Saturday, March 14, 2009

“She Sells Seashells”

A bit of a break with “tradition” here—a poem on Saturday, as usual, but by yours truly. As many of you who either have been following Robert Frost’s Banjo know, I wrote poetry “seriously” (whatever that may mean) from the early 1980s thru 1996. Since that time, I haven’t written much poetry, & by & large I’ve “been ok” with that. Nonetheless, it is a complicated issue for me.

In any case, one of the few post-1996 poetic ventures to date took place in ‘03, during the height of Eberle & my involvement with the Alice in Wonder Band. We decided we wanted to do a song with the title “She Sells Seashells”—amazingly, our wonderful singer Deadre Chase hadn’t the slightest trouble with this tongue twister—& I was nominated as the guy to write the lyric. What came out was the somewhat surreal musing on time’s passage you can see below. Speaking of amazing: Eberle was able to set this to music (amazing because the lines are irregular, which isn’t ideal for songs)—& in my opinion, some gorgeous music & Deadre did a wonderful job performing the song. A clip of this song with a slideshow (including pictures from the recording session) is at the bottom of the post. The line-up at the recording was Deadre Chase: vocals; Eberle Umbach: piano; Lois Fry: viola; Art Troutner: tenor recorder; yours truly: electric bass (hence the pic up top, taken at the recording session). Our sound guy was the pride of Emeryville, Joshua Housh, ably assisted by Robert Frost’s Banjo pal, Dani Leone (who also took the band pix). We made the recording in the chapel at Marymount Hermitage—many thanks to Sister Mary Beverly & Sister Rebecca Mary for making this beautiful space available to the Alice in Wonder Band.

Here are the words—then, the words as a song.

She Sells Seashells

The tugboats are all in a hurry like clocks
& 7:00 a.m. is never far off
while the trolley's clanging its bell
It feels like
a glockenspiel looking for love all the while
she sells seashells by the seashore

& we're all in the pink this minute like
a soap bubble floating downtown with nary
a cent to its name Meantime
the newsstands just now are opening their shutters
What heartbroken gladiolas! Still
she sells seashells by the seashore

I suppose our sadness never quite gets ripe
& vermilion as mangoes blush
but the ocean gets tipsy sometimes
What can't it forget like a rainbow that's lost
its hat in the breeze? Nonetheless
she sells seashells by the seashore
Hey Time slows down sometimes
It never sits down in the sun-
flower yellow sun on a beach blanket spread as
thin & flat as a snapshot
That's ok take my hand anyhow & anyhow
she sells seashells by the seashore

& 7:00 p.m. is never far off it's
a tramp freighter turning aquamarine as
a ferris wheel taking a spin somewhere
north-northwest of the moon & Forever's
always arriving just a little too soon as
she sells seashells by the seashore

John Hayes
© 2003; music © 2003 Eberle Umbach


  1. Hey Robert, I particularly like the last verse and I was gonna say that it was a pity that the vocals and thus the beautiful words were lost among the music - I was GONNA say that but then I listened TO it instead of AT it and it made perfect aural sense.All the best, TFE. (I enjoy the blog by the way, so different to life here, loved the description of that frosty mornin drive ye made- magic.)

  2. Hey: Thanks for stopping by! You know, we never did a final mixdown on the recordings we made that day-- part of the problem of having the guy who had the rough mix on his laptop being 750 miles away. Glad you liked it, tho-- I agree Deadre's voice tended to be further back than ideal in the mix.

  3. Beautiful music and I really like the poem. The music has that lull of the sea and the voices are like subdued sirens.



Thanks for stopping by & sharing your thoughts. Please do note, however, that this blog no longer accepts anonymous comments. All comments are moderated. Thanks for your patience.