How To End The War

by Shareef Ali

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released August 26, 2011




Shareef Ali San Francisco, California

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Track Name: My Weakness
Now I lay me down to spend
my night in shame, my heart to bend.
And if I die before it breaks,
I beg for you this heart to take.
But don’t mistake my weakness
for kindness.

When you inherit that dreadful thing,
then it’s yours to use for anything.
Pinch it, prod it, give it a good shake,
but just don’t open it, for heaven’s sake,
lest you mistake my weakness
for kindness.

You’re the prettiest girl I’ve seen
since that last one I treated mean.
Oh, the excuses I’d make,
how she’s eat them up like cake.
How she’d mistake my weakness
for kindness.

In my defense, I tried to warn you:
caution tape and safety orange.
But you gave me such a look
and tried to read me like a book.
Thus you mistook my weakness
for kindness.

When you knocked late, wild-eyed and scared,
I was surprised, but I was still prepared.
I threw my arms around your head,
gave you the warm spot in the bed.
And you misread my weakness
as kindness.

We can bicker and we can bet
on whether you think this stain has set.
But it’s been on me for so long,
and it’ll stay even when you’ve gone.
So maybe we’re both wrong about my weakness
and your kindness.
Track Name: Plant Food
I’m feeling at my worst tonight, but that’s no reason why.
And if no one gets hurt tonight, you can’t say we didn’t try.
You wonder if I’ve lost my mind. I don’t make sense to you.
Believe me, child, if I were kind, that’s just what I would do.

But love shoots up where it’s not supposed to be,
making tangles of the power lines, bringing skyscrapers to their knees.
You don’t expect apologies from invasive species.
What we called a delicacy,
turns out it’s just a common weed.

I want you to go first tonight. These wicked hours are long.

But love breaks out, conquers every quarantine.
But not before we burned it all: my toys, my clothes, my sheets.
We got a vaccine from a monkey, but I still lost my best friend.
Then the paramedic said,
as ghostlike we airlifted,
“You can’t call that place home again.”

Love’s like any wild thing, it must consume to live.
But no one asks the beast itself just what its nature is.
Though I don’t suppose we’d like the answer if we did!

I see a tiny burst of light. The sun is coming up.
Remember, if it hurts to fight, there’s no shame in giving up.

‘Cause love roots down where it’s never before been found,
making a mockery of our statues, pulling poor Lincoln to the ground.
The earth swallows up my mansion. My vault crumples like a can.
My tokens spill like grains of sand.
A life’s wealth starts converting back
into glorified food for plants.
It’s just a question of when.
Track Name: I Still Like You
Our first date was simply lovely.
The second one robbed me of words.
So forgive me for putting this bluntly,
but I didn’t know if I’d get a third.

Part of me wants to call it a night now.
Part of me wants to just go to bed.
But part of me wants to call you up right now,
and find my way to yours instead.

I still like you.
I still want to do all the things
we said we were going to do.
Like listen to records, cook each other breakfast.
And even though you started sleeping with somebody new,
I still like you.

The first time I stayed for the night,
what do you consider fun?
Came home looking like there’d been a fight,
and looking like the other guy won.

Part of me wants to play indifferent.
Part of me wants to stay with my wife.
But most of me wants for you to come over this instant,
and fuck me within an inch of my life.

I still like you.
I still want to do all the things
I thought we were going to do.
Like go to the thrift shop and rock out to synth pop.
And even though I started sleeping with somebody new,
I still like

talking on late on the phone,
like I ain’t got shit else to do.
Wondering why we’re alone,
as if you could give me a clue.
I don’t know what my problem is,
but it’s your problem too.

I still like you.
I know I shouldn’t, but I do,
so why should I pretend not to?
I still want to go to the folk show, and make you a coke float,
or fix you a sandwich, and practice my Spanish,
drink wine in the hot tub, and give you a backrub,
or stay up all night long, and write you a like song!
I’m only telling you this because I can tell you
still like me too.
Track Name: River Beggar Summer Killer
The river don’t know his way to the sea,
he only follows his feet.
And the beggar don’t know where he’s trying to go,
but he always ends up in the street.
And I don’t yet know where they’ll dig my grave,
though I’m certain in one I’ll be lain.
But if you don’t know how to kill me, babe,
then the sky don’t know how to rain.

Summer don’t know what it means to grow old,
‘cause summer has always died young.
And I’ve never known how to blurt something bold,
but it’s been on the tip of my tongue.
It ain’t like the President don’t know how to end the war,
but the thought never passed through his brain.
So if you aren’t sure how to kill me, amor,
then the sky don’t know how to rain.

A cat and a snake both know how to hiss,
though only one can kill a man.
And I don’t know where you’ll go after this.
How I wish that I didn’t give a damn.
No, I don’t believe that you’ll end up in hell,
though sometimes I think it’s whence you came.
You know damn well how to kill me, belle,
or the sky don’t know how to rain.
Either this ends when you kill me, girlfriend,
or the sky won’t cry ever again.
Track Name: New Song, Old Love
This is a new song. It’s for my old love.
I’m sure it’s no one you’ve ever heard of.
I called that kiss mine. I held that heart once.
Once in a lifetime; two and a half months.

Carolyn, I wrote you songs back then,
but I didn’t know how.
Carolyn, I loved you way back when,
but I didn’t know how.

You deserve a good song. You deserve a good love.
I can do the first one. I hope it’s enough.

You broke my heart, dear. You made the right choice.
But even twelve years and all those nice boys
can't change what we had. “All’s well that ends well.”
I don’t believe that, but I’m glad we’re friends still.

You taught me how to love. You taught me how to lose.
Now I know that stuff. That’s why I’m thanking you.

Even then, you were a catch.
I tried to craft a love to match.
The first I’d ever made from scratch,
And everything was wrong with it.
Couldn’t keep me from turning green,
from calling you late and calling you mean,
and being an all-around drama queen.
I couldn’t even write a song with it.
Track Name: The Tenderness In Me
Saturday night, didn’t get home ‘til five.
Sunday morning, I’m awake by nine.
There’s something inside that won’t let me sleep.
Is it the savageness or the tenderness in me?

I pulled that graveyard shift being a fool for you.
Sugar, I know you didn’t ask me to.
But once I got off work, I didn’t want to leave.
You sure bring out the tenderness in me.

And if words are weapons, and if mine hurt you,
just ‘cause I deserve love don’t mean I deserve you.

But when you stood before that noisy hall of men,
you could have had any one, or all of them.
Still every song you sang it felt was meant for me,
And what else welled up but that tenderness in me?

But you see what I am, and what I’ll never be.
So I can’t decide whether you’re kind or mean
to pretend I’m anything but a beast.
But you can draw out the tenderness in me.

And nothing’s meant to be, not by fate or god.
So what if I meant for us to be, if you did not?

So when you awaken from your daydream,
you'll see you’re better off without someone like me.
So you can make me take my things and leave,
but you can’t put out the tenderness in me.