Song Lyrics



Words and music by Sarah Pirtle,
© 2006 Discovery Center Music, BMI


1. Here’s the napkins and the tablecloth,
the calendar of patron saints,
the refrigerator photos, our shining eyes with no complaint.
Here’s the burning candle, that I keep next to me.
I want you back home, Casey.

You can go either way.
You can hide it deep inside you and let it burn you to the core.
Or you can open yourself wider than you ever have before.

2. I am chopping, chopping onions, slicing finer than they need to be.
I am stopping, I am turning, I am listening for eternity.
I have heard the worst news that a mother can ever know.
Why did you have to go? Why did you have to go?                          

Chorus: Here is your bowl. I lift the ladle.  
Sit down right here. Come to the table.
I have found out. War has no winner.     
I want every mother’s child, every mother’s child  
home for dinner.

Bridge: I am staring at the water that runs down this drain.
How many mothers have carried this pain?    
I don’t know what to do when I’m feeling this rage.
How can careless hands just turn a page?

3. I am breathing, simply breathing, and I cannot see what lies ahead.
Ancient women line my kitchen. They are offering their holy bread.
We spread this tablecloth with a heart ready to listen.
There’s a place for everyone to come into our kitchen.

You can go either way.
You can shrink yourself to ashes like a cinder in the night
or use all the pain that’s burning and turn yourself to light.

Chorus: Here is your bowl. I lift the ladle.  
Sit down right here. Come to the table.
I have found out.  War has no winner.
I want every mother’s child, every mother’s child,
every mother’s child home for dinner.

Background of the Song:

A good place to read current essays by Cindy Sheehan is on the site

I began writing this song August 2005 during Cindy Sheehan’s encampment at Camp Casey. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. As I walked through the days I felt as if part of me stayed there with her, hanging on any news. In the week of national vigils, I wrote a song for a gathering in Gloucester, MA but it was brief. It didn’t say all I wanted. I wanted the song to join her across the miles.

Then at Summer Acoustic Music Week camp I attended a daily songwriting workshop with a songwriter I greatly admire—Bob Franke. I told him that I wanted to create a song for Cindy that wasn’t hackneyed. Bob gave me the assignment of writing lyrics that placed Cindy in her kitchen. I decided to have the song depict the moment after Casey’s death when she is alone and confronts waves of grief.

Much of the song was written by the Deerfield River where I spent hours in September trying to crystalize ideas and speak simply. I was staring at the water when the main chorus came to me—“I have found out. War has no winner. I want every mother’s child home for dinner.” I’ve never put so much into a song. I ended up spending over 50 hours reworking and pushing myself to go deeper.

Lui Collins, who sings harmonies on the recording, helped at a crucial moment. She had me sing to her on her back porch. Lui said, “Get into the exact feelings that Cindy would be having.” I realized then that I had to include in the song some of my own experiences of tragedy and loss when my youngest sister Lucy Ann was murdered. This was a turning point in writing. I could especially relate to Cindy.

Thanks to the many people who gave feedback and helped this song take shape, including Dory Zelman, Sunny Miller, Beth DeSombre, Caroline Parsons, Sophie Wadsworth, and Bob Voges.

“The pain this war has caused people all over the world is unimaginable,” says Cindy Sheehan. Cindy has helped launch a global Women Say No to War campaign with international activists and writers. She adds, “I’ve met women from so many different countries who are ready to stand together to make our leaders end this madness, and it doesn’t matter that we speak different languages—our hearts understand the pain and needless loss that have been caused by this war.”

Her international work began with a turning point in her life. In the song, her key decision is expressed: “You can go either way. You can hide it deep inside you and let it burn you to the core. Or you can open yourself wider than you ever have before.” Cindy talked about what it was like after her son Casey’s death in an interview in The Progressive Magazine, March 2006:

“Just waking up and getting out of bed after you’ve buried a child is almost too much to ask one person to do. We get up every morning, and every morning we see this enormous mountain in front of us. We can’t go through it, we can’t go under it, so we have to go over it. I realize that bringing the troops home and having somebody held accountable for Casey’s needless death is an immense undertaking, but we can’t go back. As much as we’d like to go back to before Casey was killed, we can’t. So we have to go forward, and we have to go up. Every day is an uphill battle. Sometimes you make progress, sometimes you slide back. But it’s the only way to go.”

The first time the song was performed was during the Bring Them Home Now tour at an event in Amherst, MA where members of  Veterans to Peace and Gold Star Parents for Peace spoke. With tears running down my face I gave a recording of the song to a close friend of Sheehan’s named Stacy Bannerman, who was with Cindy at Camp Casey in Texas. Stacy wrote me later saying, “I listened to your music and cried everytime.  Such beautiful, heartfelt work. I handed the CD to the mother (Cindy) herself.”

People often ask—has Cindy heard this song? On Veterans Day at a program sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and the Veteran’s Education Project, I had the amazing opportunity to perform the song for Cindy right before she spoke at the University of Massachusetts. I was struck by her integrity and the personal support I saw her giving to all the other Gold Star Families for Peace assembled there to speak. Her courage has ignited hearts all over the country.

Cindy has written two books, Dear President Bush, and Not One More Mother’s Child.

For Discussion:

Have you ever had a moment like Cindy when you could go either way—shrink like a cinder or explode and grow? How do we “use all the pain that’s burning” and turn ourselves to light?