This song started off when the line “fourteen thieves broke into your heart” popped in my head. This led to me fleshing out the origins or motivation of the fourteen thieves. I delved into some of my past published poems, finding ideas about this oddly stressed relationship about a man in love with a woman who constantly appeared to snatch unhappiness from a basically happy relationship. – Ward Kelley
Verse 1 Fourteen thieves broke into your heart, stole your peace, and made off with it all, you love best, child, what loves you apart. Love is only a tragic close call. Chorus Oh, my Countessa of the Willows, you lay your head upon my pillows, Oh, my Countessa of the Willows, like you’re submitting to our gallows.
In verse 2 I pivoted off the English poet Stevie Smith’s line, ‘I’m drowning, not waving.’ – Ward Kelley“Not Waving but Drowning” is a poem by the British poet Stevie Smith. It was published in 1957 as part of a collection of the same title. The most famous of Smith’s poems, it gives an account of a drowned man whose distressed thrashing in the water had been mistaken for waving. The poem was accompanied by one of Smith’s drawings, as was common in her work.
Verse 2 You want to learn how to raise your hand, wave it back and forth, say, “Well, here I am!” But then, child, I could never quite understand, you pull it right back down, and just say, “Damn!” Chorus Oh, my Countessa of the Willows, most souls mimic the arc of these willows, Oh, my Countessa of the Willows as they bend far into the shallows.
Verse 3 resolves the nature of the fourteen thieves who are actually fourteen pieces of the woman, parts of her who always seem to steal her peace. – Ward Kelley
Verse 3 Fourteen thieves, fourteen pieces of you; under your breast, child, there’s a throbbing ache . . . all that you do, you quickly undo, all that you make, you’ll soon want to break. Chorus Oh, my Countessa of the Willows, why have you allowed your lands to go fallow? Oh, my Countessa of the Willows how can I bring you to just let it go? Verse 4 Sad people tend to look at themselves, and dwell upon all of their failings. Strong people, child, see the good in themselves; you need to see good traits, not your railings.
In the bridge I referenced the Roman Empire custom of placing a slave in the chariot of a triumphal general being feted by a celebratory parade when entering Rome: always remember you are human too. Anastasia’s part of the duet delivers two clues to the singer. She sings ‘can I ever belong?’ and later, ‘I need love, love, love.’ – Ward Kelley
Bridge You need the slave in your chariot, who whispers to you, “Always remember you are human too!” You need love, you need love, love, love, here in the land where you can never, never, belong. Instrumental Chorus Oh, my Countessa of the Willows, the winds, like smoke, they stream and billow, Oh, my Countessa of the Willows, pushing us both, oh, to the gallows.
Contessa of the Willows by Stafford/Kelley 2016
history of souls by Ward Kelley.
Author, poet, and lyricist Ward Kelley is now offering a second version of "history of souls". This book offers poetry that encompasses a number of themes:
Magical realism: Literature that looks at fables, myths, and allegory in the rational world.
Reincarnation: The philosophical and/or religious concept that the soul or spirit, after death, can begin a new life in a new body to learn new experiences and gain knowledge.
Metaphysics: A traditional branch of philosophy concerned with nature of being and the world that surrounds it.