To music and the dance of time


Maddy Costa

‘We need better ways of talking about ordinary life, including the dull feelings of just getting by.’
Ann Cvetkovich, Depression: A Public Feeling

‘This is what music could do: change the shape of the world and my shape within it.’
Lavinia Greenlaw, The Importance of Music to Girls
is on my side
Yes it is

I count out my life in chorus and verse,
disposable poetry hewn to my heart.
Here are comfort and guidance, shame and fear;
a knowledge of failure; recognition, feeling seen. Relationships formed
in the still of the night, just me and the music,

Finally through the roof
And on to somewhere near
And far in time

I turn to music to tell me the truth.
If only I could tell when it lies.

A shaky ladder
Intergalactic matter
Outside of space and time

Clocks go on ticking but the music hardly changes. Songs that I carry all through the years,
inhumed, integral as marrow.

Songs at the root of me.

Speak for me.


That’s how it starts
We go back to your house
We check the charts
And start to figure it out

Huddled alone with the radio it starts, or with a tender compilation.
Or breaking the seal on new vinyl it starts, needle makes crackle of dust.

The music hardly changes but the listening does. I cling to the old ways: the touch of music, its solidity. Tangible gifts to share with my daughter, guiding her down a shared path.

We set controls for the heart of the sun
One of the ways we show our age

But I know I need to shut up about that, because this world is hers to discover.

Every risky or brave thing I did obeyed music’s
gravitational pull to adventure.

I wouldn’t trade one stupid decision
For another five years of life

Every rational one heeded its caution.

So while there are films and books as important, the bond with music is different. It’s not just the flailing and singing along: it’s the way chosen songs cut the deepest.

Telling me who I am and not as I learn to live at the heart of regret.

This could be the last time

(Melancholy a magnet, holding me firm.)


Isn’t life under the sun just a crazy, crazy, crazy dream?

Why am I here and not over there?
Where did time begin?

Not answers but better questions.
Not resolution but productive complication.
Not peace but less static, disruption or.

Rhythms beat through me, dance on.


I wonder how many more times
I’m gonna lie here

Faith so fragile.
And love a leap of faith.
Or a story we rehearse to keep feeling safe.
Tracing the cracks in the ceiling.
Slowly forgetting the lines.

Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time

The songs have them.
If you should lose me.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
I just can’t get you out of my head.
In every dream home a heartache.

So please put your sweet hand in mine
And float in space and drift in time


Time on my hands, you in my arms
Nothing but love

When I gave birth, time shifted gear.

Each hour a countdown. Evening so distant. Tracing the changes, wishing for.

The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were

They grow taller and fuller, reckless, expectant. I’ve silenced the clocks
but it makes no odds: seconds march onwards, steady and sure.

Bedtime I bristle, impatient for this. Read to me, she asks, but no. No, love, no love. This isn’t. I haven’t. I need t-.

Voices wash over me as I check my phone. Soon, so soon, they’ll have phones of their own and won’t talk to me about anything.

We have all the time in the world
Time enough for life
To unfold

It’s the smallness that defeats me. The interminable cycle of
dinner to cook
dishes to wash
floor to wipe.
Homework assignments.

This isn’t how Berger wrote about time.

I see you chisel away
Hammer in place, always in time

Slow as a glacier

Sometimes it’s like watching every child that was ever born.
Sometimes it’s like watching me, in home movies never made.
She fritters the same time that I frittered, and the frustration is.

Just because I’m angry, doesn’t mean.
Just because I love you, doesn’t mean.
Just because I made the mistakes already.
Doesn’t mean.

Weary all of the time


Though he worked during the day
He spent his free time
Working with role model clay

So I live here, in collective isolation. Here where music led me, slipping from truth to unreal.

Dreams that we once had
Did we have them anyway?
Seems that we once had
Now we’ll have them all the time

Drifting from friends towards figments of strangers.
Compiling obituaries for ephemeral dreams.

