Monthly Archives: November 2012

“Putting Peace to an End” Live at Rose Street

(Note to trauma survivors: This song is about a child abuser, so if you think you may be triggered, even by oblique and poetic references to that kind of person, just skip this one.)

(Note to everyone else: My introduction’s a little long, so move the video’s time slider to 1:32 if you’d like just to cut to the chase.)

“Putting Peace to an End” is one of my songs that came about from a traditional, bottom-up process. In this context, “bottom-up” means it’s a song that started life from noodling, goofing around, or just being playful. Somewhere in the midst of a seemingly-random jumble of notes and words, I’ll come across a particular combination that catches my ear, so I decide to keep it instead of “catch and release”. (The opposite of this is “top-down”, i.e., a song written with a specific agenda from the get-go.)

It didn’t take me long into this bottom-up process to realize that I was writing a song about a child abuser. The question “Where did you learn?”, of course, is rhetorical. I believe in the hardware of genes, but I believe just as much in the not-yet-understood software of memes. And what people who think in terms of exploitation need above all is…better software.

Putting Peace to an End

Where did you learn to color the sunset
A dozen dull shades of blood red?
To sing along sweetly and ever discreetly
Ensure that your friend is misled?

Where did you learn to burn a hole
In every Welcome mat?
Where did you learn…
To work someone over like that?

Where did you learn to wait like a snake for your
Supper to stumble to you?
To stare, never blinking, while children go weeping,
And break every crayon in two?

When was it sane when love became
A game of tit-for-tat?
Where did you learn…
To work someone over like that?

   How did fate create a merciless robot from a man?
   Did it seed the sharpest weed with leather belt in hand?
   Does the gutter call you brother, alley call you friend
   Every night that you spend putting peace to an end?

Where did you learn to nurture each word that old,
Sick mother English threw up?
To carefully carry, bind, and then bury all
Feelings you ever knew of?

Conjuring compassion like
A rabbit from a hat,
Can’t you see your likeness in
Each bawling little brat?
Will they learn their lessons from
The blackboard or the bat?
Where did you learn…
To work someone over like that?
© Copyright 1999-2012 Nate Orshan

This version of “Putting Peace to an End” was recorded live at Rose Street Cooperative and Artists’ Gallery in Burlington, Vermont, USA, on Friday, September 21, 2012.