On The River Off the Lake

I kiss the air when I’m here
I kiss the water
I kiss the memory of my grandmothers and fathers
It’s my happiest place
On the river off the lake
I was born here and I am home forever

I started when I was eight
I can J sweep or feather
I can stand up on the gunnels in any weather
I know when to hug the banks,
When to offer up my thanks,
There are ghosts here
Those who didn’t know better

I miss the air when I’m not here
I miss the water
I miss my sisters in the sturgeon and the otters
And the smell of the fire
The Eagles turning in gyre
All untouched, so far, by fisherman and loggers

My paddle’s a beavertail
It’s made of maple
I can use a rolling stroke at night
And barely cause a ripple
That’s when I like to go out
There’s no one that the owls about
And the moon and the stars and a swim when no one’s looking

I kiss the air when I’m here
I kiss the water
I kiss the memory of my grandmothers and fathers
It’s my happiest place
On the river off the lake
I was born here and I am home forever

I was born here

Nowhere But For You

I would be dead by the highway, or at the bottom of a lake
I would be lost in the mountains, or buried in a quake
I woulda been runover hitch hiking, gotten eaten by the wolves
Or be drunk in the streets and end up trampled by the bulls
I would be nowhere but for you.

I’s prob’ly run over in the gold rush by a train coming ’round the bend
I’m generations of dead warriors who had ignominious ends
I’d prob’ly fall out of a tree, get eaten by the ants in my yard
I swear I have a Ph. D in getting hoist by my own petard
I would be nowhere but for you.

I woulda prob’ly died of syphilis, or lost all my teeth
I’d prob’ly live on TV dinners and do crack for relief
I’d prob’ly fall in a tree chipper or a sausage machine
Or go get myself a record deal, whatever that means
I would be nowhere but for you.

Maybe I’m smarter than I give myself credit for
For I found in you a lighthouse or a key to any door
At least it don’t bug me if I can’t figure it all out
You’re the only one of us that knows what I’m about
I just know I need you.

I woulda been sucked up by the aliens, Major Tommed into space
Or sent by missionaries to some god-forsaken place
I coulda tried to get into money, got deep-sixed by the mob
Or forgot all my mom told me in some million-dollar job
I would be nowhere but for you.

So thanks for being who you are and believing in me
I’ll try not to disappoint you while I’m knocking on this tree
And I can promise you right now that as long as there’s a sun
I will not forget your kindness, and all the things you’ve done
I would be nowhere but for you.

Queen Among the Witches

She is queen among the witches
Got the whole world in her hand
She wears a crown of silver
And she’s earned every strand
And with every flap of a butterfly wing
She casts her spell on everything
She’s the glue
Holds us all together

She’s a daughter and a mother
And a friend and a lover
Her heart shines like no other
No one can help but love her
And with every flap of a bumblebee wing
She gives new life to everything
She’s true
As the sunrise in the morning

But sometimes
she wonders has she faded
she just can’t face the day
In those times
Friends and song are the skates on the river
That take her away

‘Cause when she sings
She grows wings
You’re wrapped around her finger like a string
In that moment
her bells of freedom ring
When she sings

She inspires every other
With her brain and with her style
Her face reads like a diary
You can see her come from miles
And with every flap of a raven’s wing
Her songs go off and do their thing
She’s blue
When she forgets her own power

But sometimes
All she can feel is the winter
She don’t know if she belongs
In those times
I hope that she remembers
How much I need those songs

‘Cause when she sings
She grows wings
You’re wrapped around her finger like a string
In that moment
her bells of freedom ring
When she sings
Her voice rings
With joy in her face
Like a kid swingin’ on a swing
The snow melts off
like the coming of spring
When she sings

Bury Me By the River (written by Corbett, Steven Bowers and Keith Mullins; for Fleur Mainville)

Bury me
By the river
May you never
be alone
I’ll send the fishes
For your wishes
Ask the wind
To walk you home

Bury me
Under moonlight
Let her white light
dry your tears
Let her phases
Sing your praises
& I’ll sing with her
From somewhere

You were the born believer
Oh and I was no God-fearing man
But I prayed
Ours was a good life
And I’m grateful for that.

