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Poetry Value of Musical Lyrics

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I have always said I don't "get" poetry or what defines good poetry.  I have always been drawn towards the First World war poetry because of its subject matter more than anything and I have a deep love for it. However, in the past few months or so I have found songs which spoke to me on a level (possibly because of the way I was feeling at the time) and I wondered if they could be classified as poetry in their own right?

I know there are many pretty dire songs out there, and some which don't mean anything and some which make you think what the hell were they smoking when they wrote that?! (I am the Walrus springs to mind!), but having said that I have found some songs which I think are pretty poetic, deep and meaningful.  Some of which are of a genre not known for those qualities.

When I was in a really dark place last summer I had this song on repeat on my phone and in my car.

Fade To Black

Life, it seems, will fade away
Drifting further every day
Getting lost within myself
Nothing matters, no one else

I have lost the will to live
Simply nothing more to give
There is nothing more for me
Need the end to set me free

Things not what they used to be
Missing one inside of me
Deathly lost, this can't be real
Cannot stand this hell I feel

Emptiness is filling me
To the point of agony
Growing darkness taking dawn
I was me, but now he's gone

No one but me can save myself, but it's too late
Now I can't think, think why I should even try
Yesterday seems as though it never existed
Death greets me warm, now I will just say goodbye

This is by Metallica from their 1984 Ride the Lightening Album. Now when I listen to it and it helps me fight and not return to that  place I was in
.

 

But back to the subject - I think these lyrics could be almost classified as poetic, what does anyone else think?

Edited by Apple

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In answer to the question, yes I think that song lyrics can be classed as poetry in and of themselves.  The one you chose to quote there is pretty dark but typical of  Metallica (I have their Black Album) and if it reaches out to you then it's done it's job.  Leonard Cohen has written some very dark things (I heard an album at a party - believe it or not! - that I was at as a teenager) and he's a very respected musician. 

 

Personally, I like Dio's work, specifically Holy Diver and The Last in Line.  It's difficult to isolate just one song, and I'm always in the mood, but I like this, a song called Invisible from Holy Diver :

 

 

 

If your circle stays unbroken
then you're a lucky man
'cause it never, never, never has for me
In the palace of the virgin
lies the chalice of the soul
and it's likely you might find the answer there

She had thirteen years of teenage tears
never a helping hand
She had fourteen more of rain before
she saw the sight of land
She was a photograph just ripped in half
a smile inside a frown
And then the light
the answer right inside her coming down
She said
I can go away I can leave here
I can be invisible
I'll go away

He was just eighteen and in between
a lady and a man
His daddy's girl in momma's world
that was when he ran
you know the word "confused" has been abused
but that's just what he was
And in the spark inside the dark
the answer came to call it said,

You can go away
you can leave here
you can be be be invisible

Well, I grew up quick and I felt the kick of life upon a stage
So I bought the book and took a fast look
at just the very last page
It was a single word that I'd just heard
from the two that came before
The only way to really stay
is to walk right out the door
So you can go away
I'm gonna leave here
I can be invisible and go away again
I can go away when I leave here
I can be invisible
I said when I've gone away
lord you know it's right to leave here
So I just became invisible
I went away,
I disappeared before your eyes.
You never touch me you never feel me
you'll never see me again
because I've just become unseen
Well I'm a photograph that's been torn in half
we're all eighteen and we're in between
We need a helping hand to the holy land
to be invisible
to go away

 

Dio never ever said what his lyrics meant, he always said that the listener was free to intrepret as they chose.  No longer with us he made a vast contribution to Hard Rock/Heavy Metal.

 

Good topic!

Edited by lunababymoonchild

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I have been studying some of the work of Kate Tempest with my senior pupils. She has both won the Ted Hughes Award for New Poetry and been nominated for the Mercury Prize, which would certainly suggest lyrics can be poetry!

http://www.katetempest.co.uk/

 

After watching a taster, the kids were of the opinion that, if something sounded like rap, was performed by someone who looked like them, and didn't appear in The Big Book Of Poems You Might Study At School, then it wasn't "real" poetry.

So I approached it from the other end. I handed out the lyrics of Roddy Frame's (Azec Camera's) song We Could Send Letters, as if it was a poem, and we discussed its meanings. Then I told them it was also a song, written by a 16 year old schoolboy from not very far away, albeit in ye olde 1980s. And I suggested that they wrote better songs back then.

