Song Explanation: “We Own The Skies”


This is the fifth of several blog posts explaining the songs we wrote on Engine of A Million Plots. The fifth song on the list is “We Own The Sky.” You can find the words to the song and Reese’s explanation below. We’ve also thrown in the EOMP EPK video into the post because its awesome and you should see it again. Please leave your thoughts and questions in the comments. And don’t forget the original disclaimer of this series. If one of these songs means something completely different to you than what Reese says, that’s probably the better explanation. 

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we own the skies

I am a breadwinner.
I chose to brick these walls somehow.
Beneath the city spires,
I gave my shoulders to the plow.
Cold and cruel the concrete –
wicked pavement chokes the sky.
I chose this path –
the one so often travelled by.

Tonight, we burn the wintry frost of night.
Tonight, we wish upon the fading light .
Tonight, our burning hearts will rise.
Tonight, we own the skies.

My hands are bleeding where they often crack.
The stars will sometimes burn with longing,
through the choking black of night shifts,
piling each against the next.
A Trojan horse inside my chest,
is screaming for the life I left.
My kingdom for a steady paycheck.

Explanation from Reese Roper:

I really am not trying to solicit sympathy here, just to explain where this song came from, so please bear with me…

Everything in my life was a mess at the time I wrote this. I work at the University of Virginia Hospital, as a nurse in the Surgical Trauma Burn Intensive Care Unit, or STBICU. I have never done anything that is so stressful- intellectually, socially, mentally, and physically. There is no way to explain what I do for work unless you are someone working in a Trauma ICU that also handles surgical and vascular disasters, plus burns. The best way I can describe it is to say that I now need to take a drug called Trazodone to make me fall asleep because I have been diagnosed with PTSD. At the time I wrote this song, my pregnant sister was living with my wife and me and our 6 month old daughter in the crappiest basement apartment you can imagine. I owed $100,000 in student loans. I had exactly zero friends where we had just moved, and I was miserable. I remember standing at the window in one of my patient’s rooms one night after working 6 straight 13-hour night shifts, with maybe 4 hours of sleep each day. I looked down at my hands, which were literally covered in cracks from some reaction I was having to the antibacterial hand gel we have to use each and every time we go in and out of any room in the hospital. (Yes, imagine rubbing an alcohol based gel all over about 40 cracks in your hands about 100 times a day). I looked out at the sky and just completely lost it some enormous fit of silent sobbing right there at some window in 5 North. Thank God my patient was intubated and very sedated.

And then, through my tears, this verse popped into my head, and I was comforted:

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:1-10

“We Own The Skies” is about believing that though we be mired in the thick of the worst of the world’s troubles, our spirits, through Christ, can be alive. That though we once “walked according to the prince of the power of the air,” I believe that our God owns the skies, and that He indeed has created us in Christ Jesus for good works.

* Bonus Note- There is a threaded theme throughout the entirety of this album about being cold and in the dark versus fire and light- “Tonight, we burn the wintry frost of night. Tonight, we wish upon the fading light .”

Also, have you ever heard of Robert Frost? 😉 


  1. Thanks for doing this. I love when songwriters take time to explain where the lyrics come from and what they mean to them. I understand the idea that you want people to attribute their own meanings to them, but they can do that even if you explain where it came from. I’d love you to go back and do this with the entire FIF catalog, as I would find it immensely interesting.

    • 100% agreed Michael. I love this kind of stuff from my favorite artists.

  2. I totally love this. This song. This idea. The explanations. Perfect. thank you

  3. Hey there Reese, thanks for this great song and album as well as the explanation! Stoked you’re at another mellower job now. My friend Amy posted your blog about ptsd and I was stoked to know you’re in VA and that you guys worked together. I hope the band can come play Liberty Univ. soon, that is close by! You guys are in my prayers, rock on!!!

