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Juma

by Isaac Vallentin

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1.
Sometimes I forget that I'm dreaming When I talk to you So when I wake, I wonder: Were you dreaming too? When we shine together We're as bright as the moon So before we say goodnight Just look up The scattered ashes of a million lights Bleed through the sky Soon enough We'll tumble backwards And be reunited, you and I But tonight we question why We question why Those times I think I must be near you Though I'm far away So when I wake up from my dream I hope you'll stay Wrap your arms around me Shine as bright as the moon And the darkness of the night sky too It's all a dream to you Just look up Though it makes our spirits shine As bright as the moon I can see the men inside of women And I can see the women inside of men The words are false, but the energy is true Something about the sun and moon And about water and fire Something about our eyes And the way that we see in twos You can name a person, but you can't name a spirit I can see us shining as bright as the moon I remember dancing in the womb with you Before we became You and I
2.
Think I'll move away this spring It's been a year I'm in this city I don't have too many friends That I can call on for an evening Try my luck again Go to someplace I can breathe Without waking up my neighbours I'm choking on the balcony In humid summer afternoons But I can see out Past the buildings To a life where I live out The promises that I make myself I don't know where my heart will lead I turn twenty-five November I'm getting past my fear Of having children and a family Somebody's at the door, though Who? Who? I can hang on for awhile But sometimes I'm so impatient Because you never know how long You're gonna last, or if you'll make it Don't look it in the eye Ride the breeze between the hills See what future lies beyond them And forget about the useless things That matter to me in the city Maybe out there I can try To live a life where I don't doubt The promises that I make myself Promises Promises In promises we try To make the truth come down And fill us like balloons Balloons Balloons
3.
I see resentment in your eyes When we pass each other on the street I can't begin to know how hard you've worked Or what your children eat for dinner When you're on the evening shift You did it for them, so they could be born here Go to college, get a job, make some money Settle down and never have to fear Of being broken by a dream We're dressed in white We sip champagne We care for nothing but the status Of our own names We sell the land We sell the sea We sell our hearts and minds Our daily lives Our human energy And we're the ones who pay the cost We're the ones who pay the rent We pay for nothing with a million dimes That we've already spent We pay for nothing And nothing lasts We pay for nothing but the future And we'll end up in the past Yeah, we'll end up in the past It was hanging in the back room Of the store for twenty years: The first dollar that you ever truly made appear And it came to you with promises That money can provide But the currency of promises Exchanges into lies And you knew that It said: I want to control you For only minutes at a time All your friends and family Think we're such a lovely guise To hide behind If they knew the truth about it I would surely die I'd like to see them try I said I'd like to see them try Oh, yes I would Yes I would Even though you've got a plan Even though you've got a dream Even though every day the bastards Steal the air from inside you You try to fight it, you try your very best But there are a million drunks And they're dressed in white And they're jacking up the rent So much you'll pay for nothing And it won't be cheap You pay for nothing, you get nothing And you'll end up on the street And when they see that vacancy They can hardly see what you can see The floors you scrubbed down on your knees The afternoon deliveries The neighbour children getting older The winters when the pipes were frozen Put the "out for lunch" sign on the counter Go grab a coffee around the corner But when you come back The door won't open for you Anymore The time has come You can't afford to sign the lease The neighbourhood kept swinging 'Till it knocked you off your feet You're looking at the people Passing by on the street And you wonder if one day you'll feel The way their faces say they feel They sleep at night without the nightmares They spend their days without the fear Of bringing hunger home for dinner Of debt so deep you break your fingers climbing Couldn't keep the family business thriving Now you're on the evening shift Diving for dishes, dish diving When you miss a spot The guests complain They sip champagne They sip champagne Avez-vous, avez-vous? Ave Maria, avez-vous? Déjà vu, déjà vu Déjà Maria, déjà vu
4.
Inflation 03:17
The stock market, born this morning Dived in to the late afternoon Everybody was taking action Inside of their cubicles And vehicles, and fly away Blinking sixty times a second Was the footage of a young child Who had made it out of public school alive Now they’re running favours for the actors Maybe break into the industry this time All seeing eye You don’t know what’s right for me You take my wallet, you take my car keys I wave to everyone goodbye Bye-bye So, without warning, the stock market Spread its wings and flew into the sky Taking action, everybody parked their cars And ran inside their cubicles to hide Hide Nothing lasts forever Nothing lasts forever You gotta make it last forever All seeing eye You don’t know what’s right for me You take my wallet, you take my car keys I wave to everyone goodbye Bye-bye All seeing eye You’re making me pornography You take my picture when I’m fast asleep And say it represents my life My life All seeing eye All seeing eye All seeing eye All seeing eye
5.
