Most of the lyrics are from two recently-completed novels by Jean Smith. The Black Dot Museum of Political Art is about Nadine MacHilltop, a museum curator who cures narcissism with abstract art. Obliterating History – a guitar-making mystery, domination & submission in a small town garage delves into the histories of three characters to reveal how personalities form.


1. Art is the Great Leveler

Art Was the Great Leveler (lyrics directly out of “The Black Dot Museum of Political Art”)

They met at a party given by mutual friends – people named Fortune. She always liked that part of the story. They were both painters who loved nothing more than to pack up their watercolor gear and hike into the local mountains to paint landscapes. She was young and captivated by his charm and impressed with his brash, unschooled talent.
Which side of town they were from wasn’t a big enough issue
to keep them apart.
To keep them apart.

Art was the great leveler and an emotional connection formed.

Art was the great leveler
long before it was common to assess personalities,
long before people were talking about other people’s personalities
in terms of why such attractions developed.
It would be rationalized based on their mutual interest in art, art and hiking.

Art was the great leveler.
Art was the great leveler.

There was something else there.
A dance. A dance, of sorts. A dance.
They were doing a dance –
one in which it was difficult to tell just by looking who was leading and who was following.

Art was the great leveler.
Art was the great leveler.

They regularly heaved out an arsenal of verbal weaponry
to defend and protect the mysteries
of their deficiencies from possible detection.
Impossible detection was their goal.
Impossible detection was their goal.
Impossible detection was their goal.
Art was the great leveler.
Art was the great leveler.
They hid as much as they exposed.
They hid as much as they exposed.


2. What's Your Name

What’s Your Name?

When you’ve taken your hands away
from your eyes
from your face
from your mouth – what do you see?
What do you say?
What is your name now?
What is your name now that you can see, that you can speak,
not looking, not at me, now that you can see?
What is your name now that you can speak?
When you’ve taken your hands away from your eyes,
from your face, from your heart – what do you feel?
What do you say now that you feel?
What is your name?
What is your name?
Now that you see?
Now that you feel?
Now that you speak? What do you say? What do you say?
What is your name?

3. Wasn't Said

Wasn’t Said (lyrics directly out of Jean Smith’s novel “Obliterating History – a guitar-making mystery, domination & submission in a small town garage”)

Look ahead to the time
when you’ve forgotten all that was said
when you look behind
and it doesn’t matter anymore

Look ahead — it’s hard to want to go there now
that’s where you’re heading
that’s what you’re waiting for
it’s what you’re waiting for
that time, when you’re looking behind you

and none of this will matter
all of this confusion
will be so far in the past
it won’t matter in the now

In the now
that’s still ahead

Looking ahead to when
none of this is gonna matter
how it went
and what was said
and what wasn’t said

To make this void of no communication
no communication
no communication now
there’s nothing now

There’s nothing now
but to look ahead
when none of this will matter
what was and wasn’t said

It wasn’t said

4. Livermore

Between Livermore and Tracy

He’s got the white coat, no stethoscope
Cause the movement to die out
Several times over
Walking the walls
A cardiologist, white coat, no stethoscope
Between Livermore and Tracy

On rotation
Uneventful, one uneventful night
Just one uneventful night

In the hall, he wouldn’t know left from right
He’s got the white coat, no stethoscope
Between Livermore and Tracy

In rotation
Just one, just one uneventful night
Just one night of sleep
Between Livermore and Tracy

Can you hear delirium with that machine
or is it just me?

Between delirium and quick clarity


5. Normal

Normal (lyrics directly out of Jean Smith’s novel “The Black Dot Museum of Political Art”)

Quirky was how she described them. Her brother had other choice words for them. Freak show was popular. He would have preferred that his parents possessed the will to fit in, to be normal. That was not the case. In nearly all ways, Arnie and Yvette demonstrated their abhorrence for all things normal, including the word. Normal.

Yvette knew how to dress, but when she deviated from his perception of what a mother should be like, he pitched fits and stayed in his room.

Yvette wore Arnie’s old button-down shirts as painting smocks and she sewed rudimentary trousers with elastic waist out of boldly printed fabric other mothers might consider using for curtains in their rumpus rooms.

