The Ascension of Slow Dakota

by Slow Dakota

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about

Slow Dakota's third album, recorded over the course of a year and a half.

The culmination of his discography, and the grand conclusion to his poetry.

credits

released July 22, 2016

Written and Performed by Slow Dakota (PJ Sauerteig)
Mixed and Produced by Sahil Ansari
Mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound

Recorded in Fort Wayne, New York, New Haven, Gothenburg, and Queenstown
Released and Distributed by Massif Records, May 2016
Cover Art: Girl Reading, by Franz Ebyl (1850)

PJ Sauerteig: piano, vocals, dulcimer, guitar, ukulele, keyboards, percussion, sampling
Sahil Ansari: acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar, organs, percussion
Sangeeta Reddy: vocals
Corey Dansereau: trumpet
Caitlin Kelliher: upright bass
Sarah Sauerteig: vocals
Rebecca Borman: vocals
Hyehyun Hwang: vocals
KatieBeth Hollman: vocals

Philip Kitcher: voiceover work
Joseph Fasano: voiceover work
Margaret Vandenburg: voiceover work
Dan Ankney: additional engineering

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about

Slow Dakota Fort Wayne, Indiana

(PJ Sauerteig)

Fort Wayne, IN
Massif Records
massifrecordsusa@gmail.com

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Track Name: A Competition
Last year, at about this time, all the angels in heaven had a competition to see who could write the most beautiful song, to be sung every morning in heaven for the next thousand years. For God is a great lover of music, and prefers to be woken up each day by a song. He is lucky, for there are no better singers than his angels. One of these angels is my friend, and when we were walking together one evening, after dinner, she told me all of this, and sighed that she could not think of a song to write. So I quickly jotted something down, and gave it to her to use as her own invention in the contest.
A year later, I saw her again, and she told me that God had chosen someone else’s music as the winner. She reached out her hand and said, “I’m sorry.” “There is nothing to be sorry for,” I said, taking her hand: “For the Creator Himself has heard my music. And so, you have given me the greatest gift of all - a thoughtful listener - even one who rejects me. This I prefer even to careless ears who may love me.” And with that, the angel spread her wings and flew away, appearing like a white dove above the cornfield.
Track Name: The Lilac Bush
"The Lilac Bush"

One day I came close
To giving up my ghost:

I put my chin inside
A mouth of knotted rope!

But instead of stopping,
My heart began to fly.

A dove perched on my shoulder
And whispered in my ear:

“Each day God comes home
With lilacs from His bush;

He picks them all for you,
His chosen darkling thrush!”
Track Name: Paul, Pining for His Wife
"Paul, Pining for His Wife"

Diane, I bought a little white and royal Afghan;
She sleeps with me often in the kitchen
For often I simply lack the courage
To sleep in the room where you slept.

Diane, I cleared away the ivy from the garden;
I made room to finally grow the lilac
That Whitman used to scatter in his bedroom
At night when he was writing his poems.

Early in the morning I go out with boots and ruffled hair -
Something you would always do before -
Down to gather water from the creek behind the neighbors’ house,
But the bucket’s far too hard to lift.

Oh! For all the time that I spent sleeping while the sun came up -
You were making coffee from the rain…
Wading in the water while the walleye come and gather round,
Nibbling at my feet, nibbling at my feet!
Track Name: Magnificat
"Magnificat"

I knew a man who was deaf to human speech, but he could hear music perfectly well. At the Lutheran church, for example, when the pastor lectured, this man would look around idly, or fidget with his hands. But when the organ played, he would sit up straight and close his eyes, tasting the lush fugue. One Sunday, I passed him a note from across the pew: “When people sing, what do you hear?” When he read it, he quietly collected his hat and coat to leave. A few steps into the center aisle, he collapsed.
Track Name: For My Friend
"For My Friend"

William Blake and I
Had a lunch date
Last October at Buvette:

Scrambled eggs for me,
Only coffee in a teacup
For my friend.

What we talked about
It escapes me -
Something surely of account!

But I can’t forget how his
Hand felt on my shoulder,
As we talked.
Track Name: The Magi Visit Farmer Lee
"The Magi Visit Farmer Lee"

Seething last night,
A tornado took the house
Across the street
Of one-armed Farmer Lee.

And I looked up to see a line
That stretches down the road!
The neighbors come from miles around
To lighten up his load!

Two Amish boys
Take ponies after dark
Bringing the man
A side of summer pork.

Eli next door
Woke up to gather corn
To cook for Lee,
And be with him, and mourn.

And how could I forget the twins,
Both blind and old as rain!
For with a giving hand from each,
They offer Lee a peach!
Track Name: I Am Held Together
"I Am Held Together"

I am held
Together by a string of pills
I take each day
To make sure I don’t run away

With my moods
But I’m so tempted to neglect
My regiment
And throw my Lexapro away

But would I die?
Would my hands begin to shake?
Like a church
Would my paint begin to flake?

