Heaven or Hell or Wherever

by Chris Schoen

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15 songs adapted from Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal, originally written for Theater Oobleck's cantastoria cycle "Baudelaire In A Box."


released October 31, 2012

Tracks 1-5 recorded and mixed by David Costanza at The Barn Recorder, Questa NM. Tracks 6-12 recorded and mixed by John Szymanski in assorted living & dining rooms, Chicago, IL. Mastered by Bruce Templeton at Magneto Mastering. Cover art by Jeffrey Dorchen.

Music by Chris Schoen. Lyrics by Charles Baudelaire, as translated by Chris Schoen. Originally written for performance in Theater Oobleck's cantastoria cycle "Baudelaire in a Box." For more information, visit baudelaireinabox.wordpress.com. All songs © 2012 Blooms Unbearable (ASCAP)

Musicians: Chris Schoen, Emmy Bean, David Costanza, Dylan Hinckley, Ronnie Kuller, Anne Speroni, John Szymansi, and Heather Trost.

Thanks to: Amy Warren and and T-Roy Martin for originating the live versions of these songs, John Bliss for use of his basement for drum recording, Theater Oobleck for innumerable assistances, and Everyone that kindly supported this project through Kickstarter.




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Track Name: The End of The Day
Under a sky that’s pallid and dim
Peevish life jumps and squirms for no reason
Impudent, noisy and heavy of limb,
Until, softly, upon the horizon:

Voluptuous night starts to reclaim,
Soothing everything, even starvation,
Canceling everything, even shame,
“At last,” the poet’s incantation.

“My mind, no less than my spine
So ardently yearns for repose;
My heart full of gloomy design

I recline on my back and I doze
Within your soft curtains enclosed
O refreshing shadows, ever blind!”
Track Name: The Death of the Poor
It is death that consoles us, that keeps us teeming
The purpose of life, and our only warrant
We drink its elixir, wasted and steaming
For heart to march on, though wishing we weren’t

All through the storm, through frost and sleet
It’s the one beacon in our bleak assay
The tavern inscribed in our sacred writ
Where we eat, sleep, and sit and the end of the day.

It’s an Angel who holds in his magnetic hands
Sleep and the blessing of rapturous dreams
Who makes up the bed of the naked and poor

It’s the glory of the Gods, the mystical manor,
The pauper’s purse and his ancient regime
To heavens unknown, death is the open door!
Track Name: The Death of the Lovers
Soft perfumes will fill our beds
Our couches will be deep as tombs,
On every cupboard overhead,
Exotic flowers in full bloom

Combusting in their final blaze,
Our hearts will burn like two great signal fires,
As they reflect their gleaming rays
In both our minds, like double mirrors.

One evening made of mystic blue and rose,
We’ll with a single lightning flash dispose,
A final howl, burdened with farewell;

And later sneaking through the open frame,
An angel will restore, with tender spell,
The tarnished mirrors and exhausted flame.
Track Name: The Death of The Artists
How many times must I shake my rattle
And kiss your low brow, you cheerless lampoon?
To stab at the heart of your mystical prattle,
How many wasted spears have I thrown?

We’ll consume our souls in artful connivance,
And we will bring ruin to ramparts severe
Before we will witness that grandest contrivance
We yearn for detestably, drowning in tears

Some there are who before idols never have trembled
These sculptors condemned and marked with disgrace
Always off pounding their brow and breast

Their one and only hope, strange and dark Temple!
Is that death, like a soaring new sun ordained
Will nourish and grow the flowers of their brains!
Track Name: The Strange Man's Dream
Do you share my exquisite torment
“Oh strange man,” do they say of you too?
– I was going to die. While in my lovesick soul a torrent
Of lust mixed with horror, a most peculiar brew;

Great anguish and hope mingled without care.
The more the sands ran down the fatal glass,
The more my torture was delectably rare;
As my heart was ripped from the familiar world at last.

