Ani Difranco

both hands

i am walking out in the rain
i am listening to the low moan of the dial tone
i am getting nowhere with you
i can’t let it go and i can’t get through
the old woman behind the pink curtains
and the closed door
on the first floor
she’s listening through the airshaft
to see how long
our swan song can last
both hands
now use both hands
no don’t close your eyes
i am writing
graffiti on your body
i am drawing the story
of how hard we tried
i am watching your chest rise and fall
like the tides of my life
and the rest of it all
your bones have been my bed frame
and your flesh has been my pillow
i’ve been waiting for sleep
to offer up the deep with both hands
in each other’s shadow we grew less and less tall
and eventually our theories couldn’t explain it all
so i’m recording our history
now on the bedroom wall
and when we leave the landlord will come
and paint over it all

talk to me now

he said ani, you’ve gotten tough
because my tone was curt
yeah, and when i’m approached in a dark alley
i don’t lift my skirt
in this city
self preservation
is a full-time occupation
i’m determined to survive on these shores
i don’t avert my eyes anymore
in a man’s world i am
a woman by birth
and after nineteen times around i have found
they will stop at nothing
once they know what you are worth
talk to me now
i played the powerless
in too many dark scenes
and i was blessed with a birth and a death
and i guess i just want some say in between 
don’t you understand
in the day to day
in the face to face
i have to act as strong as i can
just to preserve a place
where i can be who i am
so if you still know how
you can talk to me now

the slant

the slant
a building settling
around me my
figure female
framed crookedly
in the threshold
of the room
door scraping floor
boards with every opening
carving a rough history
of bedroom scenes
the plot
hard to follow
the text
in the folds of sheets
slowly gathering the stains
of seasons
spent lying there
red and brown
like leaves fallen
the colors
of an eternal cycle
fading with the
wash cycle
and the rinse cycle
again an un-
familiar smell
like my name misspelled
or misspoken
a cycle broken

the sound
of them strong
stalking talking
about their prey
like the way
hammer meets nail
they say
out the rhythms
of attraction
like a woman
was a drum
like a body
was a weapon
like there was something
more they wanted
than the journey
like it was owed
to them
steel toed they walk
and i’m wondering why
this fear of men
maybe it’s ‘cuz i’m hungry
and like a baby
i’m dependent on them
to feed me
i am a work in progress
dressed in the fabric
of a world unfolding
offering me intricate
patterns of questions
rhythms that never
come clean
and strengths
that you still
haven’t seen
work your way out

lying on the floor
four stories high
in the corridor
between the asphalt and the sky
i am caught like bottled water
the light daughter
i wonder what you look like
under your t-shirt
i wonder what you sound like
when you’re not wearing words
i wonder what we have
when we’re not pretending
it is never ending
haven’t you heard
i don’t need to tell you what this is about
you just start on the inside
and work your way out
we are all polylingual
but some of us pretend
that there is virtue in relying
on not trying to understand
we’re all citizens of the womb
before we subdivide
into sexes and shades
this side
that side
i don’t need to tell you what it is about
you just start on the inside
and work your way out
undressing for the fan like it was a man
wondering about all the things
that i’ll never understand
there are some things that you can’t know
unless you’ve been there
but oh how far we could go
if we started to share
i don’t need to tell you what it is about
you just start on the inside
and work your way out

dog coffee

perpetrating counter-culture she is walking
through the park
the first light ugly
and more muscular than the dark
pushing poems at the urban silence
drawing portraits of the passers by
sitting on the curb combining traffic sounds
getting dirty looks and dirty jeans
on the dirty ground
she says i can’t figure out what kind of life
this is comedy or tragedy
i just know it’s show biz
but what if i don’t agree
with the lines i have to read
they don’t pay me enough the way i see it
freedom and democracy
that’s the word from washington every day
put america to sleep with warm milk and a cliche
some people are expendable along the way
your dollar is dependable
what more can we say
would you like some dog coffee
it is all that we’ve got
you can have some or you can have not
would you like some dog coffee
it is all that we’ve got
we’re taking care of business
and meanwhile some of the beans rot

