Actually, Little Creatures is a retreat from the avant-garde, a retreat that begins immediately in the cover art. On past albums the band wore its art-school training on its sleeve, devising experimental graphics for its LP Jackets. On the back of Little Creatures, though, they are dressed like privates in the Salvation Army, while on the front, Southern folk artist Howard Finster has scribbled a cartoonish profile of the band, showing head Head David Byrne in boots and BVDs, supporting a globe on his back.
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
Sing of mighty Rhea,
Great Mother, Queen of Time.
Make things easy, Mama Rhea,
fold us into Your motherhood
as You folded a stone to your breast: protection.
Purple Mountains Mother,
surely the maternity of the Blue Ridge
cannot have escaped You. There are midwives
here, bloody-handed lifebringers,
and You and Artemis will decide if that white
farmhouse will hear a squalling baby,
or if the vultures who ride the updrafts
above the river will call out instead.
We’ll sing of Lady Artemis,
who leads a pack of coonhounds down the mountain,
whose wildernesses shrink with each logging truck
rolling up the dirt road.
Artemis cuts deer stands from their trees, preferring the chase
and Artemis strikes women, young and old, with death;
Artemis bathes alone in the iciest of mountain streams,
and Artemis places the face of a black bear amongst the stars.
We’ll sing of the Nymphai Hyperboreai
Hekaergos—test the power of your bow,
shoot those universal orange-and-blue foam targets and
flex your muscles for strength until
you know exactly how much distance you need
between you and your prey,
between you and the blood,
between you and the guilt.
Opsis–paint your cheeks
black and dress in orange and green,
hide behind red maple trunks and take
Loxos—the curve, a thrumming string,
the pulleys of a compound bow arcing back
into place even as the arrow arcs;
the white edge of an eye, looking at doom,
The Meliai run like death too,
bronze-armored, bronze-skinned trailer
park princesses. These girls don’t take your shit;
ash-stained fingers are just as good as ink-stained ones,
and when the snow melts and the rains of April come
(flooded homes or no)
they’ll fight your ass from Hades—
they are mothers of great men,
and great themselves—poverty, they’ll tell you, has nothing to do with it.
And yet they wash away.
We’ll sing of the Potamoi,
robed in red clay mud.
Take me back to the Green River,
where paradise lay shining in the creekbed
and of the Okeanides, Naiades,
with whose blood I painted,
one thousand rivulets over dry leaves,
who feed rhododendrons aplenty
in the hollers and folds of the mountain,
and of the Leimonides,
golden spaces hewn from the slopes,
who live now where ancient trees once stood—
pastures were not always for growing,
and You conquered thousand-year growth to get here.
Sing of Aristaios, whose pastures (once made)
give apiaries and sheep pens a place,
You whose fleeces line the shelves of county fairs,
You whose clover honey; locust honey; basswood honey
lines the stalls of every farmer’s market around.
We’ll sing of the Thriae,
given to Hermes, counting riverstones under bridges–
purple sandstone, red sandstone,
sometimes cold gray limestone, mossy with pollution.
not bridge-trolls, not a big deal,
but small prophecies, small women surrounded,
golden fur over dark skin,
black, stony eyes.
Sing of Kheiron, who teaches English
in a building with broken windows and rotting linoleum
Teachers can grow old and die, and this school
will never win a football game.
A blacksmith shoes horses for the rich,
and His hammer ringing on iron sings “Hephaistos, Hephaistos.”
He knows these white picket fences,
these green, rolling hills, these dreams of Southern romance
and knows that at least His crippled legs are planted firmly in the mud.
We’ll sing of Hephaistos, sing with coal-black lungs,
sing with coal-dust hearts:
protect our families from this black gold,
this earthen fire. We die to fuel the cities of our world;
Hephaistos, protect us, ease our passing.
Sing praises of Hermes, who plays the banjo on off nights at the Sycamore Café,
who ran for office too many times and now somehow runs the town.
Sing praises of Hermes, lest he leave us to our gambling addictions,
lest our football team should lose—those two things are intertwined.
Dionysos rests on a mound of kudzu,
vines twisting around him—he is growing chaos.
Copper piping twists near him like shimmering vegetation,
and as drunk as they are, the police will never find this still.
Their crown, Corona, twinkles drunkenly above,
and Ariadne smiles in her sleep.
Hymn to the Rustic Theoi, Praise andSupplication from Southern Appalachia ((A poem inspired by, and hopefully not too derivative of, the work of Mari opalborn ))
“IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT YOU CAN’T SEE THE CIRCLE IF YOU DON’T STEP OUTSIDE OF IT. WHEN AN ARTIST RECEIVES A VISION OF THE INTEGRITY AND WHOLENESS OF THE WORLD, IT BECOMES HIS DUTY TO MATCH THE ACTUALITY OF HIS NEW INNER KNOWLEDGE WITH A CORRESPONDING ACTION IN THE OUTER WORLD.
HE HAS TO ABANDON THE SAFETY OF THE CIRCLE OF KNOWING AND STEP INTO THE VOID OF UNKNOWING. HE HAS TO LOOK BACK AT THE OPACITY OF HIS PREVIOUS LIFE FROM HIS NEW VANTAGE POINT, STEEPED IN THE TRANSPARENCY OF LIGHT” (CLEMENTE, 2013, P. 201).
“A Quickening of the Spirit” by Francesco Clemente
And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name.