Predictably, they fought back with poetic lyrics of their own choice, which won them over to studying some poetry from someone not dead, white and male.

 

So yes, I would have no problems with song lyrics being poetry.

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Great story MM, I wish I'd had such an enlightened teacher when I was at school.  :yup:

 

As for the lyrics as poetry I think many of them can cross over but a lot we might initially think as poetic lose their power without the musical backing. But does it really matter what we class them as, if they move us, challenge us, make us smile, ask questions etc then they're doing there job, with or without music. 

 

Here's one of my favourites that seems to work as both song and poetry - The Year of the Cat by Al Stewart

 

On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime

She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolor in the rain
Don't bother asking for explanations
She'll just tell you that she came

In the year of the cat

She doesn't give you time for questions
As she locks up your arm in hers
And you follow till your sense of which direction
Completely disappears

By the blue tiled walls near the market stalls
There's a hidden door she leads you to
These days, she says, "I feel my life
Just like a river running through"

The year of the cat

Why she looks at you so coolly?
And her eyes shine like the moon in the sea
She comes in incense and patchouli
So you take her, to find what's waiting inside

The year of the cat

Well morning comes and you're still with her
And the bus and the tourists are gone
And you've thrown away your choice you've lost your ticket
So you have to stay on

But the drumbeat strains of the night remain
In the rhythm of the new-born day
You know sometime you're bound to leave her
But for now you're going to stay

In the year of the cat
Year of the cat


Read more: Al Stewart - The Year Of The Cat Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

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I think that there are songs out there which as soon as I hear the music I get an emotional reaction of some description to them.  However, there are songs where its definitely the words which provide the bigger impact (for me).  I think sometimes its hard to distinguish whether its the music, or the words which draws you most or if sometimes its a combination of them both.

 

These are songs which (for me) like the Metallica song Fade to Black its definitely the words which have the bigger impact, about various topics

 

"Blowin' In The Wind" by Bob Dylan
 

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea?
Yes, how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can really see the sky?
Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
 
Another is a folk song by Terry Kelly called a Pittance of Time, which was brought to my attention after I had a rant on Facebook about a pig ignorant customer who refused to observe the 2 minute silence on Remembrance Sunday and after listening to it the words struck a cord.
 
"A Pittance of Time"
 
They fought and some died for their homeland.
They fought and some died, now it's our land.
Look at his little child; there's no fear in her eyes.
Could he not show respect for other dads who have died?

Take two minutes, would you mind?
It's a pittance of time,
For the boys and the girls who went over.
In peace may they rest, may we never
Forget why they died.
It's a pittance of time.

God forgive me for wanting to strike him.
Give me strength so as not to be like him.
My heart pounds in my breast, fingers pressed to my lips,
My throat wants to call out, my tongue barely resists.

But two minutes I will bide.
It's a pittance of time,
For the boys and the girls who went over.
In peace may they rest.
May we never forget why they died.
It's a pittance of time.

Read the letters and poems of the heroes at home.
They have casualties, battles, and fears of their own.
There's a price to be paid if you go, if you stay.
Freedom's fought for and won in numerous ways.

Take two minutes, would you mind?
It's a pittance of time,
For the boys and the girls all over.
May we never forget, our young become vets.
At the end of the line,
It's a pittance of time.

It takes courage to fight in your own war.
It takes courage to fight someone else's war.
Our peacekeepers tell of their own living hell.
They bring hope to foreign lands that hate mongers can't kill.

Take two minutes, would you mind?
It's a pittance of time,
For the boys and the girls who go over.
In peacetime our best still don battle dress
And lay their lives on the line.
It's a pittance of time

In peace may they rest,
Lest we forget why they died,
Take a pittance of time.
 
 
"Anywhere But Here" Five Finger Death Punch (feat. Maria Brink)

Some say a storm is coming,
Some say the end is near,
Some think it’s all so hazy,
I think it's all so clear.

If it all ends tomorrow,
If it all disappears
Where do you think you're going?
Anywhere else but here!

I don't claim to have the reasons!
All I know is
If the world stops spinning tomorrow
I'd never shed a tear!
I'd rather be anywhere, anywhere, anywhere but here!

Some say they have the answers,
Some say they know the truth,
Some people live in question,
Some people have no clue.

If there was no tomorrow,
If there was just today
Would you make different choices
Or would you stay the same?

I don't claim to have the reasons!
All I know is
If the world stops spinning tomorrow
I'd never shed a tear!
I'd rather be anywhere, anywhere, anywhere but here!

