Library of Articles

  • Library: Articles

Court and Spark Print-ready version

by Magnolia
May 19, 2011

i was a free man in paris
i felt unfettered and alive
there was nobody calling me up for favors
no one’s future to decide

q-tip said it best: joni mitchell never lies, y’all. the wisdom i’ve been able to pull from her words is carved into my bones and written on the inside of my skin. and really, joni’s the only person, and this includes me, who’s been able to provide the soundtrack of my relationship with my man, all the way down the line. i read the sublime girls like us by sheila weller, the concurrent biographies of carly simon, joni mitchell and carole king, and found myself identifying with joni in ways i’d never expect.

all the guilty people, he said, they’ve all seen the stain
on their daily bread, on their christian names
i’ve cleared myself, i’ve sacrificed my blues
and you could complete me; i’d complete you

it was my beloved daddy who introduced me to joni. to this day, daddy and the man are the two men i’ve ever known in this life to truly understand what the rest of the world regards as “women’s music” without treating it as such. he brought me the greatest gift he’s ever given me when he played me a bootlegged copy of court and spark that he’d taped from a borrowed CD. i was eleven. we were driving around in the rain in daddy’s old honda civic station wagon, and i felt something shift. even though i hadn’t experienced much of anything in my life to that point, i thought, wow. this is how to manage emotions: with words, images, and power like this.

everything comes and goes
marked by lovers and styles of clothes
things that you held high and told yourself were true
lost or changing as the days come down to you
down to you, constant stranger
you’re a kind person; you’re a cold person, too
it’s down to you

court and spark, in toto, is the compilation of songs that best puts forth the way i have felt, do feel and will continue to feel about the man. i’ve heard anecdotally over the years that many of the songs are based on her feelings about james taylor, who was apparently the BMOC of the sensitive-rocker clique in the early 1970s. the parallels between that construct and the one between us are staggering. the man in this album is kind, but he’s distant. he’s there, but he’s not. and the one thing she wants more than anything else on this earth is to make enough of a dent in his life that he’ll melt, a little at least, just for her.

help me, i think i’m fallin’ in love again
when i get that crazy feeling i know i’m in trouble again...
and you love your lovin’
but not like you love your freedom

ninety-nine percent of the time, i feel like i did it, like i got there, like he melted for me. i know full well he’s more mine than he is anyone else’s. but really, that’s not hard. i tear him to pieces in these pages, i know i do. i’ve done this since the day i met him. i’ve devoted so much of my life to figuring him out, page after page after page, pink-and-purple diary to spiral-bound notebook to moleskine to internet. he’s a cipher, even to those who know him best. and no person alive knows him better than me. but there’s that caginess he shows, even with me. and, y’all, it KILLS me. his indifference, which is not out of intent but just out of the fact that he will never change his basic, secret nature, slashes me to my core. i am a sharer. my theory of relationships is inherently collectivist. i believe, now and always, that when you commit your heart to someone, you commit your life to him. i’m learning quickly that him loving me more than he loves anyone else on the planet, a statement in which i trust and believe completely, does NOT grant me license to the depths of him. no one will ever have that license.

it always seems so righteous at the start
when there’s so much laughter, when there’s so much spark
when there’s so much sweetness in the dark

so i listen, i write him, or my conception of him, and i feel joni’s words twist around me again, reassuring me that i am not the only one who’s ever loved this kind of vault of a man. somewhere in the magic cocktail of our love, spiking the sweet and the bubbly, the euphoric and the uplifting, is this thin, dark swirl of uncertainty, of casual, accidental injury. being the kind of woman that i am, his natural withholding seems like an insult, even though the rational part of me knows full good and well that it’s not. still, i bleed, just a tiny little bit, feeling each of his non-slight slights dig in a little more.

i asked myself when you said you loved me, “do you think this can be real?”...
you’ve had lots of lovely women, now you turn your gaze to me
weighing the beauty and the imperfection to see if i’m worthy...
sometimes you turn it on me like a weapon, though
and i need your approval

oh, joni. you know me better than i know myself. you wrote the words of my love, my worries, before i was even thought of in the corporeal world. i still, even though i am mostly confident of my place in his world, see myself in these terms in my weak moments. i want his approval. i want to matter. and i know that somewhere down there, where he keeps his most secret heart, the one absolutely no one will ever see, i do matter, more than anyone else he’s ever kept close.

my only wish is that he’d show that sometimes, rather than leaving me to guess, to worry...

it seemed like he read my mind...
he saw how i worry sometimes.
i worry sometimes...

Copyright protected material on this website is used in accordance with 'Fair Use', for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of the copyright owner(s). Please read Notice and Procedure for Making Claims of Copyright Infringement.

Added to Library on May 20, 2011. (7992)


Log in to make a comment

magnolia on

screwed-up? no. not even close. you do not know. if you read more of my writings, you might. i invite you to so do anytime you want: but thanks for reinforcing my original statement. cruel. hateful.

lordbyron on

If you had written about your man in the context of Blue I would have agreed with you to an extent but I don't have a blog with a comment section, so I thought it not an inappropriate thing to respond.
As for anonymity and the internet, whatever, you wrote that you are in a screwed up relationship with a man you compared to a "vault" on your public blog.
Take care.

magnolia on

to each his own, lordbyron. but to intimate that i explore therapy because of my interpretation? well. the anonymity granted by the internet emboldens one to say cruel and hateful things, eh?

lordbyron on

What a mess this article is. The writer misses the whole point, the whole journey that Joni gave us in this work - and uses quotes out of context. Court and Spark is a profound work about being strong and maintaining a sense of humor in being ambitious, a perfectionist searching for the theme in most great art - Love. Joni is an observer here, unlike the writer, who is so full of mirth she misinterprets universal themes running through this album. She does end the album with Twisted after all.
I suggest the writer explore theraphy and she might discover that she really didn't understand Court and Spark at all.