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Starlet Letter

By Carmelita Estrellita

Estrellita still ain't got no band but her new (virtual) album drops the same month as Leonard Cohen's who’s one of her heroes. She composed about half the lyrics here in a hot rush last New Year’s eve/day, which calls to mind a story Cohen once told about Bob Dylan:

Dylan said to me, "I like this song you wrote called ‘Hallelujah.’" In fact, he started doing it in concert. He said, "How long did that take you to write?" And I said, "Oh, the best part of two years." He said, "Two years?" Kinda shocked. And then we started talking about a song of his called "I And I" from Infidels. I said, "How long did you take to write that." He said, "Ohh, 15 minutes." I almost fell off my chair. Bob just laughed.

Earlier this year, Estrellita sent First a note protesting her home radio station’s facetious 70th Birthday tribute to Dylan. She was put out, in particular, by “absurd” conflations of Paul Simon and Dylan…

wherein Simon is quoted as saying people always compared him to Bob Dylan (in his dreams: no one could compare the two)…Simon was a pop star, a gifted one, who either never had an edge or softened it all the time for commercial success. Simon undersold his audience…

And what's worse:

Simon mispronounces Graceland throughout his hit song, but Elvis is buried there!

When Estrellita sings her own life, she aims for minds with edge:

anyone who thinks is disadvantaged

by anyone who doesn’t

intelligence is an away game

where the winners always lose

Yet instinctively she knows never to come on from above.

intellectually, we’re all disadvantaged

by the illusion of order in logic

any cat’s smarter than I am at 56 and

both of mine worked their ways up from the projects

Starlett Letter has Estrellita's latest margin calls from America. It confirms she's one of our best and oddest – “a genius by heart.”

You Are Who I Am

there’s a frog in the throat of the morning
a fog-filled gasp on the lawn
the gods are dancing it’s new year’s eve
pretty soon last year’s gonna be gone

there’s a wino on the highway
begging for cigarettes
there’s a rich kid in his Mercedes
praying for a way out of debt

my dad says you can’t take it with you
but it sure hasn’t stopped him from trying
I know I can take it with me
because of all my love inside

join me in a circle
that sometimes is a spiral
I’ll go up before the judge if I have to
not to practice denial

I love you in the shank of the morning
I love you in the leg of the lamb
I love you forever in my own way
that’s just the way I am

The Night (Alone)

at night I count my blessings
I never could keep track of sheep
before that I count my medications
so I can sleep

turned 21 in sudden death overtime
irretrievable ward of the state
2 years after my 90 days
I had no fate

prolixin intravenously
and I don’t mean the shoulder
every time Rhetta got her needle in there
my ass got a little bit older

christmas in the bathroom
head nurse making me shave
steam on the windows from all the nightmares
that formed the walls of our cage

shower with other inmates
7 showerheads and a trough
all of them were accused of violence
of which only a handful got off

turned 21 in standard-issue government attire
wondering where my family went and were they liars
to say they loved me under lock and key
now it’s every whack job in the state of Virginia and me


drooling like a Rembrandt
habits I can’t afford
in my lexicon hot means stolen
five fingers are a shoplifter’s sword
(oh lord)

schizzing like a Van Gogh
brushing away
all offers of anything beyond being alive long enough
to paint every day
(I’ve gone astray)

manic as a statue
in a foundry town
anxious as a billboard
to be torn down
(help me come around)

if I fall in love
if love ever comes my way
I remind myself I’ve only one room
where love could stay
(and it’s put away)

crying in front of Rembrandt
centuries might’ve gone past
but I reached out a hand to his self-portrait
and he held me fast
(with a love that lasts)

Wave Theology

didn’t mean to bowl you over
but I can also disappear
maybe I come off as stone cold sober
but I’m just sincere

I fall easily for a person like you
but lots of times it’s just ‘cause I haven’t tied my shoes
I pick myself up when I feel alone
but I’m always disappointed when I get myself home

love’s not meant for people like me
so out of step with society
got no plans I’m always free
but I can’t say no to notoriety

I’m not restless I’m not dead
I’m just a love song in Jesus’s head
a flock of wild geese praying for bread
looking for God but accepts me instead

I’m proud to deliver
what I’m made so much of
I’m not the giver
just the reflection of love

maybe you don’t want to
second my emotion
but don’t sweat it
we’re not the ocean


my daddy’s a sailor
everything’s rigged
the decks are stacked against his kids
and I’m always marked for the brig

but I found hope in a hole
in a window my father never knew was there
crawled out with the help of Jesus
into the sunlight in prayer

I’m not saying he’s happy
I’m not saying he’s sad
just between the 2 of us
I’m not even sure he’s my dad

momma used to chat up the mailman
the plumber and never-ending chauffeurs
I don’t know about her other children
but I’m not even sure I’m hers

my family’s a schooner
everything’s rigged
they even have to shrink religion
to feel big


I’m the 12 foot whore of Bethlehem
gonna leave no cover unturned
gonna stand right by my savior
if I have to watch him get burned

I’m the biggest tramp in Nazareth
I’ll suck your dick for a dime
or if you have a Blakeian imagination
I’ll let you suck mine

I’m the ugliest thing on Main Street
and honey they’ve built some ugly shit
but I’m the only storefront east of Chicago
with an Olympian clit

for a couple bucks you could save me
from having to finish this song
because frankly I’ve got an awful feeling
something’s about to go wrong

I’m a sideshow freak
astride life’s circus-tent
I don’t eat no canned goods
‘cause I’m already dented

I’m a fuckin’ hermaphrodite
and Mary’s all bent
‘cause only I know
where Jesus really went


I was her vibrator
her cellular phone
I was her pawn shop
now I'm a loan

I was her tickler her stickler
her tease
I was 9.8 on her scale
of disease

I was her 911, 411, 0 and after
I was punchline she was the laughter
I was her global warming
she was my natural disaster

hang on to your future
I wouldn't put it past her
I tried to keep up but she
kept moving faster

I was her boogaloo down broadway
I was her backfield in motion
I was her wade in the water but I drowned
she wouldn't second that emotion

I was her ain't too proud to beg
her dancing in the street
I was her virgina p.a.
she was my self-righteous beats

I was her dildo
her satellite tv
and found out the hard way
the only thing she thinks of's not me

1 the Hard Way

(For the Beastie Boys!)

