A Veteran’s Day Remembrance

I wrote this song back in the winter of 1989 in the dining car of a steam driven train, somewhere along the Trans-Siberian railway, after meeting a group of Russian soldiers fresh from battle in Afghanistan—that poor country that has been a battleground for way too long–and, sadly, still is…

We stare together hours
at the snow whipped Russian plain—
rolling in the ghetto of your eye.
We share a quart of vodka
and some cold meat on the train—
you know too much to even wonder why;
I see it in the ghetto of your eye.

He turns to me and asks
if I’ll play a song about our war.
I know the war,
no need to tell me more—
asking with the ghetto of your eye.
So I play the most of Sam Stone,
in words he cannot understand;
still the tears fall as from a man—
falling from the ghetto of your eye.

I pass to him my guitar:‘Man, I know you’ll play a song;
something where nobody plays along—
no, nobody play along.’
His friends they gather ‘round
and put their arms around
the shoulders of the soldiers of the war,
their cold and crazy mountain war.

His song is barely spoken;
it’s more a whisper in the night:
whistles blow, trains pass each other by—
riding in the ghetto of your eye.
And Pasha, the young soldier,
whose strange and childish smile,
breaks down wailing like a child:
He tears his shirt; the shrapnel is all gone:
“Pasha, boy, the shrapnel it’s all gone—
Pasha boy, the shrapnel is all gone.”

Drunk to hell I leave,
and then I lay awake all night
waiting for the sunrise on the plain—
cold and snow-whipped Russian plain.
Songs of love and brotherhood
blow like rags of empty wind—
blowing through the ghetto of my eye;
building the ghetto of my eye;
staring from the ghetto.


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