Mrs. Hemingway

I’ve long thought Mary Chapin Carpenter (my favorite singer) should write a musical. In my dreams, she’d partner with someone like a Sondheim, though he’s probably too grumpy for her style. Aside from being a superb singer, she is also a singular storyteller/truthteller and poet, as this song amply illustrates. It’s about the breakup of Ernest Hemingway’s marriage, told from his wife’s point of view, with lines that are simply divine “the glassed-in cafe that held us like hothouse flowers.” Sigh… (I’d sing her praises longer, but she’s blocked me on Twitter, so there’s that…)

Mrs. Hemingway
– Mary Chapin Carpenter

We packed up our books and our dishes
Our dreams and your worsted wool suits
We sailed on the eighth of December
Farewell old Hudson River
Here comes the sea
And love was as new and as bright and as true
When I loved you and you loved me

Two steamer trunks in the carriage
Safe arrival we cabled back home
It was just a few days before Christmas
We filled our stockings with wishes
And walked for hours
Arm and arm through the rain, to the glassed-in cafe
That held us like hot house flowers

Living in Paris, in attics and garrets
Where the coal merchants climb every stair
The dance hall next door is filled with sailors and whores
And the music floats up through the air
There’s Sancerre and oysters, cathedrals and cloisters
And time with its unerring aim
For now we can say we were lucky most days
And throw a rose into the Seine

Love is the greatest deceiver
It hollows you out like a drum
And suddenly nothing is certain
As if all the clouds closed the curtains
And blocked the sun
And friends now are strangers in this city of dangers
As cold and as cruel as they come

Sometimes I look at old pictures
And smile at how happy we were
How easy it was to be hungry
It wasn’t for fame or for money
It was for love
Now my copper hair’s grey as the stone on the quay
In the city where magic was

Living in Paris, in attics and garrets
Where the coal merchants climb every stair
The dance hall next door is filled with sailors and whores
And the music floats up through the air
There’s Sancerre and oysters, and Notre Dame’s cloisters
And time with its unerring aim
And now we can say we were lucky most days
And throw a rose into the Seine
And now I can say I was lucky most days
And throw a rose into the Seine

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