Johnny Cash – The Mercy Seat

I consider this the finest song Johnny Cash ever did. His artistry and honesty floods me, as Nick Cave’s tight, mythic poetry elevates me. 

I don’t listen to this all that often now, because it’s a total sensory experience for me, and it transports and beautifies and cleanses me. 

I listen to it, though, now and then. I feel it all. I am it all. I’m shuffling, dying, and merging as I listen, sing, rock, cry. 

I’m aware many have this sort of relationship with music. If you’re like this, give this a listen. 

The Mercy Seat

Johnny Cash

Lyrics

It all began when they took me from my home
And put me on Death Row
A crime for which I’m totally innocent, you know

I began to warm and chill
To objects and their fields
A ragged cup, a twisted mop
The face of Jesus in my soup
Those sinister dinner deals
The meal trolley’s wicked wheels
A hooked bone rising from my food
And all things either good or ungood

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I’m yearning
To be done with all this weighing of the truth
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And, anyway, I told the truth
And I’m not afraid to die.

I hear stories from the chamber
Christ was born into a manger
And like some ragged stranger
He died upon the cross
Might I say it seems so fitting in its way
He was a carpenter by trade
Or at least that’s what I’m told

My killed hands tattooed E.V.I.L.
across it’s brother’s fist
That filthy five!
They did nothing to challenge or resist

In Heaven His throne is made of gold
The ark of His Testament is stowed
A throne from which I’m told
All history does unfold.
It’s made of wood and wire
And my body is on fire
And God is never far away

Into the mercy seat I climb
My head is shaved, my head is wired
And like a moth that tries
To enter the bright eye
I go shuffling out of life
Just to hide in death awhile
And, anyway, I never lied

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I’m yearning
To be done with all this weighing of the truth
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And, anyway, I told the truth
And I’m not afraid to die.

And the mercy seat is burning
And I think my head is glowing
And in a way I’m hoping
To be done with all this twistin’ of the truth
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And, anyway, there was no proof
And I’m not afraid to die

And the mercy seat is glowing
And I think my head is smokin’
And in a way I’m hoping
To be done with all these looks of disbelief.
A life for a life
And a truth for a truth
And I’ve got nothing left to lose
And I’m not afraid to die

And the mercy seat is smokin’
And I think my head is melting
And in a way that’s helping
To be done with all this twistin’ of the truth
An eye for an eye
And a truth for a truth
And, anyway, I told the truth
But I’m afraid I told a lie.

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