I’ve wasted my time
Making up my mind

It’s the smallness that defeats me. The interminable cycle of
half-written emails
abandoned tweets
dithering over train times
theatre schedules

This isn’t how.

Every time I sit around
I find I’m shot

And always this restlessness, itching.

Slaving away for a bit of peace
Watching our money as it rolls on in
Time will get you in the end

Savagely wondering: is that all? Just that?

It’s time
You are light
I guess you are afraid of what everyone is made of


Listen, does this sound familiar?
You wake up every morning, go to school every day
Spend your nights on the corner just passing the time away

All that time I once had. To sit in the window while records played. To talk with friends on the phone about TV shows. To watch TV shows. To ponder the taste of kisses. To imagine my first art exhibition. The second. The third.

I will confess to you
Because you made me think about the times

(Never making a thing.)

From time to time
The waste
memory wastes

Handwritten letters and boxes of books and shopping, so much shopping, searching it seems.

The brisk annihilation of clearing it out. Letters, tickets, vinyl, photos: years deleted in minutes.

Pick myself to pieces ’til the end of time

Not this:
two desiccated people, lugubrious, distant.
‘We never did drop it all and go to New York.’

It’s the same story every time
Holding back the crime
Filling my mind with rubbish and rubbish makes dirty life

But it’s funny what sticks. Like this mantra for weight loss:

Don’t sit if you can stand
Don’t stand if you can walk
Don’t walk if you can jog
Don’t jog if you can run

Maybe it works for time management, too.

If it’s not now then tell me when
Would be the time that you would stand up and be


Jesus, where did the time go?
Holy God, where is the money now?
Father, what am I

My parents determined that I should never worry about money. Absorbing Thatcher’s philosophy to make it so. They worked. I work. I want to be useful.

I have been socially compliant to avoid worrying about money.
I still worry about money,
but worry more about time.

(‘Money comes and goes, but time? That just goes.’)

Now they often call me Speedo
Cause I don’t believe in wasting time

My parents, late for everything. Appointments, family gatherings, even my brother’s wedding. Embarrassment made me punctual. But as my body morphs to become that of my mother’s, my timing morphs, too. Pushing at the edges of each hour to make them stretch.

(The kindest of smiles. ‘Don’t call it time-keeping. Call it time-giving.’)

Only bored as I get older
Find the ways to cult, cult of time
Only bored as I get older
Find new ways to spend my time

By marking my age, my mother knows her own.
Trapped between generations, caring up and down.

Already they’ve been retired too long.

And the first thing that you want
Will be the last thing you ever need
That’s how you fight it
Just smile all the time

Always the one who could make me feel small.
Now it’s my turn.
With a word and a glare, her body crumples.
I shatter.

You think you look forward but really you are looking back
Time has made

In hospital waiting rooms time drains through the floor.
With every wizened woman who passes I think: it comes too soon.

This is the time that we have longed for


Queen of fakes and imitators
Time‘s the revelator

To clarify: to worry about time more than money is a privilege. To cry over unread books is a privilege. To feel unfulfilled is a brand of snobbery. Hashtag anxietiesofamiddleclasswhitewoman. Hashtag firstworldproblems. Hashtag getoveryourself.

Seems like everything is business
And we’re sorry all the time


It is time for you to laugh instead of crying
It is time for you to laugh so keep on trying

A theory from twitter: maybe fewer women write plays than men because they spend 700 hours of their lifetimes on beauty regimes.

My Frida eyebrows crumple as I think of the hours on twitter, not writing.

Life is so short, put the present time at hand
And if you’re young at heart, rise up and take your stand

By 40 seemed possible. But 40 came and went and here I am.

List of women who didn’t start writing until their children were at school.
List of women who didn’t start writing until they were in their 40s, 50s, 60s.
List of women who did other jobs first.
List of women who wrote while doing other jobs.
List of women who wrote while looking after children.
List of women who wrote while doing other jobs and looking after children.
List of women who wrote in the small hours of dawn.
List of women who wrote and didn’t feel embarrassed or anxious that in actual, awful fact, they had nothing to say.