  4. Thank you for this.

  5. Thanks so much for doing these! I’ve always enjoyed to analyze song lyrics and the meanings behind them, but this is so much better!

  6. This song, and the meaning behind it really resonates with me. I’m a career firefighter/paramedic in the central VA area, hopefully I never have a reason to be anywhere near UVA’s burn unit, but it’s nice to know there are commited people working there.

    • Chris Cool has presented the facts yet you seem to still keep dneendifg your argument. Fuckouttahere with with your Stan comment dude, it’s just as pathetic as your hater argument. Again, I wasn’t calling out haters , I simply stated that 50 posts draw the ire of commenters, not a knock against commenters because they are free to dislike songs and the artists who make them. I’m not dneendifg 50, apparently I gave you that impression hence you calling me a Stan , I m just stating a fact man.

  7. This song more than any other FIF song hit home for me….except for these are not my pants the rock opera….but that’s another story.
    I have family members who too have PTSD from work in the ER – and for some reason my wife and I became nurses too. 😉
    This album came out during last semester of nursing school – and right after my 2nd child was born premature and in the NICU – I was walking along a dirt road (towards the garage my family and i had to live in cause we couldn’t afford rent yet) with this album in my headphones and this song came on and I had to sit and sob all of the pain and stress away. It’s one of those rare times where I felt like my heart was screaming the words the headphones were blaring into my skull.
    My whole point I guess is that I’m thankful music like this exists because I believe sometimes music is the only way our spirits can communicate – and cut through the haze we find ourselves in whenever life becomes unbearable overwhelming.
    It’s so nice to know we’re never alone.
    Thanks for your genuineness & honesty FIF – you’re a rare breed.
    Tonight, we own the skies! (oh and see you in Mesa, AZ!!)

    • I have always loved the open honest music that FIF puts out… the explanations make a lot of things so much clearer and its awesome

  8. This is beautiful. Thank you so much for making music and sharing this with everyone.

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  9. agree…agree…agree…and I do know about and LOVE Robert Frost. I have that particular poem nearly memorized because when I was in High School (long ago) we sang it in choir! Now it’s referenced on FIF blog – that is fabulous! Thank you!

  10. I wondered if this song was somehow related to this Scripture. This is definitely my favorite song on the record. It’s one of the greatest reminders of how alive we are in Christ that I’ve heard in years. Thank you for writing it.

  11. I know you’re not after sympathy, but I just want you to know that we love you. Many of us hear your words and your music every day. We’re inviting you into into our heads and hearts; it’s impossible not to make that personal.

    I took a different meaning from this song. I just decided to back to school after 5 years of dead end jobs, one of which required so much handwashing that my hands would dry and crack until they bled.

    I know that work isn’t where my life is or where I am happiest; I just use it to fund my life and my interests. Many of my interests involve projects with my best friend, who works night shifts in another city.

    So when you say, “The stars will sometimes burn with longing,” I relate that to that deep rooted creative passion that is inspired by a friend I don’t get to see much. When you say, “Tonight, we own the skies,” I see me taking overcoming the troubles and tediums of my job and taking ownership of my dreams.

  12. Reese,
    I recently wrote a post on Five Iron’s Facebook page about how I came to know your music and why it is so important to me. Without going through the whole thing again I made mention that through the years and trials and my own mistakes and falling away from God Five Iron’s music has always cheered me on and drawn me back toward goodness.
    I am recently divorced and just got a job as a custodian at the college I once wanted to attend to get my degree as a veterinary. I was feeling dead ended today. Like “this is it living paycheck to paycheck and trying to provide for my daughter is all that is left of the rest of my life”
    I was listening to Engine of a Million Plots while I cleaned my own house and the line “My kingdom for a steady paycheck” jumped out at me. I sat down to google the lyrics and found your explanation of the song.
    Thank-You so much for writing this, for all your music through the years, and for reminding me to look up at the sky and see a world and a being and a freedom greater than the limitations of this life.


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