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Mid​-​Atlantic Ruins

by Chris Kiehne

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Holiday 03:10
It was a lovely holiday But, when the darkness calls, It calls irrevocably And it calls you by your name It calls you by your hidden name A bleakness fell upon my heart And a bloodiness draped all my thoughts Hallelujah, grace is gone Hallelujah, I’ve returned I have come home
Empty House 02:39
In the fall of that year I was limping around, unbrothered,  with an appetite for booze and blood And a cold wind rattling the busted shutters of my heart I was living in the city, I was living how I wanted,  but I wasn't having any fun So when I heard that county line calling my name I settled up In the shadow of the graveyard pine, by the property line, where my people put their ashes down, I found old jack dog just dragging his chains around he wasn't restored, he wasn't revived The suffering was in his eyes He was as bruised and busted up as the day he died He said: "boy, this death is an empty house. sometime I think I hear you calling out my name, and, even now,  I look for you in every room I follow every sound, but I'm just wandering around an empty house" I longed to put my arms around him I wanted to put my arms around him one last time I wanted to lay our bodies out in the tall grass And wake, reborn, to the wilderness I just wanted to hold you one last time Jesus Christ. I want to hold you one last time
October nights, the octobral air the old autumn movements, the quiet unrest a spiring of crows reaches up from the overgrown grass Hammer down on a newly slain doe her once white crest is all matted with blood she ain’t no sleeping god, she ain’t no oracle and this place is no place to sow hope
 I do still find joy in the company of men and I’m still often knelt by a woman’s hand so, in truth, i don’t know what this sadness is I don’t know it’s name When certain dark falls here, the reservoir parts and the day-sleepers, silt-strung, rise up they shuffle about, and they open their arms, and gracelessly wait for the dawn This place is so haunted - so swarming with ghosts -  that it’d take all my strength to get home so I join their assemblies I march when they lost and I search for what light I have lost Black-eyed choirs line the southeastern shore their corded necks straining skyward,  and torn in their efforts to sing just one last earthy song but nothing comes just that terrible tidal sound from the depths of their gaping mouths more reason to fear that what is sought here shall not be found just bones just bleached bones in the ground
Locust King 03:08
Seven years old With my grandmother in tow Through a late November snowstorm I saw behind the veil: your gnarled throne You sat alone on your isle on sun-bleached bone A hundred miles or more from coast to coast I shut my eyes and you were gone Locust King, what did I see? What did it mean? Was it just a dream, or some prophecy? Some ancient promise shown to me? I've since grown old. I cut my hair, I got this stupid job, and so many things I've know I have forgot. But still I see your spindling arms black out the sun. Locust King: when you return, what will you bring? Some strange new peace? Or malevolence? Some eldritch army shielded beneath your winds?
And then I traveled towards the town where I was born, just outside of Baltimore, toward my mother and my father and my sisters and their dogs. An autumnal country, every seventeen years fell upon by a great cicada swarm, and I am its native son.
I am its son. For several years I’d hunted through the northern corridors. I left a trail of wrathful lovers in my wake. But the time had come for me to quit that bacchanal and head back home, to put my daggers in the ground and show my hands. The phantoms where I’m from wander around the reservoir, beneath which sleeps a flooded town. Their once-lustrous eyes are gone as ashen as the belly of a moth. A woman stalks the hills there, robed in coursing swells of blood and waiting for her lovers arms, but her wound reopen nightly and her lover never comes. Dead lights dancing on the water. Cloven hoofprints on the shore. An awful clawing all amongst the fallen oak. I walk these hidden places as I’ve walked them times before… In Jackson Duke I lost more than a dear, devoted friend: He was a shepherd and a saint. My only earthly brother and a lionhearted prince. In his final dusking hours he stood bravely at my side. I kissed his muzzle and he smiled. Then I lifted up his broken brindled body and I said goodbye. And, now, on certain moonlit nights, a ghostly baying sweeps the forest, And I can picture him and his joyful wolfen grin. Rushing at the windswept grass, and snapping at the darkness. I would give anything to run with him again.
North of Hampton the hills turn wild with auburning maples and tangled briars Maidenhair and columbine coiled together in the broken light. Everything here shows design: the single pale yearling tracing through the pine, every interwoven vine, the spangling of sparrows spread across the sky. The Dark Vanessa shows her stripe. Angling skyward in her drunken flight,  she wheels, and then resigns. There’s a terrible silence to the sylvan life. I left a revenential town and I returned to the woods behind my parent’s house, but the local phantoms tracked me down. I nodded begrudgingly when I was found. Now, I pace these battlements. The moss covered ruins on the eastern ridge, where I’m told I once was king  (or some other noble principality). But over what could I ever reign? And who could have ever thought of me as sovereign? At my best, I’m a stripling.  I’m nothing like a man. I kneel to the bottle and the common curve of a woman’s leg. In the cold, haunted dim of the thinning moon, I watch these ruined halls reconstitute. Royal banners flag and the curtains plume and a lonesome keening fills every empty room, as a woman with coursing wounds  is summoned forth again from her hidden There’s this cold distance between All that she was, and is, and still must be But even in her suffering She’s the loveliest thing that I have ever seen She moves through these corridors at night, carrying all the thrones of hell inside her. Her lovely caprine eyes The skin birching off of her and tendrilling, she sings: “Is that all there is to a fire?”
So we found this place that we can haunt Old stone walls covered with wisteria Just Every morning is a brand new start The fog rolls in, and then the fog rolls out Big black snake living underneath the porch Bone white stag always watching us from the woods And a hundred million sparrows We got more friends out here than we had in New York Oh, my love: I think that we’ve done good There’s no one darkening our door We need not roam from here no more, baby We will haunt the moonlit corridors We’ll shake our chains, we’ll stomp, we will road We open a new bottle every night We’ll eat tomatoes rightly, off the vine Will run out with the dogs Baby, will go wild There’s no one darkening our door We need not roam from here no more, baby


Mid-Atlantic Ruins was an attempt to tell a story about ghosts, regeneration, and the Loch Raven Reservoir. It was the intended follow-up to Holy Court of Baltimore, and it was a doomed and damnable project. It never worked. I abandoned it sometime around 2011, so frustrated and disappointed with myself that I didn’t write another song for almost three years. I don't think I intended to ever write a song again. That didn’t stick.

These songs hounded me a little bit so I decided to record vocals and cobble together the abandoned pieces during this strange quarantine. Mostly these are clunkers (and these were the strongest of the batch), but there are moments that still really resonate for me: the second and third verses of “The Great Eastern,” the opening lines of "Holiday," the concluding stanzas of “Corridors” and “Assemblies.” There are shards of light. Certainly I can remember the kid that wrote those lines, and how he agonized over them, and how deeply felt they were. Dumb kid.

I wrote “Brand New Bottle” a year or two ago as a way to bury the project. It’s something like the conclusion I would have wanted for this story, which is a story about two haunted people coming together. They can’t quite shrug off their cursed spectral chains entirely, but they’re able to help each other bear the weight little bit.


released March 25, 2020

Created by Chris Kiehne.
With help from Peggy Lee.
For Lauren, Bones, and Cricket, with much gratitude.




Chris Kiehne Towson, Maryland

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