Poetry Sunday: Far Afghanistan by James Taylor

My poem of the week this week is a song lyric.

I have felt the need for comfort music lately and when I think of comfort music, the first artist I think of is James Taylor. James and I have a long history together and when I've needed him, his voice has never failed me.

I love his old songs, of course, the songs that he wrote in his 20s and that I listened to in my 20s and have continued to listen to through the years, but recently I've also been listening to some of the newer stuff, including an album from 2015 called "Before the World".  That's where I found this song.

We are coming up on the 16th anniversary of the war that we have conducted in Afghanistan. And what has changed in all those years? What have all our efforts produced? What has been made better by all the blood that has been spilled there?

This lyric may not exactly qualify as "comfort music" but it certainly expresses things that it is hard for those of us who are not James Taylor to express.

Far Afghanistan 

by James Taylor

Back home Indiana, we just learn to get along
Civilized and socialized they teach you right from wrong
How to hold your liquor and how to hold your tongue
How to hold a woman or a baby or a gun
But nothing will prepare you for the far Afghanistan
You can listen to their stories and pick up what you can
You listen to their stories maybe read a book or two
Until they send you out there, man you haven’t got a clue

Oh the Hindu Kush, the Band-e Amir, the Hazara

They tell you a tradition in the hills of Kandahar
They say young boys are taken to the wilderness out there
Taken to the mountain alone and in the night
If he makes it home alive they teach him how to fight

They fought against the Russians, they fought against the Brits
They fought old Alexander, talking ‘bout him ever since
And after 9/11 here comes your Uncle Sam
Another painful lesson in the far Afghanistan

I was ready to be terrified and ready to be mad
I was ready to be homesick, the worst I’ve ever had
I expected to be hated and insulted to my face
But nothing could prepare me for the beauty of the place

No matter what they tell you all soldiers talk to God
It’s a private conversation written in your blood
The enemy’s no different, badass holy wind
That crazy bastard talks to God and his God talks back to him


  1. What amazing lyrics! I wonder how many Afghanistan war vets James Taylor interviewed - each line spoke truth to me, as if James Taylor himself had fought there.

    1. His lyrics are certainly informed by experiences of warriors who have been there.

  2. What has been gained by that war? While the world is not a safer place thanks to the Middle East going bananas with the Arab Spring, Civil Wars, and the rise of ISIS, it is a far better world with the Taliban having less adepts than it used to, and al- Qaeda having been virtually wiped out.

    1. But now the Taliban is on the rise again and I'm not sure that exchanging al-Qaeda for ISIL/ISIS and the radicalization of a whole generation should really be considered progress.


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