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A Badly Broken Code

by Dessa

I’m building a body From balsam and ash I’m building a body with No god attached. I’m building a body From blueprints in Braille I’m building a body where our design has failed. There’s a book full of plans at the feet of poor Atlas Titled ‘For Man’ But the architects Only drew blanks, Now there’s nowhere to go But go back, go back, Go back, go back.
The Crow 03:37
That old crow Came back today Sitting in my window Like a prophet out on the fire escape to say Anger Is just love Left out, gone to vinegar You wake up a stranger To yourself and then you Learn to live with her Sit in her clothing til you Fill out her figure You know life’s no Bella telanovela The tightrope bows with Your weight in the center The slide show don’t put All the pictures together You try to do it right though Right though Until you let the kite go Death and romance: The riddles of our lifetimes Tryna get a slow dance Middle of a knife fight You get up and you You give blood. Even on a good night Even on a good night out. You send signal, You listen for an echo At the first splinters, You run to tell Geppetto And in the worst winters, The whole thing feels untenable Crow took me by the shoulder And he told me ‘Honey, Don’t let go.’ (Chorus) Nobody fears the height, You all just fear the fall Go to the edge sometime And prove your body wrong You land badly But you crash standing You land badly, But you crash... He took me to the workshop Showed me where They built the bodies A blacksmith, a mason, A carpenter And in the darkroom, Where the whole assembly started All the clothesline Where the hearts hung to harden. You come as fragile, Soft machines And you’re bound to fast, You’re bound to grieve But you’re built to Balance on two feet So why you living this last year From your knees? Oh please put me down again. I know you lost a bet G’head and catch your breath But when the worst relents You learn to live on less You duck some, You take some square Your luck runs out, You’re there in midair And when the big one comes, You’ll know by the snare roll You can be too careful, Ignore all the scarecrows. Time flies like the crow does No regard for the grid I can’t ask you to show love But would it kill you if you did? Chorus
Oh someone taught Your walls to talk But if they ask me I ain’t heard a thing… (Chorus 1) Back to the wall Bat to the ball Back to the drawing board Back to the wall Bat to the ball Back to the drawing board Back to the wall Bat to the ball Back to the drawing board Again. There was a snowstorm in Jackson When you and I met At a club called Saint Sebastian’s But the sign said Something different I remember thinking that I Didn’t have a shot at Mississippi Television told us which Roads they were closing— There goes a rap show. Everybody knew you As the wife of a famous man Everybody who knew said, ‘There goes Dixon’s girl again Even the walls will lean closer When she plays the Piano real slow.’ I haven’t met too many women In this business that I really like But you could hold a little liquor You could hold a conversation You could hold your own mic And even that night I learned The truth about your man You gotta be big To treat pretty girls bad. (Chorus 2) It’s not much, But my money’s on you It’s not much, But my money’s on you It’s not much, but my money— Not much but my money— Not much but my money— My money’s on you. Well I heard from the rest of The world you’re in trouble Bad news moves like fire That you fight on the phone. And I’m too far away, My well-wishing can’t touch you But I think of you still, More than you might suppose. Everybody wanna see you With your hair down Wanna hear you hit the high note Wanna know if they Can get you for a little less Girl, I don’t. I know how the stones can fly Had some hard goodbyes Call me up Day or night Free drinks and bad advice. Chorus 2 Chorus 1
Mineshaft II 03:40
Fifteen years from tonight You have to make a decision The greatest love of your life Is gonna call during dinner… From the home of the girl That he’s living with now. The guilt he’ll say is killing him He’s wilted in the middle and He knows how bad he acted Knows he can’t have you back But the fact is he can’t be happy When you’re angry and you’re so angry He says you stayed so mad. He heard it on the street that You moved back in with your dad You were drinking something awful And that makes him sad. Then he says it’s good To hear your voice again And that it’s hard to ask it, But he’s calling with a question. He’s been working real hard Tryna make a new start An honest-to-god fresh beginning So maybe you could try to Finally find in your heart To forgive him. (Chorus) You’ve already been here before You already know where it goes You chose this, you know It’s supposed to be over. Refrain. He hung up the phone You listened to the dial tone And you stared at the stove Until the beeping started You read some love letters some threats And some you couldn’t tell apart That you keep under the bed At the apartment, and then you did What he asked you to do You opened your heart up Right there on a napkin on the carpet And part of it was frostbit But you’ve always been a smart kid Could still distinguish The blood black as pitch Valves had gone stiff Veins and scar tissue Four chambers just a standard issue But none had room. Forgiveness is huge And you had two full of ice water One fulla salt, one packed with coal