The flowers you gave me are rotting
And still I refuse to throw them away
Some of the bulbs never opened quite fully
They might so I'm waiting and staying awake

Things I have loved I'm allowed to keep
I'll never know if I go to sleep

The papers around me are piling and twisting
Regina the paperback mummy
What then?
I'm taking the knife to the books that I own
And I'm chopping and chopping and boiling soup from stone

Things I have loved I'm allowed to keep
I'll never know if I go to sleep
Things I have loved I'm allowed to keep
I'll never know if I go to sleep


Lyrics submitted by thepokeypuppy

The Flowers Lyrics as written by Regina Spektor

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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The Flowers song meanings
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  • +4
    My InterpretationOne of my favourite songs.

    (The flowers you gave me are rotting
    And still I refuse to throw them away)
    This is about a reluctance to accept the reality of the situation, the flowers a metaphor for the shared emotional experience of her and her partner)

    (Some of the bulbs never opened quite fully
    They might so I'm waiting and staying awake)
    Here Regina states that she feels that the relationship never reached its full potential. The possibility of the bulbs (a metaphor for their emotional connection) to open up again is leaving her reluctant to move on and instead waiting and staying awake for the possibility.

    (Things I have loved I'm allowed to keep
    I'll never know if I go to sleep)
    This line is referring to her emotional attachment to the relationship that while she no longer loves it feels that she is allowed to keep it. By stating that she will never go to sleep, she is acknowledging that the relationship is doomed and she is grasping at a non-existent possibility.

    (The papers around me are piling and twisting
    Regina the paperback mummy
    What then?)
    This is referring to her attempts to understand her predicament through literature and through various texts. She feels that she has been encompassed by this leaving her a paperback mummy. But she knows that this will not be what will allow her to overcome her feelings evident in the pessimistic rhetorical question "what then?"
    (I'm taking the knife to the books that I own
    And I'm chopping and chopping and boiling soup from stone)
    I find this the most beautiful lyric. By taking a knife to the books she owns she is making reference to her attempt to understand her predicament by searching through and cutting out relevant passages that may help her understand. However the second line referring to boiling soup from stone is a reference to an old fable; here using it to once again to embody her pessimism of finding a conclusion, as adding more and more passages still will not change the reality nor help her understand why.
    joelschu13on August 17, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI love this song because 1) it's minimalistic (it gets the message across with minimal thoughts/ideas) and 2) I can relate. It's about keeping things merely to hold on to the memory behind them, but allowing them to paralyze you.
    bittersweet637on August 20, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song is so powerful to me, the piano is just amazing.
    Her voice is magic, I love this song, though I dont know what it means, its like a sad love song
    love it
    SilverChair_Fanaticon June 24, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentAn absolutely gorgeous song...I'll just comment on what seems obvious to me.
    I think it's about a recent break-up with a significant other, and being desperate to cling to their memory. She thinks "some of the bulbs never opened quite fully," or the relationship never developed completely, and that it still might, and she stays awake, waiting for it. She also uses the words "have loved", suggesting past tense, as in the relationship is over.
    the_fredinatoron September 03, 2006   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationI think that this song means how when someone loves something so dearly, they don't want to fall asleep; fearing that they won't be able to wake up to see the person or thing they love. The stanza starting with, "The papers around me..." I think, has to do with how Regina incorporates references to literature in some of her songs. I love this song so much, it's my favorite, especially because I feel that this song is closer to Regina than most of her songs.
    CauseSilenceIsHarderon December 12, 2011   Link
  • +2
    My OpinionI thing the lyric "The things I have loved I'm allowed to keep" should be a question it makes the song into a whole different song for me.
    "The things I have loved I'm allowed to keep?
    I'll never know if I go to sleep."
    That has a whole different meaning than with a period to me.
    jojojeton January 02, 2012   Link
  • +1
    MemoryThis song means a lot to me. Whilst getting through a difficult break up from my ex, I heard this song for the first time, and obviously, a broken heart makes your mind link everything to your sisuation. To me, this song spoke exactly how I was feeling. For a year my ex 'led me on' as you call it, telling me that MAYBE one day we'd get back together etc. These words and false hopes were the 'flowers' which I refused to 'throw away' and ignore. I felt our relationship had never reached it's full potential (some of the bulbs never opened quite fully), and I felt that if I let myself move on to someone else, I might miss out on my chance for us to get back together, so I waited. (They might so I'm waiting and staying awake). The 'allowed to keep' part is fantastic. To me, It's as though she's convincing herself and her friends that she's not being pathetic and what she's doing is harmless. Again, the 'I'll never know If I go to sleep' is the idea that If she moves on, she'll never know what could've been. It's probably not how Regina intended it to be, but to me, it means so much.
    Robinsketon November 17, 2011   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationFor some reason, I thought this song could be about the Holocaust - the Jewish mentality after the Holocaust. Let me know if I'm crazy. Or disrespectful to Jewish people in some way. I thought in the end of the song, the melody was jewish (I haven't gotten that confirmed). Also, I'm not trying to say jewish people are cheap - but, I read a graphic novel about the Holocaust called "Maus," and in it the father of the main character who survived through the entirety of the Holocaust, would always not want to throw things away, and his son (they were both mice xD) would tell him to throw some object away. (Yeah, that's what I just confirmed, gradesaver.com/maus/study-guide/section4/). That story says that a need to keep things was developed during the Holocaust for him because things were scarse. I think this song is about the fear that something will be taken away from you. The singer is getting defensive when she says "Things I have loved I'm allowed to keep" even though it may be unreasonable. And the main character can't seem to go to sleep or to rest, even after everything is alright.
    The Jewish (to me) sounding melody in the end made me think this could be the meaning to this song, and wasn't there book burning during the Holocaust (taking the knife to the books)? maybe it's a dream of hers, that verse about possibly ruining books - the way she described it makes it sound like the description of a dream. I mean she does talk about sleep, and maybe -- oh! If she goes to sleep, she will forget that she can now keep things that she loved because she has nightmares about something bad... a giant paper-back mummy, making soup out of stone, ruining her books.
    I don't really know if this song could be about more than that, since she talks about holding on to something good, like something she has loved or flower bulbs that have not opened, so maybe there is something good she is remembering.
    Also, the melody in the end is kind of uplifting. If the melody IS actually Jewish like it seems to me, it can represent the resiliency of the Jewish culture. (I was in Fiddler on the Roof in high school, and it made me think of this idea ><.) How, bad things ended up happenning to Jewish people in history, but they always bring themselves back out of it.
    Overall, it's not a song about the Holocaust itself obviously, but living after something horrible, and being shaken up by it, a post-Holocaust Jewish mentality, even if a generation later. Regina herself said in an interview that she has inherited a jewish mentality from her grandparents.
    I might be wrong though, there's probably not that much Jewish-ness in this song...

    supervioletrainon December 03, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commentdeep like Becket, but without being pretentious.
    joemommaon June 27, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentreminds me of a victorian novel, stuck in the moment, shadows by candle light desperate and brooding.

    romantic and sad.
    tigersroamfreeon January 14, 2006   Link

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