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Field Works – Cedars

The mystifying 9th album in the Field Works series, Cedars combines cosmic Americana with Western ambient and Middle Eastern influences. Delicate layers of pedal steel, banjo, oud, and hurdy-gurdy float atop looping guitar drones to create a soothing, atmospheric chamber where folk and electronic music coalesce. Set to Arabic and English poetry, the song cycle examines some of Earth’s most iconic and ancient forests, revealing our complicated relationship with the natural world.

For this special dual-language release, Field Works producer Stuart Hyatt has assembled a supergroup of musicians, poets, and artists. The album is narrated by Youmna Saba and H.C. McEntire. Instrumentalists include Marisa Anderson, Fadi Tabbal, Dena El Saffar, Danny Paul Grody, Bob Hoffnar, Tomás Lozano, Nathan Bowles, Alex Roldan, Youmna Saba, and Stuart Hyatt. Renowned illustrator María Medem brings poems by Todd Fleming Davis and Youmna Saba to life in the accompanying full-color Risograph comic book; and longtime Field Works collaborators PRINTtEXT design the packaging. ✪

LYRICS

1. La’āli’

She spreads her arms blocking the embracing light threads
to reflect the dimmed spark of light that floods and then gets buried in her dark wings
She guards a tired person, sick with pain stuck on her feverish forehead
Fearing that Gilgamesh’s descendants, after visiting the moon and draining Mars’ resources, have polluted the rays of the sun

She wipes off her forehead the pearls of efforts dripping at the bottom of that tall, eminent, towering, magnificent tree
The guardian of a thousand years’ old dormant secret that lays in the confines of its heart This loyal, sincere, truthful heroine
fixed up the pile of sand,
where a girl laid down her body,
and bled her emotions as a nectar for the earth

2. Thāk-al-yawm

I always dreamt of that day
Where I abort with no pain or fear everything I held inside
Of worries, shame, hesitation, hidden words, forgotten feelings, suppressions, grudges, infectious sighs, universal myths
and what I heard inside of me
and what I heard from the inside of me
and what I heard and everything inside of me
all my limbs, and their regular pulses, and their clumsy, spontaneous, aging beats

that count their years but trip and fall backwards to square number one back to that day

3. Badron wa Qina‛

To that day and its night
and the howling of the wolves and the full moon
Images appear in front of me
and disappear
a hundred images
a hundred and one image a hundred and two images pour down in a second
I follow their rhythm and I fail
because of a fear that wore on its face the mask of love but it is fear weighed by illusions

4. ’Arāha

Slow inhale Chest and ribs Broken breath
She looks up one last time
She spreads her arm to touch the ancient earth and descends gradually into the labyrinth of its compassionate depths
Its hugging, forgiving, peaceful, understanding depths
Looking for a saving breath
Looking for a breath

5. In‛ikās

I dive into a darker darkness I rise and I fall
and I rise to fall
to elevate stubbornly towards a darker darkness

I lose my skin and my hair and my liver
and I float in an emptiness that weighs me down with lightness, the lightness I’ve always sought I see her

I hear her fluttering wings that hug me
She flies and rises and falls to draw the limits of my grave
I see her
In this heavy lightness
in this light heaviness
She, that appeared in between the repentant branches,
protects them from the sun’s piercing cacophony She protects me And I see her

6. ’Aylūl

September bid farewell to his last days
and surrendered his sky to Orion
The planets that would transform her delusions into light
He (Orion) stood at the highest point of her sky He looked at her
She looked at him
Night has fallen and its creatures are asleep Life surrendered for some moments for life

7. Ar-raḥīl

It seems as if the sun is softer today
It seems as if she realized the burden of her last moments, before she leaves

8. Ḥalaqah ’Azaliyyah

The loud shouts of the cities resound
The stones, the walls are shaking in the mold

Under the weight of those that got stabbed From the back
These are the revolutionaries

Aborting injustice and sorrow Guarding the dream in the bosom
Of the eternal stars
Here they are above the celestial branches
holding onto each other
Here they are at the core of the earth
as tangled roots
As threads that draw the path of a star And link the story of a heroine
to the secret of a girl
to your voice as you talk to your night to your voice as you call your sky
to the voice of an enchantress as she spreads her arms to hold you
to hold me
in a moment
that is fleeting
that is vanishing
that is eternal

9. The sharp smell of cedar

In afternoon shadow, the sharp smell of cedar opens

as the girl walks the far pasture, unmown in more

than a decade. Fallow and left to become fertile, young

cedars have begun to take back the land, feeding waxwings

who fly through their limbs and grow drunk on the tree’s

blue fruit, a soft glow fermenting beneath their skins.

 
10. Before we’re born

Before we’re born we all live in water. The ancient forests

the first people knew, who bore all life, were felled by the girl’s

ancestors when they sailed across the ocean in ships built of cedar,

thinking God bestowed all things upon them. They didn’t believe

the stories of spirits who lived beneath bark, who spoke in spring

storms when cedar fronds quaked, or how humans, as they rot

back into the world that made them, become grass

and goldenrod, a sapling looking up at an infinite sky.


11. The scars of recent history

 
The girl only knows the scars of recent history:

Fifty years since the last of the coal was stripped,

traveling back in time, layer by layer, descending

a shaft to bring darkness to the surface. And now:

without any shame, we construct machines

that can make a mountain disappear, no regard

for the memory or souls of trees.
 

12. In the gloaming


In the gloaming, before night reaches the cedars

in the pasture, in May’s new warmth when her father

plows the fields, the smell of copper curves

along her grandmother’s spine, and the old woman

takes a crow’s feather from a chest made of cedar.

Like an aging river, she tells the girl how cedars share

their long lives, joining us to water and sky, providing

passage through the body of this unnamed country.


13. Drowning in a sky of cotton
 

Especially on the hottest days, the girl has trouble catching

her breath, drowning in a sky of cotton. When the dust in the hayloft

fogs the air, and the chemicals her father sprays on the fields linger,

or in the rain of dried leaves the combine sends toward heaven

in September, the world, as we’ve remade it, settles in her chest,

and her mother brings an inhaler to her mouth.
 

14. Each year

Each year the girl raises a cow to sell at the county fair, throws hay

down the chute, carries water to the trough. In the heat of the day

she opens the gate. The cow wanders a worn path to the river

to soak. After her chores, she follows the tracks, coming over

a knoll to see a cedar shaking as the cow’s hind quarters

rub and bend the branches like a stiff comb.
 

15. In the floodplain
 

In the floodplain, hidden by a drapery of willow shoots,

sits a giant cedar stump. Afternoons the girl and a friend

make a nest in the decaying center, circling their bodies

to follow the coil of the tree’s past life. Only a portion

of the sky can be seen, and they pretend their clothes are green

flowers, skin the gold of aspen leaves in October. They eat

wild strawberries at the beginning of June, lips red with sugar.

The air fills with the fragrance of honeysuckle, and the girl

stands to sing, Let everything that blossoms, blossom!


16. The pasture

 
The pasture is mottled by the shadows of clouds passing. The cedars,

erect and alert, look like a children’s choir practicing: chins jut and mouths

chant the words of a song that calls for light to come, for soil to offer

what it can, for rain to fall when it might. The girl begins to sing, too,

but instead of folding her hands in prayer, she strokes the cedar’s fern-like

fingers, remembering her mother’s hands rubbing her back, her father’s

goodnight kiss on her cheek, hallway light a sliver on the floor,

and the sound of the trees growing in the dark as she sleeps, bones

stretching, each waking four inches taller.