“Ain’t No Reason” – Brett Dennen

There ain’t no reason things are this way
It’s how they always been and they intend to stay
I can’t explain why we live this way
We do it every day

Preachers on the podium speaking of saints
Prophets on the sidewalk begging for change
Old ladies laughing from the fire escape,
Cursing my name

I gotta a basket full of lemons and they all taste the same
A window and a pigeon with a broken wing
You can spend your whole life working for something
Just to have it taken away

People walk around pushing back their debts
Wearing paychecks like necklaces and bracelets
Talking about nothing, not thinking about death
Every little heartbeat, every little breath

People walk a tightrope on a razors edge
Carrying their hurt and hatred and weapons
It could be a bomb, or a bullet, or a pen
Or a thought, or a word, or a sentence

There ain’t no reason things are this way
Its how they’ve always been and they intend to stay
I don’t know why I say the things I say
But I say them anyway

But love will come set me free
Love will come set me free, I do believe
Love will come set me free, I know it will
Love will come set me free, yes

Prison walls still standing tall
Some things never change at all
Keep on building prisons, gonna fill them all
Keep on building bombs, gonna drop them all

Working your fingers bare to the bone
Breaking’ your back, make you sell your soul
Like a lung, it’s filled with coal
Suffocating slow

The wind blows wild and I may move
But politicians lie and I am not fooled
You don’t need no reason or a three piece suit
To argue the truth

The air on my skin and the world under my toes
Slavery stitched into the fabric of my clothes
Chaos and commotion wherever I go
Love I try to follow

Love will come set me free
Love will come set me free, I do believe
Love will come set me free, I know it will
Love will come set me free, yes


First Flashback

To use the phrase unlock the trauma is to perpetuate
a lie, right from the start. There’s nothing locklike
about it, there’s no gleam of bronze on bronze, no

click-and-turn. It’s more like a fist hitting you square
in the gut, the mild whoosh of air in response, up to
and including the exact way you fold over afterwards.

There are no doors to open here. Imagine, if you will,
a woman lying in her room, cold shoulder-
blades sharp against the cold floor. Imagine acetone.

Imagine spilled nail polish remover from where she knocked it
over earlier, while folding. Imagine four white walls.
Her red-gold hair the only thing not white. Why is it

that the color of sadness is black? Black is not the color
of six white pills. Black is not the color of her lacy
bones. It’s a state of mind, white, a way of living or

of not living depending on the time of day. Time warps
and pulls around her head, twenty years spent cold and white,
barely daring to breathe. Imagine this:

the absence of color, the absence of hope. Perhaps. It is not

a thing to be imagined. You cannot look upon

this and live. It is black. The sky outside. She cannot reach.


When people ask me to write about myself I let the cursor blink
for much too long. Nothing interesting here except
this medicine, that scar, these failures on a biochemical
level. I’ve got sparks in my deep white matter, jumpy neurons,
genetic mutations, click, bang. Qualifications: perfectly organized
bookshelves, luminous fingers, and once I extinguished a grease fire
all by myself. We’ve all got different definitions of adulthood,
anyway, and mine is this: I am whole but only on the outside,
I can get to sleep by 3 AM if I really try, I can paint a fire using only
red and yellow. I can choose, mother, an orange at the supermarket.
I can sense, professor, the vibrations of my subatomic particles.
At this point a treatment becomes a trait. This molecule a person.

Self-Portrait with Daughters

Зинаида Серебрякова  (1884-1967)   Self-portrait with Daughters  1922

The window won’t close all the way
and even though they stuff the bottom with newspapers
the wind still pushes its way in. Water freezes.
Her youngest’s nose runs all the time.
She worries. At night the floor pools
with silver and it’s only her and her daughters
still up, finishing their new dresses (both made
from one of hers.) They have the same sharp
faces, too thin, too pale. She worries.
She never thought herself beautiful but
her daughters think so. I want to be just like you
when I grow up, says the oldest, and
the youngest says Not me, I’m going to
be a ballerina and dance in the best
theaters in Paris. The oldest looks up
from bandaging her feet and smiles.

As the winter pinkens to spring she sends them
outside for air and water. One daughter
returns to the ballet academy, the other returns
to her piano, pounding the keys
with all the strength in her tiny fingers. Don’t
hurt yourself and stop wiping your nose
on your sleeve, Zinaida says as she works on
her newest painting. In it, the daughters
lean against her, wearing their new
dresses. Their eyes are dark. Confident and certain.

Zinaida Serebriakova (1884-1967) was a Russian artist.  Although born into a wealthy family, her husband died after the Russian Revolution (1917) and she was forced to move into a small apartment with her four children.  She eventually moved to Paris to complete a commission, but could not return to the USSR and was separated from her two oldest children for the next 36 years.