Windows and Stars

Brian Cullman
Helpless: On the Poetry of Neil Young
The Paris Review
October 23, 2012

I forwarded the piece to my friend Bill Flicker, out in Los Angeles, who wrote back that he never listens to Neil Young’s words, that they are simply placeholders or crumbs that are scattered on a walk through a musical forest. Actually, I do listen to his words. Not always. But when I listen, they’re remarkably visual and evocative:

Blue blue windows behind the stars.
Yellow moon on the rise.
Purple words on a grey background
To be a woman and to be turned down

How did those windows get behind the stars? I don’t know, but I can see them clearly. Sometimes as a child’s drawing. Sometimes as a reflection on an airplane window. There may not be logic involved, but there is something deeper than that. As for those purple words, they shine against the grey background much as Matisse’s goldfish shine through the water they swim in. I can see them clearly reflected on the surface of being turned down. Turned down like a bed, like a stereo, like a deal. A woman turned down. I can see that reflection even if I can’t explain it. If I could, the song might not be as powerful as it is.

Brian Cullman conflates two sets of lyrics: one from Helpless, the other from Cowgirl In The Sand.

Is there some other memory in the blue, blue windows and yellow stars of Helpless?
Van Gogh?
The Starry Night
Saint Rémy, June 1889

I got to see Starry Night Over the Rhone at the AGO lit by columns of light in parallel to the wall to which the canvas was affixed — giving the impression of a starlit avant-scene and thus enfolding the viewer into the scene

Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh and more

For a rest from all this ekphrasis, savour an auditory magical moment:
Whitehorse and Noah Gundersen perform Neil Young’s “Helpless.”

And so for day 2455

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