What Music Speaks, part ten

Illustration by Louisa Bertman

Have a baby that becomes a toddler and when you’re walking down a sidewalk and see a dandelion, pluck that dandelion, kneel down and blow the white puff in front of their face and watch how their eyes widen. Maybe they startle for a second or maybe they scream first and then laugh in delight, or better yet, they scream-laugh. Delight in them asking for more. Pluck another one. Breathe, blow. Watch the four walls of their life change by a thing that started as a flower and then — with your breath — became magic.

The dandelion is music…


What Music Speaks, part eight

Illustration by Louisa Bertman

The song poured lazy through the radio’s single speaker, filling the hot afternoon silence with its somnolent groove and crackle. James Taylor’s voice telling me to gather round, that he was my handy man, saturated the summer air hanging stagnant on the covered porch. You sat beside me on the wooden floorboards. I lay on one of those aluminum and vinyl woven trifold lounge chairs, suddenly aware of all of my skin. I felt like a meal or an offering.

Or both.

Was it the music or the lyrics that broke the something that had been taut between us or…


What Music Speaks, part seven

Illustration by Louisa Bertman

“You’ll Be In My Heart,” Phil Collins, Tarzan (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

We buy the VHS for Disney’s animated feature, Tarzan, in late 1999. I’m twenty-seven, he’s three.

One of the feature songs, “You’ll Be In My Heart” by Phil Collins (that will go on to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song), becomes the song of you and of me. Of us; my second born child, my first born son. You’re three.

“Come stop your crying, it will be all right”

Even before this song came out, I called you, “my heart,” a boy-child I never thought I…


What Music Speaks, part six

Illustration by Louisa Bertman

The smell of gasoline or fresh horse manure, the burned edges of pooled chicken grease on a hot sheet pan, cystic acne popping videos, James Gandolfini, old cemeteries, algae covered ponds, amateur gangbang porn: some of my favorite things are not commonly meant to be loved or found desirable. I’ve seen homely babies being loved by their mothers. I know a man who is enamored of spiders. Many people enjoy Kombucha. There is room in this world for all kinds of adoration.

Neutral Milk Hotel is a band fronted by singer/songwriter Jeff Mangum. It was popular in the late 80’s…


What Music Speaks, part five

Illustration by Louisa Bertman

Music is in the world with you. You’ve interacted with it, saw its face, held its arms, ran towards its heat. It’s been with you in those moments; the ones you want to remember, the ones you want to forget. Music has been your companion, your confidant. It’s been a secret keeper and a hand holder and a place where you can get lost for a while. In this short story music does all of these things and more.


What Music Speaks, part four

Illustrations by Louisa Bertman

The Counting Crows’ debut album August and Everything After was released on September 14, 1993, nine months and eleven days after I gave birth to my first child, a daughter; cone of head, tan of skin. One month after I moved from the Bay Area the only home I’d ever known to Los Angeles, a place I’d never known, with that same daughter in tow; head no longer coned, skin still tanned.

August and Everything After has a yellow-burnt orange cover with a scrawl of handwritten lyrics of a song of the same name running across the background. In the…


What Music Speaks, part four

Illustration by Louisa Bertman

Music is in the world with you. You’ve interacted with it, seen its face, held its arms, run towards its heat. It’s been with you in those moments — the ones you want to remember, the ones you want to forget. Music has been your companion, your confidant. It has been a secret keeper and a hand holder and a place where you can get lost for a while. In this short story, music does all these things and more.

The Butterfly Lounge

I danced where the fat girls had danced. I licked the floor where their sweat had been…


What Music Speaks, part three

Illustration by Louisa Bertman

Behind the curtain-eclipse the birds sing the day awake. In the warming dim I see his hair spiderwebbed across the pillow, haloing the youth of his head. His face, his body, oh so cold, oh so thankfully covered. The dull smell of death heavy in the room where the birds’ songs fight the quiet, stir the still. I, unlike the birds, break the quiet.

Sorrow has a sound.

I want to crawl in beside him; his wet bed, his heavy jeans, warm his feet where his boots abandoned them. His body so cold from the belly of the Wolf1 that…


What Music Speaks, part two

Illustration by Louisa Bertman

Was music your escape too? A hatch­–neither rusted nor heavy, no struggle or strength needed to achieve egress. This hatch, a beauty-opening. Danced into. An easy sliding until your surface became soaked, the beat synchronizing with yours until there was nothing else. An overt hiding place, taking you in one inch of skin at a time until it wrapped you, completely. When your walls closed in, is that where you went? I know the three of us were a lot — boy, girl, boy — a constant chaos of cruelty. …


A column about music, part one: Why Music Speaks

Illustrations by Louisa Bertman

Because it’s buoyed me from birth. Because it is a soothing, new skin inside my mother’s hum. Because my record player with the clown under the lid stared back at me while the shiny black spun. Because I could close my bedroom door and hide with it, in it. Because my mom blasted Streisand, Queen, Manilow and Loggins, filling the house with something other than my parents’ silence. Because my elementary school friend, Chrissy, loved Journey with a fervor I’d never seen in all of my ten years. Because I wanted to love something as much as she did, I…

Tracy Lynne Oliver

I am a writer with a cool website: https://www.tracylynneoliver.com/

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