#465: The Magnetic Fields, "69 Love Songs" (1999)

Queen of the Savages / I Think I Need a New Heart

It does not often snow in Virginia. Rain does not often freeze. When you wake to a front porch enrobed in ice, you are not quite sure how to approach it. You think, Salt. Some people would have put down salt. And you look at the bag of trash in your hand that needs, somehow, to get to the can on the curb, and you look at the eight steep steps that stand between where you are and where you need to be. You know you cannot walk on something that shiny, just walk without both hands on the handrail.

Here is what seems best: to throw the bag of trash to the sidewalk, and labor your way down to meet it. You try to throw it gently, but it lands on its side and a bottle breaks and you are shocked, for a moment, by the noise, the disorder—though, once it happens, you think: What else could I possibly have expected?


Kiss Me Like You Mean It / It’s a Crime / Epitaph for My Heart

I don’t know what it means, not really, to write something off as bad debt. I can, of course, infer: a write-off means you pay less in taxes, right? And bad debt will never be repaid. (Well that was a bad investment, you said once when I told you I wanted only you, & had for a long time been with no other men.) Bad debt will never be repaid & so the government says, we will counter this wrong. You owe us less this year, they say, because you have faced a hardship. You owe us less this year because life handed you something unfair. Is that right? I don’t know if that’s right. Maybe that isn’t what it means at all. But if I were guessing, that’s what I’d guess. It was bad debt, we say, shrugging. We asked them to pay & they wouldn’t. We asked them to pay but then they were gone. They owe us but it doesn’t matter. Just bad debt. Some, & a little more.


Nothing Matters When We’re Dancing / Love is Like a Bottle of Gin

The first time I kissed you I thought: there will never be another man I will kiss as well as this. There are so many, many true things that don’t matter one bit.

Illustration by S.H. Lohmann

Illustration by S.H. Lohmann

Two Kinds of People / (Crazy for You But) Not That Crazy

I have a friend who is a professor. He is very very handsome and very very kind, and because of this one of his students thought he might love her. He’d done nothing to deserve this, her waterfall of assumptions, the angry things she said to him when he, tactfully and professionally and, still, kindly, set her straight. But when he told me, my first reaction was not to sympathize with him. Instead, I said, unthinkingly, Oh. That poor, poor girl. He looked at me, surprised, as if I were accusing him of something. And I felt bad, seeing his confusion, but felt worse, still, for the girl, oh that poor girl and her aching heart and her bottomless want and her endless human striving for a life that, if it could just go right for a few minutes, would feel like something more.


All My Little Words / The Cactus Where Your Heart Should Be

Are there more varieties of heartbreak, or of love?


The Things We Did and Didn’t Do

He poured a shot, & another.

I poured a shot, & another.

We took the shots & took more & walked to the corner store to buy a pack of cigarettes & came back home & poured more shots. We took the shots because when we took the shots suddenly things got less complicated. We took the shots & I picked a card & he lit a piece of paper towel on fire, blew it out, & rubbed the burned parts along his forearm until they dissolved—the ashes stuck, left a 3 and a C marked emphatic like a tattoo & he said was it a three of clubs & I said yes. By then we are outside, it is cold, more cigarettes, his car parked right out front. He showed me the mark where someone keyed it long ago—his ex, he used to think, he said, but he doesn’t anymore. & I think it probably was her, I didn’t tell him but I think it: he is the kind of man who’d drive a woman to extremes. So we turned the music louder than it ever should’ve gone & we took the shots & when we danced in the living room his hands were on me & he said what is a song that’s made you cry, & I said, I don’t know, none of them, though the truth is all of them, & then we were kissing & I pulled back, said, Slap me. He did. I put my face very close to his face. Slap me again.

—Katelyn Kiley