gray,
Cause there’s gotta be someway, there’s gotta be someway.
Put me in your tongue-tie, make it hard to say
That you ain’t gonna stay, that you ain’t gonna stay.
Wrap me in your marrow, stuff me in your bones,
Sing a mending moan, a song to bring you home.