Joanna Newsom – Baby Birch.

This morning, on the way to work I got stuck in one grim traffic jam on a bus. I had a busy day ahead and was checking the time on my phone realising that I would be at least half an hour late. I gave up the idea of worrying and realised the situation was clearly out of hands.

Baby Birch by Joanna Newsom shuffled onto my playlist and I just focussed on the lyrics of the song which, until last week, I’d never heard before. The lyrics of the song gripped me as they built and the subject matter is left quite open to interpretation. Images of pulling away from a relationship and abortion popped into my mind as I tried to keep up as the folk delivery quickens to an almost hip-hop pace.

This is the song for Baby Birch
I will never know you
And at the back of what we’ve done
There is that knowledge of you

I wish we could take every path
I could spend a hundred years adoring you
Yes, I wish we could take every path,
Because I hated to close the door on you

Do you remember staring up at the stars
So far away in their bulletproof cars
We heard the rushing, slow intake
Of the dark, dark water
And the engine breaks

And I said
How about them engine breaks
And, if I should die before I wake
Will you keep an eye on Baby Birch
Because I’d hate to see her
Make the same mistakes

When it was dark I called and you came
When it was dark I saw shapes
When I see stars I feel in your hand,
And I see stars and I reel, again

Well mercy me, I’ll be goddamned
It’s been a long long time since I last saw you
And I have never known the plan
It’s been a long, long time, how are you

Your eyes are green, your hair is gold
Your hair is black, your eyes are blue
I closed the ranks and I doubled back
But you know, I hated to close the door on you

We take a walk along the dirty lake
Hear the goose cussing at me over her eggs
You poor little cousin
I don’t want your dregs
A little baby fussing all over my legs

There is a blacksmith and there is a shepherd and there is a butcher-boy
And there is a barber who’s cutting and cutting away at my only joy
I saw a rabbit as slick as a knife and as pale as a candlestick
And I had thought it’d be harder to do but I caught her and skinned her quick
Held her there kicking and mewling, upended, unspooling, unsung and blue
Told her “wherever you go, little runaway bunny I will find you”
And then she ran
As they’re liable to do

Be at peace, baby, and begone.


I never worked out exactly what the song was about. I guess I never will, but it made a worrying rush hour traffic jam a moment of real joy. Abstract and genre walking I feel I need to check out this artists other available material sooner rather than later…



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