Where does all the money go, and how come I see none of it? The water pours out of the faucet, down the drain, back to the faucet. Lately I’ve been having dreams where I take drugs to find a way out of the dream, but when I drug reality my vision turns to pink-and-yellow. I’m talking loudly on my cellphone, freaking out the night-time tourists in my mind: how do we create a future, trying to leave the past behind? And how do we explain to children everything there is today when I’ve never known what hunger feels like, my body is too far away, it never raises any question that I can’t disguise as fate-until a voice comes filling up the silence: where’s the other part of me? Where’s the black misshapen figure dancing in transparency? If I witness everything, what remains a fantasy for me? If I can’t afford a home, am I supposed to buy domains? If I move into the cloud, could I come back to earth again? If the signal fades away, would I become a refugee? Is there any mortgage for my privacy, some sort of policy? I don’t think so. I want a currency that nourishes the human spirit. I want to think about a single thing for several minutes. I want to free myself from working and still feeling worthless, sleeping and still feeling restless, talking and still feeling voiceless, living and still feeling lifeless. Faced with our grotesque reflection, rather than to turn away, embrace the mirror. I’m so thirsty I’m made of water. Meanwhile In the deep Pacific ocean 10,000 leagues below the surface A sperm whale has traveled many days In pursuit of a squid the size of my ignorance And as it consumes Its only meal for months I’m standing in the checkout line With a cart full of liquidation cocktail shrimp In vacuum-packs I pay by credit And I feed a different kind of hungry giant With the krill of my labour The whale has one heart And the squid has three The bank has no heart But I have seven billion
6.
Magnetic 04:52
It was an accident I couldn't turn away You grabbed my hand We painted every colour Between the outlines Of the day I was a slave to nature You were water on the fire And right between our eyes Right between our thighs Between our arms Between our stomachs In our bodies every night There lied an answer It came pouring out Like water on the fire On the outcry of our lives Every night I hear your voice In empty rooms I just want to be with you Until tomorrow comes Behind a cloudy sky I'll be someone else And you'll be someone I don't recognize, except When I see your eyes I'm reminded of a brighter Time in my life But of course You never pay just once You never play just twice Before I met you, I would go out Smashing bottles every night It's alright, it's alright Pour the water on the fire It's alright, it's alright Pour the water on the fire Every night The trees still call out in your name Mercury in retrograde Cold blood on the windowpane In June Deserts flood in tides of endless green Upon the liquid earth, if only you were there Birds don't tangle quite the same In your hair I hear your voice In empty rooms I just want to be with you I just want to be with you I just want to be with you Be with you Be with you
7.
I met you when I was a waitress I was working off my massive student debt When you asked me if what I learned was worth knowing I replied "nothing that I won't one day forget" You told me I was crazy And I told you I was dying to be cured I told you to come back here in a little while, you just smiled You said you would come back when you could In the evenings we went dancing I would turn you 'round and spin you on your head Later on when we sat down to catch our breath You whispered to me "do you think we'll miss this when we're dead?" And you would hold me in the mornings Safe and warm in my IKEA bedframe But when you brought it to the curb somebody picked up all the pieces And you never held me quite the same way again For awhile I didn't love you For a time I didn't listen when you spoke For a time I would imagine myself standing with another man Who compared to you looked like a joke But when you cried I saw things different I forgave him for us sleeping on the floor Then we laughed and said "without a little sorrow now and then What's the point of it all?" Oh, I'm not a great believer There's a black hole just a thousand miles away But if I could fly, I'd chase the sun and tie a string around it So I'd never miss another day with you
8.
"This is my party" That's how you feel when you're young Now you notice children everywhere And you know you're not one of them Yeah, it takes a little time To see things clearly "Let's turn it up louder" Thats what we think when we're afraid But silence is the only way To find your true voice again It takes a little time To hear things clearly In the noise of everybody else You get off track Then you climb right back Inside yourself Don't poison my body Don't poison my mind Feel everything like you're feeling For the first time The first time you get there Everything feels strange For most of life you're waiting around Now suddenly, it's happening The first time you get there Everything feels strange again For most of life you're running around To right back where you started things Don't poison my body Don't poison my mind Don't poison my future Don't poison, don't poison Don't poison If you feel like a child again Don't feel afraid The first time I saw you The first time I cried The first time I looked around The first time I tried The first time I lost it The first time I came The first time I hit the end I went right back to the start again "This is my party" Thats how you feel when you're young Now you notice children everywhere And you know, and you know And you know, and you know
9.
When I climb Mt. Juma I will send out a dove A love-letter An answer to the question Every sidewalk raises For the fruit it hopes to bear In your mouth If history repeats Then I'll be seeing you again When we forget the sound of nature And content ourselves with pebbles In the shapes of songs So when I climb Mt. Juma I will send down a landslide It's the only rock to ever roll And know your name before and after It tames you or lets you tame it So when I climb Mt. Juma It'll feel like a hurricane For the both of us Lost in the land of gold and silver While the world turns for nobody It's a word that I made up for you Juma Juma Juma
10.
Back to You 03:57
I should have asked For you to stay another night Your shadow looks just like me Beside the candlelight Remembering those summer nights When I held my handlebars so tight But I couldn't tell you why When we talk about it I get broken into pieces I fell all the way Back to my empty room The same thing every time Your shadow looks just like me In the empty glass of wine Forget about those sleepless nights When I held my hands up to the light And I fell all the way Back to you Back to you Back to you Back to you I live my life under your sink I feel your pull and I spill my drink But I couldn't tell you why When we talk about it I get broken in to pieces Like expensive china Yeah, when we talk about it I get broken in to pieces I fell all the way Back to you Back to you Back to you Back to you Back to you Back to you Back to you I should have asked For you to stay another night
11.
Icarus 03:37
"It's always morning somewhere" That's just what you say But if I could fly, I'd chase the sun And never miss another day Hold me in the morning Take me where you lay But if I should fall and scrape the stars You'll find me in the clouds one day It's another kind of love It's another kind "It's always morning somewhere" That's just what you say But if I could fly, I'd chase the sun And never miss another day

