In California

lyrics as sung on Have One on Me

My heart became a drunken runt
on the day I sunk in this shunt,
to tap me clean
of all the wonder
and the sorrow I have seen,
since I left my home:

My home, on the old Milk Lake,
where the darkness does fall so fast,
it feels like some kind of mistake
(just like they told you it would;
just like the Tulgeywood).

When I came into my land,
I did not understand:
neither dry rot, nor the burn pile,
nor the bark-beetle, nor the dry well,
nor the black bear.

But there is another,
who is a little older.
When I broke my bone,
he carried me up from the riverside.

To spend my life
in spitting-distance
of the love that I have known,
I must stay here, in an endless eventide.

And if you come and see me,
you will upset the order.
You cannot come and see me,
for I set myself apart.
But when you come and see me,
in California,
you cross the border of my heart.

Well, I have sown untidy furrows
across my soul,
but I am still a coward,
content to see my garden grow
so sweet & full
of someone else's flowers.

I can almost feel the power.
Sometimes I am so in love with you
(like a little clock
that trembles on the edge of the hour,
only ever calling out "Cuckoo, cuckoo").

When I called you,
you, little one,
in a bad way,
did you love me?
Do you spite me?
Time will tell if I can be well,
and rise to meet you rightly.
While, moving across my land,
brandishing themselves
like a burning branch,
advance the tallow-colored,
walleyed deer,
quiet as gondoliers,
while I wait all night, for you,
in California,
watching the fox pick off my goldfish
from their sorry, golden state —
and I am no longer
afraid of anything, save
the life that, here, awaits.

I don't belong to anyone.
My heart is heavy as an oil drum.
I don't want to be alone.
My heart is yellow as an ear of corn,
and I have torn my soul apart, from
pulling artlessly with fool commands.

Some nights
I just never go to sleep at all,
and I stand,
shaking in my doorway like a sentinel,
all alone,
bracing like the bow upon a ship,
and fully abandoning
any thought of anywhere
but home,
my home.
Sometimes I can almost feel the power.
And I do love you.
Is it only timing,
that has made it such a dark hour,
only ever chiming out,
"Cuckoo, cuckoo"?

My heart, I wear you down, I know.
Gotta think straight,
keep a clean plate;
keep from wearing down.
If I lose my head,
just where am I going to lay it?

(For it has half-ruined me,
to be hanging around,
here, among the daphne,
blooming out of the big brown;
I am native to it, but I'm overgrown.
I have choked my roots
on the earth, as rich as roe,
down in California.)


California, of course, is JN's home state. The "golden state" line puns on its nickname. Some people say the "Cuckoo, cuckoo" line comes exactly one hour into Have One On Me, but I haven't checked, and there's no way to know for sure.

Other versions