Liner Notes for “Drunken Boat”


You live long enough and you start getting used to things having inevitable beginnings. The inevitable beginning here is, I would be remiss not to say something about “Le Bateau ivre.”  But from there, I haven’t much to add, except maybe, “Oh, well. Nice idea. Go on without me.” Or that there are roughly seven feelings living in the metaphor of a room filling with wine, and so I'd rather think about when last I used the word remiss outside the phrase “I would be remiss . . . .” But the real star of the show is not Rimbaud, it is never Rimbaud. That also feels something like inevitable. Only not with Rimbaud in that slot of the sentence but maybe me. I is an other. That’s hardly inevitable. But it does go some way toward explaining why I’ve never worked into a song lyric trichotillomania and why I’ve tended toward “The bitter redness of love ferments!” But trichotillomania is closer to the truth. I’ve been feeling every other day for about two years the spirit of the stairs. That’s not what it means to space your words like holy danger. But it's close. Also close: the relationship between hope and lightning and the pacts we make. That's sort of the key to the whole thing. That and imagining the second and third image for every noun. Because the first noun will only get you into the boat. It won't dip your oar. Half the room will imagine the wine red, and the other half will imagine the death rattle. The song is about you. The song is about the version of you that existed that one time when you didn’t say what you wanted to say. Or the time we didn’t do what we thought we might want to do. Or, like almost every song I know, it might be about how fermentation’s just another word for old enough to name inevitable some beginnings and some ends.

Drunken Boat - Richard Barthelme Sonnenmoser