lenten journal: linger


When I sent out the call for words that might be a part of my Lenten Lexicon, my friend Beth sent the word “linger.” I love the word. The online dictionary gave three definitions:

stay in a place longer than necessary;
spend a long time over (something);

be slow to disappear or die.

Since last night I have stayed longer with and spent a long time over a song that found me many years ago. When I lived in Fort Worth I spent almost as much time perusing the record and CD bins at Sound Warehouse as I did at my own place. New music came out every Tuesday, so I usually dropped by on my way home from work to see what had arrived. On August 22, 1989 I found two records that have been a part of the soundtrack of my life ever since: Shawn Colvin’s Steady On and David Wilcox’s, which may be the best title for a first record ever.

The last track on the Wilcox record is a song called “The Kid.” From the first time I heard it I was captured by the longing, hope, adventure, and sadness in the song. There’s a burning inside when I listen to it, a sense that some ships have sailed and yet there are others still to come. I’m not done just yet.

I’m the kid who ran away with the circus
now I’m watering elephants
but I sometimes lie awake in the sawdust
dreaming I’m in a suit of light
late at night in the empty big top
I’m all alone on the high wire
look he’s working without a net this time
he’s a real death defy-er

I’m the kid who always looked out the window
failing tests in geography
but I’ve seen things far beyond just the schoolyard
distant shores of exotic lands
they’re the spires of the Turkish Empire’s
six months since we made landfall
riding low with the spice of India
through Gibraltar, we’re rich men all

I’m the kid who thought we’d someday be lovers
always held out that time would tell
time was talking, I guess I just wasn’t listening
no surprise, if you know me well
as we’re walking toward the train station
there’s a whispering rainfall
across the boulevard, you slip your hand in mine
in the distance the train calls

I’m the kid who has this habit of dreaming
sometimes gets me in trouble too
but the truth is, I could no more stop dreaming
than I could make them all come true

Who knows how many times I’ve listened to the song over the years and sung along, particularly when it comes to sailing around Gibraltar. I love the image of passing the rock with such a sense of triumph. And I love the whole idea of saying, “Remember the kid who sat staring out the window?— that’s me”—much like the kid in Guy Clark’s “The Cape” (which I have referenced more than once on this blog):

old and grey with a flour sack cape tied all around his head
still climbing up on the garage and will be till he’s dead
everyone around him said he’s acting like a kid
he did not know he could not fly and so he did

Sound Warehouse may not be here any more, but iTunes has a feature that says something like “customers who listened to this also bought . . .” that is as close to being a digital equivalent to digging through record store bins as they can get. One of the names that popped up under someone I was listening to was Buddy Mondlock, who happens to be the one who wrote “The Kid” all those many years ago. I found his version and was surprised to find a verse I had not heard before—and that doesn’t show up on anyone’s lyric sheet, including Buddy’s website. It came right after the verse about the circus.

I’m just the kid who fell asleep at the movies
snoring right through the final scene
that’s okay ‘cause I was right there with Bogey
side by side in the pouring rain
it’s our last chance to make a getaway
but it looks like I’m bleeding
take them with you I’ll hold them off
they won’t get by me while I’m breathing  . . .

I would love to know what made him quit singing it. He doesn’t say a word about it on his website, but he does mention that he co-wrote a song called “The Dark” with the aforementioned Guy Clark, and it’s another one I love, which turned my lingering into meandering.

in the dark you can sometimes hear your own heart beat
or the heart of the one next to you
the house settles down after holding itself up all day
shoulder slumps, gives a big sigh
you hear no one’s foot fall in the hall
that drip in the kitchen sink marking time
june bug on the window screen can’t get in but he keeps on trying
one way or another we’re all in the dark

fireflies, sparks, lightning, stars
campfires, the moon, headlights on cars
the northern lights and the milky way
you can’t see that stuff in the day
when the earth turns its back on the sun
the stars come out and the planets start to run around
now they call that day is done
but really it’s just getting started
some folks take comfort in that

and how dark is it
it’s too dark for goblins
and how dark is it
it’s so dark you can smell the moon
how dark is it
it’s so dark the wind gets lost
how dark is it
it’s so dark the sky’s on fire
how dark is it
it’s so dark you can see Fort Worth from here

Tonight, thanks to a song that has lingered in my life and found me again, I can see Fort Worth from here—all the way back to the record store and a CD I found ten days after Ginger and I became engaged. Now less than two months from our twenty-fifth anniversary I am grateful she has lingered with me and the dreams still keep coming.



  1. Milton, I lived in Fort Worth, too, for two years in 1985 to 1987. I was the registrar at TCU for those two years. I liked Fort Worth, but I was too far from my family, so I moved to Cullowee and Sylva for about 8 years.

  2. There’s a Ray Bradbury story, Switch On the Night”, that I thought of. Nothing like the African night for some of us. I do not dream awake.

  3. Milton, Wow. Thanks for the date on those purchases. I have a memory of being at the Sound Warehouse on Greenville Ave….and I’m sure it must have been around the same week…because there was a display of both Wilcox’s CD, and Shawn Colvins….I ended up buying both, and they pretty much changed my musical life.
    That CD, with it’s tempting title, “How Did You Find Me Here?” Just could not stay un-purchased.

    Rarely can I mark such a specific music epiphany…but it definitely was for me.

    Thanks for that date…as it must have been in and around that very same time.

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