MAGPIES (©Words and Music by Paul F. Cowlan)

Katy Moffatt gave me the idea for a song about secrets, while we were working together on a project for Teatro Antonin Artaud. It was written in the little mountain village of Sufers, on the road to the San Bernardino, in the beautiful old wooden house where Paul Rostetter, my Swiss agent and the manager of Brambus Records, used to live. I still miss that house.


Sometimes I seem to be lost and lonely,
all at sea; realizing that I should be free,
but something holds me down.
The snow fell all last night,
the mountains and the fields are white,
and, here alone, I watch a flight of magpies in the cold.

One for sorrow,
two for joy.
Three for a girl
and four for a boy.
Five for silver.
Six for gold.
And seven for a secret
that never should be told.


Have there been moments in your life
that you have never spoken of?
A memory you cling to, a dream you never told?
And has it ever crossed your mind to think,
if you could only hold onto that memory or dream,
that it might never fade?

But if, just once, you let it fly
the magic dims, the colours fade.
It slips between your fingers and vanishes away.
That's all it takes; a chance remark, a careless word,
and you betray the dream that came to rest with you,
but never comes again.

A secret shared, a secret lost.
Seven magpies in the snow.
The truth is,
you already know the cost of casual confidence.
White as the mountain, black as sin,
these seven birds have settled in my heart,
and, one by one, begin to trade my life away.

So count them up; those thoughtless words,
this snowfield and those seven birds.

One for sorrow,
two for joy.
Three for a girl
and four for a boy.
Five for silver.
Six for gold.
And seven for a secret

that never should be told.