Tag Archives: Tom Waits


Best summed up by Tom Waits really.

No shadow
No stars
No moon
No care
It only believes
In a pile of dead leaves
And a moon
That’s the color of bone

No prayers for November
To linger longer
Stick your spoon in the wall
We’ll slaughter them all

November has tied me
To an old dead tree
Get word to April
To rescue me
November’s cold chain

Made of wet boots and rain
And shiny black ravens
On chimney smoke lanes
November seems odd
You’re my firing squad

With my hair slicked back
With carrion shellac
With the blood from a pheasant
And the bone from a hare

Tied to the branches
Of a roebuck stag
Left to wave in the timber
Like a buck shot flag

Go away you rainsnout
Go away, blow your brains out


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And the fog gathering and the light dropping

Dublin, November 2014. Pic: Cormac Looney

Dublin, November 2014.
Pic: Cormac Looney

November. Seriously. November.

A month of damp mist, zero mellowness, no fruit. No bright colours of any sort.

All the wind and rain of December without the Christmas food and drink. A month with his hands in his pockets, stiffed on his paycheck, killing time before the place closes.

Without snow a city that just looks cold, mouldy and dirty. The dreary Dublin that emigrants don’t miss and visitors don’t see.

One man said of November in another place: “It only believes in a pile of dead leaves, and a moon that’s the colour of bone.”

Maybe he was talking about here.

And then, walking home at dusk: a clear sky after a week of rain. And silence and the fog gathering and the light dropping above the park, ten minutes from darkness in the clean, cold air, and finally home, to a good coffee or maybe something stronger.

November has its moments, even in November.


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Everything was beautiful there…


Snowfield on Lugnaquilla, April 2013.

Once in a while I achieve a state of inner peace.

Not in religious terms but in the simple attainment of momentary peace of mind, an absence of stress and a feeling of calmness.

It can come at the most unusual time. On the last occasion it occurred in a packed departure lounge at Charles de Gaulle Airport, amidst delayed, tired travellers, scattered luggage, the smell of fast food and chatter of flight announcements.

Before that it was on a snowy plateau on Lugnaquilla, the highest peak in Wicklow Mountains, last April. Hiking across the ice flats behind my walking companions I stopped, stood and looked.

Anton Chekhov. "You wish it would always be like this."

Anton Chekhov. “You wish it would always be like this.”

Beneath the soundless snowfield the range of mountains and hills stretched out, across a clear and windless morning.

The feeling was one of serenity, the oneness of person and the environment. Buddhists call this esho funi, the inseparability of life and the environment. For me it’s simply inner peace, a feeling of existential contentment that you want to have last as long as possible.

This sensation isn’t easy to describe in words.

Two writers I’ve read in recent months have managed to do it. In both the figure who encounters inner peace is on a journey, tired, “cut loose from purpose”, as Charles Bukowski describes his protagonist below.


“He wanted to stay in that cafe forever”.
Diner, Ithaca, NY.
Pic: studio4115.com

Both resonate with inner peace. Having read each, there’s little more to be said.

The first excerpt is from Anton Chekhov’s 1902 short story The Bishop. The cleric of the title suffers an emotional breakdown at a packed evening church service in Moscow. Emotionally drained and physically exhausted, he travels home in his carriage, observing the scene.

The road from the convent into the city went over sand, so they had to travel at a walking pace, and on either side of the carriage there were pilgrims trudging through the sand in the serene, bright moonlight. Everyone had become lost in thought and was silent, while everything all around – the trees, the sky, and even the moon – looked so young, friendly and so close that it made you wish it would always be like this.”*

Decades later, in a cafe on the other side of the world, a young man sits among fellow bus passengers in the Bukowski poem, ‘Nirvana’.

“…the meal was
and the
the waitress was
unlike the women
he had
she was unaffected,
there was a natural
humor which came
from her.
the fry cook said
crazy things.
the dishwasher,
in back,
laughed, a good
the young man watched
the snow through the
he wanted to stay
in that cafe
the curious feeling
swam through him
that everything
that it would always
stay beautiful
then the bus driver
told the passengers
that it was time
to board.
the young man
thought, I’ll just sit
here, I’ll just stay


*Anton Chekhov, “The Bishop”, trans. Rosamund Bartlett, About Love and Other Stories (OUP, 2004), p 190

**Charles Bukowski, “Nirvana”, as recorded by Tom Waits, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards (ANTI-, 2006)

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