The Best Rosanne Cash Song Ever
Dare you not to weep!
That baby became me. ... Reminds me of the heartbreaking Dylan line in "If You See Her, Say Hello" from Blood on the Tracks: "She still lives inside of me/ We've never been apart." It seems to me from the way she writes about the profound effect of a 1995 miscarriage in her memoir, and from the way she spoke about it candidly at the 92nd St. Y event, that it was a turning point in her life. She doesn't say so explicitly, but it's hard to hear that line now about a room prepared for a baby who "was not delivered" without thinking this is what she is referring to.
That grief—and her recovery from it—is, I think, at the center of the book. It's almost as if that verse was the eulogy for the child not delivered.
It's the kind of grief men can suffer, but never as much. I know this because my mother suffered two still-births and, and though she never spoke about it to me, I believe the deep streak of sadness that was bequeathed to me by those losses is what has drawn me to this music of loss. That's my new theory anyway.
Look at that: I've never written anything so emotional. Rosanne Cash will do that to you.
And then there's the verse her father sings in their "September When It Comes" duet when it's clear he's singing about his own coming death:
I plan to crawl outside these walls
Close my eyes and see
Fall into the heart and arms
Of those who wait for me.
Note the use of the rhetorical device "fall into the heart and arms." It reminded me of Shakespearean hendiadys, * the signature figure of speech of Hamlet, a device that some have argued expresses in its doubling the divided soul of Hamlet himself. "Heart and arms" recalled to me another line from Hamlet, "the book and volume of my soul." Well, that's how I remembered it. Only my memory was at fault. In the text it's "book and volume of my brain." But in "heart and arms" we hear the book and volume of the soul as well.
The girl can write. Listen to "September When It Comes." Read those eulogies. Not that Composed is entirely without humor, even about death. She talks about one of the ambitious funeral directors she deals with approaching her with a new innovation the industry has come up with. If she agrees to be cremated, the eager mortuary man says excitedly, they can compress the carbon ash or her remains into a diamond. (I'm not making this up; anyway that's what she says.)
She laughs it off. I know she wouldn't say it, but she's already one of life's gems.
Correction, Oct. 13, 2010: This article initially misspelled the name of a rhetorical device. It's hendiadys, not hendyiasis. ( Return to the corrected sentence.)
Ron Rosenbaum is the author of The Shakespeare Wars and Explaining Hitler. His latest book is How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III.
Photograph of Roseanne Cash by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images.