Eager and ready and willing to find fault. Chorus Then, with your heart in your lap And your head in your hands Suddenly you had a plan. Wrap the mess in newspaper Headed west on Hennepin, Heavy with a huge favor For a kid that just turned ten. A flat-chested gap-toothed girl Was the best that I’ve been so far And now I’m too big to forgive him I need just a moment with me, A moment when I was still little. I used to sing on the roof Outside my windowsill and I came hoping some ghost of me Would be here still And here you are Stick figure and a busted grin Still ignorant of the all trouble I’ma get us in. Hoping we could trade, just for tonight. Like I could borrow your heart and I could leave you mine It’s not much for collateral, Tattered and battle-scarred, But I can promise you solemn That I will be back for it tomorrow. I only need yours this evening, So I can call an old friend. And I can tell him That we’re finally even. That we’re finally even. Chorus
Now the bough breaks. The books I read Said you were a fragile kid Just as I imaged it, your story goes Another nosebleed, Roses on the pillowcase The fever breaks And you’re back on earth again. You rehearse In the living room The nursemaid Comes mid-afternoon To say you’ve practiced Long enough today. She takes your bow, it’s suppertime But oh, your only appetite Was fixed on the chaconne You’d hoped to play. So soon you’re off To the academy The honors And the accolades First a darling, then a marvel When we met, I was still a young girl But you had changed Already famous Your name was a contagion You were vain and hard to take. All the same, I was brazen. How the tides rise. I don’t suppose you’d tell the truth So I won’t ask you anymore. Oh the things that we all do To pass the time between the wars. I don’t regret a single day Heard your chaconne On every stage But your love sleeps in a velvet case So what’d you bring me, Bring me for? What’d you bring me, Bring me for? I hear you keep Your pretty wife alive On only brie They say a dozen years ago She could have passed for me. She doesn’t trust you with the baby Maybe better that way Safe in your study Going grey. You’re at your best When you’re alone Above the fray With your chaconne. Now the bells toll.
I changed the locks But your key, your key’s still working Can’t train a moth I guess Each beast gets her burden. So we circle this old flame Too much at stake But too late to change My nerves are shot My reserves exhausted It’s a tired plot, but we bought it Now we’re lost Between love and cholera Saccharine read— Such a sentimental novel Give you cavities If it doesn’t drive you to the bottle As for me, I’ll take another kerosene, If you’ve got it something harder. Built like a moth you see I still get chills when you talk to me But the years pass by now In twos and threes These thrills ain’t as cheap As they used to be. (Chorus) If you’re asking, I can’t say no. Just one more chapter, Our book won’t close And I know it’s madness To play these odds It’s like giving matches to paper, To paper dolls. I know it’s madness, I know. Tried sweet talk, tried dynamite But I sleepwalk Back to the battle site Fight fire with fire But the fire won’t fight We just fly these circles like tired kites. You flash some fang And I bat my lashes And we’re back again, No end to this game with matches. We’ve been lovers and strangers And friends who get angry Made mistakes and amends And brief moments of magic We forgive and forget And give in to attraction This whole thing depends on Amnesia and magnets. I’d be leaving for good, I’d be looking for better But I got this broken habit I keep gluing back together. The fervor the fire the feathers This fever defies measure And good sense won’t venture Where the moth won’t let it. Chorus
Go Home 03:32
It’s too dark Just the passing cars Illuminate the room And it’s harder every time I see you And then when you leave I’m wondering when Would be too soon. But you ain’t mine to miss And it’s time we put a Line down in the dust I know what friendship is And it sure doesn’t feel like us. (Chorus) Go home to her While you still can. It’s much too late now for Drafting up new plans Your woman’s got an honest man I always thought So don’t do nothing now To make me take it back. Well I’m sure That you’ve seen A girl go flush before But I don’t want to get touched I don’t want to be moved I don’t want to think much I just want to get through With my hands in my pockets While we can let’s just stop Already have my own problems I’m not trying to get sainted, I don’t need to be good I’m just trying to stay blameless. Chorus I’ve seen our better natures Flashing like a Pair of flipping coins And I know it’s getting late cause Cause I can see exactly what’s been Running through your mind. I don’t pretend it’s easy I like it less than you It’s been a long time lonely I’ve got less to lose But here’s a chance to do right This is the stuff of real life Let’s just let this one slide Say our good byes. Chorus Darling go home.
Seamstress 03:58