Yvette had been known to nip to the grocery store in her painting clothes, but he wouldn’t be seen in public with her if she was going to wear the curtain pants.

The girl didn’t understand her brother’s urge to comply with the universal code of normal, but she surely felt the impact of his reaction to divergences from it. He wanted to be part of a normal family that gathered in front of a TV set to have dinner off trays laden with grilled cheese sandwiches on Wonder Bread with tall glasses of Tang. At their house it might be steamed clams dipped in individual dishes of melted butter with a Caesar salad made from a recipe out of Life magazine. Her brother was grossed out by the clams, repulsed by the anchovies and annoyed that he was being denied whatever he suspected was normal.

Normal. He wanted to be. Normal.

6. One Man's Anger

One Man’s Anger (lyrics directly out of Jean Smith’s novel “Obliterating History – a guitar-making mystery, domination & submission in a small town garage”)

This one man’s anger
this one man’s rage
this one man’s fear – it comes from pain
oh ohhhhhh – it comes from pain

No matter what look is on his face
what words he choose to say
this one man’s anger
comes from pain

it can fool you – you can be tricked
he will tell you otherwise – otherwise

But as he’s walking down the way
you will know his anger comes from pain
comes from pain

This one man – is not a bad man, no
he’s not a bad man in any way
but this one man’s anger and rage

Coming out again
is from fear of pain

And in the hollows of the shallows
of the dark setting in
In a quiet time

A look on his face – just a flicker like a flame
will allow you to see
his fear is his pain
he fears the fear
he fears the fear of pain

This one man’s pain and his angry ways
the fire versus the flame
the fire and the flame

7. Naked and Ticklish

Naked & Ticklish (lyrics directly out of Jean Smith’s novel “Obliterating History – a guitar-making mystery, domination & submission in a small town garage”)

The last two guys I started something with
had Rottweilers. I’m not a Rottweiler fancier at all
Guy One’s dog was young, dumb
it jumped up, got its nose between your legs
and ate the sleeves of Guy One’s wool sweaters.
Guy One wanted to control the way the dog behaved.
Guy One wanted to control everyone.
He was starting a new religion
— a new religion without a god.
I guess Guy One wanted to be the number one guy.

There was no door on the bedroom
and the dog and his jumping ways
and his cold wet nose were distracting during sex.
Guy One got up and took the door off the bathroom
and hung it on the bedroom hinges.

But the bathroom door was simply smaller
and it did not close.
Guy One got a big chunk of coral from his collection
to hold the door closed.
Guy One was a big guy — over six feet tall –
and he picked a big piece of coral.

And for myself when I went to the bathroom
I bent naked, naked and ticklish
lifting and carrying the large chunk of coral across the room.
With the door now freely open
and Guy One’s dog with the cold wet nose —
and me being naked, naked and ticklish —
looking for where to set the coral down.

Guy Two’s Rottweiler was bigger and older.
Guy Two threw chunks of prime rib across the room.
Guy Two’s dog didn’t eat the sleeves of sweaters
yet it did want to come into the room during sex
but there was a door and it closed
without anything from the bottom of the sea
holding it — holding it closed.
So this was an improvement
until it came time to settle in for the first night
turns out the dog sleeps on the bed
and I am in the dog’s spot
and the dog would like his spot back.

He keeps standing up and turning around and around.
The door is freely open until the door is closed.
Holding it closed — naked and ticklish — naked naked and ticklish.

8. Maisy's Death

Maisy’s Death (lyrics directly out of Jean Smith’s novel “The Black Dot Museum of Political Art”)

In the summer of 1936, Maisy died and without missing a beat, Nestor turned and began hurling his high-pitched railings at Odele, like javelin tips landing sideways in the tender field of her heart. Odele was fourteen when she took over the chores – the watering, weeding, the picking, trimming and slicing of green beans, making meals, just like before. It fell to her to tend the garden, carefully latching bean tendrils to the brittle netting that stayed out all year, weathered to grey. The beans were blind – reaching out into the vastness of her tiny universe – in the opposite direction, until Odele unfurled the coil of filigree and let it touch the net. The beans hung like slender green trout, green eggs plump in their green bellies. So much green – too much – and so much for the natural order her father talked about; the hopelessness of beans left to fend for themselves, on their own.

