Writing Songs

Which comes first, the inexperienced always ask,
The words or the music, melody or message?
And I always feel dismayed by their innocence,
embarrassed that I cannot coherently reply.
For neither come first, and neither come last
and how either come into being,
nothing but a persistent mystery, even to me.

And I know how to do this,
how to wrench coherence from chaos,
a pleasing melody from the deafening background noise.
But this is no skill, not knowledge-based ability,
but something I discovered I was born naturally able to do.
I did not do it well for the longest time.
(Thank God for the innocent ear of youth
and the tolerance of parents, and siblings, and friends.)
I was a nobody who merely imagined himself to be somebody
long before I ever learned the truth.

But that's not quite right, because I still don't know the truth.
Writing a song is an act of permission rather than commission;
permission to proceed precisely because I cannot know.
And an admission that no matter how clever I might become,
I will never manufacture a melody
or more than blindly iterate any lyric into being.

These damned things pass through me
like shit through a goose,
golden crap hardly worth mentioning had it not stuck to my shoes.
Neither the words nor the music come first,
but the muse.

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