Drown your sins in tartar sauce


I would rate my musical talent somewhere between caterwauling feline in heat and outraged parrot chasing an ornithophobe through a china shop. It’s a shame because I would like to pretend that I’m at least moderately talented at everything but this simply is not the case. Which is why it was particularly frustrating for me when my first two readers returned from the first draft of Scourge of the Righteous Haddock with the same notes: Ditch the references to already-existing songs and write your own. I mean, c’mon, what self-respecting fantasy novel doesn’t have its own original song?

So, with much moaning and complaint, I wrote my song, “The Haddock Hymn.” As the name suggests, I was riffing off the idea of religious hymns, those sort of drone-like chants that are less art than call to religious arms. It took me awhile to understand what I was trying to do, and I found the prospect of writing a song so daunting that it hung over my head for several weeks like a persistent cloud of doubt I could not seem to shake. Once I understood what my intention was, I have to admit I rather enjoyed the writing process. It brought me back to all those years of carefully crafting poems in middle and high school–pieces that, thankfully, never saw the light of day, though they did serve the important purpose of feeding my drive to write while my skills, ideas, and vocabulary developed into something I now consider passably good.

So then I had this song to accompany my book. I was sufficiently pleased with it that I decided that I want it to play a central role in the book trailer for Scourge of the Righteous Haddock. However, I only had lyrics and not nearly enough musical talent to turn them into something more. I pitched the idea of turning my lyrics into a song to some of my more musically gifted friends and acquaintances but didn’t get many bites. It was a frustrating couple of months–me eager to move forward with the book trailer, propositioning anyone I had ever heard hum more than a few bars of a song. I tend to abide by the adage that if you want something done, you’d better do it yourself. People surprised me during those rough couple of months when my to-do list could have been wrapped around the earth at least once with enough spare paper to tie a neat little bow on top. They loaned me dollhouses and designed a beautiful cover and mixed drinks at my book release party. But none of them could be motivated to bring my lyrics to life.

I kind of gave up on “The Haddock Hymn.” I’m not proud of that fact, but it beat being frustrated and haranguing my musician friends on an almost daily basis.

And then I was invited to read an excerpt from Scourge of the Righteous Haddock at a poetry reading at The Steynberg Gallery. There was a musician there–Dennis Ray Powell Jr–and he sang this haunting song called “The Fucked Up Holy Ghost.” Colin and I were both sufficiently impressed and intrigued that I think it was Colin who suggested that I ask Dennis if he’d be interested in putting together the song.

Long story short, Dennis agreed and he’s been working on “The Haddock Hymn” ever since. A couple evenings ago he messaged me to ask if it was alright with me for him to sing it at Poetry Church on Thursday, March 20 in San Luis Obispo. I agreed, of course, and am now counting the days until I finally get to experience this song I’ve been waiting to hear for nearly a year. I wonder what I will think and feel when I hear it, and I keep going back to that moment when I first saw Emily’s face, after Lena Rushing created the collage that would become central to the cover of my book. The wonder and recognition I felt when I saw her. Will I feel that same recognition on Thursday night? Is it blatantly egotistical to fall in love with something you’ve had a hand in creating?

In case you’re free Thursday night and would like to hear the debut of “The Haddock Hymn” and want to hum along, here are the lyrics:

There’s fog today in Nonpa,

Death seduced the mayor’s wife,

But there’s light enough in Gu’pl

To restore her soul to life.

Cansem tempts the blameless

Come dance at The Brass Rail,

But there’s soy sauce enough in Gu’pl,

To cleanse you, whole and hale.

Renounce your dalliance with witchraft

In a vat of vinaigrette,

Bid farewell to your false idols,

Marinara cancels out your debt.

Tobasco for your buggery, catsup for your smut,

Whipped mayonnaise upon the pate of each and every glut.

No canker left to fester, no depravity to decay,

Submerged in teriyaki, your soul will never stray.

For there’s redemption to be found in Gu’pl,

Redemption enough for all,

Drown your sins in tartar sauce, join the haddock cause!

We’ll torch the trees that write history,

We’ll reclaim the status quo,

When we’re kicking down your door,

To save your immortal soul

At least you know where we stand—

In His grace, in His light

There’s haddock enough for all!

When every day’s a quandary,

Every choice a chance to err,

We stand among the righteous

Will you join us there?



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