-- How I Spent My Fall Vacation --
Autumn 1979. Pavia, Hokkaido, Paris.

Found on:

Humans (1980)

Slice O Life (2009)

Rumours of Glory - box set Disc 3 (2014) [compilation album]

Sun went down looking like the eye of God
Behind icy mist and stark bare trees
Inside the dim empty cinema two guys in leather jackets
Glance at each other and shiver
"They never built these places with winter in mind"
Out the window down the gray road
You can see old walled monastery
Now become a barracks for the paramilitary police

I saw an old lady's face once on a Japanese train
Half lit, rich with soft luminosity
She was dozing straight upright head bobbing almost imperceptibly
Wheels were playing fast in 9/8 time
Her husband's friendly face suddenly folded up in a sneeze
Across the straight a volcano flew a white smoke flag of surrender

In a Roman street on a full moon night
I was sick and there was a young cop in a circle of yellow light
As we drew near he snapped the safety off his machine pistol
And slid a trembling finger to the trigger
I wanted to say something calming but couldn't catch his eye
He didn't want contact -- he was trained to see movement
"Well don't shoot me, man, I'm a graceful slow dancer
I'm just a dream to you not real at all"

I wonder if I'll end up like Bernie in his dream
A displaced person in some foreign border town
Waiting for a train part hope part myth
While the station changes hands
Or just sitting at home growing tenser with the times
Or like that guy in "The Seventh Seal"
Watching the newly dead dance across the hills
Or wearing this leather jacket shivering with a friend
While the eye of God blazes at us like the sun...

Known comments by Bruce Cockburn about this song, by date:

  • 1980 - "We went to this great restaurant in a funny old part of Rome with twisting streets that were hard to identify one from another. And as we came up the street we noticed that there was a cop standing there up at the next corner past where we were going. He was just all by himself in full dress uniform carrying a machine gun. And he was patrolling up and down. As we came to the end of the street, we noticed that he shifted his gun a little toward us. All the Italian people were arguing that we should go back the other way and not go by him because he would be afraid of us and he might do something stupid. As we came abreast of this guy he was really nervous, his hands were shaking. He slipped the safety off his machine gun and he started to swing it over toward us. He didn't exactly point it at us but he was all ready. He was looking at us side long out of the corner of his eye, waiting for us to make a funny move. I wanted to say something to him like I was going to sort of say 'Hi, how are you doing?'. But then I realized if I did anything he might think it was a trick of some kind; that I was trying to divert his attention from something else. Because he wouldn't look you in the eye but he had this fear all over his face. And understandably enough because we looked like a bunch of students, and that's who goes around blowing up those guys, you know. So they are right to be afraid." - from the RCA "Special Radio Series" LP, Volume Two (1980). Submitted by: Steve Brace.

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    This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.