Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sky of Memory and Shadow- Reflecting on 9/11 Through Song

 I haven't Googled any videos yet and we don't have cable and will be out tonight when the network news comes on, so I honestly probably won't see any footage from this awful day eleven years ago. I'm sure it's for the best, though, because I'm getting plenty choked up watching this:

[This is really worth watching.  He is so passionate and watching is a wholly different experience than reading the lyrics or even listening to the song.  This clip from Barcelona almost ten years ago is just the epitome of why I love The Boss.  By the time I watch until the end and he's joined by Stevie Van Zandt and his wife Patti and I see one last awesome shot of The Big Man, I'm convinced music this side of heaven doesn't get any better.]

 I've mentioned it before, but The Rising is one of my favorite Spingsteen albums and the title track is one of my favorite songs...ever. I've been listening to it a good bit over the past week and nonstop today.

 I knew what the song was about generally, and I knew the album was Bruce's 9/11 tribute, but until I dug the CD out again this Summer, I didn't know all the details.  I did some research and figuring it out makes the imagery even more beautiful.

Can't see nothin' in front of me
Can't see nothin' coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I can't feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far I've gone
How far I've gone, how high I've climbed
On my back's a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile line

Come on up for the rising
Com on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
Wearin' the cross of my calling
On wheels of fire I come rollin' down here

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li

Spirits above and behind me
Faces gone, black eyes burnin' bright
May their precious blood forever bind me
Lord as I stand before your fiery light

Li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li

I see you Mary in the garden
In the garden of a thousand sighs
There's holy pictures of our children
Dancin' in a sky filled with light
May I feel your arms around me
May I feel your blood mix with mine
A dream of life comes to me
Like a catfish dancin' on the end of the line

Sky of blackness and sorrow (a dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (a dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness (a dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear (a dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow (a dream of life)
Your burnin' wind fills my arms tonight
Sky of longing and emptiness (a dream of life)
Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life (a dream of life)

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li

The song, in typical Springsteen fashion, tells the story of an average American.  So many of his songs are this way- a beautiful poem about a person's life with the phenomenal backdrop of  what I think is the best music in the world.  This one just gets me, though, because it's the story of a firefighter going into the towers.

The sixty pound stone is his gear and the half mile of line is the hose he's caring.  And of course he can't see anything in front of him or "coming up behind".  I think in those first few weeks after the attack, so many of us lived in our own little metaphorical hazes, scared and unsure of what might be coming up behind, but I can't imagine the literal darkness (physical and I'm sure in many instances, spiritual) those first responders encountered. 

Later, as Bruce continues to sing from the perspetive of the fire fighter and he talks about the people he's attempting to save, their "faces gone" and "black eyes burning bright", it becomes almost too much to bear. I think of those lost in such a real and tangible way that I can hardly grasp it.

However, the song ends with a strong note of optimism.  The sky of tears is also a sky of love.  The sky of sadness is one of glory.  The sky of fear is a sky of mercy. And the sky of longing and emptiness becomes one of fullness, of blessed life.

This and every day I need the reminder to be thankful for my full, blessed life. And to be thankful for so many in this country that carry various "sixty pound stones" so that I can have such. Thanks Bruce, for the gutpunch I needed.

No comments: