Sunday Music: Trying To Ignore The Elephant (Somehow)

3 recent deaths, one milestone birthday, and I’m thinking a lot about the lots we draw in what’s turned into a lot of life (not, ahem, enough yet, just for the record). Jason Isbell’s “Elephant” keeps playing in my head all the while.

It’s a song about a friend with cancer. It’s a song about the preciousness of life. It’s a song about the inevitability of death, the elephant we try our best to ignore by filling our spaces and passing our time.

The last nerve is exposed but he’s still holding one hand over it. He captures something here, in how he makes us see the elephant and promptly want to get back to ignoring it. Read the lyrics, take a listen, and look, even if it’s just for a second. We have to.

She said, “Andy, you’re better than your past”
Winked at me and drained her glass
Cross-legged on a barstool, like nobody sits anymore
She said, “Andy, you’re taking me home”
But I knew she planned to sleep alone
I’d carry her to bed, sweep up the hair from her floor
If I’d fucked her before she got sick
I’d never hear the end of it
She don’t have the spirit for that now
We just drink our drinks and laugh out loud
And bitch about the weekend crowd
And try to ignore the elephant somehow
She said, “Andy, you crack me up”
Seagram’s in a coffee cup
Sharecropper eyes, and the hair almost all gone
When she was drunk, she made cancer jokes
Made up her own doctors’ notes
Surrounded by her family, I saw that she was dying alone
But I’d sing her classic country songs
And she’d get high and sing along
She don’t have a voice to sing with now
We burn these joints in effigy
And cry about what we used to be
Try to ignore the elephant somehow
I buried her a thousand times, given up my place in line
But I don’t give a damn about that now
There’s one thing that’s real clear to me
No one dies with dignity
We just try to ignore the elephant somehow
We just try to ignore the elephant somehow
We just try to ignore the elephant somehow