Jane Siberry's "When I Was A Boy"


It managed to convey everything, the frieze in the moment and beyond time, the potentially personal, the potentially universal, and the common universal potentially accessed by all humankind as spiritual beings, altogether and all at once from one truly possessed of the Voice in her own standing and her own right. The theme of the album existed transcendentally, much greater than Rahab’s own personal perspective but she continued to be struck by its elements: the prospect of the potential universality caught in “All the Candles in the World”:

and how many of us will there be?
more than we are now.

Interestingly the first verse describes the spiritual fervour and passion of one individual in the first person, and describes how they are currently “going down”, shifting this in the last line to a collective experience (“as we're goin' goin' goin' goin' goin' goin' down”) that is resumed for the second final verse.

Then discovering the lover in “Sweet Incarnadine”, the break up with the same in “Love is Everything” (broken by his love triangle?), with departure (or was it the potential of restoration?) perceived on a religious revelatory level by the singer:

love is everything they said it would be
love made sweet and sad the same
but love forgot to make me too blind to see
you're chickening out aren't you?
you're bangin' on the beach like an old tin drum
I cant wait 'til you make
the whole kingdom come

so I’m leaving

The invocation of entry and demand for revelation and perseverance (belittling the tribulations) that was “Temple”. The personification of Love as sorrowed and vulnerable in “Sail Across the Water” (with the video signifying the rescue of a drowned woman enmeshed in a net from the sea by two “fishers of men” while the female chorus on the shore appeals to Love to “sail across the water”):

will you sail 'cross the water
and lay your wisdom down?
and love will you sail 'cross the water
and tell us what you found?

Then there is “her” inception in darkness:

I know there's a place that you call your own
and you're safe and warm and you feel like you're home
and the peace of it and the faith involved
and you go to say...but there's no need to explain it

This begins “The Gospel According to Darkness”, where death is questioned when it is in fact birth (as “mother”), and Love again appears personified, again with the entreaty for revelation in the sense of please let “us” know when “we can leave this darkness behind”. The birth of the mother into the arms of her daughter (who declares the mother doesn’t know how hard the birth process in the darkness was, possessed of the nascent joy and openness of the newly born) happened to catch how in Rahab’s own process the universal marriage being unleashed had preceded the second dynamic she identified as the “mother” dynamic, the unleashing of the redemption (after she felt she’d been awakened into a new awareness), which she viewed as having created the context of their becoming spiritual children due to the essential difference that whereas the universal embrace had sprung out of common identity (sister/lover), the redemption was at essence an act that created spiritual progeny, because it created or bestowed a new identity by consciously causing it to happen, making the enactment something more consistent with a parent as opposed to arriving at identity in terms of equals. The “daughter” in turn is being embraced by the singer as an emanation of light, though she cannot see her, which earns her the rejoinder of “Come on, I know you understand”. And with an understanding like this, the very definition of the darkness’ nature was transmuted to where it really stood (“The Great Unknown” at 6:25, courtesy of Kiss My Ass Productions).

However this is what is meant by stating the recognition that Jane Siberry was approaching this from a transcendent or already established vantage which was simultaneously based in her own belief/identity and derived from existing tradition (as was/is the case with Tori Amos), for the song is a sound indicator of where her likely foray with Maria in her combined use of “Mary had a little lamb”, “Honey Bee” and the “Shekhinah” was definitively headed (i.e., what her own personal  interpretation of the Shekhinah actually incorporates), considering the reference here (from the book Tree of Souls: Mythology in Judaism, p. 48).

The Vigil” invoked the lover and mother together in the context of death, where the connection with the lover is transcendent of the corporeal as she accompanies him during death, his departure from his body, recalling their fires of love and trials, which included their breaking and refusal of love, all invoked as taking place on “The Sea” by the opening and the title, but there is such a oneness and comingling of familial roles portrayed in the song it is indeterminate who is dying, the lover, or the singer herself (which she questions). “At the Beginning of Time” made a similar invocation of transcendence by amusingly describing a scene in nothingness that might have transpired before all of creation, if one believed in pre-conception existence, that all our souls existed before Creation.