Saturday, November 30, 2013

Casimir Pulaski Day/Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Track Ten

Part of A Series: Route 66: Sufjan Stevens: Illinois
To View the whole series as one LONG post CLICK HERE

Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois/Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Track One:

Sufjan Stevens with Butterfly Wings
Sufjan Stevens via Wikipedia
Continuing onward with our mission of exploring Illinois through the eyes of Sufjan Stevens, we reach track ten, "Casimir Pulaski Day". What is that? I didn't know so I turned to my old research buddy, Wikipedia where I found:
Casimir Pulaski Day is a holiday reserved in Illinois on the first Monday of every March in memory of Casimir Pulaski (March 6, 1745[1] – October 11, 1779), a Revolutionary War cavalry officer born in Poland as Kazimierz Pułaski. He is known for his contributions to the U.S. military in the American Revolution by training its soldiers and cavalry.
The day is celebrated mainly in areas that have large Polish populations, such as Chicago.
The fact that it is a state holiday certainly makes it a candidate for an Illinois album track. Being a Sufjan Stevens song it is really just a loose reference point to build a story around. And being the Illinois album, you have to expect it will be a song of loss and disappointment.

The song is the story of a losing a childhood lover to cancer. There was an attraction in their youth but it moved too far too fast and she ran away. Later they seem to be reconnecting, but it is only because she is dying and ultimately he will lose her again. It is one of the most overtly religious tracks with the narrator confronting and challenging his god at the close of the song. Here are the lyrics from

Goldenrod and the 4H stone
The things I brought you when I found out
You had cancer of the bone

Your father cried on the telephone
And he drove his car into the Navy yard
Just to prove that he was sorry

In the morning, through the window shade
When the light pressed up against your shoulderblade
I could see what you were reading

All the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications you could do without
When I kissed you on the mouth

Tuesday night at the Bible study
We lift our hands and pray over your body
But nothing ever happens

I remember at Michael's house
In the living room when you kissed my neck
And I almost touched your blouse

In the morning at the top of the stairs
When your father found out what we did that night
And you told me you were scared

All the glory when you ran outside
With your shirt tucked in and your shoes untied
And you told me not to follow you

Sunday night when I cleaned the house
I find the card where you wrote it out
With the pictures of your mother

On the floor at the great divide
With my shirt tucked in and my shoes untied
I am crying in the bathroom

In the morning when you finally go
And the nurse runs in with her head hung low
And the cardinal hits the window

In the morning in the winter shade
On the first of March, on the holiday
I thought I saw you breathing

All the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications when I see His face
In the morning in the window

All the glory when He took our place
But He took my shoulders and He shook my face
And He takes and He takes and He takes

As the narrator reacts to the death of the friend. He snaps and challenges his god. Or as Stevens puts it:"the cardinal hits the window". I had to research that expression but it refers to the spring when cardinals are nest building, if the catch the sight of their reflection in a window they will consider it a competitor and will try to attack it. So our narrator attacks himself, both by questioning his faith as well as his luck at having lost love once finding himself losing it again. "And He takes and He takes and He takes". Like Christ on the cross the narrator seems to be saying "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me." So sad.

Here is your fan video of the song, with a download link to follow:

Thanks, as always for joining me on this leg of my voyage into route 66 though music. I hope you have found it to be interesting and enlightening. Come back tomorrow as we rejoin our Highway 101 adventure in Tijuana Mexico.

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