Josh Ritter’s song The Curse has had me tangled up for weeks now. When I first heard it on the radio, the music and Ritter’s voice sufficiently pulled me in, so I downloaded the song. I have a long, shameful history of falling wildly in love with voices, and Ritter’s voice tugged my fickle, musical heart. The second time I heard The Curse, I started to listen to the words and was intrigued to find an actually story embedded in the song which required some effort to unwind in my mind. I really appreciated the artist trusting the listener to do the work needed to visualize the world and characters he was creating. He wasn’t offering up one of the typical songish themes of:
• I love you.
• I lust you.
• I hate you.
• Why did you dump me?
• Take me back, please.
• Look at me. I’m so fine.
• My parents/boss/girlfriend/boyfriend/the government sucks.
• Girlfriend in a coma. Oh, no. Oh, no. It’s serious.
Ritter’s song spins out a complete, lovely, magical story. Yes, it is a sort of love story, but not your usual love story. The Curse is so full of beautiful lines and images. Pulling them out of the song really diminishes them, but yet, I’ll do it anyway. Bad me. Here are some of the lines that keep tumbling through my idle mind, poking at my psyche, and seeming to beg to be more adored and explored:
• Dry fig of his heart
• The first time he moves it’s her hair that he touches
• She asks if he’s cursed. He says I think that I’m cured.
• Chaos ensues
• She asks if he’s cursed, but his answers obscure
• A sandstorm of flashbulbs and rowdy reporters
• She’s just one more rag now he’s dragging behind him
• Why pyramids? Think of them as an immense invitation
• Then he kissed her and hoped that she’d forget that question
Every time I hear the song, the line that really makes my heart skip a beat and painfully slow its rhythm is the “she’s just one more rag now he’s dragging behind him.” So powerful in its subtlety. The implied pain softly muttered in that line. Oh immortals, it never pays to love us mortals. We humans are so transient and fragile. We always, always die, and behind us leave some sweet-scented memories of doorways and hair and beautiful boats, and then a long, dusty, ragged eternal trail of sorrow.