Tom Waits Hold On

A Story In Song (Part 1—Tom Waits)

 

I have a story in my book Pieces Like Pottery—”The Gravesite: The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery”—in which I experimented with a number of different literary devices. More and more readers have begun to notice one of the devices more regularly.

In addition to breaking the story up into ten sections, each of which follows one of the themes from the fifth sorrowful mystery, each section in the story also has a song that is paired with it. Yes, you read that right. I paired a song with each section. Like a fine wine paired with a good meal, the song’s lyrics are intended not only to add another layer of meaning to the words, but can also be listened along with that section of the story.

While more and more readers have been picking up on this, it’s certainly not an easy task for the casual reader, especially not one reading the print version of the book. I’ve promised to do this for quite awhile, so here you go. In ten parts, here is “The Gravesite: The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery” paired with each song. Enjoy!

(Oh, and for those of you that might be interested in how this section ties into the fifth sorrowful mystery, the fifth sorrowful mystery is The Crucifixion and the “spiritual fruit” is the Pardoning of Injuries. Part 1 reflects the theme of Jesus’ quote, “It is finished.” Some of you have asked about that, so there you go.)

 

The Gravesite

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery

Part 1

 

 

The headstone nearly glistened in the early afternoon sun. A nondescript memoriam flat against the earth marked her son’s resting place. Gravestones stretched in all directions. It felt as if every person in the entire state must know at least one person who was buried here. Some probably knew more than one. Seven degrees of death.

I wonder how many people are visiting their own child, she thought.

Every cliché in the book applies when a parent loses their child. Things never return to the way they were after the death of a child. A parent should never have to outlive their children, should never have to watch them lowered into the ground. Losing a child is like losing your soul; even though you may continue to live on the outside, on the inside you’re dying. Every one of these applied, and it didn’t even begin to reveal the pain and the loss of hope she felt.

Lisa looked in agitation up the path towards the parking lot. She glanced at her watch again and sighed.

“Figures,” she muttered under her breath.

“Hello, Lisa,” came the unexpected reply from behind her. “Good to see you.”

The man smiled at her kindly as she spun around, startled. He must have heard me grumbling, she thought. Lisa felt terrible for falling into old habits with this man—worrying, watching, waiting, and then grumbling about it all. Some habits die hard though, especially when it’s someone with whom you’ve spent decades.

“You too,” she replied sheepishly.

She couldn’t formulate any words beyond that. The words lodged in her chest, so she just exhaled at the ground. He stood next to her and focused on his breathing. Side-by-side they stared at the ground as he put his arm around her shoulder. Squeezing her tight for just a moment, he kissed the top of her head. The sign of love—no, care—felt nice to Lisa. She pretended she was indestructible, but she had long since realized that she was far from it. She had been lost inside. She felt alone.

“Did you see the most recent blog post?” Mike asked.

“I haven’t had a chance to look today.”

“It was there when I checked this morning before driving to see you.” Lisa immediately knew that this was the reason Mike was a little late. She again felt bad for grumbling at him a moment ago. She often felt bad for their marriage, their former marriage, and what it had become.

Mike reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. Slowly he unfolded it and aimlessly looking at the words on the page, he handed it to Lisa. She took the paper from Mike’s hands and began to read.

 

“Well you build it up you wreck it down, and you burn your mansion to the ground. When there’s nothing left to keep you here, when you’re falling behind in this big blue world.”

May 24th

As I sit here preparing for a twenty-mile trip that’ll take an hour and a half because of traffic, I’m struck by how much the little things are what make up a man’s life. Each event that happens and each reaction a man has to an event influence the course of his life. So many people get upset because they are delayed ten minutes by traffic, or because they don’t like what food was prepared for them, or they don’t like the work assignment they have been given, or countless other things that people worry about. So many people wish they were somewhere else doing something else, but they miss what life is really about. As the wizard of westwood would say, “Things turn out best for those who make the best out of the way things turn out.”

Life’s circumstances are always throwing twists and turns. Wishing for something more only brings continual disappointment. All people have the ability to control their happiness by controlling how they think about each day and each event. Every situation turns out sour for those who are always complaining about how things turn out. We will always be affected by our own attitudes. Every response to every action affects our character.

It’s like a rock that is constantly being dripped on. The water is not pouring out; it’s just a constant drip. Drip. Drip. Over time that water will leave its mark. The rock will corrode from the constant impact of the water. Each decision we make is like that water. How we respond to life’s twists and turns impacts our life as forcefully as the water impacts the rock. The decision may not be visible in a man’s character in a week, a month, or even a year, but his decisions change him over time. The impact can either have a corrosive effect on the man’s character, like the rock under the drip, drip, drip; or the impact can have a smooth, evening effect like a stone washed from years of salty ocean water.

So as I am stuck in traffic that’s moving slower than I can walk, I realize that how I react to unforeseen problems, what I do each moment, and what I even spend my time thinking about, all greatly impact my character and my life’s direction. Life’s simple moments are not wasted and unimportant. They are the foundations that shape our lives. They are the formational moments, one added upon another. At least that’s how I see things. But what do I know? One thing’s for sure, I guess—it’s finished. That’s all I have to say. Thanks for reading.

 

Lisa wiped a tear from her eyes. She shook her head with amazement and disappointment. Amazement in the idealism her son has…had. Disappointment in knowing this was the end. She grabbed Mike’s outstretched hand and squeezed as they focused on their son’s gravestone at their feet.

 

Check out Part 2 of the Gravesite.

 

Hold On (Lyrics)

Tom Waits

They hung a sign up in our town
“If you live it up, you won’t live it down”
So she left Monte Rio, son
Just like a bullet leaves a gun
With her charcoal eyes and Monroe hips
She went and took that California trip
Oh, the moon was gold, her hair like wind
Said, “don’t look back, just come on, Jim”
Oh, you got to hold on, hold on
You gotta hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here, you gotta hold on
Well, he gave her a dimestore watch
And a ring made from a spoon
Everyone’s looking for someone to blame
When you share my bed, you share my name
Well, go ahead and call the cops
You don’t meet nice girls in coffee shops
She said, “baby, I still love you”
Sometimes there’s nothin’ left to do
Oh, but you got to hold on, hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on and take my hand
I’m standing right here, you gotta hold on
Well, God bless your crooked little heart
St. Louis got the best of me
I miss your broken China voice
How I wish you were still here with me
Oh, you build it up, you wreck it down
Then you burn your mansion to the ground
Oh, there’s nothing left to keep you here
But when you’re falling behind in this big blue world
Oh, you’ve got to hold on, hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here, you gotta hold on
Down by the Riverside motel
It’s ten below and falling
By a ninety-nine cent store
She closed her eyes and started swaying
But it’s so hard to dance that way
When it’s cold and there’s no music
Oh, your old hometown’s so far away
But inside your head there’s a record that’s playing
A song called “Hold On”, hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right there, you gotta hold on
You gotta hold on, hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right there, you gotta hold on
You gotta hold on, hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on
And take my hand, I’m standing right here, you gotta hold on
You gotta hold on, hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on
And take my hand, I’m standing right here, you gotta hold on
You gotta hold on
You gotta hold on
You gotta hold on
You gotta hold on
You gotta hold on, baby
You gotta hold on, girl
You gotta hold on
You gotta hold on

 

 

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