Under The Gripping Beast

by Echo's Children

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For a journal bound in leather fine, as soft as human skin, A gripping beast embossed thereon and all the world therein, I bargained with a Power; I need scarcely mention who, And should I keep it till my death, the standard fee falls due. Under the gripping beast is all the price I'll pay, For I'm quits of all my bargain, if I throw the book away. But for that pain of parting, there can be no balm, nor salve; For just an hour longer, I will hold to what I have. I sat there, that first evening, the book upon my knee. I opened it, and held my breath, for fear of what I'd see. The stuff of creativity, from Hell and Heaven wrung; The ghosts of tales untested and of stories yet unsung. As I read, my breathing raced to meet my heart's demand, For scraps of songs and stories there were written in my hand. I turned to seize a pencil and my eyes were fever-bright; I slept but half an hour, but I wrote three songs that night. My songs and stories brought me joy, honor they did win. Without the book, I still would be an orphan looking in. The thought that I must lose it is the sum of all my fears. "For just an hour longer" -- I have held it fifty years. I've tasted of creation and the time draws near to rest, But I haven't finished writing, and the last must be the best. I battle death by inches and too soon will know defeat But I won't discard the book before my swansong is complete.
Bested 01:28
Better the snake you can see, the evil that's easy to show Bester's a creature we all love to curse, Still, if we kill him, the next may be worse Better the devil we know. We all had a reason to run, we all found the system a foe Their charts as our children, their drugs as our chain We can't even force them to taste of our pain Better the devil we know. Hiding like mice in the dark, we hear and the news is a blow Bester's on board and we all have to choose To flee or to murder or bet on a ruse Better the devil we know. Forbidden the touch of the friend, a telepath gloved has to go Mind touches mind when hand touches hand People don't like what they don't understand Better the devil we know. Now that the gloves have come off, take hands so the power can grow We'll crinkle his cortex and when we are done We'll leave him believing he actually won Better the devil we know!
Someone called me from the darkness, and I answered quick and dumb, And I reckon I'd be Vampire chow if rescue hadn't come. Well, I hit the carpet running, and I didn't shut the door; I don't think I'm going to answer when a stranger calls no more. Cause I, bin there, dun that, learned what I should know. Got the footprints on my tee-shirt, got the bruises I can show. Yes I bin there, dun that, learned to recognize When it's time to call for backup by the frenzy in their eyes. I got called up on a werewolf when the moon was full and fair, And I picked him up on second street and tracked him to his lair, Now he's backed into the darkness and he's watching with a grin I'm not dumb, I'm not expendable, and I'm not going in. Wizards can be touchy and they don't have many fans They're tight-lipped about their secrets & they're stingy with their plans But if you wind up all scorched you only have yourself to blame I don't recommend you push 'em when their hands are full of flame! Now those old Egyptian curses, sure they've got no sense of style; When you tangle with a mummy, you're tied up for quite a while. It's as strong as a gorilla and as stubborn as a mule; If you find another mummy, you can find another fool!
Oops 04:28
I find in the morning three times out of ten A patch of the grass has been flattened again; It isn't the bed of a horse or a steer; This hasn't been pasture for more than a year. I'm a young lady of savvy and charm; There isn't that much I don't know on the farm; Where cats get their kittens, how clouds make it rain I pester the grownups until they explain. Flatten the grass, flatten the grass What are they doing to flatten the grass? Flatten the grass, flatten the grass What are they doing to flatten the grass? Da says that people will look at the sky Watching the shapes of the clouds going by I've done it myself at the edge of the track The easiest way is to lie on your back, But this doesn't square with the way I behold The patches at daybreak all empty and cold. So here is a question I'll ask for a lark: How are they watching the clouds in the dark? Ma says at evening folk take the chance To practice a few of the steps of a dance; Over and over they turn on the sod And flatten the grass in the place they have trod. But here is the patch and I see it just fine; Too small for a ring and too short for a line. And here is a blanket; you have to concede That dancing should keep you as warm as you need! Peterkin told me if I'd come outside He'd tell me the answer and show me beside, But he was just fooling; I ought to have known. He started to kiss me when we were alone. I was so angry I stomped on his toes; I blackened his eye and I bloodied his nose. I guess it was stupid. I figure somehow If he knows the answer, he won't tell me now!
