Through the rain and all the clatter
Under the Fremont bridge I saw a pigeon fly
Fly in fear from the raptor come to take its life

And as it closed in for the capture
I funneled the fear through my ancient eyes
To see in flight, what I know are the bitter mechanics of life

Under my hat it reads "the lines are all imagined"
A fact of life I know to hide from my little girls
I know my place amongst the bugs and all the animals
And it's from these ordinary people you are longing to be free

My hotel and on the TV
A preacher on a stage like a buzzard cries
Out a warning of phony sorrow, he's trying to get a rise

The cyanide of an almond
Let him look at your hands, get the angles right
Ace of spades, port of morrow, life is death is life

I saw a photograph: Cologne in '27
And then a postcard after the bombs in '45
Must've been a world of evil clowns that let it happen

But now I recognize, dear listeners
That you were there and so was I

Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah

Under my hat I know the lines are all imagined
A fact of life I must impress on my little girls
I know my place amongst the creatures in the pageant
And there are flowers in the garbage, and a skull under your curls

Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah...


Lyrics submitted by llscience

Port of Morrow song meanings
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14 Comments

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  • +12
    General CommentThis song is UNREAL.

    I love the first verse, when he sees the pigeon about to be killed and he fears for it, but he knows what's going to happen; those are just the mechanics of life.

    I love how at first he wants to hide the fact that "the lines are all imagined" from his little girl, but then at the end, wants to impress it upon her. There is so much that is just imagined in our world today that we take for granted to be real. To realize that it doesn't exist, that it doesn't matter, is incredibly important (or is it?).

    "Ace of spades, port of morrow, life is death is life"...

    Then he makes a statement of human history: "Must've been a world of evil clowns who let it happen... But now I recognize, dear listeners, that you were there and so was I." The first time I heard this song, and I heard him sing "dear listeners," it felt so surreal.

    The last line, that there is "a skull under your curls" is incredibly powerful to end the song. No matter how full of life a young girl might seem, she's just a skeleton on the inside. Just like everyone else who is alive, and everyone who is dead.

    When it all comes together, it seems like an incredibly complex and simultaneously simple statement on life. Whatever it is, this song feels incredibly important to me.
    llscienceon March 17, 2012   Link
  • +4
    Song Meaning“Port Of Morrow is the sign on the side of the road when you come back to Oregon from being on tour. You head west into Oregon, and Port Of Morrow is one of the things where you get like, ‘Oh my god, we’re almost home!’ It’s right on the Columbia River, which is what separates Oregon from Washington state. That made me think of the River Styx, and I thought of death. Like we’ll all be dead eventually. So the song sort is sort of a summing up of this whole idea that life is at once beautiful and grotesque, and we live in a state of ignorance and a state of terror. You know, like you live moment to moment and you’re eating your food and going about your business, and looming nearby is the Port Of Morrow–this eventual fate.”

    magnetmagazine.com/2012/03/26/magnet-web-exclusive-the-shins-james-mercer-on-the-new-port-of-morrow/
    kwakubmon November 05, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General CommentIn a Rolling Stone interview Mercer said this song is about "being an atheist, agnostic, or whatever I am"
    josephneelyon April 02, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song is one of my favorites off the album. It's almost as if Mercer was - in a last exhale of emotion- trying to convey all the thoughts he had into this one song. When he addresses his audience by saying "Dear listeners," it gives me the chills.
    abstractatmosphereon March 17, 2012   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningYeah, this is definitely a spiritual song, and a damn good one at that. I took the "lines they are imagined" as the daily distinctions we make between man and animal, person vs person, me vs my mind, and me vs history. These are all false impressions, and I think that it's beautiful he sings that he will tell his daughters his spiritual discovery..
    The preacher, cyanide, and the postcards which evoke the damage WWII took area all how parts of the same coin can be so misleading and even downright disastrous, and James took very careful care in how he expresses his feelings, and his profound thought makes the song all the more powerful.
    dcsd204on May 04, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe song is haunting.

    As an atheist, I find death to be a terrifying thought. The oblivion that follows is sort of comforting, but not really.

    But this song speaks to that. "Life is death is life." It's as though he's saying that when we are alive we are just this collection of stardust, and we are no different in death. The delineation between life and death is imaginary. As are all the lines that society draws, right/wrong, good/evil, particularly the line which separates humanity from any other brutal animal (the buzzard for example).

    I love his songs when they take these journeys. He starts out in fear for the pigeon, the victim of the brutal cycle of life. He wants to shield his daughters from this harsh reality. But over the course of the song he comes to terms with death, and it's necessity, it being essentially a part of life. Even the atrocities of war he considers as part of... existence. He accepts the cycle of life and death, and realizes he should impress it on his daughters.

    The lines are all imagined.
    alexbutterfieldon November 25, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhat exactly happened in Cologne in 1927? I can't seem to find anything on it.
    jacksongreeron April 29, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this song is about the things in life that shouldn't happen, but we can't help. And how when you have kids you should protect them from it, but that isn't always a good thing, and like someone said the last line about how everyone has a skeleton.
    natashalolon June 11, 2012   Link
  • 0
    My Interpretation"I saw a photograph: Cologne in '27
    And then a postcard after the bombs in '45
    Must've been a world of evil clowns that let it happen

    But now I recognize, dear listeners
    That you were there and so was I"

    I guess he's trying to say we're responsile for the acts of mankind. It doesn't matter if these are different times. We are as much humans as everyone else.
    ralphhoblbon August 22, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe acception of what you lived through, and what is to come.
    Starman666on April 15, 2013   Link

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