If there was no tomorrow,
If there was no tomorrow,
If there was no tomorrow
Would you stay, would you stay the same?

If there was no tomorrow,
If there was no tomorrow,
If there was no tomorrow
Would you stay, would you stay the same?

If the world stops spinning tomorrow
I'd never shed a tear!
I'd rather be anywhere, anywhere, anywhere!

If the world stops spinning tomorrow
I'd never shed a tear!
I'd rather be anywhere, anywhere, anywhere but here!
 
 
"Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails, but Johnny Cash made it his own

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end
You could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar's chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end

You could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt
If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way
 
 
 

 

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This is a lovely topic and so good to read the posts above, thank you all. MM, I do enjoy hearing about the way your classes react to various things, so good to know how such young people think as adults can't always get a response or get insight their minds as well as a trusted teacher.

 

I am not musical, very tone deaf, so the words of songs always mean more to me than the sound. Like Apple, the words of some songs have had great emotional impact and still do. One that meant a lot in the past and is now a beloved friend is

 

Bridge Over Troubled Water - Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel

 

When you're weary, feeling small

When tears are in your eyes

I will dry them all

 

I'm on your side

Oh when times get rough

And friends just can't be found

 

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

 

When you're down and out

When you're on the street

When evening falls so hard, I will comfort you

 

I'll take your part

Oh, when darkness comes

And pain is all around

 

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

 

Sail on silver girl, sail on by

Your time has come to shine

All your dreams are on their way

See how they shine

 

Oh, if you need a friend

I'm sailing right behind

 

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will ease your mind

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will ease your mind

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Simon and Garfunkel wrote a lot of songs that sound like poetry.

 

"The Sound Of Silence"

 

Hello darkness, my old friend,

I've come to talk with you again,

Because a vision softly creeping,

Left its seeds while I was sleeping,

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains

Within the sound of silence.

 

In restless dreams I walked alone

Narrow streets of cobblestone,

'Neath the halo of a street lamp,

I turned my collar to the cold and damp

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light

That split the night

And touched the sound of silence.

 

And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people, maybe more.

People talking without speaking,

People hearing without listening,

People writing songs that voices never share

And no one dared

Disturb the sound of silence.

 

"Fools," said I, "You do not know –

Silence like a cancer grows.

Hear my words that I might teach you.

Take my arms that I might reach you."

But my words like silent raindrops fell

And echoed in the wells of silence

 

And the people bowed and prayed

To the neon god they made.

And the sign flashed out its warning

In the words that it was forming.

And the sign said, The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls

And tenement halls

And whispered in the sound of silence.

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I think   I think sometimes its hard to distinguish whether its the music, or the words which draws you most or if sometimes its a combination of them both.

 

Great topic, Apple.

 

The Eagles are a recent discovery for me and I was attracted to "The Last Resort" initially through the melody. That's when I went looking for the lyrics:

 

"The Last Resort"

She came from Providence, the one in Rhode Island,

where the old world shadows hang heavy in the air.

She packed her hopes and dreams like a refugee,

just as her father came across the sea

 

She heard about a place people were smilin'.

They spoke about the red man's way, and how they loved the land.

And they came from everywhere to the Great Divide,

seeking a place to stand or a place to hide

 

Down in the crowded bars, out for a good time,

Can't wait to tell you all what it's like up there

And they called it paradise - I don't know why

Somebody laid the mountains low while the town got high

 

Then the chilly winds blew down across the desert,

through the canyons of the coast, to the Malibu

where the pretty people play, hungry for power

to light their neon way and give them things to do

 

Some rich men came and raped the land; nobody caught 'em.

Put up a bunch of ugly boxes, and Jesus, people bought 'em,

and they called it paradise, the place to be;

They watched the hazy sun, sinking in the sea

 

You can leave it all behind and sail to Lahaina

just like the missionaries did, so many years ago.

They even brought a neon sign: "Jesus is coming"

Brought the white man's burden down, brought the white man's reign

 

Who will provide the grand design?

What is yours and what is mine?

'Cause there is no more new frontier

We have got to make it here

 

We satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds,

in the name of destiny and the name of God.

And you can see them there, on Sunday morning

They stand up and sing about what it's like up there

They call it paradise - I don't know why

You call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye

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Simon and Garfunkel wrote a lot of songs that sound like poetry.

