A Dancing Absence

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How does subtlety communicate ambiguity?

The brilliance of the images that Sam Beam (aka Iron &Wine) creates is found in the subtly. It isn’t exactly easy to create images that reflect pure joy or pure tragedy, but it might be even more difficult to create images that reflect the ambiguity that encompasses most days of the week. This seems to be Beam’s specialty.

In the song “Boy With a Coin” Beam puts together three images, each a verse. Each verse describes an image of a world left to itself and worn down through minor tragedies and simple entropy. The final line of each verse speaks of God’s absence: “When God left the ground to circle the world.”

It’s hard to blame Beam for reading his experience in this world as such. But maybe it’s not as harsh of a criticism as I initially thought. I saw the video for this song today. It’s as simple and as beautiful as Iron & Wine’s music. Woman dancing flamenco in a dance studio as Beam plays the song off to the side. But then something happens that I didn’t expect. The teacher (or who I assume is the teacher) who has been standing behind Beam the entire song takes the floor alone and as she dances life seems to leap from the hem of her dress.

I’m not fully sure what to do with this image, especially as we start layering images from the lyrics of the song and now from the video, but there is something about the teacher and the anticipation on the faces of the students as she dances. Are we to take the line “When God left the ground to circle the world” as an end to God’s involvement in the world, or does the teacher continue to dance as she circles the world with life coming from the tails of her gown?

Boy With a Coin

A boy with a coin he found in the weeds
With bullets and pages of trade magazines
Close to a car that flipped on the turn
When God left the ground to circle the world

A girl with a bird she found in the snow
Then flew up her gown and that’s how she knows
That God made her eyes for crying at birth
Then left the ground to circle the Earth

A boy with a coin he crammed in his jeans
Then making a wish he tossed in the sea
Walked to a town that all of us burn
When God left the ground to circle the world