"You Can’t Have Mississippi, Sufjan Stevens" was written on July 12, 2006, in response to Sufjan Stevens’ aim to write an album for all 50 states.
The song isn’t an affront, though it may seem so. So if you’re Sufjan Stevens, don’t take this song the wrong way. I’d love a Sufjan Stevens album on Mississippi. I just have particular hopes for the writing process.
Among them is the hope that he would visit the places, hear the drawl, swelter in the heat and despair – a hope for more than “allusions to maps.” Maybe I’m a jerk for wanting that.
Ruins of WindsorThe song is emphatically not saying either
1. that I don’t want Sufjan to do an album for Mississippi or
2. that I think I’m the fella to do an album for Mississippi. No one from a state where Elvis Presley, BB King, Jimmy Buffett, Muddy Waters, Conway Twitty, Kate Campbell, Claire Holley, Caroline Herring, Neilson Hubbard, Sam Cooke, Bo Diddley, 3 Doors Down, Tammy Wynette, W. C. Handy, John Lee Hooker, Blind Melon, Johanny Johanson, Tommy Johnson, Charley Pride, LeAnn Rimes, Jimmie Rodgers, or Britney Spears started can say that.
This plan brings to mind the day of the wedding;
No one requested objections to hear.
My aunt’s 4th husband kissed her like a cowboy.
They often fought. They divorced in a year.
The minister’s text was the Velveteen Rabbit
And Luke 2:13 where the shepherds saw light.
Reliving such scenes in my mind is my habit –
Some dreams in mid-sermon I step forth and fight.
I was 16, but I could have stopped it all.
Her subsequent pain, I thought it my fault.
Our first agricultural export is pine trees –
Allusions to maps may sound nice for your songs.
But my grandpa lived next to Eudora Welty,
And I eulogize fallen trees in my poems.
I’ve held my tongue too many times to name –
From eloquent dreams awakened to shame.
You can’t have Mississippi, Sufjan.
You can’t have every state in the Union.
What is your federal motivation –
Innocence, hubris or patriotism?
Or maybe it’s more like the time that she kissed me.
She was so free and so fast,
and I was the mute boy from Mississippi –
I’d only wished she had asked.
It couldn’t last; she didn’t know me well.
Couldn’t it last? She was so beautiful.
Come ride with me on the Trace for a day.
What sense of place can be gained where you are?
The Ruins of Windsor are lovely in May –
Reminders that truth, beauty, failure so often are one.