When poet and songwriter David Berman first formed Silver Jews along with Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich in 1989, the band’s name was more a matter of poetic resonance than religious conviction. In recent years, though, Berman has turned toward faith, and agreed to speak with Sara Ivry in his New York hotel room while on tour to promote Tanglewood Numbers. Because he’s a notoriously ambivalent performer, the fact of his touring and granting an in-person interview are radical departures. In addition to discussing his penchant for collecting and his fidelity to tradition, Berman plays his adaptation of Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!”
Now II, by David Berman
I am not in the parlor of a federal brownstone.
I am not a cub scout seduced by Iron Maiden’s mirror worlds.
I’m on a floor unrecognized by the elevator,
fucked beyond understanding
like a hacked up police tree
on the outskirts of town.
Father, why does this night
last longer than any other night?
For God is not a secret.
And the brown girl who reads the Bible by the pool
with a bookmark that says “ed called”
or “ed call ed,” must know that turtles
are screwed in the snow
and that everything strains to be inevitable
even as it’s being killed forever.
And this is also a song.
O I’ve lied to you so much I can no longer trust you.
O Don’t people wear out from the inside,
Why must we suffer this expensive silence,
aren’t we meant to crest in a fury more distinguished?
Because there is my life and there is our life
(which I know to be Your life).
Dear Lord, whom I love so much,
I don’t think I can change anymore.
I have burned all my forces at the edge of the city.
I am all dressed up to go away,
and I’m asking You now
if You’d take me as I am.
For God is not a secret,
and this also is a song.