Tuesday, November 08, 2005

get him to swap our places

Today, Kate Bush releases her first album in twelve years.

Twelve years ago, I was fifteen. I was about to dislocate my knee. I was about to learn how to drive. I wore velvet shirts and blue jeans and long, painted skirts and ballet shoes. I dreamed of going to Julliard, or Interlochen, or New York University. I wrote musicals in our basement. I wrote poems in my notebook. I wrote notes on my hand. I wrote with blue erasable pens, and chewed on the erasers.

I was too young for most of the music I like. Most of it passed me by. Bands didn’t play Ohio, except for the state fair. The radio didn’t play anybody. Most of the music I like—The Smiths, Guided by Voices, PJ Harvey, The Bronski Beat—I discovered through my boyfriends and boyfriends’ friends. By the time I saw Morrissey—last fall in D.C.—he was old enough to have gray through his slick hair, a stomach that pooched over his slacks. He still took his shirt off, and threw it into the crowd.

Kate Bush I discovered myself. No man led me there.

In 1993, I read a newspaper review of her last album, The Red Shoes. It was an out-of-state, city paper. How it found its way to my town, my living room, my parents’ coffee table—I don’t know. Maybe we had stayed at a hotel. Maybe it was slipped under the door, or blew into the yard with the leaves. Or why I was bored enough to read it. But I read it.

I remember the album cover was a girl’s foot in toe shoes, en pointe.

I didn’t like it at first. Her voice is odd, wild, embarrassing. It jumps around. It screams, it purrs, it shrieks.

Moments of Pleasure, with its snowfall of piano notes, was the first song I memorized. It felt like reading someone’s diary.

Now there is rarely a moment I don’t leave my city apartment, step out into the rain and think: when I set out of my catacombs. Turn to the stranger crowding me on the BART and think: this is my space. Think of the past and think: Do you want to feel how it feels? Turn to the sky and think: I just know that something good is gonna happen.

This summer in my sweltering attic, I taught myself to play Never Be Mine on the piano. I didn’t think I’d have a reason to sing it, but I did. Her songs seem to anticipate reasons to need them.

Kate Bush learned to write songs as a child, on an old organ in her parents’ barn. By the time she was seventeen, she had a record deal. Her first album came out the year I was born. She made her US television debut on Saturday Night Live,, wearing a gold leotard, sitting cross-legged on a grand piano and singing while Paul Shaffer played.

She never toured again.

I will celebrate by wearing my new, fawn-colored, knee-high suede boots on the outside of my jeans. I will celebrate by wearing my dark hair down and wild. I will walk straight down the middle. I will spread my poems on the floor. I will maybe take my piano out of its box at the foot of my bed.

You cannot peg some people. You cannot tell them what to do. You cannot write them off, even if they move to the country and have a son and take twelve years to write twelve songs. They are still writing, still thinking, still making art. I would like to be one of those people.

Today one of them comes back.