by Jesse Olsen Bay

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    Lyrics from the song 'Winter' from Makings. 8" x 16" letter press print on heavy weight artist paper. Printed on an early 20th century press, by Eric Johnson of Iota Press.

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Music created from unpublished writings by my grandmother, acclaimed author/activist Tillie Olsen.


released June 29, 2014

Composed, performed, and recorded by Jesse Olsen Bay.

Mixed by Carlos Arredondo and Jesse Olsen Bay.
Mastered by Jonathan Burnside at A Secret Location.

Art by Brooke Holve

This album is dedicated to my grandparents: Sonia and Willie Margulis, Tillie and Jack Olsen.


all rights reserved



Jesse Olsen Bay Sebastopol, California

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Track Name: Everywhere But In My Grave
I am lost in my arrowing maze, stumbling dazed
I am drowned in a vast forgetting
I am washed by the waves, I am rocked
I am beached on your infinite body
I’m on a forced march from my country
I’m in the middle of a bad fix
I am sunk by the roadside

I am drenched
I am dazzled
I am lashed
I am twined
I am begging
I am bound
I am blinded

And I am thrust back into the long ago
I am thrust into the new
I am struck by the sun, I am prism
I’m in the white night of a storm
I’m in a stone fetus, trying to be born
I am holding my hands up, bleeding
I am trembling, I am ravenous, I am receding

I am innocent
I am ignorant
I am unspoken
I am resistless
I am yielded
I am closer, I am closer

And I am everywhere but in my grave
Everywhere but in my grave
Track Name: Memory's Kaleidoscope
The kaleidoscope, the twists and turns
The shapes and forms, reflected
The colors swirl, reveal, conceal
Memory’s mists are rising

What comes to the surface?
What remains, what never leaves?
What accidental wind blows the memory’s fragile seeds?
One blows to the rock, one blows into the sea
One finds deep and fertile earth, and grows into a tree

The breast less girl, forever young, under the Catalpa
The new ploughed fields, the black, stitched earth
I stretch my chest against it

The alleyways, the empty lots, the thunders in the night
The shirtwaists, and the clothes hanging dejected on the line
The moanings of the city dogs, the raven’s hacking caw
The smell of burning paper as we leave for Omaha

The Kansas coat, damp to the bone. Winter, 1930
Little one, the money’s gone. Hard times are coming
The nights I held them in my arms and gentled them to sleep
While songs of tangled searching twined through nerve and bone of me
The years move on, the ghosts awake, arise, and ask for life
The dusk is always falling and the evening always nigh
The dust is always restless and the wind is always high
Track Name: The Writers' Circle
When they lived, and were young, and the long day done
They put down their chores, and they walked the table round
The hours would pass as the writers would talk
Of people and fancies, and elegant thoughts

Charlotte, Emily, in the house all asleep
Anne, Katherine, in the night’s quiet deep
Whispering, musing, sparking, exchanging

Oh my sisters in pen, my embodied loved ones
When you lived, and were young, and ambition was strong
What might you have spoke, in the hours before dawn?
Track Name: Winter
The first sight of snow, that midnight
Opening the window for air
What I first wildly thought were insects
Like in the headlights, the burning nights of summer
No, snow bees
Snow comes back to me

Winter sun, the great white zero
Naked and burned, all against white, that contains all colors
The slow swirl, the howling wind
The moth snow, the fire of the year gone
Not even ember

Ice windows,ice lace
Ice threads, ice glass
Ice feathers, ice fleece
Ice tears, ice sheets

Sun striking ice prism
Violets, purples, and reds
The trace lines, permanent, transient
Fixed evanescence, visible and frozen

Ice cobwebs, ice coins
Ice leaf, ice wings
Ice coral, ice ferns
Ice ruffles, ice sheaves

Ice forms from formlessness
Ice ringing permanence
Electric calligraphy
Incandescent pagodas, Granadas

Ice pendants, ice pearls
Ice ghosts, ice grains
Ice crystals, ice curves
Ice harps, ice flames

Ice waterfall that does not fall
Translucent tears
The dream shapes and forms
Museum specimens, embedded
Angular Euclid, Steuben shapes
Motion in motionlessness

It was the heaviest winter in living memory
The snows heaped waist high, shoulder high
Two weeksd, I narrowed into my house, cloud cover topping my head
Mornings, the glistening walls dazzling
Blinded, I had to feel my way
Track Name: Fog
Fog, white wind, milk night
Hood, wisps, trail, down ­drift
Breath spirals, breath coils
Blowing veils, ribbons

Marvelous, the way the fog stands on the horizon
Solid soft and ragged, glows as if from underwater

Fog, swelling, thinning
Shawl over Sutro
Erasing, blotting
Revealing, baring

Fog that crowns my city, gentling the skyline
Fog inside whose shadow all other shadows are lost
Track Name: Hymn to Life
Anne, Anne, life is a miracle
You, you, you are a miracle
Breath, breath, to breathe is a miracle
Words, air, children, a miracle

