News from the nest

Another Tale of the Forest God

Children of the Forest God (3495 words) by MToddWebster
Chapters: 1/3
Fandom: Andrew Hozier-Byrne (Musician), Forest God – Fandom
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Forest God & his offspring
Additional Tags: forest god, Parent-Child Relationship, Folklore, Celtic Mythology & Folklore, Pagan Gods
Series: Part 5 of Tales of the Forest God
Summary:

Three children of the Forest God, in three different times and places, seek their true father in the woods.

 

Fuck subtlety: A look at Hozier’s “Jack Boot Jump”

First of all, this is a jack boot.

Image result for jackboot

Second, this is a jump.

Third, this is a jack boot on your face.

(Content warning for violence/brutality)

I was privileged to see Hozier live in Washington, D.C., and to hear “Jack Boot Jump” two days before it was released. Introducing the song, he talked about Woody Guthrie, protest songs, and deciding to “fuck subtlety” and write the song that wanted to be written.

As lyrics go, “Jack Boot Jump” is about as sophisticated as a jump-rope rhyme. That doesn’t matter; “We Shall Overcome” is not a masterpiece of poetic complexity, either, but it carried people through a lot of trials during the Civil Rights Movement. I think “Jack Boot Jump” is here to carry us through our civil rights movements, our climate change protests, our resistance to oppressive governments, and I think it’ll do the job well.

The lyrics name Standing Rock here in the United States, Moscow, and Hong Kong as places of resistance, places where the jack boot jump is also taking place. It’s the stomping of capitalist and governmental forces on resistance to oppression, the increase of police and military brutality against “people standing up”. Hozier also quoted the famous and not at all outdated line from Orwell’s 1984, about the future imagined as a boot stepping on a human face. The Beijing government, the Putin regime in Russia, the Trump administration are all alike pushing back against demands for freedom, justice, equality, a response to the catastrophic climate changes taking place.

The most important verse is the last:
All around the world
You’d think that things were looking rough
But the jackboot only jumps down
On people standing up
So you know good things are happening
When the jackboot needs to jump
Here’s the good news Hozier is trying to give us: Repressive governments only crack down when there’s resistance. Cops beating up protestors means the protestors are right. It’s the same principle that there were no laws against same-sex marriage until same-sex couples began demanding marriage for themselves; it was so unimaginable to most people that there was no need to forbid it, until it became imaginable and therefore possible.

What makes this song so good is the music. Hozier looked at his influences, at the history of protest music, and made an unusual choice: He grabbed the blues. Not spirituals, not white folk, but blues, and dirty blues at that. Seen live, “Jack Boot Jump” is electrifying, a virtuoso dialogue between Hozier’s guitar (and he really does underplay his guitar skills) and Rory Doyle’s consummate drumming. It’s a song that’s not for marching in the streets so much as running, dancing, and possibly fucking, because standing up and dancing is a perfectly legit way to fight back against the jack boot jump.

POEM: Berlin, November 9, 1989

A number of blogs I follow on Tumblr posted images from this date: The destruction of the Berlin Wall. Those images gave me this poem.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.
Our poet said that, Robert Frost, the quintessential
Yank who was born in California
(and what could be more American than that?).
There is a groundswell, a shift in
the tectonics; there are roots, rocks
that freeze and swell and crack.
A wall is a human thing. It means nothing
to the flying crow, the crawling bug,
the leaping fox, to the nature spirit.

Yet the something that doesn’t love a wall
may also be the human spirit: the grandmother
who hasn’t seen her newest grandchild
because she cannot pass the wall; the lover
who has not embraced their beloved
because they cannot pass the wall;
the friends who no longer drink and talk
by night, laughing and discovering,
because the wall rises up between them.
The thing that doesn’t love a wall
may be human hands with shovels,
with sledgehammers, human hands
and human feet, human love and
human rage. The thing that doesn’t love a wall
is love itself, which crosses separations.

They learned that in Berlin, in 1989.
If we put a wall here, where nature only
put a river, if we put stone and steel
or concrete or barbed wire where only
water runs, if we try to build a wall
around the human heart and make it proof
against compassion, against love, against
justice, well, listen to our American poet,
listen to the quintessential Yank:
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.