I was a child eager for a farce to be played,
Hating the curtain as one hates a barricade…
Finally the cold truth was disclosed:

I died without suspense, and the terrible dawn
Enveloped me. –- Is that all? Is that how it goes?
The curtain was lifted and I just continued on.
Track Name: The Voyage Part 1
To the wondrous child who loves maps and stamps
The universe equals his vast appetite
How expansive the world by the light of the lamp
But in memory’s eye how frail and slight!

One day we embark with feverish brains
Our turbulent hearts heavy with rancor
We’re ferried by oceanic quatrains
Allaying our boundlessness, the sea is our anchor,

Some thrill to escape autocracy’s vise
Others cruel beds, shrouded in gloom
Astrologers lost in the dazzling eyes
of Circe, enchantress with deadly perfumes.

To prevent being changed into beasts, they devour
The light and the space, and glimmering skies
The irascible frost, the blazing sunshower
Slowly effacing the mark of her kiss.

But true pioneers sail off at random
Just for the leaving; hearts light as balloons,
Whimsical fate they’ll never abandon
And without knowing why they chase after the moon.

Their very desires as shapeless as clouds,
With dreams of young conscripts, bright cannons to aim,
Of sumptuous pleasures, ever-changing, unknown
That no human mind has been able to name.
Track Name: The Voyage Part II
We imitate, God help us, the top and the ball
Waltzing and bounding, at sixes and sevens
Excitement torments us and keeps us in thrall
A cruel angel whipping the sun through the heavens

Frivolous destiny, always in motion
Our goal being nowhere, could well be anywhere
Driven by hope, with a patsy’s devotion
In the search for repose we run ourselves threadbare!

Our three-masted ship, Utopia-bound
A shout from the bridge calls: Smoke em if you got em
Then from the crows’s nest a wild voice resounds
“Love … glory … joy! Goddamn We’ve hit bottom!”

Each new island the lookout reports
Is a new Eldorado promised by Fate;
Prepared for an orgy we race to the port
But collide with a reef in the stark morning light.

Oh, the poor lover of fantastical shores!
Should he be clapped in irons, thrown into the drink?
Drunk fabricator of Americas galore
Mirages which makes this the bitterest brink!

Like the old drifter, tramping through muck
Dreaming, nose high, of some shining sanctum;
His bewitched eye spies Cockaigne, oh what luck!
Wherever a torch casts its light on a slum…
Track Name: The Voyage Part III
Amazing travelers! What noble stories
We read in your eyes deep as the seas!
Open the coffers of your rich memories
These wonderful jewels, fashioned from galaxies.

We want to travel without sail or steam
To brighten the stale ennui of our prisons
Let your dazzling memories gleam
Across the canvas of our minds, framed only by their horizons.

“Tell us, what have you seen?”
Track Name: The Voyage Parts IV and V
“We’ve seen skies of stars and oceans of waves,
And beaches of sand, yes bright shoals of sand
And despite some disasters and last minute saves,
We were often quite bored, just like you on your strand.

Glorious sun on the indigo sea,
Glorious cities at glowing sunset
Lit in our hearts a mad urge to flee
Into the sky of green and scarlet

The richest cities, the loveliest valleys
Never contained as mysterious a pull
As clouds on the wind as they mingle and dally
Our hearts begged for more, no matter how full.

For desire is only encouraged by pleasure
Like an old tree fertilized by delight
The rougher and harder its bark grows in texture
The more its old branches reach out to the sunlight

Will you always keep growing, will you someday outlast
The most ancient cypress? But look here, we have styled
Some sketches for your scrapbook voracious and vast
You brothers who best love the distant and wild.

To sphinxes and idols we offered salute
And gaped at opulent jewel-studded thrones
And fairytale palaces filled with such loot
Making even the richest of bankers to groan.

Costumes that offered a feast to the eyes;
Women whose painted teeth gleam from afar
Snake charming harlequins, clever and wise

And? What else?
Oh, how childish your minds are.
Track Name: The Voyage Part VI
Here’s the important thing to retain
Not something we sought, but wherever we’ve been
From top to bottom of destiny’s chain,
The commonplace spectacle of immortal sin:

The woman compliant, moronic and proud
Her pleasures accrue as her scruples grow fewer
The man, greedy tyrant, his lechery uncowed
A slave of a slave, a trench in the sewer.