 

"The Sound Of Silence"

 

Hello darkness, my old friend,

I've come to talk with you again,

Because a vision softly creeping,

Left its seeds while I was sleeping,

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains

Within the sound of silence.

 

In restless dreams I walked alone

Narrow streets of cobblestone,

'Neath the halo of a street lamp,

I turned my collar to the cold and damp

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light

That split the night

And touched the sound of silence.

 

And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people, maybe more.

People talking without speaking,

People hearing without listening,

People writing songs that voices never share

And no one dared

Disturb the sound of silence.

 

"Fools," said I, "You do not know –

Silence like a cancer grows.

Hear my words that I might teach you.

Take my arms that I might reach you."

But my words like silent raindrops fell

And echoed in the wells of silence

 

And the people bowed and prayed

To the neon god they made.

And the sign flashed out its warning

In the words that it was forming.

And the sign said, The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls

And tenement halls

And whispered in the sound of silence.

I was going to offer the sound of silence as an example - its one of my fav's, however I can't listen to it now without thinking of the Simpsons version!

 

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Linton Kwesi Johnson - Reggae Fi Peach

 

 Everywhere you go its the talk of the day,

Everywhere you go you hear people say,
That the Special Patrol them are murderers (murderers),
We cant make them get no furtherer,
The SPG them are murderers (murderers),
We cant make them get no furtherer,
Cos they killed Blair Peach the teacher,
Them killed Blair Peach, the dirty bleeders.

Blair Peach was an ordinary man,
Blair Peach he took a simple stand,
Against the fascists and their wicked plans,
So them beat him till him life was done.

Everywhere you go its the talk of the day,
Everywhere you go you hear people say,
That the Special Patrol them are murderers (murderers),
We cant make them get no furtherer,
The SPG them are murderers (murderers),
We cant make them get no furtherer,
Cos they killed Blair Peach the teacher,
Them killed Blair Peach, the dirty bleeders.

Blair Peach was not an English man,
Him come from New Zealand,
Now they kill him and him dead and gone,
But his memory lingers on.

Oh ye people of England,
Great injustices are committed upon this land,
How long will you permit them, to carry on?
Is England becoming a fascist state?
The answer lies at your own gate,
And in the answer lies your fate.

Edited by Clavain

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'Blowin' in the wind' has always meant a lot to me, but I don't think the words are so impressive by themselves.  'Sound of silence' is another matter.

 

Many folk song lyrics are wonderful poetry:

 

I know where I'm going
And I know who's going with me
I know who I love
But the dear knows who I'll marry.

I have stockings of silk
Shoes of bright green leather
Combs to buckle my hair
And a ring for every finger.

Some say he's black
But I say he's bonnie
The fairest of them all
My handsome winsome Johnny.

Feather beds are soft
And painted rooms are bonny
But I would leave them all
To go with my love Johnny.

I know where I'm going
And I know who's going with me
I know who I love
But the dear knows who I'll marry.

 

'Black' here means black-haired or possibly swarthy-skinned, the opposite of 'fair' which meant both 'fair-haired' and 'beautiful'.

Edited by Heather

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This poem topic is perfect day,

really super lryics i like this below poem,

 

I wake up
And the day feels
Broken
I tilt my head
I'm trying to get an angle
'Cause the evening
I've always longed for
It could still happen

How do I master
The perfect day
Six glasses of water
Seven phonecalls

If you leave it alone
It might just happen
Anyway

It's not up to you
Oh it never really was
It's not up to you
Oh it never really was
It's not up to you
Well it never really was
It's not up to you

If you wake up
And the day feels
Ah broken
Just lean into the crack
(Just lean into the crack)
And it will tremble
Ever so nicely
Notice
How it sparkles
Down there

I can decide
What I give
But it's not up to me
What I get given
Unthinkable surprises
About to happen
But what they are

It's not up to you
Well it never really was
It's not up to you
Oh it never really was
It's not up to you
Oh it never really was
It's not up to you
Oh, me, share
It's not up to you
It's not up to you
Oh, it never really was
It's not up to you
Well, it never really was
It's not up to you
It's not up to you
It's not up to you
It's not up to you

There's too much
Clinging
To peak
There's too much
Pressure

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When I read those words srisathvika I found myself knowing the next line - Bjork :)

Your from Chennai, I would love to hear about you and the region and we have a thread on the forum http://www.bookgrouponline.com/topic/7785-please-introduce-yourself/page-124?hl=+please%20+introduce%20+yourselfwhere you can do that :)

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I have been listening to Motorhead recently, my son reacquainted me with them I was never really into them back in the day as they were too punk influenced, but I found a couple of later songs which are incredibly poetic and I chose today to post them - it being Armistice Day or Remembrance day whatever you want to call it as I think they are quite apt.

