littoral

My senior year of college, I collaborated with classmate James Fei as one of four lyricist-composer pairs (I was the former; he, the latter) for the Princeton Atelier, a seminar founded by Toni Morrison to foster the creation of original art through collaboration across genres. Our guest artists were Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Richard Danielpour, the latter of whom was then collaborating with Professor Morrison on a similar project.

Our piece, “Littoral,” was performed by a vocalist and six instrumentalists in a formal program at Princeton University’s Taplin Auditorium on April 19, 1996.


 
 

LYRICS

COASTAL SONG

I have walked these hills
salt at my eyes, drawn
and dried by the wind

on this coast
there is no waste, but salt
is tossed over the shoulder

here in fields of standing stone
voice takes to wind,
curling like parchment in a bottle

only when the wind is strong
do I throw my words away

Figurehead*

painted lady
put to sea, flung out
and bolted down

limbs of wood
hair of gold
and clothed in canvas gown

she rocks to sleep
the men she holds
by night they tear her down

she would shriek
if not for lips
that crack with wind and brine

and so she creaks,
breasts before her
trailing men and twine

MERMAID

there

is more to her than water

this is more water than she can bear

to wake

but for the mourning of leaves

Silent Erasers

“I shall not speak”
is written
on my hands
words slipping from my grasp
like fish

My mouth is full
of wayward scales
and bones to wish upon

I pull their tails between my lips
and smile a whiteness of teeth

At recess, two children
whiten their hands and hair
with covenants
thrown to the ground

While the others
play between fading lines
behind a chain link fence

Siren (a sailor’s excuse for poor navigation)

old fisherwoman on the rock

spies an unexpected catch

bastards, suppose they’ll want my snatch

she spits and casts her line


* This poem was not set to music

LITTORAL
Lyrics: Copyright © 1996 Meghan Hickey
Music: Copyright © 1996 James Fei