Bill Morrissey "Birches"

(Bill Morrissey)

They sat at each end of the couch, watched as the fire burned down,
So quiet on this winter's night, not a house light on for miles around.
Then he said, "I think I'll fill the stove. it's getting time for bed."
She looked up, "I think I'll have some wine. how 'bout you?" She asked and he de

"Warren," she said, "maybe just for tonight,
Let's fill the stove with birches and watch as the fire burns bright.
How long has it been? I know it's quite a while.
Pour yourself half a glass. Stay with me a little while."

And Warren, he shook his head, as if she'd made some kind of joke.
"Birches on a winter night? no, we'll fill the stove with oak.
Oak will burn as long and hot as a July afternoon,
And birch will burn itself out by the rising of the moon.

"And you hate a cold house, same as me. Am I right or not?"
"All right, all right, that's true," she said. "It was just a thought,
'Cause," she said, "Warren, you do look tired. Maybe you should go up to bed.
I'll look after the fire tonight." "Oak," he told her. "Oak," she said.

She listened to his footsteps as he climbed up the stairs,
And she pulled a sweater on her, set her wineglass on a chair.
She walked down cellar to the wood box -- it was as cold as an ice chest --
And climbed back up with four logs, each as white as a wedding dress.

And she filled the stove and poured the wine and then she sat down on the floor.
She curled her legs beneath her as the fire sprang to life once more.
And it filled the room with a hungry light and it cracked as it drew air,
And the shadows danced a jittery waltz like no one else was there.

And she stood up in the heat. She twirled around the room.
And the shadows they saw nothing but a young girl on her honeymoon.
And she knew the time it would be short; the fire would start to fade.
She thought of heat. She thought of time. She called it an even trade.

Sung by Bill Morrissey on "Night Train," Philo, PH 1154, 1993.


Comments on the Song "Birches"

Subject: Re: A 3-minute movie...
From: (Peggy Bertsch)
Date: 18 Nov 1995
MessageID: 48jmff$
references: <48asqd$> <48gmj9$>
organization: Hewlett Packard Cupertino Site

JEricL ( wrote:
: While story songs are great. Good ones are few and far between. It is a
: real challenge to write a great one. My point it, that you probably should
: write some of the other types of songs also. The ones that deal with
: things in a short time frame, without a loger story line.

Absolutely.  Variety is important.  Not all songs are meant to be chock full
of dialogue or metaphor or other elements that are so crucial to, say,
short story writing.  But by the same token, some songwriters *never* think
of their songs as short stories, and I was trying to show that sometimes
the two forms of writing can overlap very effectively.

Most story songs seem to hand-hold the listener through the passage of time,
telling the story from beginning to end, not leaving anything to the
imagination.  It's like each verse starts out with a line that tells you
exactly how much time has passed, or which particular significant milestone
this verse is going to cover (e.g., verse 1: meeting your true love, verse 2:
getting married, verse 3: having a child, etc.)  Some do this *much* more
effectively than others -- I personally think "Something In Red" did this
in a very unique and special way; I wasn't, on the other hand, impressed with
"Don't Take The Girl" and the way that *two* of the verses started with the
line "Same old boy, same sweet girl, (X) years down the road"...I felt like
I was being force-fed the scene, instead of being drawn into it. (That is,
of course, only my opinion -- obviously tons of people liked that song a *lot*
more than I did :-)

What I found unique to "Birches" is the way the writer (Bill Morrissey) just
drops us down in the middle of this couple's living room, no introduction,
no background on what has transpired before, and manages to paint the most
vivid picture of what their relationship has come to by letting us eavesdrop
on one simple scene.  It's a skill that writers of great short fiction have,
but which songwriters too often neglect, IMO.  But of course, I obsess over
lyrics to a point that sometimes goes beyond rational :-)