(Chorus) I kept an angel In a box beneath my bed Little beast had broke her jaw And I tried to fix her head They said I had to put her back That I had to put her back Exactly where I found her But I know, I saw She was doing good Until the cat got her. I came to write a letter But my pen was full of hymns I came to drown a sorrow It seems they learned to swim Mouth full of pins Heart pumping gasoline, It’s late I’m still at the sewing machine Stitching up strays For fifteen years, But this one’s mean. I picked you up When they said You were past repair And I stitched you up I thread a needle with my hair And I fixed you up When you were still A common sparrow. But look who’s on the shoulder now When the road goes narrow. Chorus Well I’m putting you Out of my misery, We ain’t got much, but We’ve got history It was a mercy kill, nah It was a suicide, nah It was an accident, nah Well at least I tried. With soft drugs and a seam ripper Tough love and tape measure. Stitching up boys Is different that way You fix a bird, you buy a cage. You fix a man and You fix a man and he flies away. When I ran out of thread I couldn’t let go But that’s not sewing that’s That’s just poking holes. And it’s a strange breed, A different kind of creature Looks for love Through the eye of a needle But the creed of the seamstress is That you’re pretty in pieces. Chorus Take a seat And let me get a look at your face Busted, back’s been broke for days Not much, Little something for the pain Don’t fuss or I’ll never get A seam to lay straight. I keep it clean as I can with just Just the machine and a mattress plus I never did need for a pattern, Just some good restraints And my bedside manner. When I ran out of thread, I couldn’t let go But that’s not sewing that’s That’s just poking holes. When I ran out of thread, I couldn’t let go But that’s not sewing that’s That’s just poking holes.
Dutch 03:20
Mind your step I keep the overhead the low Just the bed And the books And the rotary phone. Chicago Manual of Style Keeps the prose right crisp The Minneapolis edition, Well it goes like this: I talk way too fast And I shoot from a glass I keep Poe in the glovebox Plath on the dash And there’s nobody shotgun I got enough gas To get Vegas by daybreak I’m not coming back I’m pushin this luck All the way to the coast I’m throwin it over Just to see if it floats I’m taking my chances, I’m making my own Cause I’ve been pretty and patient, I’m ready to go. (Chorus) I’m the book That beat the speed reader, And I’m the card The dealers won’t touch And it’s just not true I’m a maneater, All the same, We should probably go Dutch. Refrain. Careful kid with that wolf whistle You never know what you’ll attract And you shouldn’t make noise To which you wouldn’t Want to listen What’s good for the goose is Good for the gander back— And I’m packed and I’m out before dawn Leave a tip on the sink, Ah the staff they work hard I hit rain, I hit sleet, But mostly weather stays good Hit a deer in on I-80, Fucked up the hood. But you can’t play for keeps If you never draw blood You just brace and you breathe You drive through the dust You go through people and places You hope the engine can take it They get you up on the blocks On a regular basis. Innocence is overrated Based on what you haven’t done I don’t need a poker face Open book, smoking gun Renegade agent, I got no taste for their races I run on whiskey and risk And ennui and impatience. Chorus Love is like liquor It burns as it moves you Far as I figure There’s nobody fireproof So thank you for the offer It truly was kind of you I’d take you up on it, But just passing through Cause I talk way too fast And I shoot from a glass I keep Poe in the glovebox Plath on the dash And there’s no one in shotgun I got enough gas To get Vegas by daybreak I’m not coming back. No I’m not coming back. Chorus
The Bullpen 02:35
(Chorus) Forget the bull in the china shop There’s a china doll in the bullpen. Walk with a switch, fire in her fist Biting at the bit, Swing at every pitch Coach put me in, like Forget the bull in the china shop There’s a china doll in the bullpen. It’s all in the wrist, fire from the hip Talk a little shit, roll thick, Whole clique Let’s begin, like It’s been assumed I’m soft or irrelevant Cause I refuse to Downplay my intelligence But in a room of Thugs and rap veterans Why am I the only one Who’s acting like a gentleman? Good form bad taste Pity what a waste All that style, not a thing to say Looks to me like A little of your true school Is at the shallow end Of the typing pool All cloak, no dagger Just smoke and swagger I hope that your battery’s charged Cause I found this here ladder Now your ceilings don’t matter Check me out, Now I got glass floors. Chorus They love me, they love me not Pulling pedals off my bike. You gotta strike While the irony’s still hot No telling what the kids might like. And I love this job, But ah, good god Sometimes I hate this business It’s all love backstage But then the boys get brave Gotta say, I hope your mother doesn’t listen. Excuse me, where you going? Doomtree, Minnesota Population’s growing all the time. And if you feel this You know what the deal is Grab a chisel tip and add one to The number on the sign. Chorus Oh, just nonsense really. Chorus
Momento Mori 02:18
