Song of the Week – U2 A Sort of Homecoming and a Response Poem “… is a sort of homecoming, Paul”

Today I begin a series of responses to U2’s The Unforgettable Fire, released in 1985. Into My Own, My Story As a Writer discussed my first days as a writer and briefly touches on how U2 served as an early inspiration. Back then, some would have said I wanted to be Bono and they were probably right. However, it wasn’t the massive ego, but the ability of a man to powerfully express a compassion he felt for others’ suffering that moved me and still moves me. Compassion in men remains a precious metal we need in our society crushed by anger, greed, and intolerance.

After watching U2’s performance of Bad at Live Aid, my love affair began and remains the foundational source of my writing. This is why I wrote: finding voice to the intensity of my compassion as Bono did in this performance and in this song, A Sort of Homecoming. My response poem, “… is a sort of homecoming, Paul” carries over a few words of U2’s opening track, and maybe some of the feel and rhythms of the song, but mostly it is inspired by the powerfully tragic life and words of Paul Celan, the Romanian-born, German-language Jewish Poet whose parents were killed by the Nazis, his mother believed to have been shot and his father worked until typhus took his life. His quote “Poetry is a sort of homecoming,” inspired the song, his poem Todesfugue (Death Fugue) informs my poem. Also imbedded in the poem is a struggle between Viktor Frankl’s powerful ideas in Man’s Search for Meaning and what I believe would be Celan’s struggle to overcome the tragedy of his parents death and the weight of the horrific death of so many innocent humans in the Holocaust.

It took over 30 years to really understand what I wanted to say, but here is the first poem in response to the songs on U2’s fourth album, The Unforgettable Fire. I hope it serves as a reminder to us that we must love and not hate, that our motivation in life must be meaning and not greed, and that we are committing suicide as a people if we think we can live without compassion for the weak, the poor, the downtrodden.

Finally, I want to thank Tanya Cliff for reminding me through her writing and our conversations how compassion was the driving force in my early writing and helping guide me back to the point where this compassion resides. Thank you Tanya.

… is a sort of homecoming, Paul

The crowning experience of all, for the homecoming man, is the wonderful feeling that, after all he has suffered, there is nothing he need fear any more — except his God. — Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Poetry is a sort of homecoming. — Paul Celan

across the field, I run, my face ploughed
an escape artist with words celled in blood
waiting to bleed black milk for me
to hear
thoughts like screams caged inside the bullet
run through Mother’s skull
when Her work was not enough
not good enough to quell
the devil’s mockery
I run across the field, mourning
run on he tells me
my meaning
my motivation
once tender, sweet white milk
reading me German folk tales
and love
Love, an altar, that highest goal
lofty and tender, reading folk tales
on the hearth
on the hearth: a death fugue
She will die. Live again.
On the Seine.
on the Seine: a death fugue
silences Renoir’s guinguette.
Live again, so I may
I fear nothing, suffering chooses
its end, no ram will drown for me
I fear my God, I fear my God’s
a distance too far away, now,
too far to quell the mockery
run through my Mother’s
skull spilling
black milk my pen sips.

… this striving for to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man. — Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Into My Own Part I:

A Sort of Homecoming words by Bono, music by U2

And you know it’s time to go
Through the sleet and driving snow
Across the fields of mourning to a light that’s in the distance.

And you hunger for the time
Time to heal, ‘desire’ time
And your earth moves beneath your own dream landscape.

On borderland we run.
I’ll be there, I’ll be there tonight
A high-road, a high-road out from here.

The city walls are all come down
The dust a smoke screen all around
See faces ploughed like fields that once
Gave no resistance.

And we live by the side of the road
On the side of a hill as the valleys explode
Dislocated, suffocated
The land grows weary of it’s own.

O com-away, o com-away, o-com, o com-away, I say I
O com-away, o com-away, o-com, o com-away, I say I

Oh, oh on borderland we run
And still we run, we run and don’t look back
I’ll be there, I’ll be there
Tonight, tonight

I’ll be there tonight, I believe
I’ll be there so high
I’ll be there tonight, tonight.

Oh com-away, I say, o com-away, I say.

The wind will crack in winter time
This bomb-blast lightning waltz.
No spoken words, just a scream
Tonight we’ll build a bridge across the sea and land
See the sky, the burning rain
She will die and live again tonight.

And your heart beats so slow
Through the rain and fallen snow
Across the fields of mourning to a light that’s in the distance.
Oh, don’t sorrow, no don’t weep
For tonight at last I am coming home.
I am coming home.

7 thoughts on “Song of the Week – U2 A Sort of Homecoming and a Response Poem “… is a sort of homecoming, Paul”

      1. S Francis

        Oh… I hope you love them. I am less crazy about them now, but man, back when I was a kid. I used to daydream about getting them to come to NH to play in my home town.


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