Cain got a milk-eyed mule from the auction
Abel got a telephone
And even the last of the blue-eyed babies know
That the burning man is the color of the end of day
And how every tongue that gets bit always has another word to say

Cain bought a blade from some witch at the window
Abel bought a bag of weed
And even the last of the brown-eyed babies see
That the cartoon king has a tattoo of a bleeding heart
There ain’t a penthouse Christian wants the pain of the scab, but they all want the scar
How every mouth sings of what it’s without so we all sing of love
And how it ain’t one dog who’s good at fucking and denying who he’s thinking of

Cain heard a cat tumble limp off the rooftop
Abel heard his papa pray
And even the last of the black-eyed babies say
That every saint has a chair you can borrow and a church to sell
That the wind blows cold across the back of the master and the kitchen help
There’s a big pile of innocent bones still holding up the garden wall
And it was always the broken hand we learned to lean on after all
How God knows if Christ came back he would find us in a poker game
After finding out the drugs were all free but they won't let you out the door again


Lyrics submitted by sethbrown


Innocent Bones song meanings
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24 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentI think that this song is a critique of BOTH organized religion and loose hippie type new ages spirituality. It speaks of the inevitable corruption of humans, organized or not. That's why Cain gets a blade and Abel gets a bag of weed- there's outright cruel evil on one side, and drugged out apathy on the other. I don't think he would say that burning man was the color of the end of days ifhe wasn't being at least a little critical of it. I am a Christian (albeit a weird one) so I may be biased, but it strikes me that the innocent bones holding up the wall are the body of Christ. It's almost definitely Jesus's broken hand (as by the nails) on whom we are to learn to lean. Not that I think this song ultimately comes out in support of the church. I think this song points out how flawed all human efforts are, especally those of the church and those who claim to speak for God. Thusly we only have the source of grace, Christ, to really rely on. NOT the church, but not mere humanity either.

    Typed on a mobile, so forgive my typos.
    davidmdowning42on January 06, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAlthough the music is soft and delicate, the lyrics are slightly cold. This song is about modern day organized Christianity, and it is chock full of metaphors, not all of which I understand... favorite line is "There's a big pile of innocent bones still holding up the garden wall", because it seems to say, what price did we pay for what we have today? How many innocent people have been slaughtered in the name of god and christ, in order for the church to exist? That's kind of what this song is about for me.
    coolcroweon July 18, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthis song is really so multi-faceted. when I am feeling more patient I would like to do an in-depth analysis, but for now...

    first of all I think everyone has some great ideas as to this song's meaning,

    may I put something out there?

    "That the cartoon king has a tattoo of a bleeding heart"

    to me Jesus is the cartoon king b/c he claimed to be a king (supposedly anyway) and Christians refer to him as one. so anyone he's a cartoon king, meaning not a king in the real sense, as cartoons are not 3d, but 2d... you get my drift.
    and he has the tattoo of the bleeding heart b/c he has an image of caring for people enough to die for them, also like images of the sacred heart of jesus, etc.

    I also like the part about the saint, the chair and the church. to me it speaks of hypocrisy. so saint you're gonna SELL me your church eh? how nice.
    greyismon October 17, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is absolutely one of my favorites on The Shepherd's Dog, probably right after Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car and Boy With A Coin.

    When I hear this song it sounds honestly kind of menacing/scorning or sarcastic in a way. The song contrasts Cains actions to those of Abel (Although the examples in the song are not in any way related to those in the Bible). The comparisons show Cain as being very complex and stubborn (his lines are very long and descriptive, while Abel's are only a few words).

    While Cain is bartering over a lame mule, Abel is getting a phone.

    When Cain gets a knife (he's stressing over Abel's actions, wanting to kill him), Abel is chilling out and buying herb.

    When Adam is praying, Cain is distracted by a brawl with two cats, while Abel focuses on his father's prayer.

    Albeit those lines might not be intended for literal interpretation, they make sense like that, portraying Cain as morally lacking and Abel being a better more virtuous person.

    This song also mentions:
    - And even the last of the blue-eyed babies know
    - And even the last of the brown-eyed babies see
    - And even the last of the black-eyed babies say

    While there have been many posts indicating how the eye color changes from blue to brown to black (which I personally see as degrading from more innocent to less innocent), the ending of each sentence hasn't been brought up yet. It changes from know to see to say.

    To me this represents:
    knowing (instinct, having faith)
    seeing (only observing, then remembering what you saw, doesn't require faith)
    and saying (Just repeating what you have seen or heard, doesn't require observation or faith).
    as degrading, just like the eye color idea. By the way I only say "degrading" because the color becomes darker, I don't have a problem with brown eyes :).

    Overall this song is amazing and Sam's voice really sounds amazing in the song!
    Viva la vida de Iron & Wine!

    -Bryan
    bryanduganon December 20, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI always thought "the cartoon king with a tattoo of a bleeding heart" referred to George W. Bush. After 9/11 and the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars billions of dollars were allocated and thousands of troops sent abroad to fight in a war(s) meant to 'spread freedom and democracy,' the bleeding heart.
    sophistifunkon January 18, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commenttied as my favorite on Shepherd's Dog, next to Boy with a Coin and The Devil Never Sleeps. Just has a really easy quality to it that a lot of the new LP doesn't have.
    phizzalon July 09, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYeah, phizzal, 'Boy with a Coin' is great. And I love 'Innocent Bones.' Definitely sticks out as one of my favorites, too.
    GimmeAJeepon September 27, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGood song, creepy as hell. I think this song may be a hard slam at monotheistic beliefs of today. Definitely worth a listen.
    OpinionHeadon October 01, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOne of my favorite songs as well on the new album. Specifically, the lines "There ain’t a penthouse Christian wants the pain of the scab, but they all want the scar". I think that's a specific yet touchy subject that was described nearly perfectly in today's day and age.
    far2fargoon October 08, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti find the change of the eye color from blue to brown to black significant.

    blue meaning upper class, brown meaning middle class, and black meaning lower class?
    jed kingstonon November 28, 2007   Link

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