Silver Jews’ David Berman Recites A Poem From Third Man Books’ Frank Stanford Collection

Jack White’s Third Man Records has become something of a haven for all kinds of special releases — vinyl or otherwise — and today they’ve shared a video of Silver Jews’ David Berman reciting a poem by Frank Stanford. The poem is from a recent Third Man Books release called Hidden Water: From The Frank Stanford Archives, a collection of Stanford’s “unpublished poems, facsimiles, artwork, photos, handwrtten drafts, and letters.” The poem is called “Untitled (I Bought A Ticket To Russia So I Could Do That Dance In The Snow), and Berman carries it off with a dry, sardonic delivery that highlights the opaque depression and hope in the piece. Listen below.

Here’s the full text of the poem:


I bought a ticket to Russia so I could do that dance in the snow

I saw a calf of miasmas run into barbed wire

I saw a child hang himself at a certain angle

So he could see his shadow a thousandfold

When I was seven I wrote a novel of apples and milk

That lamented the passing of a moonlike character one certain Debureau

And his coughing sidekick the Beast of ice

At night I rowed a blue guitar with swords through the bay

I made my way the gills turning pink in my shoes

Up the fearful symmetry of that stretch of anonymous water

I lent out my broom to the clandestine pollen

I laid my head in the prostitute’s lap

I interpreted the dementia of the cheerleader’s waist

Going to sleep in the dust was my only accomplishment my destiny

Drenched in the garden of slime and mistrusted mystery

I was accused of the odor of vengeance

The only friend I had I could trust froze in the clover

Through the valleys through the shadowy doorways through the merchandise

Of schoolrooms I go luminous a walking disaster

Forever fighting off dribbling flies that smell of mayonnaise and pencils

That whistle like officers of the law

Through the duration I made myself bleed in a gallop

I listened to the noise in the thistle of the dark

I kept moving undiminished and scorched

Holding a light to the egg

Slashed and weaving I pursue the murmuring cinders

I stagger through the familiar juices of the moon

As if I earned my living in a rodeo I ride down each tear

I pierce the ooze with a submerged kiss dug under contempt and despair

I assume the span of the figurehead’s breasts ravished to smithereens

I pass my time in Emily Dickinson’s outhouse

I pace through the dishevelment of the recluse’s lacuna

I scrawl on the mirror and peel oranges in the shepherd boy’s confessional

In the fall of the year I watch the meadows

Shivering like so many sorrel mares in heat

I lurk behind the canvas of the traveling picture show

Smelling of sardine’s Sara Bundy’s boiled coffee

Black is the color of the school marm’s hems pulled up like drapes

I wait my ticket the knife like a Pre-raphaelite suicide

Drunk on the ruined records of Dixie Hummingbirds

The black discs the Negroes sail over the levee

And shoot out of the sky with a hair triggered shotgun


Get Hidden Water here via Third Man Books.