April is the cruelest month.

I’ve always said a story can come from anywhere, that there are a million different ways to tell it. What started as a spontaneous afternoon jam session led to a brief discussion, and, eventually, my latest story—and probably the most unique way I’ve ever told one.

A Handful of Dust is an instrumental concept album. The basic idea was to try to tell a story using only music, with recurring themes, sounds, and titles representing various story elements.

It’s as open to interpretation as anything I do. Probably more so. But for those interested in my own thoughts, a series of poems and thought pieces will accompany each song on the album’s pages, and here on my site.

In all honesty, there are still some mistakes on here, a few takes I’m unhappy with, but I’m ready to move on. This was something I did for fun in the first place, and if it stopped being fun, I’d stop doing it. For that reason, I’m not charging anything for the album, it’ll be available to listen to for free. I might even go back and George Lucas some of the errors and inconsistencies out, but for the most part, right now I’m just wrapping up the major loose ends.

A Handful of Dust will be released this Friday, probably on Bandcamp and Soundcloud, and maybe this site. A few of the songs are available to listen to right now, and can be found at the links below. More will be added leading up to the full release on Friday.

Here’s the tracklisting:

1. Jump into the Sky
2. The Interloper
3. It Limps Through the Door with its Head on the Floor
4. World of Waste
5. You Will Walk
6. There is No One Else
7. A Glimpse of Kingdom Come
8. A Field of Broken Mirrors
9. Surrounded by Flies, She Carves Out Her Eyes
10. The 8th Day
11. I Can See Forever
12. In the Hollow of a Tree I Contemplate the Hollowness in Me
13. Run Down the Mountain
14. You Made Everything Better
15. Blinded by the Sun, He Loses Everyone
16. Hyacinths

Special thanks to my sister Tatyana for drawing up my band logo. You can find more of her work here: tythenaught.deviantart.com

South for the Winter

I met you when you were a tree. I built my nest high up in your branches.

It started out simple: I’d been flying for hours, and I landed to take a rest. Way at the top, beneath a pillow of leaves, where I’d be hidden from larger birds.

The view was extraordinary. A field to the south, open for miles. To the west rolling hills, lined with houses.

There was a house near you. That worried me. Still, that field would have bugs, and worms when it rained. And every house still had trees in its yard, so I didn’t think you were going anywhere anytime soon.

“What a lovely home,” I thought. And that was that. You were my home.

I spent the summer up there. The field had plenty of food, and your leaves were thick, with tiny branches sprouting off of every larger one. I could spend a lifetime there and not be seen.

But I would be heard. I’d be heard for miles. You were so tall! I could sing my songs, and now and then another bird was loud enough to sing back, but they were always softer, no, always lower.

Winter came on fast and cold. It does that now; all of my senses are off. Maybe the seasons are off. But the air was cold, your leaves were disappearing, and it was time for me to go. I said goodbye and I went south. I hoped I’d find another tree like you there, but I knew I wouldn’t. I found shelter, but not a home. And I was so afraid you wouldn’t be there when I came back. But you were.

One summer I sang my song, and another voice came back, still lower, but stronger than the others. I sang out, and it came back again, playful, this time closer. I sang softer. The voice came back just below me.

Back and forth we sang, until the ladybird tweeted right below me, then right beside me, and back and forth we fluttered and sang so low no one else could hear us. It was like I led her up there, but it was more like you did.

I remember when our eggs hatched. Three littlebirds, squawking and screeching, hungry. We raised them, the ladybird and I and you, our nest and our shelter and our home.

I watched as they learned to fly. I watched them catch their own food. And I watched as, one by one, weeks apart, they would fly away and never return. My heart sang its sorrow song, but I hoped they found a tree half as good as you.

I remember the cat that chased me once, and how it couldn’t make it to even your lowest branches. I remember the young boy who tried to climb you, and I watched him grow alongside my own littlebirds, and his own ladybird he would sit beside, right in your shade, singing their own songs.

And I remember the night it stormed. Thunder crashed, and my heart beat faster, but I nestled closer to my ladybird and tried to sleep it away.

Then lightning struck, and we were falling. I tried to fly, but I didn’t know which way was up. Everything was just black, and wet, and cold, and the last thing I remember is my ladybird taking off into the night, moonlight fighting through the clouds and glinting off of her wings, beautiful.

When you die, part of you stays here, just for a little while, while your soul is fighting its way out of an egg. I stayed right here, where you used to be.

The storm lifted, like all storms do. My heart cried out a song I didn’t know it could, seeing you lying on the ground, your branches broken, your leaves scattered, part of your trunk still standing, jagged and aimed at the sky, a brutal memorial of what used to be.

I watched the humans come, and I knew I was seeing you for the last time. They would sweep it all away, cut down and dig up whatever was left, and you’d be gone like you never existed.

They did sweep you away, and cut down what was left, but they left your roots and stump. And that boy I watched grow beneath you, nearly a man now, placed a bird bath where you used to be, a new memorial, a tribute to what you were, and a promise that you could still be. And I watched my ladybird play in that fountain, I watched the other birds whose songs I’d always heard join together, and my heart sang.

