Brian Laidlaw

Poet | Songwriter | Educator

The family trade

 

I have a family,

And they know that I know they don’t know what I do.

There were times they tried to damn me

Or change the terrain that my river ran through.

But they love me without preconditions,

They send a few coins and provisions,

Advise me on my bad decisions

With the books that they hold to be true:

 

Don’t rock the boat, play the hand that you’re dealt,

Have faith your lord and in Roosevelt;

When I’m bound with a rope or lashed by a belt

They say it’s for my own protection.

They say it by post and collect telegram

That fame is a hoax and pride is a sham

But their postcards aren’t close to a wide enough dam

To cause a distinct redirection.

 

I don’t regret the choices I have made;

I know my blood will not degrade.

I won’t take part in that charade

Of the family trade, the family trade.

 

I’ve got a sibling,

And I know that he knows that I know that I’m wise.

When he’s drunken and dribbling

He’ll stare at the air and rhapsodize:

He says what is the merit of merit,

We’ll probably die in a garret.

Violence is all we inherit –

That, and our pretty boy eyes.

 

He taught me to rob, to brawl and to binge,

To forgo the knob and kick straight for the hinge.

He keeps testosterone in a syringe

Lest he or I should falter.

He was the chalk for my blank slate,

He taught me to talk like a reprobate,

& when I’m to walk through some narrow strait

He is my rock of Gibraltar

 

I don’t regret the choices I have made;

I know my blood will not degrade.

I won’t take part in that charade

Of the family trade, the family trade.

 

 

I have a lover,

And I know that she knows that I know I might fail,

But she helps me recover

When the shadows of dogs are too close on my trail.

Her versions of dreams are benevolent;

Her morals are never self-evident:

She says wherever the hell the devil went

He never once landed in jail.

 

I wasn’t cut out for college alright,

But somebody noticed my wattage was bright.

You invited me into your cottage one night,

And allowed me to stay till the morning.

You’re the only one I never tried to beguile;

You’re a claustrophobe and a bibliophile.

You said you admired my confident smile

& the fear that my smile was adorning

 

I don’t regret the choices I have made;

I know my blood will not degrade.

I won’t take part in that charade

Of the family trade, the family trade.

 

I’ve got a viewer,

And you know that I know that you know I’m a liar

But you let me procure

The tailored untruths that these times require

My gunplay is screenplay fodder 

America loves a marauder

My bonnie lies over the water

By which I mean lies under fire

 

She and I broke innumerable laws

She and I broke both palates and jaws

The audience broke into raucous applause

For the prince and the princess of jail-bait

This is the upshot of acting genteel

An American car with a man at the wheel

Our dimples and teeth on a magnetic reel

Put your head and your heart in a stalemate

 

I don’t regret the choices I have made;

I know my blood will not degrade.

I won’t take part in that charade

Of the family trade, the family trade.

 

 

 

I have a father,

And I hope that he knows that I hope that he’s proud,

But fatherhood’s like a revolver

And children are bullets sprayed into a crowd:

Their actions aren’t meant to be mastered.

They get wiser, get women, get plastered.

And I’m not exactly a bastard

But I don’t speak my surname aloud.

 

I’m the son of a lawyer who’s the son of a lawyer

But I’ve never had a consistent employer;

I want to be Twain but I end up like Sawyer,

So I look for the silver lining.

The law too swiftly equates to a noose,

The heart is the target of the mind’s abuse,

Now my mind and my heart have called for a truce

And I hope that you’ll come for the signing

 

I don’t regret the choices I have made;

I know my blood will not degrade.

I won’t take part in that charade

Of the family trade, the family trade.

 

I have a maker,

And I hope that he knows that I know what he spawned.

I’ve been tied to his third of an acre

But I’ve done my worst to unravel that bond.

Though his image is written in jissom,

Between father and son is a schism:

We’ve split like light through a prism

That colors the great beyond.

 

Now my collar is straight, my hair’s properly coiffed,

When I’m stuck in the shallows & the river silt’s soft

God’s like a gallows to hold me aloft

While the mob at the backdoor is banging.

They’re demanding my tongue for speaking in slang;

I’ve been part of the chain, I’ve been part of the gang,

Now I hope I’m remembered for the hymnals that I sang

& I hope that you’ll come to the hanging.

 

I don’t regret the choices I have made;

I know my blood will not degrade.

I won’t take part in that charade

Of the family trade, the family trade.