Album: At A High Window

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

1. Through the Cracks 4:33
2. Come from the Heart 3:46 (lyrics)
3. Last of the Working Stetsons 5:08 (lyrics)
4. At a High Window 7:56 (lyrics)
5. Wille Short 4:10
6. The Joy of Living 6:08
7. Young Willie 5:04 (lyrics)
8. A Row of Small Trees 12:40 (lyrics)
9. Election Night: North Dakota 4:19 (lyrics)





©1992 Snowgoose.


Through The Cracks

The last train rolled out of town today;
You might have seen it on the news.
We gathered ’round the engine yard
To say our good-byes to the crews.
Well the cheering stopped, the laughter died
It dwindled down the tracks
“That’s that”, I heard someone say,
“We’ve fallen through the cracks.”

I wandered homeward through the quiet streets
To finish packing up to go.
So hard to meet the eyes of friends
Who’ve nowhere left to go
Well the plant closed down in this one-job town,
It won’t be coming back
Left us to die by slow degrees here
Or fall between the cracks

And now the closed-up stores and the empty lots
And the signs that say “FOR SALE”
Bear witness to those who bought the lies
Of the dream that had to fail
It’s like a movie ands and the credits roll,
And the screen fades down to black
For those of us who struggle on here,
Or fall between the cracks.

I planted one last crop this year,
To maybe give it one more try.
The dry winds came and they filled with dust
They blotted out the sky.
The scoured the hills and the river-beds;
They turned the skies to black.
The ground split wide, the seeds dried up.
They fell between the cracks.

And now the car’s all packed and the house is closed
And the neighbours wave good-bye.
My wife gets in beside me now; she’s trying not to cry.
And she holds our son and she strokes his hair,
And she says “now don’t look back.
We have to leave this place and try to make some luck
Or fall between the cracks.”

back to top


Last of the Working Stetsons

Charlie drove his cattle north this year,
And left them there to graze
And he turned his pony’s head to home
To wait for better days.
Too long since there’s been decent rain
The hills are brown and dry.
And his hopes have turned to dust here
In the valley.

Charlie drives himself too hard these days:
There’s too much for him to do.
The ranch it won’t support but one.
He does the work of two.
And city lights repel and beckon him
At the closing of the day
When the night sky folds her wings
Over the valley.

And the nights drag by like they’ll never end.
Dusty days are all the same
And his anger swells like a tightened fist.
But there’s no one here to blame.
Except his stubborn heart that holds him here
To watch the sky in vain for the rain
That never falls here
In the valley.

Charlie drives his truck to town today
To find something else to do
His new clothes don’t fit him half as well
As his old clothes used to do.
And a cowboy’s hat draws laughter here
And he removed it in his shame,
And left it lying by a doorway,
In an alley.

And the nights drag by like they’ll never end
Dusty days are all the same,
And his anger swells like a tightened fist
But there’s no one here to blame,
Except his lonesome heart
That nags at him to leave these city ways,
And pack it up and head back west
Toward the valley.

So here’s our lonesome drunken cowboy
On unsteady tangled feet.
He’s leaning on a window
Of a store on Second Street.
And he drives a fist through his reflection
And passes out on the front seat
Of his pick-up truck and dreams about
His valley.

So now he parks his truck on a windy hill
By a dry and empty field.
The mountains rise above his bandaged hands
As he grips the steering wheel
Well, who knows? the rain just might arrive this year
But for good or ill, he’s home.
He lets the clutch out
And he drifts down
To his valley.

back to top


At a High Window

Has it been all these years
Since last we were parted?
I think of you often this time of the day
I’m at a high window
Overlooking the harbour
Looking into my heart
I find nothing to say.

The moon shines like silver coins
Tossed on the water
A soft rain has sweetened the cool evening air
And now your memory comes round
Like a beggar, beside me
And plucks at my sleeve
And says “pretend you don’t care.”

We stood facing each other
At the moment of parting
The parting glass bitter as gall in my mouth
For though you stood there before me
Your heart had turned homeward
Sure as the geese in the autumn turn south

Hope rose in my throat
Like a bird at a window
I started to speak
And your eyes looked away
And then the silence grew heavy
And the moment passed by us
And so in the end
There was nothing to say.