Bury me
By the river
So when that day comes
And it’s your time
Let them raise me
So they can lay
Your hand in mine.

Bury me
By the river
May you never
be alone
I’ll send the fishes
For your wishes
Ask the wind
To walk you home

The Ballad of Slim MacInnis (written by John ‘Slim’ MacInnis, arranged&adapted by Kev Corbett)

[NOTE: ‘Dosco’ was the colloquial name for the Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation (1928-1968) of Cape Breton NS Canada, and has no relation to any other company past or present operating anywhere in the world under any similar name.]

Oh, tired I am of ceaseless toil
The endless cares and woes
Paupered years, and deathless fears
That a low paid worker knows.
My toil filled life is fraught with strife
And all that I have to show
Are these callused palms, workworn hands
And a feeling I’m dying slow.

And it’s 123, woe is me
I’m working’ at the Do’S’Co mill
I love my girl and all the boys in the shop
and the rest can go to hell

From earliest youth like a broken tooth
In a Godless way I’ve slaved,
In Do’S’Co’s mills where the labour kills
And hastens early graves.
Oh I shovel ore thru a furnace door
In the heat of the boiling steel
Where the stink and glare of the poisoned air
Is a hellish thing to feel.

I’ve grown so sick of the look of the brick
And the hammers and the tongs and the pails
And the mud and the mire and Mclntyre
And the flame that never fails.
The checkers so hot and Foreman Watt
And Ritchie who just stands there
Like some Simon Legree be seems to me
With a cruel and crafty stare.

The charging cars and the hammer and bars
And the smoke of the metal trains
The ladles and the pans and the barrows and the fans
And the screech of the hoisting cranes.
Oh, weary am I of the few who try
To scab and pamper the boss
Confidential men and those who pretend
Concern for production lost.

For the many must work for the few who shirk
Them high paid few who prize
The money and ease and the luxuries
Of private enterprise.
They are hypocrites, who’ll rack their wits
And worry and scheme and plan
For some christian way to lower the pay
Of the honest working man.

But bear in mind there will come a time
And come it soon, I pray
When the stooge and the boss aside we’ll toss
And build for a better day.
And then we’ll produce, for the common use,
For the man in the field and the ditch,
And we’ll liquidate their profit rates
Along with the idle rich.

So for better or worse I’ll end this verse
On a note of hope my friend
“There’s a crimson star that shines afar,
And the longest night must end.”

Sneakers On a Wire

Do you know how hard it is to see you in these halls?
Do you know how hard I have been bouncing off these walls?
Do you know how long I have wanted to kiss your face?
Do you know how long I have wanted to make you a place?
and then you float on by with friends
and then it all comes back again
Do you know how fast I’d run away with you?

I am sneakers on a wire
a quiet kid in the corner
And everytime I pass you by
I’m stupid, sick and worn
I don’t know what to do
There is just me and this school and you
I drop my lunch on the floor
Go running out the door
To get away from you

Do you know how I need to walk everyday past your house?
Do you know how I feed on every word that comes from your mouth?
Do you know how much time I look in the mirror?
Do you notice how with time it’s all getting clearer?
and then you pass a note to your friend
and then the whole world is laughing again
Do you know how sad I always miss you?

I am sneakers on a wire
I am Rumplestiltskin
I’m a firehall catching fire
Titanic sinking
I don’t know what to do
There is no one in the world but you
I’m an ugly duckling for now
But I’ll show you somehow
That I deserve you

Thunderbird (for Jethro Anderson, Curran Strang, Paul Panacheese, Robyn Harper, Reggie Bushie, Kyle Morriseau, and Jordan Wabasse)

Like a moth to a flame,
Or a backporch light,
You coulda stayed in that cocoon,
But you took flight.
To a world unfamiliar and cold,
With potential so bright.

