Story in Lyrics Creative Project by Zixiao yue

Sometimes, I can feel there is a story hidden behind a song. It is formed by strong emotion and great visual images in the song. It is sorrowful; it is happy; it is bittersweet; it is circuitous; it is plain; it is our lives.

When I read “Bird on a Wire,” written by Leonard Cohen, the images that he creates, the rhymes in his poem, and the emotion that hang in the air touch me. With these images and emotions, Cohen brings readers into a piece of his own memory, a story that he would like to share.

One of the most advantageous features of lyric poems is that it is so easy to evoke readers’ empathy. The poet (or singer) narrates their own stories directly to readers, with strong emotion. The images and emotions will create a feeling of deja vu in readers, causing a strong empathy for the readers. After readers link these emotions or images to their own memories, the lyrics will hit them in the deep of their heart. In “Bird on a Wire,” I especially love some images. The first one is “a bird on the wire,” because I saw the exactly same scene in my own life and have the same poetic feeling of this image. I even took some pictures of those birds because I really like the scene. The second one is “like a beast with his horn/ I have torn everyone who reached out for me.” The simile between the poet himself and “a beast with his horn” makes me have a vision of a giant, sad, and lonely beast, who wants to be loved but always incautiously hurts people who come to love him. The third one is “a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch” and “a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door.” These two images are pieces of the poet’s memory; however, I have a strong deja vu, because I have already brought the story and emotion into my own memory. With all those images and emotions, I feel like I am the man who has a strong desire to love but always do it wrong.

I am the man who begged my love to stay. I am the man who got drunk in a gentle night and saw a bird on the wire. I am the man who cried beneath the wooden telegraph pole.

After read this poem, I listened to the song. The low-pitched voice of Leonard Cohen, the gentle nylon guitar plucking, the echo and sigh of cello and violin, they all make the song so gentle and sad. The great melody sings with the lyric. The story behind this poem is like an old black-and-white film slowly showing in the silver screen. Every line is so poetic and beautiful, and every scene in the story is so clear. Many songs make me feel the same “story” feeling. Another one gives me the same feeling is “Tears in Heaven,” written by Eric Clapton. A gentle song with sadness but full of love. When I hear the song, I can clearly feel and see the story behind it.

The combination between poetry and music is common and also really extraordinary if the combination works well. Many great musicians are also great poets as well, such as Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, and, of course, Leonard Cohen. The combination strengthens the emotions in their works. The melody offers a specific atmosphere to the readers(or listeners). They are able to be drenched in the atmosphere, then feel the story.

Therefore, my creative project is about the stories behind lyrics. I have three songs that I recorded. Two of them are original and another one is a cover. I list them below with lyrics. I felt it would be interesting that if I read and listen to it from a distance as an audience and try to feel the stories behind these songs. According to my feelings, I set out to write three short stories from these songs.

Bird on a Wire

by Leonard Cohen

Like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
It Does Not Matter


The man comes to the pub again: the only place that keeps his passion. After ten years of dull work as a white collar, running in the same circle year after year, he does not feel joy in his career any more. The pub is a shelter for him. In this place, he can hide himself behind a mask. No one will try to get into another person’s private life. The air is filled with the Smell of libido and lust. The dim warm light is the aphrodisiac for strangers. Holding back their own secrets, people hug, kiss, and fondle.

The man asks for bourbon whiskey, as always, sitting in a dark corner, watching the waves of people moving. He loves the feeling to be totally relaxed and away from work. Pulling out a pack of cigarettes from jacket’s pocket, lighting one, the man looks at the smog floating in the yellow lights, like jellyfishes floating with the current. The slow jazz music, the noise of people’s chatters, and the clinks of glasses, they are all getting blurred in the man’s mind. He feels sleepy.

“Can I sit here?” Suddenly, a woman’s voice arises.

“Oh, for sure.” He replies.

When the woman sits, he sees her much clearer in the dim lights: she is beautiful. Long black hair is tied with a simple knot. Snow-like complexion matches with delicate nose. When she smiles, her vivacious dark brown eyes turn to crescent shape like a little cat. Dense, long, and upturned eyelashes leave beautiful shadows covering her eyes. The lights reflected by her eyes become crystal sparks. The perfect balance between shadows and lights, forming a whole universe. Her lips are dressed with bright red lipsticks. Slim body was wrapped by the black tight dress, only showing her graceful feminine curve. Her straight slender legs are like a white fox running through the night.

The man is stunned by the beauty. Having another drag of cigarette keeps him stay calm. The woman asks for a cigarette, softening the atmosphere. They start to have some small talk. They talk till midnight. She says she feel sleepy.