After her mother’s death, realizing that as a female she was interchangeable and therefore he’d be trying to fill her up and kill her too, Odele developed a penchant for very long baths with bubbles. Her father wouldn’t have dared to yell at her while she was naked, but she had her blanket of bubbles just in case. The tub was behind the woodshed where her two brothers’ bottoms had been paddled until they were old enough to endure a leather strap across the open palms of their pre-pubescent hands. The strap was for the boys and the soap was for Odele, the only girl, and it was appropriate. The boys were always in some kind of trouble that involved their quick fingers and plump hands – taking money, raiding fruit trees or fighting on the dusty shoulder of the road home from school. The strap across the hands was fitting for the boys and likewise, it was Odele’s mouth that got her into trouble – sassing back to her father, expressing her opinions unasked. The soap, it was for Odele.

9. Odele's Bath

Odele’s Bath (lyrics directly out of Jean Smith’s novel “The Black Dot Museum of Political Art”)

Their cast iron clawfoot tub was raised up on bricks to make room for the fire beneath it. After supper, the bath regime began with Odele’s father climbing in first to soak for the better part of an hour, after which, when her mother was alive, she’d be next, but she tended to make it quick. After her – the boys, one at a time. Finally it was Odele’s turn. Frequently she had to chop more kindling to stoke the fire and wait until the water warmed up again. She pulled the sash of her pink chenille bathrobe tighter and swung the axe more accurately than either of her brothers, splitting wood like she was slicing bread. Truly alone, she sat on her thinking rock, poking embers, vowing that one day she’d take baths twice as long as her father’s and soak in bubbles until the cows came home. When she had a child she’d spoil it. It could eat cake all day long for all she cared. Odele shifted the wood with a twisted iron rod so familiar in her right hand that it was invisible to her. All week it hung beside the leather strap in the shed, next to the soap, until bath night when, individually they held it like a mediaeval weapon, jabbing it into the heart of the fire as heat flushed their faces and alone, they allowed themselves to imagine episodes of liberation – and even retribution – as they prepared to bathe their scrawny hillbilly bodies in murky water beside an unnamed stone on which sat the soap. Unnamed by everyone except Odele. It was her thinking rock, although she’d never said it out loud to anyone except herself. It was here that the term run through with an awl played over and over in her head and she blamed the rock for making her think it. This was what happened when she sat on the thinking rock. It made her think awful things about her father. She blamed the rock for putting things into her head and she thought it best to say them, to let them out, rather than save them, in her head, fearing that she might blurt out run through with an awl instead of please pass the potatoes at dinner.

Odele kept her small bottle of bubble bath in the pocket of her chenille robe. As she dribbled it across the dirty water she repeated her mantra, run through with an awl. Naked, one foot on her thinking rock, she used the soot-blackened poker to agitate the water, to make bubbles, and she laughed at how she must look, the real Odele, and she added to her chant – if all eyes were on me now.

The saving grace of her otherwise woefully lacking existence was that her father was not a man of god. Unlike her schoolmates traipsing off to church, Sundays were her own. Not to run through fields of buttercups, but to catch up on chores. Odele sometimes found herself glancing skyward while she squeezed dirty water out of a mop, thanking god that her father was not religious, thus cracking herself up enough that she twigged onto how humour worked – it split apart the dark tendrils tightening in her gut and around her heart, soothing her like a slug of moonshine, but laughter didn’t burn and make her cough. Odele tried to find external sources to make herself laugh, to reduce the internal grumbling in what she knew was not her soul – nor was she hungry, unless what she felt could be called a hunger to express herself. If she laughed or cried her father got angry. He was a man who was staunchly confused about most things, but in his role as head of the household, he felt compelled to have strong opinions. Anger was the only emotion he let his family see. He pontificated wildly, combining nuances of opposing stances, putting on a show. All bluster. Odele tried to follow his logic, but when she was nine she heard the word irrational uttered by her mother while they were going through the remnant bin at Hester’s Dry Good Store.

By the time she left the farm at sixteen Odele had eaten enough green beans to last her a lifetime. Emancipation from what she regarded as emotional tyranny came by way of the SMT Eastern bus line and her overwhelming determination to never again eat anything green.


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