I Can't Speak for the Wind

"I Can't Speak for the Wind" is the first song of David Leisner's song cycle Three James Tate Songs, which sets the poetry of James Tate.

The audio selection features Patrick Mason, baritone, and David Starobin, guitar. The recording is from 2011 (released by Bridge Records). Used with the permission of the composer.

Date: 2007Composer: David LeisnerText: James TateSong Collection: Three James Tate Songs

Print vitals & song text


I Can’t Speak for the Wind
by James Tate

I don’t know about the cold.
I am sad without hands.
I can’t speak for the wind
which chips away at me.
When pulling a potato, I see only the blue haze.
When riding an escalator, I expect something orthopedic to happen.
Sinking in quicksand, I’m a wild appaloosa.
I fly into a rage at the sight of a double-decker bus.
I’m a double-agent who tortures himself
and still will not speak.
I don’t know about the cold,
But I know what I like I like a tropical madness,
I like to shake the coconuts
and fingerprint the pythons, —
fevers which make the children dance.
I am sad without hands,
I’m very sad without sleeves or pockets.
Winter is coming to this city,
I can’t speak for the wind
which chips away at me.

[from Viper Jazz (1976)]



    Sheet Music

    Three James Tate Songs

    Composer(s): David Leisner

    Song(s): 1. I Can't Speak for the Wind
    2. Never Again the Same
    3. From an Island

    Voice Type: Medium

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