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Ghostwatching

by Jessica Law

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1.
I can see the ghosts of those who walked these roads in years before I can hear the countless dramas played out in between these walls I can feel the hopes and plans of those who ran along these halls I can hear the creak of eaves arrive and leave across these floors On the street the ringing of the feet vibrates Then the rain washes it away - blank slate Do you see what I see? Do you feel the things I feel? Are you in tune with me? Do you think it might be real? I can sense what one tree meant to lovers, fighters, thieves and stoats I can find the signs of minds inscribed in stone or scratched on posts Thoughts arrive upon the wind, I pluck them out and hold them close I can thank the riverbank for hosting all my favourite ghosts In the haze - a city overlaid with days One stone stage - we come and go away, it stays Do you see what I see? Do you feel the things I feel? Are you in tune with me? Do you think it might be real?
2.
I used to count the days 'Til your unconventional ways And your unconventional face Through my door would enter in, my life to grace Now I count the ways That your unimpeachable haze And your bland, unreachable gaze Day by day convince me that you’ve been replaced And I heard tell that you left me at the Goblin Fair She has you, you are still there - but Why do you hide when there’s nothing to hide from me? Why do you fly when there’s nothing to fly from? See, One of these days the sun will decay So it doesn’t matter that you’re mad It means nothing - please come back So you ate the fruit When you were abroad in her realm It’s a look I’ve come to know well In vacant eyes of guys who pay the tithe to Hell And you chose to do it Was there nothing left for you here? Was I not enough for you, dear? Now she claims you piece by piece and year by year But I’ll hold you if you want me to, just say I can Through lion, through snake to man, so Why do you hide when there’s nothing to hide from me? Why do you fly when there’s nothing to fly from? See, One of these days we’ll all be in graves So it really doesn’t matter that you’re mad It means nothing Absolutely nothing Please come back It means nothing Please come back It means nothing We’re all mad
3.
I lived and died and came out on the other side I walk the earth, but you’re not in my wake The glaring sun out of tune with the wrong I’ve done Can I survive past my greatest mistake? And love, I know I’m not the hero that you thought and hoped I was But fallibility’s inbuilt, and we proceed against all odds They made us so we don’t outgrow the gods I must accept that I’m alive I must try And I must learn to live with the years I’m given Now that I know I’ll live past twenty-seven The siren call of the wine and the bacchanal Won’t wipe my mind, but I’m blinded by light Oh Golden God, raise me up from the stone and sod The antidote to my time on the underside I’m tired of stories, tired of meaning And the burden words place on me I have reached the end of making sense My mind will soon be gone It’s time that I surrendered to the sun I must accept that I’m alive I must strive And I must learn to live with the years I’m given Now that I know there’s no such thing as heaven I sing of light, Sol Invictus’ holy might I join the sect and I walk by his side They come to me, but I don’t want their company The violent glee of the women who fight I couldn’t love another woman They remind me so of you But I’d love a man whose love I can rely on through and through I could love a man whose love can make me new I must accept that I’m alive I must thrive And I must learn to live with the years I’m given Now that I know I’ll live past twenty-seven Now that I know there’s no such thing as heaven Still I wish they’d left me in the river...
4.
You’re following me through the throng You’re singing me the same old song You’re sorry that you did me wrong And I’m an angel in your eyes But angels have a thousand eyes And roll around on wheels of fire And wear the visage of a lion Six wings to hide it all behind Your voice is cutting through the fray She didn’t mean a thing, you say You promise me you’ll change your ways I’ll be the princess in your life But princesses set fire to towns And bury soldiers underground And plot against their king and crown And die in battle for their rights You can name me And the name will make it real But you can’t expect to like what you find You’ll still your sickle tongue, you say No longer wield your words to slay You’ll free me from beneath your sway You’ll call me goddess from now on But goddesses dance on the dead Wear necklaces of severed heads And turn to cats within your bed And still you’ll praise them when they’re gone You can name me And the name will make it real But it doesn’t make it right And it doesn’t make me nice And you can’t expect to like what you find So if you will pursue me more You’ll see me in my truest form I’ll be there with my flaming sword The angel with a thousand eyes The angel with a thousand eyes
5.
