The Snow Queen: A Folk Opera

by Laura Dunn

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1.
O, the whippoorwill of traffic from my bed, I look out and see the garden we made from a flower pot and spider web. Three red flowers learn how to bloom; summer in the city, we make do. I wait for you to crawl in my window from the fire escape that divides our homes. Your silhouette appears, mocking the sun’s glow. So many people in the city—you’re the one I know. O, my summer friend, we walk down the sky’s blue— mirror for the avenue. I want to be the first to see cracks in the buildings sprouting little green leaves. O, my summer friend let’s sleep in the park’s arms. O, my summer friend, let’s dodge the avenue’s cars, sing louder than the subway, morn the river’s gray. We’ll cat call all the fellas before they can yell anything at us. O, my summer friend may it never end
2.
Little white spiders crawl on the window. There’s the sky’s stir— call it snow. The window turns to ice it divides you and I— we have to stay inside. Little white spiders in gowns of ice, the ground is white and so is the sky. On the window I trace the queen of snow— if she comes inside I’ll melt her on the stove. Cold feels like the blue edge of a knife, the ground’s twilight, the trucks skidding on the road— to be safe—become the cold. The crowds of the empty city won’t keep you warm, the atoms of ice stand very far apart. If you want to survive, become the ice. She stands on the road, throws her red shoes in the river. You can’t stop her arms from shivering. If it’s too much to care for her, become the winter.
3.
Song of a burning tree worlds away how is it I can hear it on your lips today? A thousand years ago, a mirror was smashed by clouds. To this day, it’s still raining down— raining down. I watch the red and blue of my T.V. screen. Is this seeing? I want to see. Wind rushes down the street tonight— it happens to us all— You got something in your eye There’s a wind from china blowing dust on my shoes. I write songs to remember all that I lose. Two people at a table, noses glowing in their phone light, no, this isn’t sight, I want sight— You turn away, something in your eye you turn away, something in your eyes blinking is your eye waving goodbye
4.
Garden Song 04:05
It was a bruise blue night, and she talked to the knotted plants because she missed him, and there was no one else to talk to. It was a bruise blue night, and she talked to the knotted plants. They could read the ground, hear footsteps even when the snow mutes the sound. Their roots grew deep as the dead. Their roots knew where he went. Their roots grew deep as the dead. Their roots knew, but they couldn’t talk back. The snow falls in a spider web, gets caught, and I couldn’t care less. It was a bruise blue night and she talked to the holes in the sky where the light shone through the night. Gnats were swarming beneath her feet but movement only says one thing: goodbye. The quiet of the road, the direction of the river’s froth, the litter of the stars only tell her north Their roots grew deep as the dead their roots knew but they couldn’t talk back. Their roots grew deep as the dead . Their roots knew, and she left.
5.
Old Crow’s Song What do I know? I’m just a shy ol’ crow with a list of places I’ve never been. What do I know? I’m just a lying ol’ crow with a longer list of my sins. You want to know about longing? I live on the wind. You want to know about longing? my love has a door she won’t let me in. When it snows, I look in the pond that cracks like the crow’s feet that stretch from the eyes of my love when she tries to talk to me. When it snows, we meet in the garden where the weathervane fell. She smells of linen and rooms I’ll never go in, and things she’ll never tell. You want to know about losing? The sky is deeper than the sea. You want to know about losing? between the night and a crow there is no seam.
6.
Sleeping Boy 03:14
O my sleeping boy, this city has lived 10,000 nights and been seen with just as many closed eyes. O my sleeping boy, is your life just as new? You run on stones where the weeds once grew. The crow says it’s you, is it you? and away to my home, that zephyr blew you. O my sleeping boy, don’t turn around. Is it you? or someone else that I’ve found. O my sleeping boy, look at all 10,000 lights, like you, they reach from the ground toward the sky. The crow says it’s you, is it you? a boy who once only said no, now says “I do.” There’s a bridge and a garden and a fire to warm your feet. A bridge and a garden, what else would you need? There’s a bridge and a garden and a fire to warm your feet. A bridge and a garden, wont you stay with me? O my sleeping boy, awake to empty streets. My footsteps in the wind— a far off melody.
