erik lundegaard

Memorial Day After Tomorrow

I was driving home from Trader Joe's Saturday afternoon when I heard a Tom Waits song, “Day After Tomorrow,” sung by others on “Prairie Home Companion.” I'd never heard it before. I try to stay on top of things but of course things keep piling up. It was part of Waits' album, “Real Gone,” released in 2004, so the song must've been written in the middle of the Iraq War, yes? He also performed it on “The Daily Show” in 2006 but I missed that, too. It took seven years and Garrison Keillor before I heard it. Some part of me is incensed that it took so long for something so perfect to reach me.

Was Waits influenced by Terrence Malick's “The Thin Red Line”? His lines: “They fill us full of lies/ Everyone buys/ About what it means to be a soldier” recall Sean Penn's lines at the end of Malick's movie. “Everything a lie. ... They want you dead or in their lie.”

Tom Waits singing "Day After Tomorrow"

Here's a video of Waits playing it in concert. Here's a video of him playing it on “The Daily Show.”

Here are the lyrics. It's a beautiful song. How nice to find beauty on the way back from Trader Joe's on a Saturday afternoon.

I got your letter today
and I miss you all so much here
I can't wait to see you all
and I'm counting the days here
I still believe that there's gold
at the end of the world
And I'll come home to Illinois
on the day after tomorrow

It is so hard and it's cold here
and I'm tired of taking orders
And I miss old Rockford town
up by the Wisconsin border
What I miss, you won't believe
shoveling snow and raking leaves
And my plane will touch down
on the day after tomorrow

I close my eyes every nite
and I dream that I can hold you
They fill us full of lies, everyone buys
'bout what it means to be a soldier
I still don't know how I'm supposed to feel
'bout all the blood that's been spilled
Will god on this throne
get me back home
on the day after tomorrow

You can't deny, the other side
Don't want to die anymore then we do
What I'm trying to say is don't they pray
to the same god that we do?
And tell me how does god choose
whose prayers does he refuse?
Who turns the wheel
Who throws the dice
on the day after tomorrow

I'm not fighting, for justice
I am not fighting, for freedom
I am fighting, for my life
and another day in the world here
I just do what I've been told
We're just the gravel on the road
And only the lucky ones come home
on the day after tomorrow

And the summer, it too will fade
and with it brings the winter's frost dear
And I know we too are made
of all the things that we have lost here
I'll be 21 today
I been saving all my pay
And my plane will touch down
on the day after tomorrow
And my plane it will touch down
on the day after tomorrow

ADDENDUM: On the Tom Waits Library site, they include annotated lyrics, and, yes, he wrote it during the Iraq War but tried to make it about more than the Iraq War. Quote: “Yeah just a soldier writing home to his family. Tried to make it so it's not really about necessarily this war that we're in now, the Iraq war, but in fact about any war really. Because I guess the letters home are probably the same. I think most of the soldiers are really like the gravel on the road ... that the others are driving on, you know? Spent shell casings.”


Posted at 08:04 AM on Mon. May 30, 2011 in category Music  
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