Prayer and contemplation: Hozier’s “Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue)”

“Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue)” is an unabashedly raunchy song. (Do people still use the word “raunchy”? It’s the word that comes to mind when I think about these lyrics.) In case anyone missed it, Hozier himself has kindly informed us that it is, indeed, a song about oral sex (and you can watch this and treat yourselves to the sight and sound of Hozier saying “oral sex”). It is, specifically, a song sung by a man about receiving oral sex–to put it bluntly, it’s about getting a blowjob. It’s also an elaborately worded, punning plea to consider the possibility of equality in sexual dynamics.

Hozier begins with an oblique evocation of a world in turmoil:

When stunted hand earns place with man by mere monstrosity

Alarms are struck and shore is shook by sheer atrocity

(Is it stretching a point to think that the “stunted hand” refers to a certain American President and the mockery of his small and pudgy hands?) The next two lines detail the singer’s response to a world of monstrosity and atrocity:

A cure I know that soothes the soul, does so impossibly

A moment’s silence when my baby puts the mouth on

Hozier teasingly trails off here, letting his voice slide immediately into the next line, but the meaning is clear enough: When the world is too much with us, oral intimacy is the cure. Note that, yes, “the mouth” is what the official lyrics say (although he has clearly sung it as “their mouth” in concerts), and that the soothing of the soul comes through something that happens *to the body*.

So “my baby puts the mouth” on segues into:

Me and my babe relax and catch the manic rhapsody

All reason flown, as God looks on in abject apathy

“Manic rhapsody” is a delightful phrase just because of the internal rhyme; I am reminded of the line “electing strange perfections in any stranger I choose” from “Someone New” on his debut album. More important, however, is the declaration that “God looks on in abject apathy”. The singer and his baby are having sex, specifically non-reproductive sex, and God simply doesn’t care. In a Catholic culture like Ireland’s, sex that doesn’t lead to babies, even or perhaps especially between a man and a woman, is a definite no. Hozier carefully doesn’t specify his lover’s gender, but either way, they are defying churchly rules and God doesn’t care.

A squall, and all of me is a prayer in perfect piety

A moment’s silence when my baby puts the mouth on me

Hozier follows this utterly blasphemous statement with an unabashed blues wail that, heard live, will make your hair stand on end. (My hair remembers vividly.) His nonverbal outcry in response to receiving oral sex is called “a prayer in perfect piety”, which is also a “moment’s silence”. The silence, one supposes, is mutual: He’s nonverbal with “manic rhapsody”, and his baby can’t talk because their mouth is full. The lyrics hint that, as in his signature tune “Take Me to Church”, it is his lover he worships, no more, no less.

Internal rhymes and end-rhymes both veil the explicitness of these lyrics. The chorus offers us a deadpan pun:

When the meaning is gone

There is clarity

And the reason comes on the common tongue of your loving me

I am entirely certain that “common tongue” is a deliberate pun on “come on tongue”. Hozier did say the song was about oral sex, and I did warn my readers that it is raunchy. But it also evokes the act of oral sex as an act that all gender/sexuality combinations have in common. That brazen pun is coupled with a description of the act as love. Here’s where things begin to get really interesting. In a moment of silence that transcends meaning with clarity–which might be a description of contemplative prayer–the singer understands “the reason” through an act of sex that’s also an act of love. If “Take Me to Church” borrowed the imagery of formal worship for its lovers’ intimacy, “Moment’s Silence” is riffing on the idea of contemplation, of a silent kind of prayer motivated by adoration and love.

The second verse of the song is Hozier’s call out of people with a quite different approach to giving and receiving oral sex:

What yields the need for those who lead us oh so morally

Those that would view the same we do through their deformity

The moral leaders no doubt include politicians and other authority figures as well as authorities within the Church. What is the deformity to which he refers?

Who view the deed as power’s creed, as pure authority

This moment’s silence when my baby puts the mouth on me

Pardon me for being blunt here. Andrew Hozier-Byrne is a 29-year-old man living in the age of free porn on the Internet. It hardly seems possible to me that he has not seen oral sex scenes in porn, that he is not referring here to the kneeling woman servicing with her mouth the man looming over her, often gripping her hair or holding her head between his hands. And it hardly seems possible to conclude that the pleasure of receiving such sexual services is less in the physical sensations than in the emotional charge of using, even forcing another person to provide them, in a humiliating way.

