"Sign" lyrics - JOE HENRY


I was born in Montreal
A winter's slip that bloomed in fall
Due my father's lot in life
I got his name and I killed his wife
As if her blood I'd broken through
Had never been enough for two.
So I was sent out early on
To cutting black ice on the pond
To lying flat and pulling free
Whatever might rise up to me

I held my tongue for seven years
Fluttered my hands, closed my ears-
As if deaf to every word
Refusing every song I heard
That might connect me to this ground
And hold me should I speak its sound;
So silence spoke for me instead
And hovered like the passing dead
Whose prayer is but a laugh unfurled
Above this lost edge of the world

When I was twelve my father fled
He left me all he was and had-
His hammer and a dying fire
An empty vein, and one desire:
To lead my pony from the mines
And ride him hard beyond the time
Of broken, long-forgotten souls
Who become their fathers in these holes
That spark and fume and smoke and seethe
And claim these hills but can't claim me

I was wild at twenty-three
My burning mind turned to the sea
And a sour engine room
Of a war ship, hoping war came soon-
I spent my rage in tiny towns
Wherever we might run aground;
And every face that met my eye
Was calling on some wish to die
But if I stood and drank alone
Then that wish became my own

The years ran as if for their lives
I, the shameless beau of a governor's wife-
Standing just outside of view
Holding hats and coats and shoes.
Then running guns for a lost decade
Posing as a doctor's aide-
I pushed pins in maps to show
How to stop a plague or make it go;
And then they took me out in chains
When a secret shared had changed the game

But, all those days have fled somehow
And nothing occupies me now-
Except for this strange thought of you
Who sat before me back in school
And trailed a rope of braided hair
Across the back rail of your chair
And learned to sign your name in air
And read from lips -oh, I might've dared
To simply move my own so you
Could read please love me, and might have too