 

The first one is called March or Die and its from the 1992 Album of the same name.

The beast behind our eyes is loose,
The day has come, the day has come,
We march to Armageddon, hungry for the war
I see the hated enemy, I see what I was taught to see
And one of us will bend the knee
We understand the law

The blood lust jerks our legs to march,
Fife and drum, fife and drum
Our eyes are fixed and fearless
Searching for the war
Our statesmen deal in blood and lies
100 million stifled cries, 100 million wasted lives
Already gone before

So March or Die, March or Die
The stench of death is in the sky
We never fail to satisfy
We rend with tooth and claw

Sword and shield and jackboot heel
We love to kill, we love to kill
We love to taste our own blood
Squirm in our own gore

Children weep and widows wail,
Our education systems fail,
To hide our guilt we build more jails,
and we shall build still more
Our forests die, the stranglehold
That we put on the earth for gold
Will yet increase ten thousand fold
And no one knows what for

March and die, March and die
Defecate, despoil and lie
Cheat, dissemble, preach & spy
Build your house of straw

Laugh and cry, laugh and cry
Bloody sunset drowns the sky
For earth the heal then we must die
No-one deserves it more

I tell you we are doomed my friends
Our time is come, our time is come
We live within a charnel house
Rotten to the core
We glorify lust, greed & pain
We drown our hope in poison rain
We point the finger, shift the blame
Ambition makes us whores

March or croak, march or croak
All your lives a cosmic joke
Fill your days with piss and smoke
The wolf waits at your door

Burn and dance, burn and dance
Sex, death, torture, false romance
Whoop and howl, you have no chance
Burn & rise no more

 

The second is called 1916 from the album of the same name

16 years old when I went to the war,
To fight for a land fit for heroes,
God on my side, and a gun in my hand,
Chasing my days down to zero,
And I marched and I fought and I bled
And I died & I never did get any older,
But I knew at the time, That a year in the line,
Was a long enough life for a soldier,

 

We all volunteered,
And we wrote down our names,
And we added two years to our ages,
Eager for life and ahead of the game,
Ready for history's pages,
And we brawled and we fought
And we whored 'til we stood,
Ten thousand shoulder to shoulder,
A thirst for the Hun,
We were food for the gun, and that's
What you are when you're soldiers,

 

I heard my friend cry,
And he sank to his knees, coughing blood
As he screamed for his mother
And I fell by his side,
And that's how we died,
Clinging like kids to each other,
And I lay in the mud
And the guts and the blood,
And I wept as his body grew colder,
And I called for my mother
And she never came,
Though it wasn't my fault
And I wasn't to blame,
The day not half over
And ten thousand slain, and now
There's nobody remembers our names
And that's how it is for a soldier.

Edited by Apple

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I think Steve Forbert's Midsummer night's toast fits the bill here;

 

Here's to all you all you lucky dogs, it’s heads or tails

Here's to all you filthy rich, I wish you well

Here's to all the pretty women made for cash

And here's to dashing daddy's son he's such a flash

 

Well, I been lookin' and walkin' 'round the sunset square

Singin' and talkin' with my friends down there

Sittin' and listenin' with a young man's ear

To all the rainbow dreams

 

Here's to all the shitty jobs that I despise

Here's to two-bit guarantees and other lies

Here's to roads of burning tar and hot cement

Here's to money in my hand and where it went

 

I… I got my fingers a-tapping on the hard, stone steps

I'm waiting for lightning and the rains to fall

Young lovers are loafin' with their sidewalk smiles

And all their rainbow dreams

 

Amy Alice, in the summer

With a sack lunch and a punch card

See my sister with a drag job

Ah man, she feels like she's a hundred years ago

 

Well here's to people living lives that they regret

Work your fingers to the bone and sink in debt

Here's to all the shaky tricks what hustlers try

You know their easy money is oft-times hard

You know they flash a grin and they wink their eye

 

I… I been livin' an' breathin' in the rat trap town

Try’na get over where the wall breaks down

Holdin' my head up with my thin tired arms

And all my rainbow dreams

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