In my last post, I mentioned Sloss Furnaces. I spent most of my young adult life living in various apartments on Southside. The last place I lived as a single girl was called Highland Court.
Glen and Joe and Becca lived in Highland Court. That model chick and her cute musician husband lived in Highland Court. The crazy girl who didn't own a pair of comfortable shoes and turned up the techno music at 3am lived in Highland Court. I had a small balcony and my dog Lucy and the long, narrow stairwell up to my door. I rode my bike everywhere and fell asleep to Michael Hedges or John Coltrane or Peter Gabriel. As happy as I was to get married, I had a hard time saying goodbye to Highland Court.
Every now and again we'd build a little fire in the middle of the courtyard and stay up all night. One night we decided to walk to Sloss at around... hell, I don't know... maybe 2? 3? 4? On the way, we had to stop for a train. There was a cop parked next to the tracks. The train was carrying tank after tank after tank. The cop said he was there to make sure nothing happened. He didn't hassle us at all, which was fortunate given our general state of mind. It was a little odd.
The train rolled past and the tanks got smaller. The cop took off, and we kept walking. I don't remember how we got onto the premises -- whether we had to sneak through or climb over anything, or whether it was all pretty accessible. But we got in, and we wandered through, and we climbed up that really high tower, which is way higher than you realize until you're up there. We smashed our cigarette butts into a film cannister so as not to litter. And later I wrote a song.
I'm a little reluctant to post song lyrics, because they never quite work unless they're being sung. Poetry is meant for the page; lyrics are meant for the song. But I'm going to give it a go and see how it turns out. I think I probably wrote this in 1998 or so. I typically fingerpick variations of C and G with a capo on the fourth fret when playing it. It's called Highland Court.
Came dancing through the courtyard,
wings and wands and fairy dust
Sprinkled it beside me on a night made out of August
Followed them to the railroad,
saw them ship the tanks off for the war
It used to be that war was just a word
we never heard
Taught me how to read the map,
how to find the belly of the tree
Biggest one in all the forests east of the Mighty Mississippi
Older than my daddy,
old as god, old as mercy
It used to be that mercy was just a word
we never heard
Climbed the stairs to the furnace,
climbed down into the canyon's bowl
Ate my granny apple, lay back as the time unfolded
Quiet as the backseat
in the dark on the way home
Quiet is a ladle full of words
we never heard
Yeah, well -- not quite the same as a poem. Music adds rhythm and inflection and an emotional sense that would otherwise be built into a poem. Lyrics alone are confusing and easy to stumble over.
Wrapped up in this song is a whole nother adventure in the Sipsey Wilderness, as well as one in the Little River Canyon, but I'll save those for another day. They all took place while I was living in that little apartment, with all of those people that I wonder about now.
(And yes, I do consider "a whole nother" to be perfectly acceptable Alabama grammar.)