movement, movement

I Became A Thin Blue Flame

Posted in friends, music, poetry by amoslanka on September 18, 2008

On the road between San Francisco and Portland the Genius playlist on Ryan’s iPhone brought us to a song by Josh Ritter. I, reading poems by C.S. Lewis at the time, remember multiple attention grabbing lines in the song and one in particular in which Ryan and I looked at each other having allowed the lyric to particularly resonate. That line is the bolded line below, and you may have caught it if you follow my Twitter. On arrival at home, I promptly googled the lyrics and decided to share them with you.

I became a thin blue flame
Polished on a mountain range
And over hills and fields I flew
Wrapped up in a royal blue
I flew over Royal City last night
A bullfighter on the horns of a new moon’s light Caesar’s ghost
I saw the war-time tides
The prince of Denmark’s father still and quiet
And the whole world was looking to get drowned
Trees were a fist shaking themselves at the clouds
I looked over curtains and it was then that I knew
Only a full house gonna make it through

I became a thin blue wire
That held the world above the fire
And so it was I saw behind
Heaven’s just a thin blue line
If God’s up there he’s in a cold dark room
The heavenly host are just the cold dark moons
He bent down and made the world in seven days
And ever since he’s been a’walking away
Mixing with nitrogen in lonely holes
Where neither seraphim or raindrops go
I see an old man wandering the halls alone
Only a full house gonna make a home

I became a thin blue stream
The smoke between asleep and dreams
And in that clear blue undertow
I saw Royal City far below
Borders soft with refugees
Streets a’swimming with amputees
It’s a Bible or a bullet they put over your heart
It’s getting harder and harder to tell them apart
Days are nights and the nights are long
Beating hearts blossom into walking bombs
And those still looking in the clear blue sky for a sign
Get missiles from so high they might as well be divine
Now the wolves are howling at our door
Singing bout vengeance like it’s the joy of the Lord
Bringing justice to the enemies not the other way round
They’re guilty when killed and they’re killed where they’re found
If what’s loosed on earth will be loosed up on high
It’s a Hell of a Heaven we must go to when we die
Where even Laurel begs Hardy for vengeance please
The fat man is crying on his hands and his knees
Back in the peacetime he caught roses on the stage
Now he twists indecision takes bourbon for rage
Lead pellets peppering aluminum
Halcyon, laudanum and Opium
Sings kiss thee hardy this poisoned cup
His winding sheet is busy winding up
In darkness he looks for the light that has died
But you need faith for the same reasons that it’s so hard to find
And this whole thing is headed for a terrible wreck
And like good tragedy that’s what we expect

At night I make plans for a city laid down
Like the hips of a girl on the spring covered ground
Spirals and capitals like the twist of a script
Streets named for heroes that could almost exist
The fruit trees of Eden and the gardens that seem
To float like the smoke from a lithium dream
Cedar trees growing in the cool of the squares
The young women walking in the portals of prayer
And the future glass buildings and the past an address
And the weddings in pollen and the wine bottomless
And all wrongs forgotten and all vengeance made right
The suffering verbs put to sleep in the night
The future descending like a bright chandelier
And the world just beginning and the guests in good cheer
In Royal City I fell into a trance
Oh it’s hell to believe there ain’t a hell of a chance

I woke beneath a clear blue sky
The sun a shout the breeze a sigh
My old hometown and the streets I knew
Were wrapped up in a royal blue
I heard my friends laughing out across the fields
The girls in the gloaming and the birds on the wheel
The raw smell of horses and the warm smell of hay
Cicadas electric in the heat of the day
A run of Three Sisters and the flush of the land
And the lake was a diamond in the valley’s hand
The straight of the highway and the scattered out hearts
They were coming together they pulling apart
And angels everywhere were in my midst
In the ones that I loved in the ones that I kissed
I wondered what it was I’d been looking for up above

Heaven is so big there ain’t no need to look up

So I stopped looking for royal cities in the air

Only a full house gonna have a prayer

Thanks very much to Ryan and Genius for introducing me to Josh Ritter.

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8 Responses

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  1. JRDS said, on September 19, 2008 at 6:37 am

    Beuatiful lyrics, def going to have to check him out…

  2. dwwilson said, on September 19, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Dude I Love Josh Ritter, another guy that I like who is deeply poetic in his lyrics is Bradley Hathaway. He is light on the surface but when you take time to listen you find Gold.

  3. tarnna said, on September 19, 2008 at 10:11 am

    wow.

  4. leah said, on September 19, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    wow. i love these lyrics!!

  5. Stephen_Stonestreet said, on September 19, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    dude, these lyrics are crazy. love it! miss you man! hope you had a good ride back to portland! thanks for te comment man, that meant a lot to me!

  6. evanweatherford said, on September 21, 2008 at 11:03 am

    It’s a Bible or a bullet they put over your heart
    It’s getting harder and harder to tell them apart

    Now the wolves are howling at our door
    Singing bout vengeance like it’s the joy of the Lord
    Bringing justice to the enemies not the other way round

    thanks for posting this dude. i have to check this guy out.

  7. emmsy said, on September 25, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    I really resonate with a lot of josh ritters stuff, but thin blue flame is definitely one of my favourites!

  8. ruby said, on September 26, 2008 at 12:36 am

    oooo, Josh Ritter’s got some awesome, make you think, storytelling, truth-splaying, convicting lyrics that stretch your brain and heart, and some make you want to play the fiddle on your back porch tunes to go with ‘em!

    in the song ‘Thin Blue Flame’, this is the line that made me go back and hit repeat upon first hearing:

    “but you need faith for the same reasons that it’s so hard to find..”

    check out the songs ‘Girl in the War’ and ‘The Temptation of Adam’, if you haven’t already.

    this next thing i’m about to say may sound totally nerdy, but since you shared your first J.R. experience, here is a story about my own:

    my friend Matt introduced me to J.R. about a year and a half ago. one of the first songs i heard was ‘Wolves’, but for the longest time, i thought they were saying ‘walls’, not ‘wolves’..
    ..now i’m always thinking, talking, writing about walls- the walls we put up in our lives, around our hearts, between ourselves and other people, ect, ect.. the walls that God takes down and demolishes when we let Him, and sometimes, when we don’t expect it, and then suddenly we are standing atop the rubble of a wall that used to be, enjoying the light that was once obstructed..
    ..well i just thought this was one of the most clever songs i had ever heard-

    “then one day i just woke up and the ‘walls’ were all there ‘walls’ in the piano ‘walls’ underneath the stairs ‘walls’ inside the hinges circling round my door at night inside the bedsprings clicking cross the floor i don¹t know how they found me i¹ll never know quite how i still can’t believe they heard me that i was howling out that loud..”

    anyway, for the longest time, i went around singing ‘walls’ instead of ‘wolves’, without realizing.. and when i did finally realize? well, of course i still dance around my house singing ‘walls’.. “without knowing the words”..!


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