For All Our Wounded Warriors: The Story of Poor Old Tom

Today is a day to celebrate the service of all soldiers who have sacrificed their personal freedom to contribute to the freedom of our nation. Such service can take a tremendous toll on the lives of young men and women, as we see in the case of wounded warriors damaged beyond repair. The following song tells the story of one such soldier – “Poor Old Tom”.

 

A Tennessee boy joined the US navy in 1950 he was 17
A quiet kid who never seen the ocean
his mama died his first trip at sea
He learned to work and he learned to whistle
he learned to gamble and he learned to fight
He learned to suck a bottle and go out whorin’
Somehow he learned to stagger in at night
Poor old Tom he don’t know
why his teeth’s gotta rattle shiver and shake
The night wind’s free to blow wherever it pleases
Tom’s free to walk to the cold day break

Poor old Tom he’s tellin’ it all
His thoughts are roarin’ like a waterfall
He never cared about money and there’s no doubt
he never had much money to care about
Taifuns and (…) on the great Pacific
proud to be serving the USA
He worked hard on board and he got promoted
he got VD but it went away
Poor old Tom he ain’t right
he went out in San Francisco on a Saturday night
Sunday morning his ship set sail
Tom was arrested in the Oakland jail

Now it’s 35 years since his incarceration
on a morals charge the words he said to me
From the brig on Treasure Island to the institution
they treated his depression with shock therapy
Poor old Tom he don’t know
he’s got trouble a callin’ he’s history
At the drop of a coin he’ll start to ramble
how the whole damn thing’s a mystery

His eyes bulge out as we talk on the corner
he turns on the gurney and They held him down
one morning they wheeled him to another building
a surgery room with doctors standing’ round
He cried Lord help me as they put him under &
he sailed away on an ether sea
Ever since that day all he does is wonder
Did the surgeons perform a lobotomy

Poor old Tom his story is true
he’s got nothin’ to show, no one to show it too
The word for him is never the less
He fought for freedom, never took a free breath

Now the radio’s blare musak & musak diseased are cured every day
The worst disease in the world is
to be unwanted, to be used up and cast away
So as we make our way towards our destinations
fortunes are still made with flesh and blood
Progress and love got nothing in common
Jesus healed the blind man’s eyes with mud
Poor old Tom he don’t know
why his teeth’s gotta rattle, shiver and shake
The night wind’s free to blow wherever it pleases
Tom’s free to walk to the cold day break 

by Peter Case  from his album Thank You St. Jude.

Peter Case

Peter Case, photo from Kevin Geraghty-Shewan

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