Please, Remember Me…

If you like solid American Folk music, this blog title may have spurred you immediately to think of “The Trapeze Swinger” by Iron & Wine. This happens to be a tremendous favorite of mine. Although I must admit, I get teary each and every time I hear it, and for what I accept as just cause. I especially like Gregory Alan Isakov’s cover. …That subtle Fender electric fill and backing are perfectly matched to continual acoustic strumming. (Warning – while not blaspheme, there is a swear word in the song. If that is a problem for you, best to move on to another blog. The word is used in a phrase for emphasis regarding a particular movement/history, which gives it relevance one could argue.)

This song is complex and I don’t always agree with what others glean from the lyrics. And that is fine, as most art is left to the observer to interpret individually. I think that underlying component is present in most art forms, and music certainly qualifies.

You should listen to this several times if you’re not familiar with it. This isn’t a subtle or benign ballad in any way, shape, or form. We’re urged, shoved rather, into some pretty heavy concepts during the 8 minutes of lyric-inspired self-examination.

You’ll notice elements containing plenty of dichotomies. Boys and girls, silly friends (the monkey) and serious men, God and the devil, and angels among sinners. Those are all bound in one sense and mutually exclusive in another. I’ve discussed this with others and I often receive a nod to the idea surrounding the Catholic concept of purgatory. As if the subject is awaiting a final judgment. I think I can see that, while I don’t happen to subscribe to the tenants of Catholicism that part with the Protestant Church.

In the case of a long song, with a series of verses, and no chorus, you must first listen to the song in its entirety, think a bit, then listen repeatedly to categorize things properly. Unless you’re clairvoyant, it’ll be hard to absorb this song easily. I offer that premise for a simple reason – the last verse, or stanza in this case, unpacks for the listener the structure and categorization in which to understand the entirety of the stanzas before it. I contend, if you don’t fully grasp the last stanza, the rest of the song won’t click into place for you. Think about that.

I’m simply not smart enough to uptake all that information, place it in strata and substrate like a hoard of post-it notes strewn across a bulletin board, then hear the last verse and mentally place all the post-it notes in order from cradle to grave. If you can do it, great. But it takes folks like me a few tries. Here are the lyrics, as it helps to read them as you listen.

I encourage you to listen to this song, over and over. If you know someone who battles depression or may happen to be going it alone, this song is key to understanding the feeling of walking a tightrope. …A tightrope absent a safety net, by the way. As I believe the Trapeze Swinger lept, willingly, to his death in this song. Life often appears like a tightrope and we’re balancing all the while.

There is so much content in this song, it would be hard to flesh it all out in a single blog. …And frankly, I’m not compelled to. I’m not interested in telling any of you what to think. I’m often mistaken about this, as folks assume that of me, which is among my burdens to bear. Alternatively, I prefer to encourage you to think well from the start and in a healthy manner. In order to do so, you must divest yourself of things that aren’t true, and that is increasingly tough in our culture. Which is to say, seek truth in how you think.

I offer you this, however, with what I consider to be certainty… I trust to my very soul, we’re asked to offer others His peace. In order to do so it helps to know His peace ourselves. Every person reading this knows somebody who is struggling and you can pause for just a moment, send a short text, or make a quick phone call to remind them they’re not alone. You can even do the very same thing with a total stranger. Imagine for a moment what it would be like to hear from someone you didn’t know or recognize, in a truly low moment in your life:

“Hey? I think I’m supposed to remind you that you’re not alone. God loves you, as do I.”

Believe it or not, I’ve been the recipient of such a thing. …And what a change it made in my life. I don’t have the vocabulary to adequately describe it for you. It was nothing short of Awe and I’ll never forget it. If all I accomplish in my time here, whether long or short, is offering His spirit to the people who sorely need to hear it, my life’s sum will have been weighed in the balance and not found wanting. This I believe.

Praying to be salt and light requires understanding and demonstration of both those core concepts – preservation and visibility. I pray we all do so.

“The Trapeze Swinger” by Iron & Wine lyrics:

Please remember me, happily
By the rosebush laughing
With bruises on my chin, the time when
We counted every black car passing

Your house beneath the hill and up until
Someone caught us in the kitchen
With maps, a mountain range, a piggy bank
A vision too removed to mention

But please remember me, fondly
I heard from someone you’re still pretty
And then they went on to say that the Pearly Gates
Had some eloquent graffiti

Like ‘We’ll meet again’ and ‘&$@# the man’
And ‘Tell my mother not to worry
And angels with their great handshakes
But always done in such a hurry

And please remember me, at Halloween
Making fools of all the neighbors
Our faces painted white, by midnight
We’d forgotten one another

And when the morning came I was ashamed
Only now it seems so silly
That season left the world and then returned
And now you’re lit up by the city

So please remember me, mistakenly
In the window of the tallest tower
Call, then pass us by but much too high
To see the empty road at happy hour

Gleam and resonate just like the gates
Around the Holy Kingdom
With words like, ‘Lost and found’ and ‘Don’t look down’
And ‘Someone save temptation’

And please remember me as in the dream
We had as rug-burned babies
Among the fallen trees and fast asleep
Beside the lions and the ladies

That called you what you like and even might
Give a gift for your behavior
A fleeting chance to see a trapeze
Swinger high as any savior

But please remember me, my misery
And how it lost me all I wanted
Those dogs that love the rain and chasing trains
The colored birds above there running

In circles round the well and where it spells
On the wall behind St. Peter
So bright on cinder gray in spray paint
‘Who the hell can see forever?’

And please remember me, seldomly
In the car behind the carnival
My hand between your knees, you turn from me
And said the trapeze act was wonderful

But never meant to last, the clowns that passed
Saw me just come up with anger
When it filled with circus dogs, the parking lot
Had an element of danger

So please remember me, finally
And all my uphill clawing
My dear, but if I make the Pearly Gates
I’ll do my best to make a drawing

Of God and Lucifer, a boy and girl
An angel kissin’ on a sinner
A monkey and a man, a marching band
All around the frightened trapeze swinger

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