about

I was sitting at the kitchen table in our little $600 apartment in Montréal. It was the winter of 2018. Allyson had taken me in. We were broke but we didn't pay for heat. I was 24 years old.

I was reading Don Quixote, part I, chapter XL, the Captive's Tale. The Captive is imprisoned in Algiers and has fallen in love with Zoraida, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. She just sent him a letter about escaping together and becoming his wife.

My eyes rested on an italicized word: Juma. Friday’s prayer.

Time passed. I bought a garbage bag full of clothes from the basement of a church for three dollars and Allyson washed out the damp in the bathtub. I shaved my head for the second time in my 20s. I grew a moustache. I argued with Allyson, I made love with Allyson. I navigated capitalism. I considered monasticism, agrarianism, and hermeticism as alternatives. I attempted to exercise. I never listened to music.

I was reading the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita, the Dhammapada, the sutras of Patanjali, the gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Gandhi’s biography; books by Tolstoy, Sontag, Berger, Ram Dass, Easwaran, and Salzberg; memoirs and manuals on self-sufficiency, permaculture gardening, and natural building methods.

We moved to a larger apartment, and I found myself with a room of my own. I sat on the floor for a year and wrote.

During this time I became a vegetarian. I awoke before daybreak to meditate and pray. I started picking up stray garbage on the street. I consulted the I Ching while sitting on the toilet. I took a vow of celibacy without first consulting my sexual partner. I learned how to do a headstand. I quit drinking and smoking but continued using psychedelics. I fasted for days at a time. I stopped telling jokes. All of my relationships were falling apart.

I was having a spiritual awakening. I was psychotic. Either way, my consciousness was expanding.

Then, in March 2020, all of the people got scared. The organism was sick. I had recording dates booked at the beginning of April, but gathering had become illegal, so I cancelled the band and wrote a solo album instead. This became “...”.

I constructed a new band from the musicians I ran into on the street. I realized the first band would have never worked. The whole pandemic may have happened so I could correct this error.

Seb would engineer, Owen would play guitar, Yolande would play piano, with Jamie on drums, Morgan on bass, Mike on pedal steel, and Allie (Trails) singing on the one we wrote. It would all be recorded live with just a few microphones, and as little mixing as possible. A photograph.

We gathered for four days of rehearsals in October, masked, and in secret. There was an urgency and a fear. None of us had played with other people for eight months. We were sitting in a circle, surrounded by a void, the way humans have always been.

We played well.

I booked five days of recording in November, a week after my 27th birthday. I promised myself I would not die and focused on preparing meals for the studio: squash and white bean soup, adzuki beans and brown rice, miso soup with seaweed and tofu, roasted veggies with hummus, and red lentil dal. Cabbage, kale, and cucumber salads. Fresh bread. Chicory, mint and chamomile tea. Apples and peanuts and raisins for snacks.

