“Whisper to me sweetly now”

Jann Arden’s “Unloved”

There will be no consolation prize
this time the bone is broken clean
no baptism, no reprise and no sweet taste
of victory. All the stars have fallen
from the sky
and everything else in between
satelites have closed their eyes, the moon
has gone to sleep


here I am inside a hotel choking on a
million words I said
cigarettes have burned a hole and dreams are
drunk and penniless
here I am inside my father’s arms
all jagged-bone and whiskey-dry
whisper to me sweetly now and tell me I will
never die

Lonely Landscape
Lonely Landscape

here I am an empty hallway
broken window, rainy night
I am nineteen sixty-two and I am ready
for a fight people crying hallelujah
while the bullet leaves the gun
people falling, falling, falling and I don’t know
where they’re falling from
are they

hoping that the kindness will lead us
past the blindness and
not another living soul will ever have to feel

The first time that I heard this song was several years ago, and it was as a duet with Jackson Browne. I found the words absolutely haunting because they could refer to so many things: 1962, the bullet leaving the gun, and the refrain of unloved . . . unloved . . . unloved. But the words that have always gotten to me the most are these: “here I am inside a hotel choking on a million words I said, cigarettes have burned a hole and dreams are drunk and penniless. Here I am inside my father’s arms all jagged-bone and whiskey-dry. Whisper to me sweetly now, and tell me I will never die.”

How many times have we choked on words we’ve said, but more than that, felt that our dreams have been left with a big old hole burned in them? Wouldn’t it mean everything if we had someone to hold us and tell us that everything is going to be okay and that we will never die even though we know it’s a lie? Sometimes we need the lie. Sometimes, after someone has just torn us apart with the truth, nothing would feel better than a lie, whispered sweetly in some foreign room that we don’t belong in so that we can pretend for just a moment that our life is something else, somewhere else. Because if we can let ourselves be blind to all of the pain that surrounds us for just one moment, just one pretend second after that bullet has already left the gun, then we can allow ourselves to feel the kindness, even if it isn’t real. Then we don’t have to feel unloved.

Sometimes, even when we are surrounded by love, by all of the people who love us, care for us, those who mean the most to us in our lives, we can still feel unloved. That is one of the great, tragic ironies in life: That in the midst of happiness, we can still feel lonely and unloved, if only for a moment. If you have never had one of these moments, then you cannot understand what I am describing, and you probably think that I am odder than usual. But if you have experienced one of these oddly, out of place moments, then you will understand the sadness of which I speak.

It is unsettling and disconcerting at best, and usually indicative of an impending low, which can be viewed in a number of ways:

  1. Oh shit, not again
  2. Maybe I’ll get a poem out of it this time
  3. Do I have a good stash of books?
  4. I wish that I had the stamina to go on a road trip
  5. How many days in a row can I wear this night shirt?

These are the things that I thing about, at least. But getting back to Jann Arden’s lyrics, I think that “Unloved,” is one of those songs that you absolutely cannot listen to unless you are feeling down or sad because it is just too intense, and god, I wish that I had written it. It really is crafted well. “Inside my father’s arms, all jagged-bone and whiskey dry”–I don’t know about you, but the phrase just gives me chills because it is too descriptive.

But I’ll say this about it, “Unloved” is the perfect song to listen to right after someone says “fuck you” to you because after all, what can be said after that?


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