Because you’re still here, in a way. And even as my spirit starts to spread its wings, I know what we shared was here, even though we’re not. And nothing can ever take that away from us.

I sang you one last song, and then my spirit flew south for the winter.

Never to Have Loved at All

It feels like rain. All the time. Not the good kind that lulls you to sleep, drowns out the city and all its noise so you can get some rest; the kind that ruins parades, sends kids inside, the kind you try to read to, but the thunder scares you and you lose your place. The kind that overflows your gutters, leaves puddles in your path and a cascade right outside your door, so you can run to your car but you’ll still get soaked to the bone. The kind that isn’t warm, it’s cold. The kind that keeps you up all night, quoting Tennyson and thinking about the different kinds of rain.

Only Ever

There is a world underneath this one,

Behind it and beyond it and all tangled up and twisted into it, a series of knots that will never come undone.

Sometimes you go there. Sometimes you never do. Usually you come back, but sometimes you stay.

It’s a better place than this one. It’s nothing and everything,

and you’re conscious but you’re asleep and dreaming,

and you’re asleep and not dreaming.

Sometimes people in black line up and they cry for you, but you’re happy, but they can’t know that. Sometimes no one even notices you’re gone.

You’re surrounded by people there, or just one person you’ve never met and never seen, but you’ve known them your whole life, you’re best friends, you’re lovers, they’re a part of you and you’re a part of them.

You go about your daily life, blissfully unaware that things here are out of place or impossible, unaware of the things and the people you left behind. Every color is vivid, some of them are brighter and more beautiful than any color that can exist. Everyone smiles, everyone sees forever, and forever stares back and smiles.

All light is sunshine,

and all darkness is sunshine too. The only secrets are the good ones, the ones you keep because they keep you warm. You love and are loved so profoundly, love stretches between you and the end of everything and back again, wraps you in its arms and asks you if you want to stay forever.

You do. You want it more than you’ve ever wanted anything, in fact you’ve never wanted anything else.

Then,

sometimes,

you notice one of those things that is impossible or out of place. Or you remember one of those things you left behind. Or maybe it’s just that love and forever were pulled so taut that

something had to give,

and everything bleeds away.

Colors fade, faces blur. Hands disappear.

The old world comes back into view, like drawing sunglasses over your eyes, or someone put a King on top of your Ace, yet somehow you lose.

You hold on tight, you claw and scramble to stay. You don’t know where you’re going but you know it won’t be like this other place,

you won’t have that person or that warmth ever again. If you can just hold on

But you can’t.

You wake up. Or snap out of it. Or just open your eyes.

And now sunshine is still sunshine, but not as bright. And darkness is darkness.

Someone might love you, but not like that shy boy and his family did, or not like that skinny girl with messy brown hair who lived across the street from you. Or like that ever-reaching warmth you felt,

and here the warmth is only ever tepid.

Colors are only ever pastel. And you might have a good day, and you might even smile.

But not like you did there, in that other world.

The lucky ones don’t have to come back from it, and the unlucky ones don’t remember they were ever there at all,

Just that they had a good dream they can’t remember anything about,

only that it was the best dream they ever had.

Maybe we hear a whisper of a name, see a face out of the corner of our eyes, catch a hint of a smell or feel a hand brush against our own,

but turn to look and nothing is there.

Well, it is there, sort of. Underneath, behind and beyond and all tangled up,

somewhere,

just out of reach.

At the Intersection

I remember this intersection. Last time I was here, we were crossing it on foot. The lights danced overhead, leading everyone along their roads, telling them where to go, and more importantly when.

Our light turned green and we started crossing. Almost halfway into the intersection we heard the screeching tires, and before we could turn our heads toward the source, we heard the impact. Metal bent in so fast it sent a percussive crunch into the city, glass shattered and spread across the pavement.

Someone took too long to clear the intersection. Someone else didn’t notice that it wasn’t his turn. That’s all it takes to make two lives collide. Maybe more; after all, the two cars hit, what, eight feet to our left? Ten?

It wasn’t a bad wreck. I’ve been hurt worse than that by words, I’ve seen harder crashes in my friends’ hearts. But it was frightening. One of the drivers, the one who wasn’t paying attention, got out to yell at the other. Then he got bored and sat back down in his car and waited for the authorities.

I walked on, because otherwise I was going to be late for work. You waited on the sidewalk in case they needed witnesses for the police report.

That sound has long since stopped echoing off of these buildings, the glass and all it dust have been washed away by a thousand rainstorms. Yet here I still am, sitting at this intersection, like so many others, waiting endlessly for our turn to go.

It’s still frightening. How many of us are in for the next collision? Not the one eight feet to the left, but the one head-on, heart-on, out of nowhere, so fast you don’t see it coming until it’s too late, but you feel the impact, and you’re left wondering if anyone in this world is ever going to be okay, let alone you.