Here we are Rounding the edge again And I wonder if You recall what you said When I asked to hear your Largest as yet unanswered question And you said, ‘Why bother at all?’ I just arrived by the Train from Bombay Never heard anyone Say it so plain. The prettiest girl in the room Stood, collected her things Fastened her coat up Around her fine throat And though you didn’t notice there For just one moment well I was the prettiest woman with you. Half a world away Trying hard to stay Aware of why I came. You forgot the comment Forgot the moment Went on your way. There’s got to be a better way To waste a day. Your mother, you told me Had been a great beauty And suffered profoundly The loss of her looks. You gave a practiced, Exhausted expression Recited a line from A quotations book. My father in his youth set off With a kite and a liter of wine Mad to determine The height of the sky And the breadth of One human life. No ribbons, no starting guns Sprinting around the sun Man’s quaint little race The heaving contenders Get one thing to say And it’s always the same: Our names, Chiming through space. We stayed up late Until it became early And camped in the cold On the hood of your car The neighbors, the papers, The radio, TV Said this evening we could see Thousands of fast-falling stars And that sort of thing happens Just once in lifetimes like ours. I’m hopeless nearsighted Not much for stargazing But couldn’t let all of Those meteors pass. This was our first This was our only This was our very last chance.
Crew 02:55
Bartender says, ‘Kid one day you’ll be famous Which is lucky, Cause Honey I hate to say it You ain’t much of a waitress Even on a dayshift Clumsy as you are It’s like we’re paying you To break dishes.’ Now the records break like plates Wrecking stages state to state. Getting bigger like every day And they say the game’s changing Doomtree stays sharp Raise a blade up. But ‘member when We didn’t have a dime to stop on All night tryna write a Decent pop song Dot-net cause somebody Already had the dot-com. Get in Let’s go G’head C’mon. Boys in the basement Beats through a bass amp Paper’s on the breaks And we’re all the radar now, I guess Digging in and gaining ground, And yes No matter where we go, I do believe we’re all related now. (Chorus) There’s no love Like crew love And that’s true Cause to me My friends and my family, My clan is Doomtree. There’s no love Like crew love And that’s true Cause to me My people and my partners, My plan is Doomtree. It’s been a long walk And it’s a steep hill No time for small talk No place for weak wills. You mind your business And you try to stay real Half Dorothy Parker Half April O’Neal. This rock rolls over Light on the horizon Real slow strobe Night day and night again No time now To wonder bout What might have been Eyes on the prize No matter what the critics think. What’s got nine lives And lands on its feet? The Doomtree Franchise Rep wings and teeth. If the hinges creak Then break the door down All I need is a beat A break A four count. Chorus Maybe ain’t a lot But it’s an honest wage And what we’ve got Is what we’ve made. There’s no love Like crew love And that’s true Cause to me My friends and my family, My clan is Doomtree
Alibi 03:03 video
Well I’m sure it’s complicated And I’m sure your story Goes way back But you’re looking desperate lately And now is not the time To look like that. I don’t know if he did it And I won’t ask There’s a lot of good women With a lot of bad backs Your man’s in something heavy, It already looks bad Careful what you carry On his behalf. And I’m sure he’s Thinking of you too Not the type to snitch and run, but But sometimes they say It’s the plain truth 99 problems… (Chorus) Well I don’t don’t need need Need to know But there’s a set of my keys Left under your door And if you need a place To sleep tonight Well that’s what family’s for And I don’t don’t need need Need to know But I’d put on my best fresh Little black dress And go get seen tonight Work on that alibi of yours. Now I don’t mean To be your mother Got my own kids to raise And I don’t aim to blow your cover It’s your own hell to pay. But the word on the street Is a page out of Blake Your man made money But he made mistakes And now that Revelation’s coming Looks to you for a break You’ve always been cunning With those brave escapes But take a minute now, Think this through Give it a second And a bird’s eye view Think of the moments You’ve got left to lose How much time Are you really down to do? Chorus Now I’ve seen the way That you count your blessings With hatch marks on the wall And I’ve seen you coming out of Sunday confession With a numbered list and all. Now I don’t bow My head for supper, I never do kneel beside my bed, But it looks like Your afterlife is covered, I hope on Earth You’re careful kid. Chorus
So here we go back again Slow climb but quick To descend Arms out, arms out Turn into the spin It’s lovely and brief With just gravity and me. Refrain. And if we choose to fall, Who’s to say it isn’t flight? So here we go back again It’s lovely and brief With just gravity and me.


A Badly Broken Code is the long-awaited full-length album from Dessa. The disc features production from Paper Tiger, Lazerbeak, Cecil Otter, MK Larada, and Big Jess. The fifteen songs emphasize Dessa’s wingspan as a singer, rapper, and lyricist—the tracks range from melancholy a cappella arrangements to vintage torch songs to infectious rap cuts.


released January 19, 2010

Mixed by Joe Mabbott at the Hideaway
Mastered by Bruce Templeton at Magneto Mastering
Photos by Bill Phelps
Layout & design & typewriter photo by MK Larada


all rights reserved



Dessa Minneapolis

Combining wit, tenderness, and poetic sensibility to rare effect, Dessa spins delicate and charged stories and animates them with her expressive alto voice, arresting for its honest, clear simplicity. Transcending the restrictions of genre to reveal an astonishing multi-platform voice. Member of the Doomtree collective. Essayist. Rapper. Amaretto enthusiast. ... more


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