Will you die for me?
Do you love me enough to give up your life?
Standing here in the desert
The crumbling city
How much do you love me?
Can the world be as sad as it seems?
At this the old man smiled
Sitting there in Tangier
Scars running from his wrist to his elbow
Perhaps I’ll buy his book today
And I look at the boy with me hand on his thigh
As I move to the bed in the corner
And he started to smile
A plaintive smile of the boy as he lies on the bed
And the old man smiled as his
Prick started to twitch twitch twitch
And little drops felt out and fell to the floor
And he looked to the side
Wondering what to do with his knowledge
Cold cold water in the bowl by the bed on the floor
23 days and 23 hours of the day
And the old man smiled as the being swelled and the blood came
As he stuck the needle in his arm
Watching the blood burning and turning in the glass
Wondering where he’d be sitting tomorrow
Wondering which table his person would pass that day
Sitting in a café in Tangier
And down to his cable came Captain Clark
He’d worked on the ferry for 23 years and a day
Taking the junkies and the babies and the corpses to Spain
Looking at the coffins in a line across the water
You sink if you’re dead
Cold cold water
A cloud up above
And everyone’s equal if it rains on you
And the old man smiled
And his arm bent as he paid the bill
So I walked round the corner
To a room in the Bowery
And the boy was bent double naked on the floor
Rubbing himself with some kind of cream
And is this all a dream
Look at the blind men
Sitting in a row with white sticks
Takking at the TV screen
And they try to eat us
By the broken bed
They’re always mad
And Captain Clark welcomes you aboard
Flight 23 from New York to Mayami
And it crashes in a forest
Burning bodies growing clod
People spewing blood from their faces
Screaming “Why me?” “Why?”
And everyone says I’m mad
And everyone says I’m mad
The always say I’m mad
And I see myself in the gutter and the water
With the water wing gangrene dangling myself
Cos we really want to slaughter
Looking wide-eyed and so confused at the wall
It’s gone on so long I wonder just who is here
Cold cold water
Cold cold water
And the old man smiled as he walked back to the café
Drinking coffee as his friends just stood around
Can the world be as sad as it seems?
Do you love me?
With my knife against your throat
It could only be me
You would only do this for me
And the old man smiled
Just the same as before
Slowly getting old arranging his things
Making business neat and tidy
Sitting in a café in Tangier
That’s the way the world ends
With a whimper

Lyrics submitted by Durandal1717

The Old Man Smiled song meanings
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  • 0
    General CommentSix Six Sixties extended and transformed from cut-up to a ritual reading with Burroughs. Still have no clue what it's about though.
    Durandal1717on December 20, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe old man is of course William Burroughs himself and Tangiers is the Moroccan city where he used to live & wrote the "Naked Lunch".

    "Captain Clark" was a character which can be found in many Burrouhs books : the usual story goes like he was the captain of a sinking ship.Most of the people try to escape in the lifeboat by disguising themselves in woman in order to be the first to jump in.

    The number is 23 was the favorite Burrough number.The writer used to say this number came almost inevitably for being the number of victims in planecrash, sinking ships or buildings fire..
    kaplanon June 17, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"That's the way the world ends / With a whimper" is a variation on TS Eliot's "The Hollow Men."

    Also, this site
    Claims that
    "Can the world be as sad as it seems' is a line by Charles Manson.
    The plot is taken from a short story by William S. Burroughs."
    thunderperfectmindon August 26, 2011   Link

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