The first day we got comfortable. The middle three days we recorded from 10 in the morning until 2 or whenever I lost my voice. On the last day we ate cannolis and drank champagne and cried.

I had started drinking in October when Ally left to visit her mother in southern Ontario. I found us a cabin to rent in rural PEI and we decided over the phone that we were leaving the city for good.

I was cracking up, and I can hear it on the recording, but there's nothing I can do about it now.

I spent my evenings stumbling around the alleyways, weeping, smoking, drinking beer, and buying groceries for the people sitting on the street corners. I'd stay out until my feet went numb, or I threw up, or I couldn't bear to look at everyone bent against the cold.

Ally called and said her mother was coming with us. She had sold her house and bought another one 2,000km away without ever stepping inside it.

This was the plan: mix the album over three days in early January, take a train to southern Ontario, buy my father's minivan, get temporary Ontario plates, drive to Ally's mother's current house, pack up all of her stuff in a U-Haul, drive both van and U-Haul back to Montréal, load up all of our belongings, spend a night in Rivière-du-Loup before crossing the Atlantic Bubble, drive to Ally's mother’s new house in Nova Scotia, quarantine there for two weeks and chop firewood and re-insulate her attic, then drive illegally to an Access Nova Scotia kiosk to transfer my Québec drivers licence and register the minivan for plates, drive with temporary Nova Scotian plates to PEI (having her mother mail us the legitimate plates once they arrive), quarantine for two more weeks, then spend March and April in an isolated cabin on an island while looking for a more permanent place to live.

That was the plan.

This is what happened: PEI closed their borders while we waited out a three-day snowstorm in Rivière-du-Loup. We ended up living at Ally's mother's house for five months while the housing market exploded in Nova Scotia. We drove to every place we could barely afford, only to find out they'd been sold sight unseen to somebody in Ontario. I got shingles from the stress. There was nowhere to rent and no one would give us a mortgage.

I Googled the symptoms of insanity:

- Excessive fear or extreme feelings of guilt

- Chronic sadness or irritability

- Obsession with certain thoughts, people or things

- Confused thinking or problems concentrating

- Detachment from reality

- Inability to cope with daily problems in a healthy manner

- Frequent episodes of rage, panic, crying, or deep disappointment

- Problems with alcohol or drug use

- Major changes in eating habits

- Loss of sex drive or hyper-sexuality

- Excessive hostility or violent impulses

- Suicidal ideation

- Extreme mood swings

- Inability to perceive changes in one’s feelings, behaviour, or personality

- Withdrawal from friends and activities that once brought joy

- Low energy or problems sleeping

- Unusual, intense feelings or no feelings at all

- Loss of initiative or desire to participate

- Intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance

- Frequent lapses in memory

- Seeing or hearing things that other people can’t

- Frequent, vague physical ailments with no obvious cause

All of them, at different times.

Eventually a realtor saw our desperation and helped us even though she didn't have to. We gave her a $20 bottle of wine as thanks. Then a mortgage broker convinced a bank to finance us even though neither of them had to. We gave her a bottle, and the bank 25 years.

We tore out wallpaper and floors and walls and carpet. Summer came and we swam in the ocean. I cut the grass while Ally worked in the garden. We made friends. Our savings disappeared at an alarming rate. I started feeling better.

Now it's 2022. I'm 28 years old. I spend most of my time trying to keep our house from sinking into the ground, trying to find some kind of lasting internal peace, trying to give whatever I can to the people around me, trying to navigate the chaos of our times with grace, trying to find a harmless livelihood without going broke, trying to plan an escape from society, and trying to be an artist without losing my mind.

I am grateful for it all.

If you listen to Juma, thanks. It took me four years to make. If you watch the videos, know that I really just want you to listen to the record, but I understand if you benefit from a visual aid.

If you read this, know that I'm out here in your world, hoping you are well.

IV

credits

released April 1, 2022

Isaac Vallentin - songs, voice, git, piano (10)
Alexandra O'Manique - song and voice (11)
Yolande Laroche - piano, sotto voce (2)
Michael Feuerstack - pedal atmosteel
Owen Davies - scrappy left electric
Morgan Moore - several basses
Jamie Kronick - skins, tins
Sebastien Perry - sonics

Recorded and mixed at Studio Mixart, Montréal.
Mastered by Philip Shaw Bova, Ottawa.
Cover painting by Alexandra O'Manique.

Thanks to everyone who helped. I needed you, and I love you.

Additional thanks to the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, who paid for everything.

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Isaac Vallentin Pictou, Nova Scotia

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