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​Empire Liquor Mart

This song is by Gabriel Kahane and appears on the album The Ambassador (2014).

When the black and whites arrive
I am lifeless on the floor.
Crumpled dollars in my hand
In my hand, in my hand.

The lady in the fishing vest
Has dropped the gun.
Who wears a fishing vest
When they're working at a liquor store?

I float up to the corner
Just above the ice cream
And the frozen food.
I perch beside the surveillance
Camera...

Only days after the trial
You could feel the tension rise.
In the streets and in the rhythm
Of despair, of despair.

It was war after a while
In each neighbor's tired eyes.
There was nothing to persuade them
To stand down, to stand down.

I float higher and higher
Friendly with the clouds
That cover Southland...

I watch the tender skyline
Dancing, oh the terror -
On the long night,
On the long night,
Blood, glass, burnt hair.

These angry armies
Quick advancing in position:
On the rooftops, in the culverts,
Stores are sacked while there's no one there.

Now two kinds of light
From fires and fixtures
They fill the sky
It was never so bright when I was young
I was too young to die.

On TV sets, in houses
Effortlessly done in fancy colors
All the righteous, all the newsmen
Speak of end times

Why should they give a fuck
Some angry little black girl took a bullet?
Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy
On the ones who've done the crime

Now two kinds of light
From fires and fixtures
They fill the sky
It was never so bright when I was young
I was too young to die.

If I float even higher
Pattern and procession are uncovered
Flood and fire, flood and earthquake
Keep folks unmoored

And the occasional celebrity car chase
Woo woo woo woo!
Just to keep God from getting bored

Now two kinds of light
From fires and fixtures
They fill the sky
It was never so bright when I was young
I was too young to die.

When my grandma was a young woman East St. Louis
She thought the town was no good to us
She took a Greyhound just as far as it could take her
Felt her maker in the waves
You know, how God moves through us

I was six years old when we followed
My mother was twenty-two
The light was magic, the light was true

She thought we'd moved
Beyond a sharecropper's debt
But we were just a pawn in the accuser's bet

Nobody reads from the Book of Job
At the church where me and my grandma go
Nobody sees the trouble I know
But I know that trouble's gonna find me

Three years later on a Thanksgiving
The light turned bitter
My grandmother didn't know what hit her

We got a chill from the cold white sun
Momma found herself staring
At the barrel of a gun

That weren't enough, my uncle died too
Shot through the chest back in East St. Louis

So one fine day my grandma lost two
Took me in her arms and said,
It's just me and you

Nobody reads from the Book of Job
At the church where me and my grandma go
Nobody sees the trouble I know
But I know that trouble's gonna find me

So when I say that my untimely death
Was something certain
What I mean is that these tragedies
Are a kind of a family tradition

So when I walk into the liquor store
That morning, bright and angry
In a daydream of a boyfriend
I was fifteen

Pick up a bottle of orange juice
And put it into my backpack
Head toward the counter with dollar bills
And she accuse me of stealing that
She pull my sweater and so I hit her
Put down the bottle don't want no trouble

Now two kinds of light
From fires and fixtures
They fill the sky
It was never so bright when I was young
I was too young to die.

Now two kinds of light
From fires and fixtures
They fill the sky
It was never so bright when I was young
I was too young to die.

I suppose it's no surprise
To find myself about to die
But how long that silver moment
From the bullet to the floor

That right there was a lifetime...

Written by:

Gabriel Kahane