"Auctioneer (Another Engine)" by R.E.M. (Berry, Buck, Mills, and Stipe)
Fables of the Reconstruction, 1985

She didn't want to get pinned down by her prior town

Get me to the train on time
Here, take this nickel make a dime
Take this penny and make it into a necklace when I leave
What is at the other end?
I don't know another friend
Another wife, another morning spent
Listen, listen to the auctioneer
Another engine, another engine

We never wrote the reasons that I need explained
Some things are givens, and others get away
This time it's for myself you call it what you may
Okay, we won't say goodbye so long, so much more

Listen, listen to the auctioneer
Another engine, another engine

Listen to the bargain holler
Listen to the barter holler
Listen to the auctioneer

Get me to the train on time
Here take this nickel make a dime
Take this penny and make it into a necklace when I leave
What is at the other end?
I don't know another friend
Another wife, another morning spent
Listen to the auctioneer
Another engine, another engine

Do I stand the bargain holler?
Listen to the barter holler
Listen to the auctioneer


In the town I used to live in, there's this farmer's market that every Saturday has an auction. They used to auction livestock and cars, but now they just do junk. Have you ever listened to an auctioneer? Not like at Southebys. I mean a real auctioneer at a farmer's market, at a livestock auction. They speak like lighting, the words and numbers flowing into rhythm like the chugging of a train, and moving just as fast. It's a bargain, a barter, a trading of this for that. A deal must be made.

The song--and you even hear the urgent train whistle, telling it's time to leave--is a dialogue of the end of a relationship. One is leaving, one stays behind. One wants to bargain for the other's return, for the other to stay. Maybe there was an adultery. Maybe a fear of commitment. Maybe s/he just realized that they're not in love anymore. You speak fast--maybe you're not even sure what you're saying, only that you're trying to come up with reasons that he or she should stay. But the currency is no good--just make it your momento of what you two had. Turn it into a necklace, wear it around you neck for good luck.

And you're confused:

We never wrote the reasons that I need explained
Some things are givens, and others get away

But what were the reasons? Why can't you stay and tell me? Some things are givens--but what of the others? You'll roll them over and over in your mind, but in the end there is something intangible about the reaons for leaving.

This time it's for myself--you call it what you may

You want to call them a bitch; a dick; a whore; a bastard motherfucker. You want to be angry, to hate them. But not all of you can. Not all of you is given over into hate, if any of you truly is at all.

Okay, we won't say goodbye, so long, so much more

Leave it open. You want to leave it open--let's not say goodbye. Let's not make this permanent. "Maybe I can still work out a bargin, maybe we can barter for time." But you know that's not going to happen.

Listen to the auctioneer--listen to what you're saying. Can you stand to do this? Are you able to go on? Will you have respect? No. Because you know in the end that this is what is supposed to happen. You know that this is what has to happen. S/He has to leave. S/He doesn't love you anymore, but it's not your fault.

And maybe it's time for you to get on another engine, too.

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