Living Is Trying

by John Davey

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    Sleeve artwork: Clare Drummond.
    On-disc layout: Ethan Marosz

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released October 29, 2014


all rights reserved



John Davey Marquette, Michigan

From Indiana’s Wabash River Valley to Music City, Tennessee to the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, John Davey has been on the move during the last couple of years. The words and melodies of Middle-America stay tucked in his back pocket.


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Track Name: Left Arm
my mind was a mission and you were the quisling
a treacherous turncoat at best
I am my left arm, you were the white scar
that lit up when I turned red

you spoke in your sleep and revealed all your secrets
about your black-minded mother
and dark was the water that swallowed your father
til he had to leave you with others
and hosts of angels sang as they fell
in unison into their anguish

my love was lacewing, it broke like a plaything
the moment we came into contact with one another
and I am a dry heave, you are the pet peave
that I could take or leave

in daylight I fear it and I’ll not go near it
it’s cold in my hands like a trigger
for all of my quaking and my lack of courage
how on earth did you ever figure
that my heart and my mind could even
ever play to deliver?

in meadows of dreaming I saw you leaning
on fenceposts of both of our memories
a bird, you were preening while I was still gleaning
the good from a previous evening

and I am overcome again
Track Name: Strong Words
we got a thing made of magic and we’re movin’ onwards
oh, how you make me want to use strong words
so I’m calling you up; gather your things dear
make your way over; we’ll see what the new year brings

‘cause you baptise me, oh my god!
we’re driving south
dip me in water
put words in my mouth
am I grown older?
or grown younger?
we’ll see with the summer
that you still surprise me, oh my god!
we’re driving west
you terrify me, tighten up my chest

am I grown older?
is this getting dangerous?
‘cause you are contagious
but you civilize me, oh my god!
we’re driving north
dip me in waters, soothe me with your voice

oh, how you make me want to use strong words
Track Name: Spent
I’m all spent like a crumpled dollar note
or the hull of your old rowboat
when it’s tethered to the end of the dock
for a dozen years or so
my clothes wore out all around the same time
I feel like I’ve been nickeled and dimed
so darling, if you’d be so kind
find a needle and thread and help me mend what’s mine

‘cause I’ve got holes in the bottoms of my shoes
from chasing after you
and pieces of them left behind
down on twenty-seven state lines

I’m all spent like the end of a season
tired for all the right reasons
the return on my exchange is much, much more
than you could even ever believe in
I left little bits of my heart
scattered out among the Ozarks
on the shores of many northern lakes
and Louisiana in the dark

I swear, I almost fell apart
using up the sum of my parts
I’m all tired and I’m worn out
from chasing you through so many towns
but my dreams never seem to slow down

I’ve got holes in the bottoms of my shoes
I’m tuckered out and bruised
but I swear, one day, I will catch up with you
Track Name: On Wings
so I tried to chase you down to be profound
but only found the unforgiving ground
by all the blazing suns! the things I’ve done, the ones I’ve won
have only swelled my tongue

loneliness. it comes in waves just like it used to come
when I was fearful of most things and everyone

so I gathered all my things, I flew on wings and traveled far
to catch a shooting star
and I held the shell up to my ear to hear the ocean’s tide
that’s when I felt alive

but everything that goes up must come down again
and the race we swore we won we must begin again

I was reckless and I traded all my good will for good times
now here I lie
so we’ll see what new moons bring and fly on wings and travel far
to catch a shooting star
Track Name: Blacked & Blued
after a while I just followed where my feet trod
past the statue of god in the courtyard

I was blacked and blued
you were the prelude
to the story that I wept to

I was a lightning rod
I drew the fire to myself
I could’ve been someone else
but I liked you

we became the trainwreck
you were the bad check
that I tried to pass when I was senseless

I can feel it creeping up and I am on the cusp
(oh!) of something big
and I can’t keep on covering it

on the off-chance that I see you
will you see me? will you hold me?
or will you curse me? will you do anything?
for the honor of the memory that I meant anything to you?
Track Name: Ghost Notes
so we doctored pictures, fudged the numbers, cooked the books
all in the mighty name of better looks
I was on a fast train to an absence where you were not
time was all it really took
‘cause these winters, even mild ones, in the interim
make this seem unworkable

but all of the ghost notes in between
they visit me while I am sleeping
making their way in single file
down to the epicenter of my healing mind, my healing mind

