Twelfth House

by Sleeping Cranes

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All songs written by A.J. Ward
Produced by Greg Mikels and A.J. Ward
Mixed and mastered by Greg Mikels at Ishgnu Studios in Chicago, IL
Artwork by Tiffany Tate


released October 9, 2012

A.J. Ward (vocals, acoustic guitar, uke, banjo, and harmonica)
Tony Colantio (lead electric guitar)
Leon Johnson (bass, violin, and lead electric guitar)
Conor O'Brien (piano and French horn)
Tynan Shevlin (percussion)
Greg Mikels (rhythm electric guitar and lead electric guitar)



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Sleeping Cranes Saint Louis, Missouri

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Track Name: Bardo
oh love, where have i gone? what am i running from? i thought i knew who i was. i guess i must have gotten lost. we flew from phoenix to cheyenne in time for a st. patrick's day snow. you got drunk and i got tired. it seems we're already getting old. and though i can see that we are made of the same things, i still scold the dark in you to elude the dark in me. now my misery has made a mess on my sleeves. and i'm still waiting on someone to make me clean. but i haven't listened to a word that anyone's said for three years. it keeps the heart separate and safe. and the past from appearing too clear. so i light my sixteenth cigarette. and do my best not to reflect on how i refuse to see or hear something worth loving until it disappears. but now i'm dragging me down the lengths of my history. its scenes of muted features flirt with my desperate memory. trying not to believe that there's a dark inside of me. i'll say this misery deserves at least another couple drinks. why do i love to mourn the time that i allowed to slip away? i could be present here today. but i'll go inside and sleep the sun away. it's a long life anyway.
Track Name: Tarot Hymn
the beer bottles are boasting the butts of cigarettes, below the whimper of a winter wind in june. i'm smoking the heavy morning off my shoulders, as the sun drags away the purple afternoon. and the tower is heading up my celtic cross, drawing itself like a curtain o'er the moon. my om hums alone, smothered by my choking on innocence's exhaust in the living room. and this house smells like weed and wax cinnamon. as the splintered green lights sprays my face. snorting poorly cut pills through a wrinkled dollar bill, looking for an easy fuck or a tangible saint. this year i've spent clawing at my memory has left me a collection of skin blood and bone. and i don't know whose leg i think i'm tugging on; my fear is screaming louder than my soul. but the two of cups patiently collects the refuse from the depths of my weak weeping veins. the truth is that i had to cut off my feet to realize that i still had legs. she is the passion in an old hymn that i couldn't hear over the droning heads. but still i curse the snow and the proud teething cold as i shake inside the skin i once shed. she rolls over and kisses my head.
Track Name: War Song
curled up in the shade of a billboard, we saw the flag waving over the town. it looked more like a miss city sash draped over a hospice gown. but we slept our way through the protest. then sat around and pissed our poetry to each others' tired choir ears, about how this city never gave us anything. and sometimes i still hear your wars songs muttering in the treble of a train's howl. and swearing at the viscid gold grass. but i hear you feel a little more free now. all the bowed heads and blindfold smiles shattered your certainty and harrowed your heart. we sipped cold coffee as you cussed your way out of the pale light of a flickering god. so i found a plastic shaman, ear candles. you found yourself an amber bottled cure. you said you move a little quicker now out of the syrupy sunlight and the cowboys' slurs. but sometimes i still hear your war songs in the spiderwebbing cracks of moloch's windows. we've both found love and shreds of sound peace. but part of me is still scared we'll both die alone. so i walk the salted sidewalks to the bar. i assume that you're somewhere doing the same. though we try to draw long deep lines, we've always surrendered to the same sorbent ache.
Track Name: Gift Horse
i heard the voice of god like a falling ember on a phantom limb. from the mouth of a woman prophet. in the breaths between her whiskey sips. when i was young i thought i was the waves jumping above a sharp river like dancing teeth, leaving marvelous canyons in my wake. but maybe i was just born to be what is done to me. and maybe my death will feed a dogwood. or maybe i'll hand myself back to god. why wander on without a rudder if existence is just an excellent mirage? chasing resolve around a medicine wheel. coaxing my insides to speak. the only certainty that i've found so far is that the world doesn't owe me the truth i seek. i am candlelight between licked fingers. but thus far that has failed to consecrate my movements and remission memories, and all the love that i shamelessly take. i've bottled and buried all my blemishes. i've gleaned all the harvests for their fruit. and it seems to me that i haven't lost much, but i haven't fostered much to lose. if i could let go of all my longing, and accept that i cannot lift myself. i could see the world for all it offers. and take my eyes off the gift horse's mouth.
Track Name: Creature
february is still hanging on in patches, congregating about the vedauwoo rocks. i've been plucking roots that knife out of my feet toward this high plain rust, this dry mouth rot. and my cricket keeps yawning in my vapid brain, i guess i am as sick as i have ever been. because i'm just as scared of a naked plain as i am of a sturdy towering fence. the creature in me, it writhes under your cloying hands, citing the sweet nausea of loneliness. i made a habit of smiling and dodging your love, but i thought that by now i'd have learned to be a better man. because i swear i used to have a reason. but maybe it was just the crest of a jejune song. and this attrition is covered in the crevices that brand my stubborn wind-burned palms. i love you but i think i need a little time to let these congealing energies i've housed unwind. what heart can you see in this mess of skin and uncertainty? and could you show it to me?