The man knows the rules.

The night is dark and full of the smell of desires.

In the next day’s morning, the man wakes up on the bed of a hotel. The woman has already left. Nothing in the room can prove she was with him last night. The man feels like there is an empty hole deeply in his heart. “She is not the only one. Why do I feel like this?” The man asks himself.

The man never meets the woman again. He still drinks the same alcohol; he still sits at the same spot; he still smokes the same brand of cigarette. But the woman never comes back again, like she never exists. The name is fake; the words can be fake; the emotion could be fake; even the heart might be fake.

Only the hole in the man’s heart proves she’s real.

“Tell me I am alone, tell me I am not
Born on the road, dying on the road
Bring me some alcohol, I may not to drink
Putting on the table, bittering my shadow

I may think, I may think of you

I can think of someone else

It is just not important any more

I might cry, I might cry for myself

For what I have done so wrong

Moon on the water, a hole in the flower

Moon on the water, a hole in the flower”

Section of Heart


The man comes back to where he started his journey, the place he was familiar with, the place he had lived for 18 years. So many things have changed: the old brick houses had been pulled down. The narrow crowed alleys had been abandoned, only birds live there. Skyscrapers grow in the soil which used to belong to those shabby houses and small alleys. His hometown has changed, so does him.

He was not the eighteen-year old boy anymore. Away from his home for over ten years, he has been rounded by life, doing boring jobs day after day, following leader’s orders, living carefully enough to get along well with all the people around him.

Walking through the street, the man stops at a corner. He remembers the place, the place that he said farewell to the girl, who was stay in the deepest place in his heart.

He remembers the first day they met. It was in the first class in high school. The class room is noisy, and he could feel the excitement in the air. Then he saw the girl, walking into the classroom. His heart skipped a beat. All the noise faded away in that moment. She had a shoulder-length hair in beautiful chestnut color. He loved the color, the color of autumn.

In the second year in high school, he told the girl he loved her. The girl hugged him, saying, “I love you too.”

They spent lots of time staying together. They did short trips together on the free weekends to other cities and towns nearby, where no one could recognize them. They kissed slowly in the sunshine and wind in spring. They hugged tight near the river in autumn.

He remembers everything: the morning bus drove to another city. The wind leaked from the window. The tips of girl’s hair were blown by the wind. Two hands held together, fingers cross fingers. The girl fell asleep, leaning on the boy’s shoulder. The girl’s warm breath blew on the boy’s face. The boy watched the girl's face, patting her head.

He also remembers the day they said farewell to each other. They stood in the corner of the alley. Both of them were about to go to different cities for university. The boy said goodbye. The girl hugged him once again. She smiled, but the boy saw the tears in her eyes.

“Take care,” she said, “don’t forget me.”

“I won’t,” the boy said.

The man covers his face. The tears come out from the deepest place of his heart.

But there is no way back.

He has changed.

So has the girl.

“Look into your eyes, make seasons change
Sunshine in the spring and a river through the fall
I walk down the street, lighting a cigarette
You stand in the corner, fade away next moment

I’ve never seen you cry,

Keeping the memories into my mind.

This is section of heart, this is pause of love

I’m going to hold you in my arms

This is section of heart, this is pause of love

We step in each other’s life, but beaten by time

Have you seen a bird in sea

Chasing ocean current

Have you seen the whales in night

Gathering their stars

I can hear the sound of the trees

See you under the rain

I can hear the sound of years

What a sweet memory

This is section of heart, this is pause of love

I’m going to hold you in my arms

This is section of heart, this is pause of love

We step in each other’s life, but beaten by time

Look into your eyes, make seasons change

Sunshine in the spring and a river through the fall”


After doing the creative project, I find it is interesting and also important to feel the stories behind songs. When we listen to music, what we listen to is not only the melody, but also the lyric and the emotion. The melody sets up an atmosphere; the lyric build up a structure; the emotion fills up details. By combining all these elements, adding our own imagination, memories, or experiences, we are able to tell the story behind a song. It is also the reason that a song could touch the deepest place of our heart. By knowing the story, or telling the story on our own, we are able to recreate a song into words, to understand the song much better and deeper. It really helps when people read or listen to some great poems and songs, such as "Bird on a Wire."

The whole project is very inspiring for me. I listened to the song all night when I tried to come up with a story behind the song. When I got the feeling, the story just flowed out from my mind, gently and naturally. It is my feeling of this song. It is a part of this song, but it is also a part of me.

Created By
Zixiao Yue


Created with images by zeevveez - "Birds on a Wire - Black and White"

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