I have a friend named Zdena
She’s like a little grandmother
I brought her some nasturtiums, and out flew a ladybug
She’s down on her hands and knees, looking for the little creature
To return it to the yellow flower, and put it in her scrap of yard
So that it may continue to live

She too could not take life
She could spill no blood

Anne, Anne, life is a miracle
You, you, you are a miracle
You strong song, rooted in miracle
Life is a miracle, words are a miracle, you are a miracle
Track Name: The Old Light
Orion, hunter, heavy and tired
Low and sparkling Sirius
Vega, rising
Glittering Taurus
Arcturus, bringer of Spring
Betelgeuse, Aldebarn, the Gemini, the Sickle
Flaring Venus in the western sky

The thousand year old light, shining from the hundred million suns
A thousand years and still traveling, to reach my eyes and travel on

The braid and combs of light, shining in an evanescent weaves
Tranquil, pure, and luminous
Center of dark radiance

Distance, distance, reaching on
To never see the new
And I’ll be dead a thousand years when the light of present reaches here

The old, old light
Track Name: The Dream of the Sunflower
This morning in the meadow, in the mild sunshine, sunflowers taller than me
A dream that floated up
As if I was still that child

Yes, there was such an empty lot, after the rain and heat
Sunflowers all seemingly higher than the grown-ups

The dream, the nightmare:
I was planted among them, stalk of me
Slowly, slowly, with the other heads, turning to keep the sun
Track Name: The Dead Bell
I do not stir
The frost makes a flower, the dew makes a star
The dead bell
Somebody’s done for
Track Name: Sister, Star
Breathe on me
Breathe on me still
Sister, Star

North Star in the dark night

Bearings, Steadiness, Radiance

The faith of your constancy
Track Name: This Ae Night
This Ae Night, this ae night, every night and all
Fire and fleet and candlelight, this ae night and all

This Ae Night, this ae night, every night and all
Light and sight and memory light, this ae night and all

...Oh my dead, beloved dead…
...My own death, my coming death…
...Every day and every hour…
Track Name: Madness
Nights now, unbound
I reach out my harkening hands
Madness, welcome
I seek you gladly

I yield, I yield
No more am I frightened
I yield, I yield
I know your secrets

Night scrawl, unwound
Let us now know each other
Madness, bleed out
I’ll make you mine

I bend, I break
the edge of the ocean, wherein I wander
I bend, I break
The edge of the desert, wherein I’m driven
Track Name: Thank You, Sleep
Cocooned here, sleep comes easy and deep
And when I dream, the dead live again
They come on in with a freedom memory cannot grant
And what I wake with, so beautiful

Thank you, sleep.
Thank you for the being with them again
In innocence and new
My dead, my beloved dead
Track Name: Father and Child
A man’s body, and his child’s, surrendered in sleep.

Center of radiance
Dark luminous radiance
Immense world
The father knows

Dark rays the radiance
Island of love,
Dark luminous radiance
A man’s body, and his child’s, surrendered in sleep
The trusting of sleep
Track Name: Aging
Now there is November in my body
and I’ve begun my journey into stone
The earthquakes and the fissures, the crevices and cracks
Covered in the siftings of the years

Look upon my face, the lines, the pits, the scars
The harrowings, the damages of days
Read my flesh and bone, my skin as if a map
The weathers, and the rivulets of veins

Aging, aging, slowly takes place

Find my grey and windy home
I am the twisted Cypress, the tree at timberline
Dust in my lungs, sea water in my veins
Burning coals in my heart
I am split open, the airs blow through
I wait for change to come again

I’ll shed my clothes
I’ll shed my hair and skin
I’ll shed my weariness and woes
What remains?
From the root, I am a human being
Track Name: Moon
Full moon, new moon, half moon
Setting moon, rising moon, ghost moon
Thing moon, swollen moon, scimitar moon

Curved moon, crescent moon, clear moon
Blood moon, pure moon, wafer moon
White moon, stained moon, roman coin moon

Dusk moon, oval moon, smoke moon
Naked moon, blinding moon, quill moon
Wraith moon, smolder moon, orange cup of moon
Track Name: Lullaby for Feverish Yetta
Cool silver pours into black night
Pearl rivers run into jade seas
White candles burn to still blue flames
And sleep sings slow dark melodies

And quiet sleep, and hushed sleep
will sing you slow dark melodies
Track Name: The Death Reader
Who will write these dead?
The refusing to go gentle
The glorious and conscious
The desiring not to know
Who will write this fight for life?
Track Name: Hiroshima
The bombs will fall on all, the weathered old, the infant young
Those who give life, and those who take

Never again let this be
Earth conceal not the blood shed upon thee
Track Name: Insomnia Flower
The night splits in two
The moan and tossing
The abrupt, gestured rising
Waking I sleep, sleeping I wake

The night is falling, and I am rising
Wall to wall down the narrow corridor
Gathering nightshade, insomnia flower

The night is pouring,
and I am swimming in my insomniac sea
Holy strange power, companioning me.

Where is my lullaby?
Someone to sing me, to rock me, to lull me.
Where is my lullaby?
Someone to sing me to sleep.

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