Monday is dawning, so sunny and sweet My whole life before me, the world at my feet A thousand amusements laid out on display A thousand adventures to fill up my day If there wasn’t just one small thing in my way… I could fly to the moon on a hot air balloon And become a mooncalf cavalier I could sail through the night to that haunting green light And climb up upon the pier I could walk on the moor with my tormented thoughts And my coat-tails afloat in the wind I could sit in my chair in the smoke-scented air Playing plaintive violin All the adventures I could have if I weren’t here And all the intentions I’ve assembled year on year If I didn’t have to go to work I could sit there and think with a bottle of ink And a goose-feather quill in my fist I could grumble and gripe, at a typewriter type Of the worlds that don’t exist I could lie on a couch with a pipe in my mouth And a mind full of visions and veils I could haunt the saloons seeking tormented tunes On the trail of half-heard tales All the ideas I could give the gift of life They fall on dead ears, for I haven’t got the time ‘Cause instead I have to go to work I could do nothing - sweet celestial nothing I could sit in the bath, read a novel and laugh at you all Just watching you run at society’s beck and call Bless your souls In our world of action, where we’re worth the things we make The biggest infraction is to sit and cogitate If I didn’t have to go (Oh, but I still have to, though) But I wish I didn’t go to work
6.
Broken Spoke 03:36
Last year It seemed there’d be no end to all the sun This year it’s barely begun It’s time To find myself a way to get around I see you there on the ground I know you could take me places I know I like your design There’s just one question remaining in my mind Do I have the time To fix you up, to dust you off To put the oil on your wheels and make you shine? It might be hard, and it may cost But there’s a chance you’ll pay off And it’s a shame you’ve gone to waste But is it me who has to pay the dime Do I have the time to make you mine To make you mine? I know A couple of your screws are getting loose Yes, you’ve been carelessly used I know The rust has penetrated to your heart I know you’re falling apart But I’m no expert mechanic And I’ve had breakages too Of all the rides on the planet I find you Do I have the time To fix you up, to dust you off To put the oil on your wheels and make you shine? It might be hard, and it may cost But there’s a chance you’ll pay off And it’s a shame you’ve gone to waste But is it me who has to pay the dime Do I have the time to make you mine To make you mine? Yes, it’s a shame you’ve lost your way But is it me who has to shine the light? Oh, never mind, another bike has caught my eye… NOOOOOOO!
7.
It’s too late, you’ve turned me - what can I do now? Could try to deny, but my heart would not allow I thought my mind was a constant, the world white and black But it’s too late, you’ve turned me - there’s no going back It’s too late, you’ve turned me, and I’m all at sea How is it so easy to change what makes me? And if I’m not who I thought I was, who could I be? But it’s too late, you’ve turned me - no more philosophy It’s too late, you’ve turned me - for good or for ill I thought for a while I could walk away at will And if I’d got out in time, then I think I could have still But it’s too late, you’ve turned me, and I know that it’s real You’re gone and it’s over, but I remain changed For we are all the sum of the people we’ve saved And the imprint of those that we love will remain So I’ll just keep on making the same mistakes Over and over again til I’m old All cast in a similar mold But it’s too late, you’ve turned me It’s worth it - so I’m told...
8.
Context 04:16
We started out as a fleet A column calm and complete Then the cold undertow Dragged us every way we know In scattered waters we dwell A very personal hell Separate streams, so it seems, we are compelled Now I look around Trapped in some middle-class Babel Lofty words, and loud Tangle as they cross the table Not with all the wit of Wilde Nor by Baudelaire beguiled Could I get a word in edgeways, though I try Oh, but I was fine ‘Til the light inside me died What you see are just reflections in the sky More magic sparks on the stone In concrete parks of my home Than all of these tall hallowed halls could possess A single word from your lips Has more reward than a kiss In a club ever could effervesce Seems I learned too late Faces and places need context Paradise is great Fill it with strangers, it’s meaningless A cavalcade of revelry But the place I want to be Is just sitting sipping tea on your settee Watching the sun go down Catching fire across the clouds Painting pink to make us think it’s still around Here in a house I don’t own A town we’ve almost outgrown Our love layers up Like a pearl around a stone And as the current drags and tows And as disconnection grows You’re a lighthouse in a sea of the unknown And when the star went cold Shrinking to the blackest hole Well, the light that hit our eyes had not been told You know, when fireworks fly They’re just scratches in the sky And they cut the night to show us what’s behind It’s true, when fireworks fly They’re just scratches in the sky And they cut the night to show us what’s behind
9.
The Hill 03:37