Times got hard,
But you were smarter,
You don’t take no time
When you’re a self starter.
I imagine you discovering the world on TV,
And going, yeah man,
That’s the world for me.

Everyone who loves adventure’s got to go away from home,
And you hope to find one out there, living on your own
Every moth loves a firefly and spirits having flown
Will alight somewhere,
Or fly into the sun…

Hello, little brother
Sorry that it went this way,
But I’m here with you today, and
I’m gonna tell your story.
‘Cause I’m part of it now, and
You are part of mine, and
Until we meet the next time
You fly towards that glory.

One day,
You picked Thunder Bay.
It was that or Winnipeg, but it was closer
and they had good hockey.
So one plane to another and a boarding house bed,
It was all weird, but at least down the river there’s a rez.

Then one night,
No one knows what happened next,
I’d like to think an accident,
but the result was all the same.
I like to imagine that you went to go see some friends
Walking down the river,
like a moth to a flame.

Whatever went down I know your grandmother
Looked for you every day, and then it was my brothers and I
Just came along, and we found you there
and I said you’re going home, my friend,
We all return to the flame.

Hello, little brother
Thanks for that thunderstorm
I’m glad that you were born
and sorry you went away,
But you’re somewhere now
You’re birds and trees and flowers
Eagles and bears and owls
Shining like the flame.

Goodbye little brother
Thanks for the lesson learned
I’ll think of you when I return
and in friends along the way.
And to everyone in Webequie,
I’m just glad it was me.
I think of you everyday,
I’ll see you at that flame.


Sorrow On My Mind (written by Corbett, Tannis Slimmon, and Lewis Melville)
I got sorrow
on my mind
and I try to live with the pain
so I drown my sorrow in pure alcohol
and I don’t think of nothing, at all
Got the Prairie on my mind
I tried to stay on the farm
Then a man in a suit come
and just took it all
Didn’t leave nothing at all

Got a woman on my mind
She tried to love me so well
I took it all out on her,
made her life hell
I didn’t think nothing of it at all

I got money on my mind
But I try to spend it away
I curse all the bankers that started this all
They didn’t think nothing, at all

Got a young man on my mind
Was the first one I killed in the war
We were both young and scared and believed in it all
didn’t think nothing of it at all

I got heaven on my mind
I wait ’til they call out my name
For the hell that I’ve seen has shattered my dreams
I don’t think of nothing, at all

I don’t think of nothing, at all
I don’t think of nothing, at all


Rome Didn’t Fall In a Day  (For the Big Invisible Hand)

I cut off the phone
Threw out the TV
‘Cause I never really wanted
What they’re selling me
Y’ain’t gonna find me
aisle 23
Attention Mall-Wart shoppers
Better you than me

I’m digging in for the long haul
Don’t be surprised if you should have a great fall

‘Cause Rome Didn’t Fall in a Day
Sorry Nero, sell that fiddle man
you’re no good anyway
Your whole scene sucks
no one actually likes you
believe me when I say
Your house is burning

I don’t want a lot of plastic
Bought for my kids
Sure, stroller and the lego and the bath rings
I know how it is –
But they gotta know
How to choose a carrot
by the dirt on its skin
How to open the doors
Open the blinds, &
let the neighbourhood kids in

They’ll learn to swim against the tide
I can see it coming in

‘Cause Rome Didn’t Fall in a Day
This is stolen land, with blood on its hands
and the time has come to pay
I’ve never met anyone anywhere
who believes a word you say
Your island’s sinking

Maybe everything’s just fine
Maybe Rome has never been so strong
Maybe the peasants outside with the torches
have all got everything horribly wrong
Maybe everyone’s a hooligan, you’re all under arrest
and I’m wrong to write this song
And maybe you were living in an empire
But they never last long
They never last long

Rome Didn’t Fall in a Day
You’re gonna have to go and start a war
Show the great unwashed the way
You can whine at how History’s treated you
She always has her say but
Rome Didn’t Fall in a Day

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