by Justin Henderson

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Emily: a short conceptual album
Justin Henderson's 2014 EP


©Justin Henderson, 2014


released August 17, 2014



all rights reserved


Justin Henderson Portland, Oregon


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Track Name: Salvation Army Bells
Julie stands alone outside the market
with hands hidden from the daunting winter wind
that's left her face deadened and pale,
ringing her salvation army bell to everyone who passes by,
but it's no surprise when they're occupied with something else.

And though everything is bear traps she's not sad
and, it's remarkable. In fact, to pass the time,
she takes note when people smile.
It breaks her heart to meet their eyes.

Day turns to night,
and now her bell reflects the melodies on their minds,
and they sing "Julie, are you alright?"

Friend, my only friend, brush your hair out of your eyes.
Sit tight and try to meet my glance again.
I know you're far away--that you're lost inside your mind,
but I know that you've got something to say.

And though that ringing doesn't matter much to me:
it stutters into silence; the walls collapse
my bed begins to breathe.

For everything. For each disjointed heartbeat,
the broken glass that sinks into our feet,
and every wire that's been stripped I'll set aside for everything.
Track Name: Emily I & II
Before darkness approached some time near 1885--
can you recall? The earth was too much
and heaven not enough.

Had i known that hate--
crooked, hallow--
too well?
Dreadful leak of the mind:
was it keeping you down?

When thoughts become tight, Emily,
and articulation leaves you behind--

Thirsty, mopping up, with a pain in her side.
Indecisive, she paces and ponders the meaning of life.
But the glass on the floor cuts her feet as she's lost in her thoughts,
and the warming sensation reminds her of family she's lost.

Crack the knots in your spine, Emily.
Feel it crumble and shift into line.

Now across from that moss-ridden mess, your tired old home,
I'm pacing alone. Your house sits untouched.
And I worry too much about thoughts meant to break;
Emily, I'm afraid.
I still stare at your door. There's still glass on your floor.

My thoughts are too tight, Emily.
I struggle to speak and I've fallen behind.

That echoing wave when she's been here before--
her jar breaks, her wires cross,
and her mind slips in tandem with the patterns on the floor.

It's such a strange sound.
I only wish I could forget, because
my mind is clear, my floors are clean, my jar's not broken yet.
Track Name: Faith Masks the Absurd
My love, dismount your carousel.
Relay your burdens by tomorrow through your estival pastels
collapsing inward on themselves.
By their dissonance set forth.
Return in proper health
Recall the angst of idle hands.
The devil has a friend in you; cold eyes, help me understand.
Where does your vacancy begin?
You're voice is breaking, I should know.
Speak carefully my friend.
And when you're too sick to shrug it off, sit tight and call on me again.

Pack the kids into the car.
Call your adopted father drinking all alone at the bar.
There's a funeral in town; there's a fire in a church--
your mother's not around.
How her dreadful words resound:
"you're ugly when you cry," but thank God she kept you down.
Black carnation on her dress.
Her eyes are blue, her hair is a mess,
and by the boardwalk she resides,
amused by teardrops in the sand,
haunted by the shadow of the tide.
It was tragic in three parts. We sat and told each other lies.

I once counted cars in Abilene
with my back against a rock.
Almost forgot that violent scene--
those headlights cutting through the fog.
Prophecies etched in frozen earth;
I wrote them on your wall.
You told me "faith masks the absurd,"
recited existential verse.
And now I know, but I wish I never learned.
Track Name: Moloch
Moloch, they're not afraid of you anymore.
Descend from your perch unknown.
I'm falling back where I've shattered
to recover a piece of my mind--
through fog settled thick I hear it call:
as a whisper distorted in age.

You need to calm down.
But it's a stutter through locked jaw--
some slurred set, wicked bound,
muffled by incessant, viscous, sound.

In your dreams you're a sailor surprised by the hate underfoot.
"Towards tomorrow!" you shout to the sky.
When lucidity lapses you're shocked, it feels like the first time.
Start repeating "good bye."

Disgusted with formal refrain...
Track Name: Louisianne
I gave my last dollar to a girl named Louisianne.
She stuttered, pressed it to her chest, lest
she befall decrepit hands.
Now she slurs "thank you" when I pass
and flinches when I stand.

Dear God, make me a man. What's the price?

I went to high school with her daughter, brought up by her second dad.
She was pretty, she was sheltered,
she had bruises on her hand.
And now I hear her from my window
wailing like an ox.

Wearing stilettos on syringe-filled sands where the junkies go to rock.

Restitution keep me steady for the shaking's gone too far.
Burn the boxes on the hillside,
suburbia, tear it apart,
it's so hard--what it takes to feel alive.

Because you stare at the world and it stares back.

Sickly girls with crippled hears are walking silently, in time,
crushing roses in their bloodied hands
and screaming in their minds.
They're not alright, but one belongs to me.

And I read that love is blind, so I'm destroying everything I see.
Track Name: Roethke [demo]
I'm sorry mom, but daddy doesn't love you anymore.
He told me so, said let you know to read the letter that he wrote.
It's on the door.
Well, I read it to myself. He's concerned about your health.
I didn't know.
Why do you kill yourself?

When he left he said "I'm sorry son. I'm leaving on a train,
but I'll be back--yeah, I'll be back. I promise things won't stay this way,"
and he shook my hand.
It was dark outside but I could hear a bird singing a song about
a dream he had involving two now reacquainted friends;
It had been so long.
They were sailing with Columbus, Isabella, and her slaves when
the boat burst into flames and they were drowning...
All the same.

And my grandfather, he has one eye. He uses it to watch me.

This shaking keeps me steady, I should know.
This shaking keeps me steady, I should know.

He said "Caroline, you called my name.
I'd forgotten it. But it's over now and you don't have to cry."

"Just take my hand. I'm sorry if it's changed. But things won't stay this way."
Track Name: Florida
Last night I listened to your breathing again.
Your heart beat into verses first, then slurred into a song I can't forget.
And now I find myself repeating every line when I'm too sick to fall asleep.
And I wonder, if my illness shades your mind,
would you still sing your song for me?

Would my eyes still trace these walls?
Would my voice become a thunder?
Will I know I'll hit the ground before I fall?

Alice, I've been sitting since this awful feeling hit.
I promise I won't fall asleep; I need to rest my mind just for a bit.
In five disjointed, broken-hearted strains
she says "Oh, our love is strange."
Reminders of a funeral: the flowers sing.
I'm broken I'm afraid.

Pretty eyes don't let me slip.
Sail for Florida in the winter,
tell the captain that I couldn't make the trip.
Track Name: Salvation Army Bells Pt. II
Hold on to your walker, my friend forever to be.
But she sang for me before I could sing.

And bend every note you can breathe.
A tired old lover, through every lit window, I see.
And we'll dance for them, sounding off again.
How the notes extend, soft and resonant.

Just promise to wake in the morning.
A ghost set in glass--she's the ghost sent for me.
Cemetery, where she'd love to be,
sitting beautifully, grasping everything she sees.

Until finally,
somewhere not far from the market she hears a few notes.
Words so hauntingly masked by the trees.
Spoken at last by her lover for his bride to be,
who wore flowers in her hair for me.
How we struggled, inside, by the sea.
And I'm sorry, my friend, but don't ring your bell for me.