Music Discussion: The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us! by Sufjan Stevens

Okay, so I thought I’d try one song a week in this sort of ala cart music discussion attempt. This song selection was chosen by Allison. Click on the video below for the song and throw your $0.02 in for discussion. Also, if you have a song you’d like to discuss in a future week, let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us! by Sufjan Stevens
Thinking outrageously I write in cursive
I hide in my bed with the lights on the floor
Wearing three layers of coats and leg warmers
I see my own breath on the face of the door
Oh I am not quite sleeping
Oh I am fast in bed
There on the wall in the bedroom creeping
I see a wasp with her wings outstretched
North of Savanna we swim in the palisades
I come out wearing my brother’s red hat
There on his shoulder my best friend is bit seven times
He runs washing his face in his hands
Oh how I meant to tease him
Oh how I meant no harm
Touching his back with my hand I kiss him
I see the wasp on the length of my arm
Oh great sights upon this state! Hallelu-
Wonders bright, and rivers, lake. Hallelu-
Trail of Tears and Horseshoe Lake. Hallelu-
trusting things beyond mistake. Hallelu-
We were in love. We were in love.
Palisades! Palisades! Palisades
I can wait. I can wait.
Lamb of God, we sound the horn.
Hallelujah!
To us your ghost is born.
Hallelu-
I can’t explain the state that I’m in
The state of my heart, he was my best friend
Into the car, from the back seat
Oh admiration in falling asleep
All of my powers, day after day
I can tell you, we swaggered and swayed
Deep in the tower, the prairies below
I can tell you, the telling gets old
Terrible sting and terrible storm
I can tell you the day we were born
My friend is gone, he ran away
I can tell you, I love him each day
Though we have sparred, wrestled and raged
I can tell you I love him each day
Terrible sting, terrible storm
I can tell you…

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5 thoughts on “Music Discussion: The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us! by Sufjan Stevens

  1. Megan says:

    I have to say, that Sufjan is somewhat of a mystery to me. I enjoy his music, enjoy the sound, but understand very little of it. I have this album, but haven’t listened to it that much, and certainly not in depth. I’m not sure I have much for this song and I understand if it is mysterious to anyone else listening to it for the first time.
    Still – anyone have any thoughts on this?

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  2. Jenni says:

    I love Sufjan, too. So much so that my aunt and I saw him in concert in Austin, TX. The show was symphonic, zany, and beautiful. I think my favorite album of his may be Seven Swans.
    However, I must admit I’ve read over these lyrics a few times and I don’t know that I “understand” the song. At the same time, that is part of what I love about Sufjan Stevens. His lyrics are poetic, fun, redemptive, and mysterious. Often very mysterious yet somehow I always see a bit of truth or praise. And, I get the feeling he doesn’t want to be pinned down.
    I’ll try to get back to you about these lyrics if I have an epiphany.
    🙂

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  3. Allison says:

    I probably picked the most esoteric song ever, anyway.
    Some of his songs are autobiographical and some aren’t. I don’t think this one is, but I do think it makes for an interesting narrative.
    From what I gather, it’s something about two friends who go play in the water, one gets stung, gets hurt, but I think there may be some deeper emotional hurt there than just an insect bite. I think there was some sort of fight between the friends, and one left and ran off. They were young, and had to ride back together….”
    It just reminds me of a rift I had with a good friend when we were teenagers…and our friendship has never been the same since. But I still love her as a good friend. And I just love the line “oh admiration in falling sleep” for some reason, especially with “terrible sting, terrible storm”
    Some think the friend died, but I’m not so sure. Sometimes there are pains worse than death.

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  4. Megan says:

    Yeah, I just listened to it again and thought that maybe from this part:
    Oh how I meant to tease him
    Oh how I meant no harm
    Touching his back with my hand I kiss him
    I see the wasp on the length of my arm

    That maybe the wasp isn’t a real wasp; that maybe he was the wasp who stung his friend and their friendship never recovered from that. The ending with the repeated “terrible sting, terrible storm” kind of says that to me, too.
    Relational wounds are so hard to heal, particularly when you don’t have a good understanding of forgiveness. If the friend didn’t understand forgiveness, their friendship would never have recovered (likewise, if he’s never asked for it from his friend).
    Just more rambling thoughts…

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  5. Robert says:

    I am of the opinion that there is no way to get around the song being about Christ.
    “… my best friend is bit seven times”
    Is a reference to the seven wounds of Christ.
    “… we swim in the palisades/I come out wearing my brother’s red hat”
    This is symbolic of baptism. After being baptized, we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
    Then there’s the fairly obvious reference in
    “Trusting things beyond mistake! Hallelu-
    We were in love! We were in love!
    Palisades! Palisades!
    I can wait. I can wait!
    Lamb of God we sound the horn!
    Hallelujah!
    To us your ghost is born!
    Hallelu-”
    The song is talking in very intimate terms of the relationship Christans share with Christ. Each piece of the song matches up perfectly in allegory to most concepts of his relationship.

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