Wild Rose 03:42
Where the bees fly up, and they kiss the blossom's cup With a sharp and patient eye in the shadows you may spy. . . Wild Rose--wild Rose, lightly she goes And her bright skirt flows where the free wind blows. Wild Rose--wild Rose, shyly she grows And her heart she shows where no stranger knows Wild Rose. As ardently, and as clumsy as the bee My heart I did unclose, and kissed the trembling rose. . . Hummed soft upon the breeze by a choir of drunken bees Our song of love was played in a primrose-dappled glade. Now lone and lorn I see one late and laggard bee That stiffly home does wend, caught short by summer's end. .
The cloth-folding fingers that snip at the thread Seem blessed by dexterity I thought long dead Are these skills my own, or directed by one Whose hands never rested 'til her years were done? Grandmother's hands, grandmother's hands, Am I being guided by grandmother's hands? Grandmother's hands, grandmother's hands, Perhaps I am guided by grandmother's hands. I sit in my sewing room night after night Sometimes from sunset 'til early dawn light With costumes and fabrics too many to name Each project unique but the patience the same. Her slim, nimble fingers were ever employed Creating great beauty that many enjoyed For family and friends, Nile or Eastern Star She knit, baked, or cross-stitched from daylight 'til dark. Her legacy lives in her family's minds Some sew and some bake and some others draw lines With cinnamon rolls, flowers or hairpin lace, Each item an offering of talent and grace Grandmother's hands, grandmother's hands, Perhaps we are guided by grandmother's hands, Grandmother's hands, grandmother's hands, I think we're all guided by grandmother's hands.
I love you well as skylarks sing In soaring ecstasies of spring And twilight stars that shyly rise Yet seem no brighter than your eyes. You love me well as springing wheat Grows golden bright in summer heat And as the harvest apple glows The autumn warmth between us grows. And when my beauty all too brief Is withered like the autumn leaf And when your hair is frosted silver Winter sees us lovers still.
Green Willow 02:34
And all of the green willow Willow, willow, willow, willow And all of the green willow My garland shall be. If I've wronged any man, I shall do what I may I shall wear the green willow For a year and a day. And all of the green willow Willow, willow, willow, willow And all of the green willow My garland shall be Now I have no true love My bright garland to see Let the other maids wear the flowers It is willow for me. If he ever returns Let him wear on his brow The garland of green willow That I wore until now. If I've wronged any man, I shall do what may be But I wear the green willow For the wrongs done to me.
Lines of passion do I craft; If my gentle words offend, Dared I drink a deeper draught That which injures might yet mend. Though indiff'rence I pretend My spaniel heart you may perceive Fawning at your fingers' end. He who loves is doomed to grieve. A ring of mist and moonbeam drawn Glimmers on the velvet glen, To fade forever with the dawn, And vanish out of mortal ken. On spidersilk and starlight then, I tread the dance I dare not leave From joy to fear and back again. He who loves is doomed to grieve. Silken-soft the dancers go Light as milkweed on the air And their lightest kiss to know Triumph is, and black despair. Silver-sweet and feral-fair Loving looks in dance deceive. Step among them if you dare He who loves is doomed to grieve. Passion's pledge I dare not make. Never word our hearts may link. I may touch, but never take; Kiss the cup but do not drink. Shadows fall as dark as ink And darker eyes enchantments weave-- Trembling on passion's brink He who loves is doomed to grieve.
The buildings we raise, there are few who recall How heavy they are till in pieces they fall We searched for the living for hours, in dread Of days yet to come when we'd search for the dead. Some died in their cars at the heart of the blast, Some died when their windows flung daggers of glass Some died in the rubble, in darkness, alone Rebar and concrete their coffin and stone. Under the jumble that lay as it fell, We ducked in the dark and we crawled into hell Of dust, powdered sheet rock, crushed concrete and blood Of slime where the rain fell, and turned it to mud. Some we found hours past needing to free, Some we found prisoned by tons of debris, We levered them out, but the cutting was grim, Sometimes the rubble, but sometimes the limb. Worst were the children, so still in the rain Blood spilled like finger paint, scarlet as pain Like dolls they lay broken, with mud in their hair So easy to lift, and so heavy to bear. The killers would see, did they pause and look back The blood of the innocent cries from their track Hard though they run, they will find in the end Hell cannot hide them, nor Heaven defend.
