birds in the house EP

by Kate Greenstreet

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93. Of a year not given Like Jesus said: “Stand back.” But why wouldn’t he let her touch him, really? Because he’d been dead? Because he was leaving? Because, at last, he was another kind of being? Was it for her sake or his own? I had a life. There is someone I think of, drawing with my hair on the shower wall. He was speaking in a quieter world and people came to listen, people walking. "But this photo is proof he was with you." All pictures are incomplete. Sometimes sleep. How we remembered who was who. / 1. What it means to be a stranger This is a map of where we are. The silhouetted shapes of people and animals. There’s a little bit of color. I saw him for a minute. He touched the edge of the life we knew. Color and the lack of color. He put the wound out there, in the granite. For some reason, I locked the door. —It was dark? —It was night. It’s hard to resist the urge to keep a fire going. Even when you’re not cold anymore. Even when you’re burning up what you might need later.
4. I am writing this in the dark Did she lock it? Or was it locked? My life has changed since we last spoke. No resting. No tuning. But I want to keep the room, and the chair. We loved blue. That’s intimacy, isn’t it? She was always happy. I’ve been thinking of Thoreau, and feeling the desire to walk. To walk for hours a day, as we used to.
9. He was a boy once He stands, his fingers graze the table His fingers spread like a rake His nose, longer when he’s under stress As when he says “Fear gets us nowhere” an obvious untruth, since here we are His hat is made of bread The bottle breaks—a collection of cells. Just across the river, the trees turning green. Just say she will meet a trusted person. Sometimes understanding skips a generation. And then how sad—to see a photo like that? He’d waited all day to do what he came to do.
10. Dream about being a girl I’m supposed to be in a wedding. I am the bride. I have my white dress all ready but at the last minute I have to go to a funeral instead. I wear a black dress with a wide belt and a short black wig. It’s still 1968. We’re at the funeral mass. I’m afraid to go up to communion by myself but my grandmother is going, so I follow her. As we get close to the altar, I notice that everyone kneeling there is male. Gran slips into a pew, leaving me alone in the aisle. I try to leave through a hidden panel door. Luckily it works. Outside, I see a girl who looks familiar. She says, maliciously: “Did you buy that wig for the funeral?” I don’t answer. It seems to me that she should know why I have the wig on.
64. What it means to be a stranger I was back on the farm. I felt though that I was not really there but remembering, because new elements were present. I saw some sheep cut in half but they were hollow. I swept out a tiny building that didn’t used to be there, which led to a system of tunnels underneath the ground. I just wanted to be alone in the tiny place I’d swept, but I could hear people coming up through the tunnels. I seemed to have nowhere else to go, and then, miraculously, I had the thought: “If this is remembering, I could try to forget,” and with that I woke up.
69. Black snow I thought we might be friends. Or we were friends but who we turned out to be was disappointing. She walks to the corner of the field. One of those cold bright days you remember from childhood. The past, nothing. New people, nothing. She sees him but she doesn’t know him. She’s wearing his coat.
7. This is a traveling song The escaped convict’s story is a traveling story. The language is full of gaps and problems of tense. One time you asked for a sign and found a shell. Add one minute for every thousand miles. We learn to speak by hearing sounds and deciding what they mean. My father was alive, but he was tired. Sensitive to distances, the dangers of spring. Guessing what lies beneath the ground. What moves below the ground What stirs under the ground Guessing about weather Imagining the rooms Some days finding glass, mostly green. Blue is rare. Add another minute. Do they know we’re here? Learn the lesson of the pioneer. Learn by losing. Everybody’s trying to get home. We waited for the optimum conditions, but in the end we set off in a storm.
40. They all want to try the veil He sat right here. You had your turn, okay? She seems unaware of him and in a kind of trance. The stems are magnified by water. “I’ll raise my head like this.”
39. What falls from the sky I understood certain words. The word for why. The word for always. The word for speak. That the truth means what is going to happen. Or what I must do. We drink it down: “To death!” He put the blanket on my head. He said, “Sometimes, I think you just want to disappear.”
71. The corners of the mouth (providing nourishment) You were there, we were all there, at the table. The light! I suddenly recognized the past. I wanted so much to explain. Remember—? I was trying to say. You didn’t know what I was talking about. It was all from the future. The room started filling up with strangers. I got up finally, somebody was calling my name. The hallway was stinking with dead fish. I thought of all the times I didn’t die. You, your burning hand, your open broken read-my-mind—I cut my thumb knuckle trying to teach myself to peel a potato like my grandmother would. In long, curving strokes. Toward the body.
34. Dream about being a girl I was on the toilet, bleeding. A TV was on, some ordinary story. People started coming in to watch it, sitting on some chairs and benches that I hadn’t seen. I didn’t want to show that I was bleeding, I tried to be discreet, but I was sitting in plain view. Then I remembered the two plastic bags I had with me, full of bloody rags. The bags were opaque—white bags from the food store—but the blood was showing through. I hoped no one would notice. I finished, wiped myself, picked up the bags, and tried to leave through a hidden panel door. Luckily it worked. This could be my talent. This could be my talent, if you’d recognize it. Do you have a car?
75. Acorn, moon & stars Instead of a chorus, certain words. Giant face Small face Long ash Clocks wrapped in plastic, things that didn’t happen. People dancing outside—in coats! She sees it. Who she’ll have to be. There are only so many stories.
53. It's ten-twenty and the saint is walking by In her set called “every day,” bridal veil was a fall and a search for candles. Tell me how you want to feel. The market offers charms for curing fright, bettering the earth, “attract a lover,” but like she used to say: I’m in the book. Meaning: I’m not here. Meaning it’s a mystery you can’t crack. There’s a crime in everybody’s past. Black snow filling up the page. There’s always been a leak.
60. Cardboard star I wrote down what I wanted to say. Because nobody will touch it. Our man fights—it’s his second language. Before he leaves he sets up a tiny tree on the table. She wouldn’t give a reason. The children did this. I think she had a very common reason.
98. What it means to be a stranger I dreamed Doc Watson died and his wife went temporarily blind in her grief. I was traveling somewhere and happened to meet her. I took her hand as she climbed into an open-bed wagon—wooden, huge, with wooden benches on two sides. I sat with her then, and we fell in love in a way. I think we both felt that our attraction would last only as long as her blindness. But I woke up before she could see again, so I don’t know.


I think of these tracks as talking + "the idea of music." The lyrics are poems from my book The End of Something (Ahsahta Press, 2017). Some are featured in videos at


released October 13, 2017

words & music: Kate Greenstreet
2nd guitar & 2nd opinion: Max Greenstreet


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