Mary Oliver really knew what she was saying when she said, “the animal of your body“.
Opening with that sentence runs the risk of me indulging a masturbatory intellectualism I’d like to avoid. The animal of my body, I think, knew what it was doing when it got in a car and drove 13 hours and 45 minutes from Cincinnati, OH to my childhood home in Texas. I think that animal knew more than I’ve been able to discover every day since. I think that animal is at work healing itself. Quietly. Patiently. Softly. With a snarl (don’t get too close).
A few years ago, I saw 100 Days at Know Theatre. It was a musical play about two people falling in love and fearing their beloved’s mortality. It’s stunning. It was born of The Bengsons. I cried probably the whole time, taken by the earnestness and the sound. It sort of presented what I often think of this life we have: how banal and how beautiful, how small and how sacred it is (please believe that I trimmed down all the possible alliterations quite a bit).
The Bengsons have released what I suppose we’re calling a quarantine album (albums created during this still occurring but now historicized Quarantine we’ve lived/are living through ((and if you’re listening, I do think Charli XCX put out nothing but absolute club hits on hers but it flew drastically under the radar and now America’s First Lady T Swift seems to be the one QuarAlbum to rule them all, or at least to be remembered))).
It’s aptly titled The Keep Going Song (Live from Our Home at the End of the World)**. (**NOTE: I learned while editing this Update that it is part of The Actors Theatre of Louisville‘s 2020-2021 Virtual Season and is available to stream on a pay-what-you-can basis until Oct. 8th. Please someone watch this with me.)
I put it on the other morning before a rather early morning shift, and there it was again, like 100 Days, the earnestness, the simplicity, the rapturous vocals. The NYT’s described it as a “show of exultant ambivalence”, which is a decent summation if you think of ambivalence as an active state. A forward state. And oscillation and reworking, constantly. The show is, I think, the actual execution of New Sincerity. It’s authenticity that is necessarily a performance (they are performers, this is an album), but seems to come from a truly rich and genuine place in their creative souls.
So naturally I got teary.
The Keep Going Song is underpinned by both Shaun and Abigail Bengson repeating, “keep going”, as Abigail describes the absurd moment she (we) find her(our)self in. She sweetly introduces herself and her husband at the very very beginning of the song. They reveal they’re in his parents house, that they thought this would only last 10 days and now here’s this album released in August of this strange weird year. And all the while you hear, “keep going keep going keep going”.
I won’t describe the rest of the song, but I will urge you to listen to the song and the whole album. It’s beautiful.
That earnestness, that sweetness and absurdity, and earnestness (there is no other word!) is the thing that I feel most acutely. It is the way I feel, most acutely, when I am most myself, who is really a vulnerable sensitive woman who cries at the right angle of light or the slightest bit of yelling. It’s raw. It feels raw, and exposed. Like this animal, this animal of my body, my body, myself.
Which isn’t to say I’m a wonderfully constructed album of songs, earnest and rich.
But it is to say that I feel, as I heal, in my home state which I never really thought I’d find myself in again as an adult or ever since I left at age 18 for a whole life I couldn’t have dreamed, that I feel earnest and rich and raw and sweet and absurd, acutely.
And it’s—not crazy, not wild, not new, not interesting, no, not those—it’s vulnerable to be home.
It’s vulnerable to be home.
It’s vulnerable to be Here.
And I am, Here. And I am, changing. And I am, also, exquisitely myself. Acutely myself.
Which is to say, I think, that I keep going.
I kept going.
When I got in that car, way back in March.
And I will continue to go.
Which is to say, quite earnestly, onward.