Covered in dirt and mud, aching and spitting blood, Cursing, you stir to rise and groan. Muffled in yet-to-come mutters a battle drum Werewolves don't usually walk alone. Think on the battle-cost; this time the wolf has lost Beaten and broken and blind. Better beware, my lord; better prepare, my lord; I was the least of my kind. Prying my switchblade cold out of my fingers' hold, Pause to take stock, reflect, and rue. Look on the damage done here by a single one; What do you think a full pack will do? Careless I came by chance, joining in battle's dance Slain in a fight I could not win. Far-off a wolf pack hears; heads turn, with pricking ears. Thought you, my lord, that I had no kin?
From desert cliff and mountaintop we trace the wide design, Strike-slip fault and overthrust and syn and anticline. . . We gaze upon creation where erosion makes it known, And count the countless aeons in the banding of the stone. Odd, long-vanished creatures and their tracks & shells are found; Where truth has left its sketches on the slate below the ground. The patient stone can speak, if we but listen when it talks. Humans wrote the Bible; God wrote the rocks. There are those who name the stars, who watch the sky by night, Seeking out the darkest place, to better see the light. Long ago, when torture broke the remnant of his will, Galileo recanted, but the Earth is moving still. High above the mountaintops, where only distance bars, The truth has left its footprints in the dust between the stars. We may watch and study or may shudder and deny, Humans wrote the Bible; God wrote the sky. By stem and root and branch we trace, by feather, fang and fur, How the living things that are descend from things that were. The moss, the kelp, the zebrafish, the very mice and flies, These tiny, humble, wordless things---how shall they tell us lies? We are kin to beasts; no other answer can we bring. The truth has left its fingerprints on every living thing. Remember, should you have to choose between them in the strife, Humans wrote the Bible; God wrote life. And we who listen to the stars, or walk the dusty grade, Or break the very atoms down to see how they are made, Or study cells, or living things, seek truth with open hand. The profoundest act of worship is to try to understand. Deep in flower and in flesh, in star and soil and seed, The truth has left its living word for anyone to read. So turn and look where best you think the story is unfurled. Humans wrote the Bible; God wrote the world.
Via Astra 02:58
Held exalted, mute and awed, I see what night would show me Like the jewel of a God The planet high below me. Sapphire in the dark of space, Oceans veiled in cloud-spun lace, Mountain ranges twined Golden hazes deserts hide, Patient teacher, mother, bride, Our world, cradle of our kind. Far in space and sunlight hurled By dark and distance hidden Pieces of a stillborn world Wander wide unbidden. Treasure tumbles in the night Metals rare in airless flight Figure in the sum Yet knowledge is the greater part-- The secrets of a planet's start Await, we who yet may come. King of gods, old Jove is known By banded clouds unblending Whose face is marked by winds alone That spin in storms unending. Further out is Saturn crowned By triple rings that span him round. But when the dark we brave, Tiny moons precise we see Herding rings like filigree; A cairn marking a planet's grave Like stars, or gems in hair undone Her city lights become her Terra dances with the sun, Her curtseys ice and summer. I rode the fire into space To see the stars, but saw her face, The memory haunts me still. Veiled in my re-entry burn, Glad did I leave, and glad return To Earth, and lay me down with a will!
