House That Built Itself is probably the closest I come to my own voice, rather than speaking in character like the rest of the record. It’s the most ‘confessional’ piece on Moxie. It was based on reading the sonnets of Jorge Luis Borges, whose voice you can hear on the record, speaking to an audience at a reading. I loved that particular clip of him speaking because of how much room he leaves his listener to make the words mean whatever they need to mean to them. He gives you the framework on which to build your own fantasy, and even in translation his language is so melodic and rhythmic that you can almost sing everything he says. In one of his sonnets he makes a reference to iron being created to destroy, to kill, and that it can be destroyed itself by misuse and neglect. Here’s the sample, it’s entirely worth the whole listen!
When things happen to us, good or bad, we make a choice every time about how we will take it. We could be weak and sour and never see the good in anything. Or we can choose to find the best in even the most difficult circumstances. It’s those folks, the ones who can build empires out of the force of their own will that make this world better. You have to own what you are, you have to choose.
The artistic cliche in this beast, also the most confessional line of it, is about lingering in my own worst danger until the inevitable collapse. After all, there’s only so much shit you can take before something gives. The muse has been good to me, I listen and she speaks. But sometimes it takes breaking myself (via alcohol, relationships, bad choices) to weaken and slow my mind enough enough to receive it. I’m a steely woman, wary- but I Choose to find the beauty, often (almost always) wrapped in self-torture, and this particular torture was so predictably tragic that it now feels like a dream, something outside of me that acted itself out through me. One of the first pieces of art I ever made was a collage of a bird flying with its open cage clutched in its talons- the idea that however ‘free’ I am, I will always carry what I fear, my own worst danger, regardless of how it slows me down.
I was listening to a lot of Dylan when I wrote it, especially Another Side. Enter the naked bulb…
This old house won’t be level again, and its corners will never be square
But the steam radiator will polish me up, a spitshine
Darlin’, if you see the spark in my eyes through their sermons that pleasure is sin
Then their iron made to wound us will rust in the rain and we will not stand condemned
The tide pushes back up the river until the world seems upside down
And I will linger in my own worst danger until the levee comes crashing down
Hold me up to the naked bulb, swirl me around in your glass like wine
The bouquet of your skin lingers here on my breath, I will sing in your blood like a wolf in the night
Honey, you know we can weather this storm through the flood and the rage and the fire
And I will live fearless in this crazy world knowing you are my one desire