Who's On Your Shoulder Now?

Who's On Your Shoulder Now?

 

Something's wrong here, 

I feel like every molecule granted is spent.

I've been living so long at the edge of myself, 

I forgot what the middle stuff meant. 

 

Living like a lion with a thorn in its paw, 

like a lethal eagle locked in cage;

I tried to write your beauty in this song,

then I saw you mistook every letter for rage.

 

Like a warship with the engine gone cold — 

a burned out wreck and it's smoking.

You turned your cheek on a critical week, 

when the danger was real, not a token.

 

  You should know 

  Yeah, muscle through somehow 

  One hand above you 

  Got one below

  Who's on your shoulder, now 

 

Well, you better not show me that blade, babe, 

‘less you plan to cut some kind of seam, 

one that starts at the base of your neck — 

carve out the spine that we had at nineteen. 

 

Nobody here looks like I remember, 

my heroes no longer walk straight; 

they just wander their personal deserts, bent over, 

hoping for some kind of break. 

 

Like that wandering Jew in a hailstorm, 

like that weeping Christian in chains, 

like those sheiks selling presidents oil wells: 

man, the dunes in your wasteland don't change.

 

You should know 

Yeah, muscle through somehow 

You got one hand above you 

Got one below 

Who's on your shoulder, now

 

The best idea I had in six weeks, 

now the banquet is under-attended. 

You tipped over the table like James Dean in Giant,

wearing mustache and dark sunglasses.

 

We all tap on the dashboard at two in the morning, 

odometer light on our cheeks. 

Man, this spinning, exploding, imploding discovery: 

maybe we'll never know peace.

 

When a bird sings, it gets ugly, 

and it will kill you; it's a definite curse. 

Then they'll idolize as they ignored you; 

the dead never let on which one is worse.

 

Hey, you should know 

Whoa, yeah, muscle through somehow 

You got one hand above you 

You got one below 

Who's on your shoulder, now

Whoa, who’s on your shoulder, now

 

(Life Underwater Music, 2004)

James O'Brien