lost woman song
-for lucille clifton

i opened a bank account
when i was nine years old
i closed it when i was eighteen
i gave them every penny that i’d saved
and they gave my blood and my urine a number
now i’m sitting in the waiting room
playing with the toys
i am here to exercise my freedom of choice
i passed their hand held signs
i went through their picket lines
they gathered when they saw me coming
they shouted when they saw me cross
i said why don’t you go home
just leave me alone
i’m just another woman lost
you are like fish in the water
who don’t know that they are wet
but as far as i can tell
the world isn’t perfect yet
his bored eyes were obscene
on his denimed thighs a magazine
i wish he’d never come here with me
in fact i wish he’d never come near me
i wish his shoulder wasn’t touching mine
i am growing older waiting in this line
but some of life’s best lessons
are learned at the worst times
under the fierce fluorescent
she offered her hand for me to hold
she offered stability and calm
and i was crushing her palm
through the pinch pull wincing
my smile unconvincing
on the sterile battlefield that sees
only casualties
never heros
my heart hit absolute zero
lucille, your voice still sounds in me
mine was a relatively easy tragedy
the profile of our country
looks a little less hard-nosed
but that picket line persisted
and that clinic has since been closed
they keep pounding their fists on reality
hoping it will break
but i don’t think that there’s one of them
who leads a life free of mistakes

pale purple

pale purple nipples
goose pimples
she shivers shifts from a walk
to a trot
alone in the city
infested with faces
immune to new friendships
interested in places
she’s never seen
she says everything is grey here
and nothing is green
the girls down the street
fifteen, seventeen years old
you can smell them getting pregnant
you can hear their rock and roll
that’s america
you have to be tough
like a glad trash bag
the government is just an old nag
with a good pedigree
but pedigrees don’t help you and me
i see the precedent is grey here
and i don’t expect green
unless something unforeseen happens
i’m surrounded by the haves
they say i can have some too
just because of what i do
do they think a lot
about those who have not
or is it just distracting
from what they do
most of us have grey
except for those who can pay
for green
i’m torn
i’m torn
rejecting outfits offered me
regretting things i’ve worn
when i was still playing roles
in order to fill holes
in my conception of who i am
you know, now i understand
it’s not important to be defined
it’s only important to use your time well
well time is something nobody can buy
and nobody can sell you
so don’t let anybody tell you
they have the advantage
because all the grey people can say every day
doesn’t mean anything
if your mind is green
pale purple nipples
goose pimples
she shivers shifts from a walk
to a trot
alone in the city
infested with faces
immune to new friendships
interested in places
she’s never seen
she says everything is grey here
otherwise i’d stay here
but i’m looking for green
just like every human being

rush hour

rush hour
at the day’s dawning
the rain came and pushed me under the awning
the puddles grew and threw themselves at me
with every passing car
i’m shielding my guitar
there were some things that i
did not tell him
there were certain things he did not
need to know
there were some days that i
did not love him
he did not understand me
and i don’t know why i didn’t go
he said change the channel
i’ve got problems of my own
i’m so sick of hearing about drugs and aids
and people without homes
and i said well, i’d like to sympathize with that
but if you don’t understand then
how can you act
i expected summer to be there in the morning
i awoke to the alarm
but she was out of arm’s reach
sneaking out on silent thighs
that were spent and sore
from the hot nights that came before
he said i looked for you
and i don’t know why
i said i was wearing black
so you could see me against the sky
take your big leather boots
and your buckles and your chains
put them on a downtown train
i expected he would be there in the morning
i awoke to the alarm
he was still in arm’s reach
but his body was just a disguise
his mind had wandered off long ago
i could tell by his eyes
love isn’t over when the sheets are stained
in my head there remains
so much left to be said
make me laugh, make me cry, enrage me
but just don’t try to disengage me
fire door

i opened the fire door to four lips
none of which were mine
tightened my belt around my hips
where your hands are missing
and stepped out in the cold collar high
under the slate grey sky
the air was smoking and the streets were dry
and i wasn’t joking when i said goodbye
past magazine quality men talking on the corner
french no less much less of them than us
so why do i feel like something’s been rearranged
you know, taken out of context
i must seem so strange
killed a cockroach so big
it left a puddle of puss on my wall
when you and i are lying in bed
you don’t seem so tall
and i’m singing now
because my tear ducts are too tired
and my mind is disconnected
but my heart is wired
i make such a good statistic someone should
study me now
someone’s got to be interested in how i feel
just because i’m here and i’m real
oh how i miss
substituting the conclusion to a confrontation
with a kiss and
oh how i miss
walking up to the edge and jumping in
like i could feel the future on your skin

