Dinosaur Bones

I know so little that anything
You might tell me would be a revelation. – W.S. Merwin (Sire)

The past is as mysterious as the future: we never really know what happened there. – Alison Croggon (Navigatio)

When my parents downsized and moved from my childhood home – a small farm by the Blackwood river –  into town, there were boxes and old suitcases of mine that accompanied them. On my next visit to Bridgetown I found them stored in a wardrobe awaiting my attention (mum and dad were hoping I might downsize my possessions too). One of the suitcases once belonged to my grandpa – it was brown with faint stripes and the clasps had gone rusty. In it were childhood love letters and trinkets, diaries, CDs, tapes, notebooks and photographs. I even found my first ever journal – a Christmas present from my parents when I was 8 years old. I’m still keeping journals; I could probably fill an entire wardrobe with them if I shipped them from the UK back to Australia (sorry mum and dad).

As I was sifting through the souvenirs of my early life, it made me think about the footprints we leave behind as we make our way through life… how much of ourselves we share through stories passed on to younger generations, and what remains of us after we’re gone. It made me reflect on my grandparents and parents and how much I don’t know – just snippets from stories – memories that fragment the more I try to remember. Isn’t it interesting too, how we add to those fragments over time, how we flesh them out? Like finding dinosaur bones, then draw the muscles, sketch the skin, add the meaning.

Dinosaur Bones was the first song we recorded during the making of A Dark Murmuration of Words back in November 2019 at Studiowz in Pembrokeshire, Wales. It features the fine musicianship of Lukas Drinkwater (bass), Pete Roe (keys), Rob Pemberton (drums and synth), Misha Law (viola) and Emily Hall (violin). The riff that appears in the verses was taken from a writing session with my dear friend Ted Barnes many years ago which – somewhat appropriately for the song – I found when sifting through a batch of old recordings. I fleshed out the music and added these words…

Dinosaur Bones

By Emily Barker and Ted Barnes

Organise these memories into hand-me-down cases
Generations worn, a rusted clasp, the lining’s torn
I was thinking of my father and about dinosaur bones
And how we create the story with the fragments that we’re thrown

Sifting through these letters, come alive in callow words
Sorting into boxes what to keep and what to burn
I was thinking of my mother and the pieces she let go
And how we adopt a story until it becomes our own

All the ways we print ourselves in sedimentary stone
Draw the muscles, sketch the skin, add the meaning

Turning pages down a street where time is standing still
Searching through old photographs for emptiness to fill
I was thinking of my grandparents and a past I wish I’d known
And how we alter the story, with each telling that gets told

All the ways we print ourselves in sedimentary stone
Draw the muscles, sketch the skin, add the meaning,
add the meaning

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