7.
The Mugging 03:50
I trap the pigeons in the ceiling so they wont fly away. You don’t buy gas at the station but you still have to pay. I run my blade down the old man’s throat so he’s too scared to pass away. I’ll rob you so you know what to hold on to. The lights leave the city fade from the north to the still water on the lake shore. I gather strays the city gathers dust we’re robbed of every color but rust. The grass dries to a curled finger mice bob in the pond it’s hard to count the things that are gone. You’ll never go— you’ll never go— I will never ease my hold You’ll never leave— you’ll never leave— I don’t want to feel grief.
8.
I held a pile of sand then I let it go. it took so long to lose it. it melted-- it was snow. Big, black clouds race us to the north pole. In this melting world, there one thing I would hold on to—to you – Forward, forward to the top of the world. Are you a lonely boy writing without a sound? I am a willful girl. I sing your name out loud. Do you think of me? draw our home on the blank ground? I left home to look for you. It’s the whole wide world I found .
9.
A Book in the Wind I watched as he poured his drink into the stream. That red wine swam like a salmon spawning, and where it swam, I found this dream— I’d color life like a book so he’d stay with me. How far can a foot sink in a dune? Can’t tell, can’t tell—disappears too soon. But I will wait on this moonless night for just one planet to swim into sight. I’ve done everything, but I’m only a girl. I don’t think that my baby likes it much in this world. In a market inVietnam, noodles hung from our lips like an old gray beard. We jumped on our eyeglasses, growled at volcanoes, but what will keep him here? I’ve done everything, but I’m only a girl. I don’t think that my baby likes it much in this world. At night in a garden of black flowers, there was a party—and our whispers blew away in the wind. But somewhere off the coast of Chile, you can hear my whisper where it landed, saying, you open my eyes like a book in the wind. Will you stay with me to the end? I’ve done everything but I’m only a girl, I don’t think that my baby likes it much in this world.
10.
I spy with my little eye clouds walking to a grave. I’ll try—I said, I’ll try to stop a tidal wave. Call the operator she’s got to know— I’m going to stop the snow. When I’m with you, I see the world in an icicle. When I’m with you, we stop in a town called impossible. Call the philosophers, let’s give their pens some trouble. Call the philosophers, lets have a love that makes them uncomfortable. The weather aint easy— the weather aint enough of a reason to give up. I’ll strike a match— lets bless what gets tough. I spy with my little eye clouds walking to a grave.
11.
I was born in a town that don’t exist no more. The river turned to glass. The factories moved off shore Before you, I loved a brick merchant. He filled his suit with stones, and drowned with the stock market. Every night, I dream of his name on the ocean floor, written and erased Someday this big planet is going to lose me too, but I’m just a little thing except to you— A thousand owls landed in the bay their feathers washed clean the waves, and when they flew on, I looked for you— there’s one thing I don’t want to lose Now I’m lost in North Carolina’s mists, a child on each hip, you and our life clutched in my fists. A thousand owls and a boardwalk reaching out a mile into the sea. I always remember that day at the beach. A thousand owls hid the ocean’s blue, and I’m just a little thing except to you.

about

A retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's tale in contemporary Detroit.

credits

released August 8, 2014

Words and music: Laura Dunn

Vocals and ukulele: Laura Dunn

Vocals and guitar: Kendy Gable

Vocals, flute, and glockenspiel: Ellen O'Meara

Double Bass: Kirk Siee

Sound engineering and mixing: Craig Lardiere

Mastered by Gus Elg of SkyOnion

Album art by Willow Holdorf

Copyright 2012 by Laura Dunn

For my family

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Laura Dunn and the Ghosts of Xmas Past Portland, Oregon

with Bjorkish runaway melodies and surreal lyricism, Laura Dunn and the Ghosts of Xmas Past combine banjo-driven creepy folk music with opera singers, toy pianos and rattling chains.
She sounds like "Emmylou Harris singing in a haunted house" --James Duval, Virginia Omnivore
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