And there are nights
I pretend still
I told you I loved you
In that last wasted moment as your hand drew away.
But you rolled up your windows
And my voice wouldn’t carry
I watched the back of your head
As your car drove away

And I’ve prayed for forgiveness
For the sins I’ve committed
When my steps were unsteady
And I faltered and fell
But for the sin of my silence
There can be no forgiveness
And this pain in my heard
Is a foretaste of hell.

back to top


Young Willie

Young Willie died a peaceful death: I shot him in his bed.
And the teen-aged whore with the blackened eye
Watched him as he bled.
She smiled a strange half-smile at me,
Shook her tangled hair.
“Best bury that one deep, he won’t rest easy.”

We piled the rocks on Willie’s grave the morning of that day.
“Should have left him for the dogs.” I heard somebody say.
While on the hill above the town
Stood the girl from the night before.
She crossed herself and she watched us
At our labour.

Willie was the golden boy; he was the chosen one.
Where fortune showed a generous hand
He was the favoured son.
Willie he turned rotten in a strange and ugly way.
So I put an end to him and all his workings.

I saw Willie’s handiwork on the road to Taneytown.
And in the border-wars in Mexico
We mowed those peasants down.
And in the hills of Nicaragua
Where the gunships hold their sway.
He’d smile and say “my duty is my honour.”

Willie was the golden boy, he was the chosen one.
Where fortune showed a generous hand
He was the favoured son.
Willie he turned rotten in some secret ugly way.
Now I look in children’s faces
I see Willie.

Yes I’m the man shot Willie; at that range I couldn’t miss
You know I’ve spent my nights since then
With a bottle in my fist.
And on nights when whiskey fails me
I leave my sleepless bed
And I pile another stone
On his marker.

Willie was the golden boy; possessed of style and grace.
And where another man might fold his hand
Willie found the extra ace.
Willie he turned rotten in a secret ugly way.
And now I look into the mirror
I see Willie.

back to top


A Row Of Small Trees

Her rings still held her warmth
As they fell to his hand
The doctor said, “there’s no more we could do”
And he was worried at first that he did not understand
But then he saw his fist close
So he knew

And we watched from the window
As he walked slowly outside
He seemed unsure as to which way to go
And his coat whipped his legs
As the traffic blew by
He had one shoulder raised
As though to ward off a blow

And he lay in their bedroom
Those first sleepless nights
Too restless to sleep and too tired to cry
And he’d wander downstairs
In the pale morning light
To stare at the horizon with unseeing eyes

His neighbours worried about him
Those first desperate weeks
He seemed to dwindle and shrink in his clothes
And in the evenings
He’d wander the hills by himself
To return as the morning sun rose

The grass shook and swayed in the meadow
As he stood in the night
And he heard the dry whisper of leaves
And the wind was her spirit
Running free through the grass
Whispering warm in his ear “don’t you grieve”

He was seen kneeling last Friday
On a high windswept hill
And his white hair blew back in the breeze
And we thought he was praying
Or had taken a fall
But he was planting a row of small trees

back to top


Election Night: North Dakota

Hannah haunts this darkened highway
Her face is pinched in the headlights glare
She has one hand to her collar closed
The other in the air

She is grateful for the dashboard heater
She rubs her hands and fusses with her hair
She lights a cigarette with a battered lighter
Blows the smoke into the air

“I’m going east to see my daughter
I’ve got a grandson nearly four.
They moved away to Minnesota,
No, I’ve never been before.

I’ve lived my life in the western mountains;
Work was hard but you didn’t mind.
Me and my husband built our lives there
The bills were paid on time.

But he got sick three years ago,
And he took too long to die
With no insurance and just my income
The doctors bled us dry.

So I took what was left and I bought a car
To look for work and to start again
But the Goddamned thing blew up this morning
I’ve been standing here since then.”

Hannah’s in the highway café
Her eyes are on the TV screen
She says “four more years,” and shrugs here shoulders
“This country’s turning mean.”

And an aging actor fills the screen;
His hands in triumph in the air
His eyes show sincerity and emptiness
In the TV camera’s glare
She said, “I’ve seen elections come and go
And there’s one thing that’s for sure
There’s one thing this country won’t forgive
It’s the sin of being poor.”

“You can drop me here,” she said, some hours later
“I want to thank you for the ride.”
So she gathered up her poor belongings
Took a grip on dwindling pride
I left her standing on a corner
I never saw her face again
But the words she said went through me
And I was suddenly ashamed
For I am rich beyond all measure
Not in money, not in fame
But in love, and trust, and friendship
For her it’s not the same.

I can see wild geese, like smoke, across the western sky
The gleam of sun on winter hills
Clouds like banners, crimson, in the air
When the evening sky grows still.

Hannah haunts this darkened highway
I see her face from time to time
Hidden well in darkened corners
Far from where the lights of freedom shine.

back to top