carbon made found her at the
End of a chain "time to race"
She said "race the downhill"
Behind crystalline irises
Loons can drive
Where the world bleeds white
Just keep your eyes on her
Don't look away
Keep your eyes on her horizon
Bear claw free fall
A gunner's view black and blue
Shred in ribbons of lithium
Blow by blow
Her mind cut in sheets
Layers deep now unravelling
Just keep your eyes on her.
Get me Neil on the line
No I can't hold
Have him read "snow glass apples"
Where nothing is what it seems
"Little sis you must crack this"
He says to me
"you must go in again carbon
Made only wants to be unmade"
Blade to ice it's
Double diamond time
And keep your eyes on her
On her eyes on her horizon

Lyrics submitted by merchantpierce

Carbon Lyrics as written by Tori Ellen Amos

Lyrics © Downtown Music Publishing, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Carbon song meanings
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  • +5
    General CommentThere are many different threads in this song, but ultimately I believe it is about bipolar disorder, as suggest by Tori herself (see below). Metaphors of chemistry, the different states and processes of carbon as an element, run throughout the verses, alongside imagery of winter and language of mental destabilization.

    All the wintery allusions throughout, from the names of the ski hills which sound so evocatively non-sequiter (bear claw, free fall, a gunner's view), through to what I assume is a reference to a skate (blade to ice), and the chorus which implies a person is at risk of being lost in a storm. After all, we are here to 'race the downhill' --- ski down a mountain and descend into madness. In "blade to ice," "ice" can also be slang for a diamond, which leads back to carbon: "it's double diamond time."

    Diamonds are pure carbon and the hardest most impenetrable material known, which makes "you must go in again," an extremely daunting task, when read as a challenge to once more enter Carbon's mind. It is a challenge to enter the impenetrable as it is on the verge of a system collapse.

    After all, Carbon-made was originally found "at the end of a chain" --- a phrase that suggests being both 'at the end of your rope' (limits of one's sanity) and also being like a pure diamond hanging on a necklace, beautiful but trapped and unchanging.

    "Little sis you must crack this" also appears to be both a challenge to figure the situation out and a reference to the process of cracking, a chemical process by which carbon-carbon bonds are broken.

    "Double diamond time" also brings back the alpine language --- when ranking the difficulty of ski hills, double-diamond are the most treacherous, difficult, and unpredictable. "It's double diamond time" also means a deadly challenge even as it suggests two carbon-made beings locked into a dangerous dyad (a carbon-to-carbon bond that must be broken, if 'you must crack this' is taken literally).

    I think "shred in ribbons of lithium / blow by blow / her mind cut in sheets / layers deep now unravelling" is evocative too, knowing that lithium is both a psychological medication for bipolar disorder and is also one of the most reactive elements in existence. Pure lithium bursts into flame upon contact with air or water. The lithium people take as psychological meds is actually a lithium salt; one common form is actually lithium carbonate.
    erlkingon January 20, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General Comment"Next she meets up with the manic depressive CARBON. They travel through the Black Hills of Dakota and to Wounded Knee, scene of one of the darkest episodes in Native American history. "All Carbon wants is to disintegrate into nothingness. So its an extremely destructive story. Just as people risked their lives to keep their sacred land, a meltdown is about to happen in her life and a waltz into insanity is on the horizon. She's on this downhill race in her mind and Scarlet has to get to her before she kills herself." They end up in a ski resort - Bear Claw, Free Fall and Gunner's View in the song are all ski runs. But for Carbon the normal parameters and boundaries have ceased to apply and given way to self-mutilation and an urge to plunge over the cliff. Scarlet walks into this madness, but the outcome is left unresolved."
    -Tori, from Scarlet's Walk bio
    Poetic_Mystiqueon November 10, 2006   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningShe said in her autobiography that Carbon was about her friend who was molested by a parent, and she was frightened by how many ways and how deeply that could "unravel" a person. As opposed to Me and a Gun, this pain is much deeper because it was someone she trusted, and her world was turned upside down "Snow Glass Apples where nothing is what it seems"
    torifan711on September 13, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWell, no Tori song has a cut-and-dry meaning due to her poetry and seeming free-association, but this does seem to be about a woman going mentally of the edge. Maybe it's Bipolar ("Shred in ribbons of Lithium") or something, but that's why we're keeping our "eyes on her horizon".
    j3ebruleson June 01, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThere are certainly drug references in this song... I think it's about someone who needs to be watched over from afar. But I agree, she's going over the edge... It's one of my favourite Tori songs ♥
    zebeeon June 10, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think, ultimately, it's about staying focused when loads of other things are happening around us to the point where it could, seemingly, drive us all mad.
    SlavicMagicon August 02, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentLooking on the surface, it just seems like a song about sky-diving and the anxiety that comes along with it.
    buddha boyon February 13, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe person, Neil, in the song is her good friend and author Neil Gaiman. Gaiman wrote a story 'Snow Glass Apples' about Snow White, but from the step-mother's pov where Snow White was evil. Read it and you'll never think of Snow White the same again. Love this song
    cayshaon April 17, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWow Erlking, what a beautiful interpretation. I always thought close to the same thing but would never have been able to put it into words the way you did! Isn't Tori a gorgeous poet and musician?
    faerieambitionon January 31, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthat's a beautful interpretation. I also think it's to do with bipolar disorder. I love the line 'carbon made only wants to be unmade' - it's the person's mind. They can never settle into one mood or situation, even if it makes them happy. There is no security, as their mood is always changing, and just when they think they're 'better' or stable, there is another crisis. They can't find any degree of consistency or middle ground.
    daneypopson April 22, 2008   Link

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