What’s the point in wasting time
On people that you’ll never know?

Statistics at the close of December 2015:
On blogger since April 2011.
On twitter since February 2012.
On wordpress since January 2013.
Words published on blogger: roughly 120,000.
(159,344 words in Mansfield Park)
Words published on wordpress: roughly 50,000.
(310,593 words in Middlemarch)
Tweets sent: 5,200 still rising.

It’s the smallness that.

This isn’t how.

Time will tell if you can figure this and work it out
No one’s waiting for you anyway so

That line in Laurie Anderson’s Delusion: full-stops should have clock-faces, so you can see how long each sentence took to construct.

List of women who gave up writing.
List of women who cook, and knit, and garden, and care.
List of women volunteering instead.

I’ll miss the boredom and the freedom and the time spent alone

To be purposeful. Is the.

Gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t


There’ll be time enough for talk in the nursing home
Darling, time enough to write an epic poem

Counsel from my oldest friend:
Everyone thinks of 40 as being the halfway point in life, but in terms of a career, it’s only really a third. Especially if you’re a writer and don’t have to retire.

I’ve got the time
And it’s been too long
Since I’ve been driving all night

Under the stars

The night as a lake, empty, inviting. Susurrus of the hard drive, ripple of the keys. Swimming through the undertow of tiredness. Remembering to breathe.

It’s enough.

This is the time and life that I am living
And I’ll face each day with a smile
For the time that I’ve been given is such a little while

Reciting the same small list of resolutions:

I want to make time to make peace with myself.
I want to find time for my friends.

Less killing time, more taking time

among mountains, shallow rivers,
alongside the sea.

(In wild dreams I move to New Mexico,
live outside time. Paint, build, sing.)

I want to gift my children disruption
to smash through our small routines.

I want to stop
and stop wanting to stop.

This is the time to accept that time passes.
And things left undone were not to be done by me.

If you should look back
Try to forget all the bad times
Lonely blue and sad times
And just a little bit of rain


Undying thanks to the singers/bands, without whom:
Irma Thomas, Black Francis/the Pixies, David Byrne/with St Vincent, James Murphy, Amber Coffman/Dirty Projectors, Jarvis Cocker/Pulp, Bonnie Tyler, Jason Pierce, Lee Wiley, Roberta Flack, Louis Armstrong-Stuart Staples/the Tindersticks, Jonathan Donahue/Mercury Rev, Ethel Waters, Frank Boscoe/Wimp Factor 14, Noah Lennox, Angel Olsen, Stephen Malkmus/Pavement, Ian Masters/Pale Saints, Annie Clark, Mary Weiss/the Shangri-Las, Stuart Murdoch/Belle and Sebastian, Grant McLennan/the Go-Betweens, Carla Bozulich/Geraldine Fibbers, Jane Bromley/AC Temple, Wayne Coyne/the Flaming Lips, Guy Chadwick/House of Love, Earl Carroll/the Cadillacs, Bradford Cox/Deerhunter (x2, the shame), Jeff Tweedy/Wilco, Richard Hawley, Paula Frazer/Tarnation, Gillian Welch, Dean Wareham/Galaxie 500, Ray Davies/the Kinks, Jean Terrell/the Supremes, Trish Keenan/Broadcast, Dev Hynes, MGMT, David Bowie, Stephin Merritt/Magnetic Fields, Arthur Lee/Love, Karen Dalton. I’d credit the songwriters as well, but that would make this list more embarrassingly male than it already is.

Special thanks to Andy Field, who read a version of this when it was a third as many songs and twice as much me, told me it was kind of exhausting (it still is), and gave me the fillip I needed to carry on. He even managed to hold off quoting chunks of Summer of 69 at me. Simply the best, better than all the rest.

Anyone who manages to name, I don’t know, 80% of the songs without looking them up, please get in touch. You are someone I want in my life for sure.

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