The lighthearted hangman, the whimpering martyr
The festival seasoned and scented with gore;
The decadence sapping the charlatan’s charter
The people flogged senseless who cry out for more.

A host of religions all just like ours
Each climbing skyward beyond our travails
While virtue, offered a sweet smelling bower
Takes as much pleasure on cold beds of nails

Chatty Humanity, boasting and preening
Born into madness and now so much worse
Cries out to God in agonized keening
“My likeness, my master, May you be cursed!”

The less foolish, drawn by delirium’s charms,
Fleeing the sheepish and haphazard mob
Just to take refuge in opium’s arms
–That’s the perennial news of the globe.”
Track Name: The Voyage Part VII
One draws such bitter lessons from travel
The small, prosaic world’s ever glum
Yesterday, forever, days unravel
An oasis of dread in a desert of boredom!

Should we quit or stay? Stay if you’re able
Take off, if you must. One runs, one hides
Miles away or just beneath the table
Time never stops or breaks his stride

Even the Wand’ring Jew cursed to ramble
Cannot flee fast enough, by horse or sail
In Time’s net, we’re all bound to get tangled
Even those who shun all travail

When He finally trods upon our spines,
We’ll declare our hope and hoist our chins
Like in old times when we made for China,
Eyes fixed seaward, faces to the wind

We set sail upon the darkened sea
With the joyful heart of volunteers
Do you hear sweet voices sing so gaily
Come you lotus-seekers over here

In the languid air we brightly harvest
The exotic fruit you hunger for
Come get drunk upon on the curious sweetness
In mild afternoon drowse evermore”

This familiar accent such a nectar
Old lost cousins stretch out through the mist
“To refresh your heart, swim to your Electra!”
Says she whose dainty knees we once had kissed.
Track Name: The Voyage Part VIII
O Death, old captain, it is time to sever the link
This land has wearied us, O Death! Don’t keep us long
Though sea and sky are both as black as ink,
Our hearts are filled with the merriest song!

Pour out your poison to inflame our fever
Oh, how this fire burns our minds so pure and true
We’ll dive down to Heaven or Hell, or wherever
In the depths of the unknown we’ll seek out the New!
Track Name: The Sick Muse
Oh, my poor muse, what afflicts you this dawn?
Morbid visions have taken command of your gaze
By turns I see cast on your face, pale and drawn,
Madness and horror, ennui, and malaise.

Did the green gremlin and rouge-spattered faun
Empty out love and alarm from their urns?
Have all your nightmares revolted, with sabers drawn?
Banishing you to the depths of Minturn?

I wish for you vigorous breath to exhale
Your breast ever buzzing with every detail
Your fervent blood coursing in metrical waves

Calling forth stanzas from the ancients’ graves
Ruled by Apollo, the father of rhyme
And great god Pan, the lord of the harvest time!
Track Name: The Giantess
In the days when Nature, in avid largesse
Bore monstrous children in daily routine
I’d like to have lived with a young giantess
Like a sensuous cat at the feet of a queen.

I’d like to have seen her flesh bloom ’round her soul
And freely expand to a dizzying size
And guess if her heart contained dark smold’ring coals
By the humid vapors that swam in her eyes

Inspect in no hurry her beautiful shape
Crawl on the slopes of her mammoth kneescape
And then in the summer, in the poisonous heat of the day

She’d drape body across the terrain
In the shade of her breasts I would lazily lay
Like a quiet hamlet tucked into a mountain chain.
Track Name: The Solitaire's Wine
The arresting glance of a lady of pleasure
Like a ray of light on a mountain basin
That the rippling moon lets fall with leisure
When she wants something cool to wash her face in

The last few coins in the gambler’s clutch;
A kiss from slender Adeline
Tender music’s rousing touch
Fading like a distant cry of pain

None of this compares, oh bottomless bottle
To your bountiful belly where solaces jostle
The poet’s thirsty heart to fill

You pour out hope, youth and life,
The pride and treasure of his sacrifice,
Triumphant as a God on Olympus hill!