Mary queen of Arkansas
It's not too early for dreamin'
The sky is grown with cloud seed sown
And a bastard's love can be redeeming
Mary, my queen, your soft hulk is reviving
No, you're not too late to desecrate
The servants are just rising

Well, I'm just a lonely acrobat
The live wire is my trade
I've been a shine boy for your acid brat
And a wharf rat of your state
Mary, my queen, your blows for freedom are missing
Oh, you're not man enough for me to hate
Or woman enough for kissing

Oh, the big top is for dreamers
We can take the circus all the way to the border
Oh, and the gallows wait for martyrs whose papers are in order
But I was not born to live to die
And you were not born for queenin'
Oh, it's not to late to infiltrate
The servants are just leavin'

Mary queen of Arkansas
Your white skin is deceivin'
You awake and wait to lie in bait
And you almost got me believin'
But on your bed, Mary
I can see the shadow of a noose
I don't understand how you can hold me so tight
And love me so damn loose

But I know a place where we can go, Mary
Where I can get a good job
And start out all over again clean
Oh, I got contacts deep in Mexico
Where the servants have been seen

Lyrics submitted by fearofmusic, edited by bmcf1lm

Mary Queen of Arkansas Lyrics as written by Bruce Springsteen

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Mary Queen of Arkansas song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentAs a general proposition, I would state that the line, "I don't understand how you can hold me so tight and love me so damn loose..." is the pivotal line in the song.

    As with anything, my interpretation is colored by my experience. I would say that this line tells us that the woman to whom the protagonist is referring can be amazingly tender at times and then unbelievably cold--even mean. She's got a love that comes and goes. She lifts him up and then breaks his heart ("you almost got me believin'"). And he knows it ("your white skin is deceivin'").

    Nevertheless, the protagonist wants to "start all over again clean" because his is a steady (true) love. It's tragic, really, and I suppose it happens all the time. Non-reciprocal love.

    Those who fall victim to it don't know how to quit even when they aren't getting anything back. Reminds me of "Reason to Believe," "Dancing in the Dark," and even "Living in the Future" (if interpreted as a love song, instead of a social commentary on the state of the union).

    Great song.
    magicrat34on October 11, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's not too hard, assuming I have the right idea of it, to figure out the big picture, but when I look at each individual line, there's so much I can't really grasp. Anyone have any explanations for any of those tricky ones?
    Wendy26on March 01, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI would say that its someone who loves this girl (Mary) who will love him and then hate him. They come from two different worlds; the man, a working class man, Mary, came from a rich, upper class family. The man tries to leave her (But I was not born to live to die and you were not born for queenin') and she goes into a mode of depression and kills herself (But on your bed Mary I can see the shadow of a noose). He then regrets breaking her heart and wants to start over (But I know a place where we can go, Mary. Where I can get a good job and start all over again clean).
    bmcf1lmon February 21, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIn a concert I attended Bruce told us that this song referred to a drag queen.
    Revisit this line: You're not man enough for me to hate or woman enough for kissing. Surprised? My date that night was!
    valjeangon October 17, 2020   Link

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