Track Name: Couldn't Find a River
i spent a night spinning, a vortex in my spine. watching walls rearrange inside dilated time. i awoke to you leading my legs toward a young yellow light. and i could feel your fingerprints on my scattering blood. i couldn't find a river, so i bathed in the mud, muttering through a stubborn half smile - "i've done what i've done". and i heard the beleaguered earth flush out a sigh. it swung through the trees and swarmed smoke to my eyes. so i shouted over my squinting - "there's no pain i cannot disguise". but the silence just offered a tireless smile, while i screamed with the shrill of a pubescent child. i heard the shivering grass whisper - "fear is the marrow of pride". so i reattached hope to its prosthetic legs. i led the horse to the trough and he spit in my face, then licked the dew from the grass as the silence just smiled as i walked away. with a one armed balance sorting fragments of sense, i felt the mud start to mimic the design of my skin. leaving no old step unturned, i tried to find a new place to begin. and i awoke on a balcony high in the west, while the new love i'd found shook the paths of my chest. and your voice, it baited out the words that i could not alone confess. i watched the mountains as they stabbed the dawn, and your fingerprints waltzed the inside of my arm. the whispering wind sounded just like a morning alarm. i know the devil and peter will each gather their share. but i plan to remodel the skin and organs i wear. i'll catch the sun with my face, and find a truth that can fit in my hand.
Track Name: Year of the Dragon
i wince through the cold up to miles' northeast apartment, where we'll dust off the silence with sighs and stale smalltalk of cold. groping past lives to find a new meaning in who we once were - "what was her name again?", and "goddamnit man, i already feel old". trying to conjure the specters of the rooms filled with laughter and empties, where i sat, eyes determined, swearing i wouldn't forget. our beer label peeling and interval glances at ceiling trim distract us from the dust sketching shapes of where pictures had been, saying "you can never get back there again". we exchange some vague plans of moving and marriage someday. a handshake goodbye, an empty palm toast to good luck - "even when we stand still, i guess time is still forcing us somewhere, so here's to hoping that we can learn to love where it puts us".
Track Name: State Route 89
my first house was a mountain that i scaled with deceptive hands, eluding the potential consequence of commitment. the night peeled itself up for the dawn, as i stood atop centuries of rusted white rock. and the palo verdes postured inside each hopeful pause of my elegy to brahman, to buddha, to god. but now i can feel my spirit receding into the war paint that i slather on my skin each time i see a new day. the psychic told me i should change my name. i'm still shifting tea leaves to connect these broken lines, as i tumble spoke to spoke on the wheel of time. so i dragged my sweaty words up and down state route 89, past signs for aura photos, just $39.95. the psychic told me i'm running out of lifetimes. i met a child inside my twelfth house. he told me his name was azrael. and he took my finger and i called him friend. and we made a mural out of colored sand. then i stood and wept as the infinite wind sowed our work across the dirt with such painful indifference. and he said "each tiny life is just running toward its end, but joy doesn't have to be dissolved by impermanence. this is the way i will appear to you again."
Track Name: Prairie Fire
i left my i locked in my cellar, then went searching for it in the woods. i soon forgot to where i'd given it and saw barely past the place i stood. and soon i found myself lost. the forest wandering amongst itself. and i accosted my absent i for dragging me to where i was now held. i cursed my name and i threw up my hands, staring at the path that had moved me here. i crawled further up the path, on which i was pushed, i did not choose. my feet discovered a stretch of blank land. but there were strands of black coals shouting under my shoes. then i saw the earth's windy arms conducting a leaping wall of flames. my flowery discourse lacked consequence in the flailing light of its face. when i told the fire of my tragic fortune, he replied - "only you can allow you to be moved". and then i watched the prairie grass, so patient. waiting humbly for its turn. knowing its time as this form was over, just waiting now for its rebirth.
Track Name: Stone Soup
the wind is shaking the trees into a panic, and the august rain is cold on my face. on the porch smoking the cigarettes that i told you i quit, i can hear the cars sigh along the interstate. i've been trafficking in costumes. feeding my feral dreams. carrying a bag of smooth stones to make soup. i'd fill my stomach while the weather was fair, and be gone before the dawn ushered out the moon. i was breaking off my baby teeth on handfuls of woodrose seeds. and leaving before i could be left. she said - "settle down". i said - "i'll die a stranger instead". i ran out to middle west wyoming where the plates lift up the earth just like a crown. i crawled to the summit to watch it collect my sorrow. but all i saw up there was a hell of a long walk down. i've been scattering my shadow. chasing epiphanies. finding new cities to make more old friends. thinking if i kept my distance i could shed my body and return to the world a brilliant myth. but now i can hear my own pathetic moan rattle in a payphone. why do i only feel love when i'm alone? but i buried my breadcrumbs, and now i can't find my way home. i thought i was faster than my sorrow. but it's been biting at my heels at every turn. carving staves into stones, to keep away the heartbreak from a love i can't seem to feel that i deserve. there's a little dog out standing by the front porch. he's been out there barking almost every night. meloney says that i should go and meet him. i'm thinking i just might. i've been feeding my mirror fears with all of my healthy tears. what a waste of twenty fucking years. every soul i've ever known, we are all an aspen grove. and i'm done trying to disappear. she whispers goodnight and i think i'll be staying here.