These lyrics seem to me to be looking at that dynamic and rejecting it as a deformity, a distortion of what is a potentially loving and even contemplative act. The remainder of the lyrics reiterate the possibility of sex as an expression of love rather than power, while the music, a simple but powerful blues riff, increases in intensity. Hozier sings four couplets over the frenzied accompaniment:

Since it all begun

To its reckoning

There the reason comes on the common tongue of your loving me

First, he links reason to love: reason meaning the motivation or justification for the act of love.

Be thankful some know it lovingly

There the reason comes in the common tongue of your loving me

Here he insists the most forcefully and unambiguously that for some people, the act of oral sex is not about power but about love.

Like a heathen clung to the homily

Let the reason come on the common tongue of your loving me

At that point he shifts from the indicative “there” to the imperative “let”. In the simplest terms, he’s asking permission to orgasm, but I think there’s also a hint of “reason” as a synonym for “knowledge”. In Biblical Hebrew, “knowledge” is a synonym for sexual experience, and in Catholic theology, the fullness of knowledge can only be experienced through love.

So summon on the pearl rosary

Let the reason come on the common tongue of your loving me

Hozier ends with an image that is at once explicitly religious and explicitly erotic, even pornographic, as the pearls of the rosary are slang for drops of semen splashed on skin.

“Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue)” is a fusion of the erotic, the religious, and the blasphemous even more explicit and potent than “Take Me to Church”, with an irresistible blues melody that can make the tiredest feet get up and dance (if those feet are mine, at any rate). If he keeps writing music like this, I will assuredly keep listening, dancing, singing along when I’m alone, and writing elaborate analyses like this one.

My long career in fanfic

Over the years, the Open Doors project has imported works from numerous older fanfic archives, going back into the 1990s. These earlier archives were usually single-fandom collections, often created and maintained by one individual, albeit with some automation. Thanks to the OD project, I’ve just added over forty stories to my works at the Archive of Our Own, mostly from Down in the Basement, the great slash archive of X-Files fandom, with a handful of Harry Potter works that were once archived at Ink-Stained Fingers. Some of these stories… I hesitate to say it, because wow, do I feel old… but some of these stories are over twenty years old now.  Nevertheless, you can now survey two decades of my writing at AO3. Enjoy! (And if you do, buy me a cuppa?)

FIC: A new Forest God story

The Witch in the Woods (3124 words) by MToddWebster
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Andrew Hozier-Byrne (Musician)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Graphic Depictions Of Violence
Characters: the forest god, OFC
Additional Tags: forest god, Forests, Puritans, Witches, Witchcraft, Witch Hunts, Sacrifice, Human Sacrifice, Wendigo, European settlers misunderstanding indigenous American spirit lore
Series: Part 4 of Tales of the Forest God
Summary:

The witch must be sacrificed to the god she worships. So the Puritans think, but the Forest God has other ideas when he finds a helpless girl in his woods.

 

FIC: “The Poisoned Gift”

The Poisoned Gift (6492 words) by MToddWebster
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Andrew Hozier-Byrne (Musician), Schneewittchen | Snow White (Fairy Tale), Fairy Tales & Related Fandoms, Den lille Havfrue | The Little Mermaid – Hans Christian Andersen
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Major Character Death
Relationships: OMC/OMC
Additional Tags: background M/M relationship, Poisoning, Attempted Murder, Magic, Dark Magic, Horror, Musicians, Academia, True Love’s Kiss, POV Outsider
Summary:

In which Hozier takes the role of the Evil Queen, so to speak. A shrewd bystander notices something wrong with the relationship between a teacher and a student at a music conservatory, and it’s not what you might think. Who has the fairest voice?

 

apple fruit healthy food
Photo by Bruno Scramgnon on Pexels.com

A tweet from Hozier inspired me and two friends of mine who are as mad about the Irish musician as I am to write three variations on the tale of Snow White, casting Hozier in the three principal roles: Snow White, her prince, and her evil stepmother the Queen. The lot of evil stepmother (?) Hozier fell to me, and this is what I made of it. I urge you to read not only my story but my collaborators’ (theirs are far more romantic).