Or would I wake?
And see my life as it really is?
And have the strength
To swim again inside my skin?

And put my hand
Once again up to my cheek
And feel its warmth
And push the door into my self?
Track Name: An Exile's Theory
"An Exile’s Theory"

“Do you realize,” my father once asked me, “That man is the only creature on earth that desires to be something he is not, for man is the only creature to believe in a thing called perfection? Our obsession, our Mark of Cain, causing us to wander over the earth, alienating us from ourselves - the Mark of the Artist!” (It is very late, and as my father and I stare at the ceiling of hospital waiting room, I can tell he’s half-asleep as he talks) “What spider,” he asked, “Stays up late at night, reworking his web? Fixing it, recasting it, and agonizing over its right angles? And have you ever heard a songbird practicing? No, the meadowlark hasn’t practiced a day in his life; just as each spider spins both without pride, and without harshness towards his craft. He just spins. We are alone, son, in all of the animal kingdom we are alone. Do you wonder why we have a heaven, why we need a heaven, and why Melville went mad writing Moby Dick? Dear boy,” he asked, “Do you wonder why Woolf walked into the water, or why Joyce tried to take his own life by stabbing a pencil into his soul?”

* * * *

History tells us that only two Western artists have ever truly approached and knocked upon the door of perfection; one ended up taking his own life as an exile in France, and the other failed to achieve any sort of fame during or after her life. I am speaking, of course, about my father and mother. And hearing their loud knock, I open the door to see two skeletons curled together on the front doorstep. From upstairs, my sister, Sarah, calls out: “Who knocks at our door?” And I answer: “The only two who know where you and I live.” In light of the sunny Spring morning, I leave the door open a moment, and notice that a little spider has begun spinning a web all the way from my father’s heart to my mother’s mouth.
Track Name: I Saw Christ Crying in Hermes
"I Saw Christ Crying in Hermes"

He cried the way I finally cried
A week after my grandpa died
A week after my grandpa died;
We buried him out beside his wife
We buried him out beside his wife!

“Jesus, I said: “What’s the matter?
You have plenty of money to buy
Everything in this silver store.”
“That’s not it at all,” He said:
“That’s not it at all, at all, at all…”

“I made a mistake: I told everyone
That I love them equally;
That they’re all the same to me.
What a foolish thing to do:
Boy, it shows how little I know you.”

“I should have made my book exclusive and
Only sold in SoHo stores -
Bouncers at the golden doors;
Then a great big line would form -
A bigger line than heaven’s had for years…”

“Open arms don’t sell well these days:
Why you worship scarcity
Is such an awful mystery;
It looks like Dad made way too many
It looks like Dad made way too many keys…”
Track Name: Proverbs, after Vangelis
"Proverbs, after Vangelis"

My aunt Donna
Says she has the language
To talk to birds.
And Donna’s older sister Mary
Regularly talks to dead men:
It’s true, it’s true!

Isn’t it ironic
That Donna hates her sister,
And they don’t speak?
So what if I need to talk to
A dove that died a year ago:
What do I do?

The bricklayer makes sweeter love
Than the executioner,
I learned in school.
For it is always better
To build up than to cut down:
Ray-loo, ray-loo.

But sweeter than the bricklayer
Is love made by the piano player:
It’s true, it’s true!
For very, very fast fingers
Are a virtue in the bedroom
Ray-loo, ray-loo.
Track Name: A Mistranslation
"A Mistranslation"

A series of bizarre mistranslations and cultural misunderstandings have led us to imagine the Judeo-Christian heaven as some sort of cloud realm, or sunny kingdom in the sky. However, when we look back at both the Ancient Hebrew and Aramaic, we see that Heaven is actually the name of a lake on the shores of which all souls will make their eternal home. From the Book of Daniel, we can approximate that the divine lake will be the size of Zurich Lake, in Switzerland, or Lake Charlevoix, in Northern Michigan. (Coincidentally, both of these lakes were favorites of the American writer, Ernest Hemingway).
The heavenly image of the lion lying down with the lamb is also misconstrued: rather, the biblical prophets intended the image of white swans and St. Bernard dogs swimming side by side in the lake, as a means to beat the summer heat. Little boys and girls jump naked from the old stone bridges, to the cheers of onlookers, who hang wreathes of hollyhock on the divers as they climb back up onto dry land. And at night, flashes of lightning in the pink, rainless sky.
Above the soft lapping of the water, lights in the houses go out, as the souls say their goodnights: Goodnight Brian, the dentist
Goodnight Alisha, my love!
Goodnight Mark Strand
Goodnight mother
Goodnight Toni Morrison, who leads us in prayer, favorite daughter of Christ

Goodnight gardener 1
Goodnight gardener 2
Goodnight grandfather, snuffing out the light above the chess table; Hildegard has bested him again, for what must be the hundredth night in a row.
In the moonlight, a single rowboat makes a slow circle around the lake. It is Burstner at the oars, restless even in death.
Track Name: In a Pigsty
"In a Pigsty"

I played the harp
In a pigsty,
Thinking if I played for long enough they might

Turn away
From their feed
So that I could steal a handful of their beans.

