Let the camera pull back 'til the fullness of the frame is clear and plain
Peer into the screen until you see it all like a vision in a crystal ball
Let it all fill with smoke
Is this somebody's idea of a joke
Let the fixer work until the silver's washed away and take the picture from the tray
Look hard at what you see and then remember you and me and let the truth spring free

Like a jack-in-the-box
Like a hundred-thousand cuckoo clocks
From the Oregon corners
To the Iowa corn
To the rooms with the heat lamps where the snakes get born

Crawl through the tunnel and follow, follow the light northwest
See that young man who dwells inside his body like an uninvited guest
See the tunnel twist
Clutch your birthright in your fist
Let the camera do its dirty work down there in the dark
Sink low, rise high, and bring back some blurry pictures to remember all your darker moments by

Permanent bruises on our knees
Never forget what it felt like to live in rooms like these
From the California coastline
To the Iowa corn
To the rooms with the heat lamps where the snakes get born


Lyrics submitted by ebowtheletter, edited by ThTetrapod

Birth of Serpents song meanings
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5 Comments

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  • +3
    Song MeaningAt his concert in CA last week, John said, "This song is about a guy that goes up to Portland, Oregon and gets really into speed, and that guy looks strikingly like me."
    roseasharnon June 27, 2011   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationHe seems to be using traditional darkroom photography (you know, film and negatives and paper and chemicals and stuff) as a comparison to how we really don't know what is happening in a relationship until much later. Just like we don't know what the photo looks like when we snap the shutter, but only after the involved process of developing the film and printing the photo. "Let the fixer work until the silver's washed away and take the picture from the tray. Look hard at what you see and then remember you and me and let the truth spring free." The fixer is the chemical that makes the printed photo permanent, otherwise it will continue to fade to gray. So the truth is finally revealed to him and his understanding of the truth about the relationship is "fixed," but the relationship is now over, so it is too late. Like the moment you shoot the photo is when you are there, in the midst of the action, and when you finally get to see and understand it, you are distant from the original event, which is long over. The snake reference I don't really get, and the "birthright in your fist" stuff doesn't seem to fit with the photography metaphor, but it's a Mountain Goats song, right?

    dystopiandr3amgirlon April 09, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commentpastemagazine.com/articles/2011/02/…

    If anyone thinks I mis-transcribed it, please let me know and I'll fix it. There were a few words I wasn't sure on.
    ebowtheletteron February 25, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI wish I knew what this was about.
    Anilandon April 04, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think the subject of speed addiction is peppered throughout all of his work since 2002 and even earlier. I know JD said the theme of 'We Shall All Be Healed' is his journey through meth addiction and recovery, with stories of people lost along the way
    MCGENREon August 27, 2011   Link

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