In the iron-bound section near Avenue L
Where the Portuguese women come to see what you sell
The clouds so low the morning so slow
As the wires cut through the sky

The beams and bridges cut the light on the ground
Into little triangles and the rails run round
Through the rust and the heat
The light and sweet coffee color of her skin

Bound up in wire and fate
Watching her walk him up to the gate
In front of the iron-bound school yard.

Kids will grow like weeds on a fence
She says they look for the light they try to make sense.
They come up through the cracks
Like grass on the tracks
She touches him goodbye.

Steps off the curb and into the street
The blood and feathers near her feet
Into the iron-bound market

In the iron-bound section near Avenue L
Where the Portuguese women come to see what you sell
The clouds so low the morning so slow
As the wires cut through the sky

She stops at the stall
Fingers the ring
Opens her purse
Feels a longing
Away from the iron-bound border

"Fancy poultry parts sold here.
Breasts and thighs and hearts.
Backs are cheap and wings are nearly free.
Nearly free"

Lyrics submitted by Novartza, edited by DCCJeephunk

Ironbound/Fancy Poultry Lyrics as written by Suzanne Vega Anton Sanko

Lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

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Ironbound/Fancy Poultry song meanings
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  • +3
    General Comment
    I can't believe there is only one comment on this song so far. This is an incredible song and in my opinion it's vastly underrated. Suzanne has said a few things publicly about the song so I'll keep my remarks personal. The picture that coalesces in my mind as the story unfolds is that of a single mom who cares for her child in part by selling herself. An analogy is drawn between the butchering and selling of poultry parts and the equally unfeeling way her body is treated like nothing more than parts. Here are the lines that stand out or me. The "blood and feathers" are literal, from the butchered animals, but they foreshadow how cruelly people are treated also. When she "fingers the ring, opens her purse, feels a longing", she remembers past economic security and happier times, perhaps when a husband was still alive or around, but then feels keenly aware of her lack of economic security currently. At the end of the song, her body is offered, metaphorically through the poultry seller's cry. "Breasts and thighs" represent the sexual part of herself which she surrenders. "Hearts" reveals that it breaks her heart to offer herself in this way, so in effect her "heart", the part of her that loves, is also for sale. The pause before the word "Hearts" is genius artistic timing, allowing the emotion to settle in the listener. "Backs" refers to plain old hard work. The kick drum hits on the word "backs" for the first time in a while, literally putting effort into the lyric. "Backs are cheap" means in some way that her labor doesn't fetch enough money for her to care for her child. "Wings are nearly free" is more elusive to me. It either means that she still clings to her dreams, though she feels trapped for the foreseeable future, or it means, as the previous commenter said, that she almost feels free. "Wings" could also refer to her ability to leave the situation (perhaps to move from the city) and seek a better life. "Nearly free," then, could either mean that she can't quite make it happen, or more poetically that dreams and plans for a better life aren't worth much in the cruel economy of real life in the city. I also just have to say the band is incredible on this track. Mike Visceglia has had a big influence on my bass playing.
    kyrasdadon February 12, 2014   Link
  • +2
    General Comment
    Description at the beginning is really beautiful and the scene is really woven around the main figure of the song, giving the impression that she really is grafted to the city, unable to detach. The chant of the poulty seller has even become her own voice and "wings are nearlly free" is a reference to how little her soul seems to matter in the city -but somehow there is a note of hope o perhaps it is ironic -that she will be nearlly free.
    1Berna1on August 04, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    I have just heard this song and immediately searched for meaning online. If we’re going on the idea that it is about this woman-To me, “ nearly free” has an interesting meaning. I hear it as ( almost free enough to leave the situation but not quite) and ( just like the pieces of meat, she is nearly worthless). The way “nearly free” is sung is almost like the wind carrying her away, or carrying our view of her away. We are swept to another world never to find out whether this person lived or died in their situation. Because of course she is just another woman selling her body. Invisible and beautiful. A really stunning song. I find myself trying to imagine this person’s entire life and if it is about the aforementioned narrative, I hope she was free.
    palesa1046on February 28, 2023   Link
  • 0
    General Comment
    This is one of her most haunting songs. It jumps into my head when I am feeling objectified as a woman. I feel like it is universal, not just about the woman in the song. To society, in magazines, media, the job world, and the dating world, so often I feel that we are all "fancy poultry". I wish that we could be seen for more than what is on the surface. Women go through so much of being treated as a commidity, worthy of being consumed or not, based on the parts we have. I am not bitter or hateful toward men, and I don't want readers to assume that. What I do want is for them to realize what it is like to be the opposite gender. Maybe men are sometimes objectified too? Their minds and their achievements seem to garner more points, however, in real time.
    bettronellaon May 07, 2023   Link

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