the story

i would have returned your greeting
if it weren’t for the way you were looking at me
this street is not a market
and i am not a commodity
don’t you find it sad that we can’t even say hello
because you’re a man and i’m a woman
and the sun is getting low
there are some places that i can’t go
as a woman i can’t go there
and as a person i don’t care
i don’t go for the hey baby what’s your name
and i’d like to go alone
thank you just the same
i am up again against the skin of my guitar
in the window of my life
looking out through the bars
i am sounding out the silence
avoiding all the words
i’m afraid i’ve said too much
i’m afraid of who has heard me
my father, he told me the story
and it was true for his time
but now the story is different
maybe i should tell him mine
all the girls line up here
all the boys on the other side
i see your ranks are advancing
i see mine are left behind
i am up again against the skin of my guitar
in the window of my life
looking out through the bars
i am sounding out the silence
avoiding all the words
i’m afraid i can never say enough
i’m afraid no one has heard me
despite all the balls that i’ve been thrown
and forced to drop
on the social totem pole i’m preciously
close to the top
they put you in your place
and they tell you to behave
but no one can be free until we’re all on even
and i would have returned your greeting
if it weren’t for the way you were looking at me
every angle

i’m imaging your frame
every angle and every plane
i’m imaging your smell
the once that mingled with mine
once upon a time
thoughts of you
are picketing my brain
they refuse to work such long hours
without rest
in unstable conditions at best
they’re out there every day
holding up their signs
and thoughts of no other man but you
can possibly get through
the picket lines
to enter into my mind
i’m imagining your laugh again
the one that you save for your family
and your very close friends
i’m imagining the way you say my name
i don’t know when i’m going to hear it again
my friends can’t tell
my laughter from my cries
somebody tell this photograph of you
to let go of my eyes
i’m imagining your frame
i’m imagining your smell
i’m imagining your laugh again
and the way you say my name

out of habit

the butter melts out of habit
the toast isn’t even warm
the waitress and the man in the plaid shirt
play out a scene they’ve played
so many times before
i am watching the sun
stumble home in the morning
from a bar on the east side of town
and the coffee is just water dressed in brown
beautiful but boring he visited me yesterday
he noticed my fingers 
and he asked me if i would play
i didn’t really care a lot
but i couldn’t think of a reason why not
i said if you don’t come any closer
i don’t mind if you stay
my thighs have been involved
in many accidents
and now i can’t get insured
and i don’t need to be lured by you
my cunt is built
like a wound that won’t heal
now you don’t have to ask
because you know how i feel
art is why i get up in the morning
but my definition ends there
it doesn’t seem fair
that i’m living for something
i can’t even define
there you are right there
in the meantime
i don’t want to play for you anymore
show me what you can do
tell me what are you here for
i want my old friends
i want my old face
i want my old mind
fuck this time and place
the butter melts out of habit
the toast isn’t even warm

letting the telephone ring

i am letting the telephone ring
cause i don’t want to know why
i don’t want to hear you explain
i don’t want to hear you cry
i have written so much about you
so much i though i knew
words like water used to flow
now what can i possibly have to say
she is someone i don’t even know
and all the things that you’ve given to me
i see now were simply reparations
they were gifts of your guilt
they were my preparation
i know i should be mature
keep my feet on the floor
but for some reason i just
don’t want them anymore
i know this shouldn’t be important
compared to you and i
but i can still hear my questions
and i can still hear you lie
now vicariously i have her in me
i want to peel off my skin
let the water wash in
you always said that i was hiding
that i was hiding from you
but you are capable of things
that i could not do
remember how you pretended
pretended to touch me
i remember how i couldn’t bring myself
to believe
i remember wondering what was wrong
what was wrong- how could i be so naive

– produced by ani difranco and dale anderson
– recorded at audio magic, buffalo, n.y.
– september 1990
– engineered by john caruso
– mastering by ed stone
– photography by scot fisher
– inside photo by jim bush
– graphics by dave meinzer
– typesetting by vicky vullo
– thanks to everyone who has helped
– all songs written and performed by ani difranco