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A spiel about ‘fourthwrite’

What are you afraid of? Living through a pandemic has changed my experience of fear. It’s no longer something distant and abstract and sudden, like getting jumped on a dark street, or the slim chance of the plane you’re on crashing. Fear is running out of bread. Fear is something in the air that could kill you when you leave the house. Fear is constant and omnipresent, happening to strangers and to people you love. 

Some of the poems on “fourthwrite” were written before the pandemic, some during it; the bass compositions were written when Mike Watt, a legend of epic tours and performances, found himself sidelined at home. These forces are at work in the songs in subtle ways, just as life went strangely forward during the pandemic despite new fears. Some of the bass compositions have gaps and these gaps made me nervous and I wanted to fill them with extra vocals. I didn’t know what to make of the silence Mike gave me in the composition for “best before” because I was living with more silence in my daily life and it freaked me out. I ended up talking through it–bulldozing it. Mike’s bass playing, as always, is simple and physical and deeply intellectual at the same time. 

“best before” grew out of prompt by the poet CA Conrad. They said, we are all stuck at home–get to know it better. Try sticking your head inside your refrigerator! I did, and the results were weird and creepy and fun. The poem “hesperis” was written for Elizabeth Wurtzel, a contemporary and colleague of mine from my journalism days, who died in January 2020 at the age of 52 from breast cancer. I didn’t know Elizabeth well, only met her a couple of times and actually panned her book Prozac Nation when I was a critic at Newsweek. When she died I thought about the work I still want to do, the poems I want to write, the shows I want to play, I thought about the dreams in Elizabeth that wouldn’t be realized. I have fears about speaking my thoughts, about not writing well enough. The past year has taught me how lame that fear is on the scale of fears and helped me push it aside.

  1. yes, here
  2. the fulfillment brought about by distance
  3. hesperis
  4. best before
  5. an adult in his own house is also a child

released June 4, 2021

karen schoemer – vocal 
mike watt – bass 
all words by karen schoemer 
all songs schoemer/watt 
recorded during 2020/2021 in new york and california 
produced by mike watt 
all photos by karen schoemer

copyright jaded azurites. all rights reserved.

Watch the video for “an adult in his own house is also a child”:


He runs up the stairs two at a time. His hand skims the banister, his small boots leave dirt. His mother calls from the kitchen but he doesn’t answer. He needs to find something in his room, something that will prove to his friend he isn’t a liar. He looks in plastic bins filled with action figures and trading cards but it isn’t there. He looks under the bed where he stuffs unfinished homework and soiled clothes he doesn’t want his mother to find. He opens the closet door and there’s so much stuff—boxes and suitcases rammed into piles, outgrown coats, cracked leather shoes, his father’s old suits, funeral clothes draped in tissue paper—that the act of looking becomes a mountain. The house becomes a mountain house, craggy and peaked, damp and smelling of old leaves and metallic water. He is lost here. He needs a path out of this damp, dripping place threaded with black streams that lead deep underground. He climbs and the way is steep, the earth loose and strung with thick roots. He finds a toehold on a boulder and drags himself onto a ledge. Breathless, he scrambles for a vantage, loses his balance and tips forward on sheer, glistening rocks. 

by Karen Schoemer

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