Pearl Jam

Hey, oh
Sheets of empty canvas
Untouched sheets of clay
Were laid spread out before me
As her body once did
All five horizons
Revolved around her soul
As the earth to the sun
Now the air I tasted and breathed
Has taken a turn

Oh and all I taught her was everything
Oh I know she gave me all that she wore
And now my bitter hands
Chafe beneath the clouds
Of what was everything
Oh the pictures have
All been washed in black
Tattooed everything
I take a walk outside
I'm surrounded by
Some kids at play
I can feel their laughter
So why do I sear
Oh, and twisted thoughts that spin
Round my head
I'm spinning
Oh, I'm spinning
How quick the sun can, drop away

And now my bitter hands
Cradle broken glass
Of what was everything
All the pictures had
All been washed in black
Tattooed everything
All the love gone bad
Turned my world to black
Tattooed all I see
All that I am
All I'll be

I know someday you'll have a beautiful life
I know you'll be a star
In somebody else's sky
But why
Why can't it be
Why can't it be mine

Universal Music Publishing Group
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Pearl Jam
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Comments (122): View More Comments and Get the Songfacts
My fav interpretation is the very first one at the bottom of this page by LiveFreak.

Going to see these guys in exactly 2 weeks! Can't wait.
- Zero, Nowhere, NJ
Having read the comments posted here, I'd just like to add my 2 cents.
This is a song about breakups as Eric from Melbourne said, but it goes beyond the pain of being jilted.

What I find fascinating is the usage of the word "Everything". I believe it is a placeholder for something of the utmost important to the protagonist, hence it is "everything."

(Note that the song can be equally sung by a woman but given that it was sung by a man, i'll stick to the male voice).

The subject of affection was not familiar with the 'thing', and was taught it by our hero.

The 'thing' was destroyed all is left are clouds (black ash probably)

The 'thing' was further irreparably damaged in the same way a black tattoo would overwrite and destroy whatever it was applied over.

The 'thing' shattered -- broken glass. It also was fragile to begin with. Again - irreparable.

And finally, the riddle is solved -- it's HIS love that is shattered. And what is love? There's his love, her love, and their love which is the product of both their loves. When hers went, his didn't, but the product is that THEIR love is gone.
So his love is still there, and what is it based on? Trust, respect, attraction, admiration. Some of it is still there but the rest is gone, forever.

This is not a song about breakup. It's a song mourning the incomplete demise of love. Some aspects go (respect, trust, etc.), some remain behind to torment.

When he says "Why can't it be mine?" He is not WISHING it to be his. He is mourning the fact that it has gone. As in, "Why did it have to happen to me"

As for the other two references -
The sheets -- bed? Empty, yet lying in it is unbearably "heavy" (lead).
The kids -- you know how you watch people in love - they behave like kids. And of course, he thinks of her, although the love is gone.

- Amir, Bellevue, WA
Great song...brings back bittersweet memories.
- Ernest, corpus christi, TX
While I always wanted to know the true meaning of this beautiful and deep song, I also love this mystery of it and the passion with which Eddie sings it. It always takes me to a place....I'm leavin it at that
- Dee, Pittsburgh, PA
wow!! so many opinions. whose do i believe? hmmmmm... okay, i've got it. how about my own. music is art, you see, and like all art it is subject to interpretation. what i'm saying is believe what you feel about it. it's eddie's song, but he gave it to us. just be happy with that. oh yeah, i almost forgot. IT IS a break-up song.
- tony , beloit, WI
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