I have more luck with dictionaries than lovers
even if they do spend too much time trying to explain
etymology is poetry to a songwriter’s ears
and the case from a decent 2-volume O.E.D. is a pretty good hat in the rain

I have more luck with words than women
even less luck with men
I have more experience turning a phrase
then I’ll ever have turning a head

I can’t even use love in a sentence
without crying a little inside
I’ve got so much tenderness to give
in a heart I can’t hide

I’m no light under a bushel
I’m a beacon on a lighthouse of love
I believe even electric lights are a
reflection of light from above

I do better with double-entendres
than I do with hors d’oeuvres
I grew up with a whole lot of manners
but most of them lost their nerve
(I’m an adjective when I might’ve been a verb)

Dance Lisa

I love her she loves me
but I don’t fit her geography
colored-pencil united states of america map
always wished somehow the colors were allowed to overlap

lisa alvarez I wanna see you dance
shake your sweet soul booty with me while we got the chance
rump to rump, smile to smile
hip to hip, heart to heart…meanwhile

I love her she loves me
but I share her same geography
I don’t know much about the birds and the bees
but what I do know I do know doesn’t include me

lisa montana shake yourself free
45 seconds of eternity dance with me
as soon as the lights dim I’ll leave the floor
and if you don’t want to you’ll never have to dance with me no more

Obligatory Cocaine Song

my body’s gone plain
out of her brain
to be polite I spend the night
inhaling cocaine

my baby’s on the 12th floor
I’m on ten
I can’t tell if we’re ever gonna meet
at 11 again

my baby’s plum off the train
her luggage may be here but the girl’s insane
she took me to humboldt county last night
but I never saw the plane

my baby’s clinically depressed
making my suit impossible to press
but even in wrinkles I like her the best
if we could get this cocaine off our chests
(we both have breasts)

cocaine baby it’s not for free
the money’s only half of it if you ask me
I’ll toot up a 20 a 60 a 9
So my cocaine baby won’t leave me too far behind
(we’re two of a kind)

cocaine’s for rock stars
not for men
the doctors say she’ll come around
but they can’t say when
(cocaine gotta let me back in)

The Aquarium Is the Underwaterworld’s Mental Institution

why anybody’s living here
beats the hell out of me
cats have to pony up ten dollars a month
fish stay free

other animals can only come in at all
if they’re on TV
how anybody’s living here’s
a study worth a PhD

fact that anybody’s living here
figures it’d have to be me
either I must’ve screwed the landlord in a previous life
or it’s this life and he’s screwing me

could anybody really be living here
I wonder if I see
why in the world I didn’t move on
when the washer hookup first sneered at me

whether anybody’s living here
is a mystery to me
cats have to cough up ten bucks a month
flipping fish stay free

Last Time (Brian Suite #1)

last time I saw Brian
he was smoking like there was no tomorrow
he knew everything ahead like that
and I will not look back in sorrow

because the last time I saw Brian
he had a smile on his face
that could’ve would’ve and actually does
light up the whole human race

last time I saw Brian
he was laid at rest
upstairs he was still smiling
but the beat had left his chest

I guess the last time I saw him
we were talking about art
he was smoking an artificial cigarette
for the health of his heart

last time I saw Brian
where do I start
next time I see him no kind of matter
will keep us apart

Lullaby (Genius By Heart)

Brian’s brown eyes
channel mine
churning in the mystery
he leaves behind

a monk of many pleasures
a storyteller in the arts
some people never work up to it
he was a genius by heart

I’m gonna quit smoking
to carry his own attempts on
I’m gonna feel his warmth forever
he’ll never be gone
(even this time it’s not for long)

he conjures up some kind of balance
I feel him leave feel him stay
I’m not tired but I’m not sleeping
brian’s doing that in my stead today

color me native
ask me not why
but it turns out I know a lullaby
to help Brian go to sleep in the sky

Again (Brian Suite #3)

Brian just got dead
even though he’s been there before
he’s got tons of new material
to make that graveyard roar

Brian just got a step ahead
of all those busses we missed
walking off the planet like a friendly wizard
into the morning mist
(in which he still exists)

Brian just found the next place
he was needed to go
he won’t have to quit smoking anymore
or the pain he’s had to know

he’s walking tall in heaven
sunsetting over the hill
but if anybody’s gonna make the sunrise tomorrow
brian will

I get to write songs about it
I’ve had my share of pain too
but nothing compared to the shrugged-off gentleness
of the pain Brian must’ve gone through

Brian just got dead
but he’s been there before
we worked on some material together
bet he’s making that graveyard roar

I’m Smoking For Two

sweating on a cot
where there is no light
gonna sleep like a
poet tonight

empty head no
relief in sight
gonna sleep like
e a poe tonight

nightmares that’d give
death a fright
gonna sleep with the angels of
lyric tonight

sometimes trouble
can’t be put right
but I’m glad I can worry enough
to sleep like a poet tonight

no one lives with me
to talk I write
I take myself dancing, smoke a few bones
and we both sleep like poets tonight

Screen shot 2012-02-15 at 11.21.57 AM.png

From January, 2012

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