Sleeping on
A pile of hayseed,
I will sink until I’m underneath the floor;

And like Job
Said to his Lord:
“You will look for me but I will be no more.”

I have knocked
With friendly face
On the door that keeps the world in its place;

When no one came,
I realized
That I was knocking on the front door of my house.

So this is my
Quiet ascension;
I’m not one for tearing schisms in the sky:

A little meat,
A little bread,
And my parents holding candles by my bed.
Track Name: Paul, This Time with a Dulcimer
"Paul, This Time With a Dulcimer"

Early in the morning I go out with boots and ruffled hair-
Something you would always do before -
Down to gather water from the creek behind the neighbors’ house,
But the bucket’s far too hard to lift.

Oh! For all the time that I spent sleeping while the sun came up -
You were making coffee from the rain…
Wading in the water while the walleye come and gather round,
Nibbling at my feet, nibbling at my feet!
Track Name: The Tooth Fairy
Written and Performed by Slow Dakota (PJ Sauerteig)
Mixed by Sahil Ansari
Mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound
Track Name: John of Patmos
"John of Patmos"

On the island of Patmos, at dawn, a young boy sits on the pebbled beach, looking out at the sea. Perhaps a mile offshore, a huge crag of rock juts out from the water, bearing the ever-crashing waves of the coast. Sometimes the boy sits there with friends, and they dare each other to swim around the rock and back, but no one takes the challenge. “It’s a long way,” one will say. And the rest will nod, “That’s for sure,” and nothing comes of it. But one morning, at first light, the boy goes out to the beach, wearing only sandals; he wades into the water, and begins to swim.
By mid-morning, the boy washes up onto the pebbled beach, exhausted. His friends see him from the village, and run to pick him out of the water. When he catches his breath, the other boys cheer for him, and ruffle his hair: “What was it like?” they ask. Much to their surprise, the boy tells them what they already knew: “It’s a long way,” he says: “That’s for sure.” But he’s seen something that they’ll never see: the backside of the rock - the side of the rock that faces away from the village, and looks towards the deep.
Track Name: Bürstner Rebukes the New Arrival: His Rebuttal
"Bürstner Rebukes the New Arrival: His Rebuttal"

She said what do you know about sadness?
You’re a young man, lovely
She said what do you know about poor things?
You’re a rich man, honey
She said how could you know about failure?
Look at your shirt and tie
I said if only you knew how many times
I tied my tie around my neck and tried to die
… and tried to die…

She said what do you know about hunger?
She said you smell like honey
She said what do you know about darkness,
You’re as white as the full moon
She said how could you know about
Enough! he said and rose himself:
Lo, for all the brightness of the moon
It seems a cruel joke for it to live in gloom
… in endless gloom

I said Burstner I know you’ve had your fair share of pain abundant
But what apparently you miss is the notion that I have too
It’s not something to put into a spectrum;
There isn’t less or more
The only wisdom to blossom out of sadness
Is that sadness isn’t yours and only yours
… and only yours…
Track Name: Whitman Crossing the Sky to Spain
"Whitman Crossing the Sky to Spain"

I

On a recent flight to Spain,
the plane slowly and suddenly
crossed over the barrier
between night and day.

As we flew into the sunrise,
I peeked over my fellow passengers
at the window,
where I saw a blue quilt of clouds
many thousand feet below.

And I began to imagine
that my hero, Walt Whitman,
was sitting next to me.

II

How would he greet the high morning?
Would it inspire a poem –
a poem he could never have written
from below the cloud barrier?
Would he make some remark to me,
or keep his eyes fastened to the window?

In truth,
I imagine he would be fast asleep,
swimming in some dream,
smiling, and wearing clothes
not particularly suited for air travel.

And when offered a glass of orange juice,
I imagine he would refuse
on some strange principle;
knowing that soon, very soon,
he would land in a country
full of orange trees.

III

Whitman, how I wish
you could have seen Spain.

Glowing in the deep orange sunlight,
you call the attendant over
just to hear her voice,
just to see her glow
in the same window light.

She asks you, again,
to fasten your seatbelt.
She doesn’t know that every suitcase
on this plane belongs to you.

IV

I imagine you, Walt,
having intercourse with the attendant,
sharp and constant,
even in your old age.

I imagine her collapsing
onto your chest post-coitus;
and I feel that in drinking
this pitiful orange juice,
I have failed you.
We have all failed you.

You have made a mess of our seats
and the narrow aisle,
but I forgive you.
We all forgive you.

V

You have interrupted the drink service,
but we are no longer thirsty.
In fact, as we pierce through the sheet of cloud,
back down to the earth
in the burst of the Spanish morning,
we are awake and elated.

You have always been our only hope,
Walt Whitman.
As our wheels touch down,
the lovely attendant stands to dress,
and I fill with the hope
that everything written about you is true.
And more than that:
that everything ever written is true.