My city's still breathing (but barely it's true)
Through buildings gone missing like teeth
The sidewalks are watching me think about you
Sparkled with broken glass
I'm back with scars to show
Back with the streets I know
Will never take me anywhere but here
The stain in the carpet, this drink in my hand
The strangers whose faces I know
We meet here for our dress-rehearsal
To say, "I wanted it this way"
Wait for the year to drown
Spring forward, fall back down
I'm trying not to wonder where you are
All this time lingers, undefined
Someone choose who's left and who's leaving
Memory will rust and erode into lists
Of all that you gave me:
A blanket, some matches, this pain in my chest
The best parts of lonely, duct-tape, and soldered wires
New words for old desires
And every birthday card I threw away
I wait in 4/4 time
Count yellow highway lines that you're relying on
To lead you home


Lyrics submitted by sockmonkey

Left and Leaving song meanings
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83 Comments

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  • +3
    General CommentI think a lot of people are over analyzing this song because they're missing the context of what growing up Winnipeg is like. The idea of coming back home, defeated, not having made it in 'better' cities is common. A lot of people end up moving to larger cities, and keeping track of who's left and who's leaving is something we talk about here.

    Some other things, the weather is just something that's ever present, 'wait for the year to drown', flooding, snow, etc - spring forward, fall back down - daylight savings is a Big Deal here, lots of debate but really it's just that inevitability of falling back down into a cold winter.

    Anyway just some thoughts
    ChefQuixon March 17, 2014   Link
  • +2
    General Commentthat one line, the sidewalks are watching me think about you just kills me every time i hear it. this song really is beautiful. it seems like the world gets it's pause button pressed whenever i play this album.
    fallenstarhaloon June 05, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General Commentthis song is so personal to me. i live in winnipeg, where john k. and the rest of them are from, and the line "the strangers whose faces i know" reminds me of going to see them play when they were just "the band with the old bass player from propagandhi". it reminds me of the whole hardcore scene in winnipeg. i barely know anyone in the scene, and i know that no one knows me, but if i was to see one of them on the streets, we'd recognize each other.

    and the lines about the city fit perfectly. john is always talking about how great winnipeg is to the people who've lived there all their life, but how its slowly dying. this song deals with that too. the weakerthans are the only band whos music fits the scenery when i'm driving around the city.
    ihatedangeron March 11, 2003   Link
  • +2
    General CommentWhen he says "spring forward, fall back down" it has always made me think he's referring to the time changes in the year. In spring you turn your clocks forward, in fall - back one hour. I don't know why I've never seen it as anything else. And I'm probably the only one.
    Cranberriedon June 25, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI couldn't tell you exactly about it, but this is the saddest song I've ever heard in my life. And the last line "I wait in 4/4 time, count yellow highway lines that you're relying on to lead you home" is chilling.
    BeatOnTheBraton April 12, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI didn't see the specific 9/11 comment, but I read someone referring to it.

    Anyway, it CAN'T be about 9/11, because the CD was released in 2000, not 2001.
    TheChimbleySweepon October 02, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"My city's still breathing (but barely it's true) through buildings gone missing like teeth. "

    He is the city, and he's barely living, because he's broken.

    "The sidewalks are watching me think about you, all sparkled with broken glass."

    The sidewalks, his friends, are watching him miss his girl.

    "I'm back with scars to show. Back with the streets I know. They never take me anywhere but here."

    He's back to where he was before he met her. I think she changed him, and made him happy, and now he's back to being how he was before...

    "Those stains in the carpet, this drink in my hand, these strangers whose faces I know. We meet here for our dress-rehearsal to say " I wanted it this way" and wait for the year to drown."

    I think he's talking to someone close to him, telling them how he wish things could be with that girl. He's dying inside, slowly, but surely.

    "Spring forward, fall back down. I'm trying not to wonder where you are."

    He's trying to move on and forget her, and there's one little thing that reminds him of her, hence him falling back down.

    "All this time lingers, undefined. Someone choose who's left and who's leaving."

    Pretty self-explanitory. Time lingers without her.

    "Memory will rust and erode into lists of all that you gave me: some matches, a blanket, this pain in my chest, the best parts of Lonely, duct-tape and soldered wires, new words for old desires, and every birthday card I threw away"

    He can't bring himself to rid himself the memories of her. He speaks of all the feelings he never thought he could feel, that she taught him how to feel

    "I wait in 4/4 time. Count yellow highway lines that you're relying on to lead you home."

    He's waiting for her to find her way back home, to him.

    That's just my interpretation of this song.
    sharks___ohnoon April 18, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentJohn K. Sampson said "This is a love song," right before they started playing it.
    mr_pollockon December 15, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"new words for old desires"...

    that hit me like brick. I can't remember how many times i've tried to convince myself i've moved on to better things.
    kinukaion October 26, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI feel like the song is about returning to a hometown, a city you used to live in, where you have a lot of personal history. It feels like both an ode to the city, but also it seems like returning to the city recalls a break up with an old girlfriend. "who's left and who's leaving" he's trying to decide who broke up with whom. "We meet here for our dress rehearsal to say "I wanted it this way." " screams relationship to me.
    feaadon January 22, 2008   Link

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