Someday Will Eventually Come

Someday Will Eventually Come

There’s never been a storm that didn’t break,
Though there’ve been some we couldn’t see the end of til it came.
There’s never been a night so dark we went to bed but couldn’t wake
Or been a silence so extensive we had nothing we could say.

I know it hurts right now,
But there’s never been a problem so complex we couldn’t figure out
Or been a time so frozen still we couldn’t wait it out,
Or a word so painful you could never let it out your mouth.

And it’s okay to cry,
There’s never been a watershed so wet you couldn’t dry your eyes
Or been a dark so heavyset the sun refused to rise
Even after love so close you thought it too strong for goodbyes

You’re allowed to be happy.
There’s never been a suffering you needed an amount of,
Or been a pain so absolute it couldn’t be healed from,
And I wish that I could promise someday would eventually come

But that’s not fair to say,
There’s never been sincerity exempt from a mistake
Or been a promise so assured it couldn’t possibly break
And I am not infallible, despite how confident I stay

If I could make you better,
I’d do it right away.
But there are no diseases I can cure with my embrace,
Or wounds that I can close with all the words I softly say,
Or history I can erase by putting smiles on my face.

If I could really fix you,
I’d have done it long ago.
But there are no words I can say to force you to keep hope
And I can’t make you believe things nobody can know,
Or send you down a better road if you don’t want to go.

All that I can really do is ask you to believe,
There is happiness out there for you even if it’s not with me.
There’s never been a distance so great you couldn’t try to run,
But I hope you never stop believing someday will eventually come.

Stray Cat

I met a stray cat tonight, on the way out of my friends’ apartment. It came rushing up to us, to rub against our legs like it was greeting old friends. Before we drove away I opened and slammed the car door to scare it off, in case it had decided to wander under the car.

I got home and I greeted my own cat. She was happy to see me. I know this because I went into the kitchen to get a glass of water, and she followed me to eat from her bowl. She felt safe.

I wandered my empty house for a while. I’ve always been happy to call Kansas City my home, but tonight I miss the warm air of California nights. Tonight I miss the sunrise reflecting off the mountains in Utah. There are no mountains here, and it snows on the first night of Spring.

I guess I don’t feel safe. I think I’ll go to a bookstore later today. I need something familiar.

It feels like I’m a stray cat, and someone opened and slammed that door, but not to make me scamper off to safety. They just wanted to see me jump out of my skin.

You Harbor

You Harbor

I’ve grown so tired of the sea,
This salt-stained deck beneath my feet
The endless shaking of the waves,
That swallow everything I say.

And I can see the shore,
The places that I used to know
Too shallow here to moor,
And will be forever more.

So tie the anchor around my legs,
And help me walk the plank
Watch me fall for fathoms deep,
Into a bed where I might sleep.

The seagulls cry, but not for me
And hold wakes in the foam
My ship won’t be the first to sink
Just miles from its home

I thought I saw you on the sand,
Hair blowing in the wind
I thought I saw you lift your hand,
To wave goodbye again

And I’m a ship that has no crew,
The water gods had cursed
To roam the oceans, far away
For all eternity.

So sing your song for me,
Guide my ship toward the rocks,
Send me to the bottom of the sea,
Remind me what it’s like to breathe.

Oh, Winter Morning (from Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails)

by David J. Lovato

Oh, Winter Morning

Wake to find the whitened light
Sliding through my windows
Creep across a hardwood floor
The chill of morning scrapes at my nose

Crack my door to feel a greeting kiss from the cold
Stare into a winter sunrise as it stretches all the shadows
This is the only friend and oldest friend I’ve ever known.

Listen close as everything freezes
No birds or words or slightest breezes
Only ice as it spreads across all things,
The trees and skin and all my reasons

Fall into the loneliest of seasons, never pause
The air so cold it brings the seconds to a stop
Spend the rest of my entire life inside a broken clock
Stand barefoot in the snow until my toes fall off.
Stare into the dimlit sun til I see God.

Only the winter wind could ever move my skin and bones,
They are the only vehicle my soul has ever known.
The snow will hold all sound to stillness, kill the tone
While I run back to my bed and sleep until I grow old alone.

 

from Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails, available now.

Build Yourself Better and Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails Available Now

Happy Leap Day, everyone!

From today my poetry collections Build Yourself Better and Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails are available.

cover art by david j. lovato   cover art by david j. lovato

Build Yourself Better is a narrative poetry collection, meaning the poems tell an overall story while also standing on their own. Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails is a collection of my narrative poetry collections, and includes Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages, A Means to an Ens, Build Yourself Better, and a collection of poems originally scrapped from the above three works, titled B-Sides and Rarities.

You’ll find both available in eBook and softcover, as well as a hardcover option for Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails. Those interested in checking the books out before buying will find samples by highlighting the “Samples” link on my site’s top menu.

Store links can be found below.

Build Yourself Better
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play, Smashwords, CreateSpace

Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play, Smashwords, CreateSpace, Lulu (hardcover)

As always, thanks for everything.