I shied from fire, you ran through it, how’d you do it?
you got on free to the other side
I’m a coward, you’re defiant in the firing line
look your doom right in the eyes
‘cause all these doors keep openin’, you walk through ‘em
and you’re wondering what the hell I’m doing
‘cause I falter even in my mother tongue

all of the ghost notes in between
they visit me while I am sleeping
making their way in single file
down to the epicenter of my crazy psyche damage
and my healing mind
Track Name: To Love At All
there are ranges of mountains of indecision
there are miles deep of oceans of defeat
that we left here back in the winter
and we will surely meet them
on our way back round next year

there are days I think I am a real disaster
there are many nights that I can’t sleep at all
like a renegade train I just keep moving faster
and everyone keeps watching and turns pale
for they know that I’ll soon derail

well I guess I should’ve known I couldn’t force it
all this time it was just waiting to be found
even so, it’s not as if I could divorce myself from it
so I’ll keep waiting til the fruit is ripe
I’ll wait until the time is right

so we try and we prevail
if we give ourselves some room to fail
and we can learn to love it all
if we can learn to love at all
Track Name: Madison
oh my goodness, hallelujah!
what in the world ever happened to ya?
glory bound! and glory be!
could you ever love someone like me?

because my mouth was the gun that shot the dove
which fell from the olive branch up above
when I turned around and told you that I was confused

so show me the hands with which you would’ve loved me
and I promise that I’ll hold them and I’ll tell you that I’m sorry

you make everything seem bright
but I can’t stay another night
your hair is shorn, my clothes are worn
the road it calls but my heart is torn

‘cause we danced together to your favorite songs
in the living room with the curtains drawn
and my head all uncertain in the early dawn

and every one of your arguments is water-tight
should’ve seen this coming from a mile away
you were absolutely right

well I know that all roads they lead to Rome
but I only want the one that takes me home
so you can laugh in my face or you can cry
you can follow me down or you can die
either way, one of us is gone and I keep movin’ on
Track Name: Cruel To Be Kind
I watched from a distance as you lit up the room
surely I am not the only one who sees the light that comes from you
and although you lost your voice out there, you found it in the gravel
by the road of dirt that I have often traveled

oh, you wretched, vivid thing
please stay off my mind
don’t you know how cruel it is to be so kind?

all the jewel and fennel, coriander
you gathered where the brook meanders
past the fire hydrants, road signs and the phone lines
past the broken spigots, broken bricks
on broken brick roads we won’t fix
past the schools and cemeteries, public libraries

well, you shook and took, forsook me like a storm that knew my name
a wind that grew until it blew the stormclouds all away

oh, you wretched, vivid thing
please stay off my mind
don’t you know how cruel it is to be so kind
Track Name: Mendota
I tripped up, so much for my luck
all around the capitol
and my arms were bare when I showed you where
I got hurt and had my fill

still I followed you down the corridor
past the gateway to the secret garden
all the springs turn to rivers and run into the sea
just like the vision of me running from me

you loved me with hands that were fierce
and I still had a thousand fears
but we both had hands and so we held them

and the fire in you never died
much of what I did was so contrived
in the context of three hundred cold miles

still I walked with you parallel
to the stone wall outside your window
as Lake Mendota laps at the eager shore
so you leaned up against me

and the tangled webs behind the whipping shed
had to be pushed back with vicious swipes
thought I was steady as a rock and as clever as a fox
still you crush me up and blind my eyes
and it was crystal clear what you were doing here
to make me fold my arms, lay down and die
still I’m looking up towards thirsty skies
I’m searching thirsty skies
I am searching eager skies
Track Name: Lucky & Free
lift your arms and go, don’t be afraid
there’s an urgency
close your eyes, don’t be scared
just run and jump
‘cause the ground’s never dropped anyone

all the whispers in the sweet virgin grain
are answers to questions that we could not frame
I’ve been learning to be satisfied
with the measure I’m granted every day of my life

sea change, ground swell
I will be well, you will be well
and you already know this
you’re impervious

all the pattering of the soft summer rain
is a sympathy sound, but there’s no one to blame
I’ve been discovering what many have known
you find a space in your head
and you call it your home

there is no one as lucky or free as me

all the wonders and the tremors divine
shake to the core everything I held mine
I’ve been learning to reach out and grasp
all the life that flies by me even as it moves past

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