I’ve found the hill that I’m willing to die on And a position I’ll firmly defend And now I’ve found the hill that I’m prepared to die on Well, you won’t talk me back down again You might not like the location I’ve chosen It isn’t tall, but it’s easy to climb And I refuse to move it or attempt to prove it If I'm here, then it’s real and it's mine Some people like to move around Some try to find more solid ground Some change their mind with the things they learn Scan the skies, turn, turn, turn But I feel safe on the hill that I’ll die on I’m unperturbed by the winds of change And if the turning tide should cause the land to slide I’ll clutch at straws ‘til it sweeps me away I don’t need friends on the hill that I’ll die on I just need something to fill up my time You may not want to be me, but you sure can see me Oh, and that is the reason I climb Some people like to go explore Search for the shells upon the shore Some people stand on the shoulders of giants That takes work - I won’t try it I’m happy here on the hill that I’ll die on You want to move me? You’re welcome to try But though you won’t succeed, one thing is guaranteed: If you wait, I’ll eventually die Yes, now I’ve found the hill that I’m prepared to die on If you wait, I’ll eventually die
10.
Near Castle Park Five metres underground Here lies a bunker Thirty-five berth And a speech from the queen Never yet said aloud Mourning a disfigured Earth Close to the coast Accessed by rowing boat Here lies an island Foul to its core With a deadly disease Tested on flocks of sheep Would have been used in the war (If it hadn’t ended before…) This is not a place of honour Nothing of value here This is a message of danger We beg you to steer clear This is a place of fear One summer night Pulses of coloured light Burned through the orbit Blew out the power In a city that lay 900 miles away Set the dogs howling for hours On wasted ground 10,000 years from now Wind blows a warning Through sharpened stone And a carving is seen Fixed in a silent scream Our language is no longer known But this is no place for a home This is not a place of honour Nothing of value here This is a message of danger We beg you to steer clear This is a place of fear
11.
Give us Time 04:53
When I met you first, you pulled me from the river Saw the redcoats coming and we ran for cover I helped you climb into your saddle You died the first time in that battle Second time we met among the sweating bodies In a sleepless city filled with endless parties Through strings of pearls and trails of feathers I loved you more than I could measure I left you for a man of leisure By then I knew our paths would recombine Somewhere further down the line Don’t worry, love We’ll work out fine Our day will come Just give us time London was abuzz with talk of revolution Armed with old guitars instead of ammunition We locked eyes once in Piccadilly I found out later you’d died early You never left the swinging sixties I’d like to find a place in history Where you don’t die and I don’t leave Don’t worry, love We’ll work out fine Our day will come Just give us time Don’t worry, my love We’ll meet again, meet again Don’t worry, my love We’ll see the end, see the end Now our love begins within a world that’s ending Never knew the sand would simply stop descending You couldn’t fault us on our timing We stare at walls we should be climbing Of hollow halls in which we’re hiding With horror films and documentaries Of parallel realities
12.
The winds that scatter us around Have landed me within your town Let’s congregate while we’re united by the fates You’ve only seen me on the stage In disguise and rendered strange You learn too late that I’m not actually from space I hate to blow your mind But I’m just a mortal who happens to write And I’ll never be enough for you And I’ll always be too good to be true If you can’t have the stars Then you won’t have the moon And you’ve found out I’m not magic after all It’s been a year you’ve been alone Are you sufficiently worn down? Enough to contemplate the offer that I made In a house that I don’t own In a town that’s not our home A place where no-one lives, from which nobody came A cloud obscures the sky And I can’t decide if I can face the winter again Because I’ll never be enough for you And I’ll always be too good to be true If you can’t have the stars Then you won’t have the moon And you’ve found out I’m not magic after all I learn the taste of angels’ breath And the temporary death And the metallic tang of coming round again I hold the Starchild in my hand Introduce him to the band And incrementally I shrug off all my chains Another year goes by And I can’t remember why you ever caught my eye ‘Cos you'll never see reality And you’ll always want too much of me What you want isn’t real What you have, you don’t feel And there’s no such thing as magic after all...

credits

released July 12, 2022

All songs written by Jessica Law
Arrangements by Jessica Law and Nick Siepmann
Recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by Nick Siepmann

Jessica Law: vocals, mandolin, resonator mandolele, keys
Nick Siepmann: guitars, bass, cello, keys, drum programming, backing vocals, effects
Ben Amstutz: drums (‘The Hill’)
Cameron Alsop: clarinet (‘Monday Morning’)
Natalia Wierzbicka, Borisz Merlics, Martin Ash, Leah Leong (Flux Ensemble): strings
With thanks to Fiona Fey for use of her piano
Released with support from Elena Harty

Cover photo by Charlotte Klinting
Design by Frank Voss

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Jessica Law Cambridge, UK

"Packed with emotion, surprise and wit." - The Daily Album
“Someone… who’d probably get laughed off the X-Factor for not being exactly the same as everyone else.” – Nightshift Magazine
"A collection of intriguing folk songs, packed with expressive lyrics, strange rhythms and creative instrumentation." - Ocelot Magazine
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