"They're looking for a scientist," my buddy said one day, "'Course, the only thing that's smaller than the quarters is the pay, But it does mean work in orbit--" I said "Get out of my way!" And it won't be much longer now. I've had a berth on Outward Bound since she was begun I've got a berth on Outward Bound and she's almost done I've got a berth on Outward Bound and--hey!--I've got to run! Cause it won't be much longer now. There is a ship a-building fifty miles above the shore Reliable and pressure tight and light enough to soar, Her cost is astronomical, her worth is even more, And it won't be much longer now. They've checked out all the gaskets and they've glued the rascals in. They're checking every circuit and they're checking every pin. The engineer is watching with this great big nervous grin, And it won't be much longer now. I've bought a tube of vacuum-seal; I figure it can't hurt. I'm counting every calorie and weighing every shirt. But I'm going to be a spacer lass, no more to walk the dirt. And it won't be much longer now. I've visited the doctor to be sure I wasn't ill I've visited the dentist till she sent me home to chill And just in case things don't work out, I've written out my will-- And it won't be much longer now. We mean to see a corner of this universe of ours, To watch the shifting heavens and write home about the stars In letters postmarked "Outward Bound" and counter-cancelled "Mars" And it won't be much longer now.
Dally, sweet singer, come settle and rest. The great redwoods whisper the secrets of green. Too long have you labored at hardship's behest Scratching a living too bitter and lean, Too much on your mettle, too long on your guard. . . Heather, you work too hard. Living your life like a vagabond child Learning to quiet the hunger that burns With snatches of music and song-snippets wild, But the sweetest song fades and the silence returns. Harried and heartsore, weary and scarred, Heather, you work too hard. Enter our fairy ring; here you will find Melody twined in the songs of the Sidhe. Glad ears to listen when you're so inclined, Voices to join you in time and on key Gallants just waiting to waltz with a Bard. . . Heather, you work too hard. Quicksilver laughter that slips through your fist You'd always have joined us if only you could. Follow our song and step into the mist. Your friends and your family will find in the wood Your footprints fade out till the dew lies unmarred. . . Heather, you work too hard.
Jenny wouldn't tell me why she lay awake last night, But I saw her wide eyes glisten in the candle's gauzy light; When I felt her body tremble to the pounding of her heart, I reached to touch her shoulder, and I heard the music start. I sat right up in bed and flung the window shutter wide My sister's flesh was icy as she shivered at my side The chestnut cast a shadow as I'd often seen before But I saw Jenny's eyes and she saw something more-- There is something by the chestnut tree that from the barrow came; It is singing to my sister, it is courting her by name. She says that she must marry him the night he comes again; I'll be rolled in flour and fried before he'll have our Jen! The flute's my only sweetheart; if this spirit fey and fell Thinks that music is his power, he may find it's mine as well. So I told her "Courage Jenny, for I think we have a chance; Though I cannot stop the wedding, let me play the wedding dance." It was an eerie wedding night, with no one there to see A shadow, and a shadow, and my sister there, and me And when the words were spoken and the spirit turned away, I lifted flute to lip, and I began to play. The flute spoke air and dancing; it was all that I could hear, And the starry sky above us made an icy chandelier My sister took the hand of someone almost in my view And drew him, half against his will, till he was dancing too. Jenny stepped and swirled with a shadow in the gloom Leading out the dancing, as they must as bride and groom And shadow doubled shadow, till apparent to my glance, The kinsmen of the groom were come to join the dance. I play their dance for hours in the melody entwined Till Jenny's passing feet are leaving tracks of blood behind. I see I have accomplished all I hoped I would achieve; They are captive to the dance, and while I play they cannot leave. But I cannot play forever here beneath the freezing skies My arms are made of lead, my hair is hanging in my eyes My fingers start to falter and to lose their strength and grace And the look of terror deepens on my sister's face-- I force my hands to melody; I know I must prevail For but a dozen minutes now--the sky is growing pale. The sun puts forth his finger as a soul in terror moans And the groom and all the wedding guests are only standing stones... Jenny crumples suddenly and all my strength is done And we laugh and cry together and we bless the rising sun And turn to eye the barrow, for the treasure it may hold-- For Jen's the Master's widow, heir to all his gold!


Echo's Children's first album, now out of print.


released October 1, 1997


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Echo's Children Portland, Oregon

In 1995 Cat Faber and Callie Hills teamed up to form Echo's Children, a duo known for well crafted harmonies and interesting lyrics about science fiction and fantasy subjects. They worked together until 2003, when Cat Faber moved to Tennessee and the group broke up. ... more

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