“Keep Going West” by Liz Pappademas

I know I said I was going to post a happy/ier song this week, but, surprise! It’s not Monday so that means I get to bend the rules even further. ‘Sides, it’s the Songs to Die By Hour with me, your host, Macabre Melissa.

There is nothing I love more than a lady and a piano. A lady and a guitar are pretty fantastic, but there’s something oh-so-haunting about pianos and their culture, texture, and even symbolism. Marina Tsvetaeva is a Russian poet from the early 20th century and she’s fantastic, but she wrote a prose piece about her early childhood with her mother, a pianist unable to come to fruition, and the struggles between generations fighting amongst music and poetry. Ever since reading “My Mother and Music” — and writing a few papers on it — piano and great poetic heights have been chained together ever since. Well, those two and hippopotamuses, but that’s another story entirely.

Liz Pappademas is both a poet and a songstress. The featured song, “Keep Going West,” off of the album “11 Songs” is just one of the incredible songs that are a simple and touching as a voice, a piano, and the mellifluous words of inspiration.

The horses’ heads hold up the morning,
And the low sky hangs in God’s own noose.
With my lashes long, I dream of the ocean,
And the glow that rang when last I kissed you.
Keep going west, keep going west, keep going west.

This is all about the connections we make with other people and the effects thereafter. As the initiator and survivor of many failed relationships with people, this song sometimes brings tears to my eyes as I think about the way people hurt each other and the resultant flooding emotions. The mantra of “keep going west” could be “keep breathing” or even “keep living.” The Russian propoganda poster symbologist in me wants to link it to posters of Lenin and Stalin looking stalwartly to the west — to the future — to show that the past is over, but this song isn’t as simple as that. The past affects us and seemingly everything around us, like the turbulent storms in Shakespearian plays as the main character is emotionally and internally conflicted.

Independence is important — the shedding of skins as relationships change and morph — and the line that the sky hangs in “God’s own noose” is the extreme extrapolation of this. The Dostoevsky scholar in me wants to link this to the line of “everything is permissable” in The Brothers Karamazov and the implications that if anything can be done, then God is dead and man has haphazardly taken his place like a three-year-old dressing up as a businessman, signing papers in crayons and fingerpaint.

She sings, “I looked back,” after all of the tumultuous events of the stanzas, showing that foundations are built between people, they may crumble and fall, but each failure is sacred, something to be learned and gleaned from, the “glow” of memories will eventually soothe over any angry welts. We cannot allow God to hang in his own noose; we must dream of the ocean, of the ever-changing tide and current that will eventually make the interrupted sand smoothe again.

On a more personal (and writerly!) note, I listened to this song non-stop while writing an extremely hard part in my novel. I have a character named Nathaniel and he has this love/hate relationship with Gwennie, the heroine. He concurrently loves her and hates himself for loving her and takes this out in many different forms of abuse upon her. One particularly difficult scene deals with his domination over her completely which sparks a change in her thinking about the way she deals with the people around her. This song was sort of a perfect soundtrack for that. Gwennie, after much more crap happens to her — there are some sleepless nights where I’m unable to lay my head down because I feel like I’m a horrible human being for doing these things to her, a fictional character — starts going west, and sometimes she looks back, but one of her many character flaws is that she doesn’t often enough.

On another related note: someone in the comments section of youtube posted: “You broke my heart a little.” I agree, for the first time ever, with a commentator on youtube. What is the world coming to when people actually say smart things on the Internet?

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