Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Larry Beckett: Second Avenue


Neon in the rain, downtown Portland: photo by Orbmiser, 17 March 2008

In the hissing street, that old girl goes
with a newspaper over her bowed head,
and I blow my hands and walk on hard
in the fool's rain on Second Avenue,

all the holes closed for the night
and the bad wine wearing off,
and nothing for the cold but that fire
in an iron barrel, my knowledge of you.

Neon, downtown Portland: photo by Orbmiser, 17 March 2008


TC said...

Larry Beckett is an important American poet, best known for his brilliant collaborative songwriting work with the late great Tim Buckley.

Here is a post inspired by perhaps their most resonant collaboration:

Morning Glory

Larry has caught up with us by leaving a generous comment at the end of the thread on that post, please do check it out. The post also links to Tim's performance of that classic piece of minstrelsy.

In his comment Larry relates a bit about its inspiration:

"...I read your as always luminous remarks on my old song Morning Glory, with such pleasure. Unlike most of my other songs written young, that had some yugen: mystery and depth.

"In later years, I saw that I had adapted the enigmatic image of the fleeting house from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 146:

"Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?

"In this reading, the fleeting house is the body, home to the spirit, and by extension, it’s a way of living, always shifting, in a world of flux. This gives some urgency to his asking for tales of time, and pain to their refusal."

In that fleeting house, by that flickering candle in the window, we all of us make our home for a moment, and then...

Anonymous said...

"my knowledge of you" that!



"In that fleeting house, by that flickering candle in the window, we all of us make our home for a moment, and then..."


light coming into fog against invisible
plane of ridge, blue jay on pine branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

as that, intended to oppose
nature to the machine

picture water, man’s shadow,
woman with closed eye

wingspan of tern flapping toward point,
circular green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...

The song to which the "fleeting house" reference applies:

Morning Glory, lyrics by Larry Beckett, sung by Tim Buckley, BBC Late Night.

(Inspired performance, TB adrift in a cloud of studio fog, assisted by Lee Underwood, Danny Thompson and Carter Collins.)

manik sharma said...

The street hisses ,
bites when it no longer rains...the newspapers have ink in perfect geometry and we all feel a lot wiser for not getting wet ....

What a wonderful poem...Thank you for sharing

Wooden Boy said...

"In the hissing street". That's a sharp, thin way to open. When you come to those last lines, "...that fire in an iron barrel..." really is the only thing for such cold.

I'd forgotten what a tender voice Tim Buckley had.

TC said...

The iron barrel.

What a beautiful alchemical/epistemological conclusion that is -- it's the iron of the barrel puts the heart and courage back into the wet night, shelters the fire that warms the cold hands and helps protect the old girl, there, in the hissing street.



Yes, such an inspired performance (saw it yesterday, now again today -- goes straight to the heart), used to have that album when it first came out, can still see his face "in that fleeting house" inside my head.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

You're right, Tom; brilliant--no other word for this poem and the links.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Where I Used To Live

That’s where I used to live.
Close to Rabbit Island. That’s where
I used to sleep. Under that ironwood
at the end of that beach access—
Hihimanu Street. All the old naupaka
gone now where cubbyholes existed—
dry, windless places—just one or two
where I’d find him crashed, reeking,
needing to hold onto me like a man
in the whole bunch of trouble that he was.

ACravan said...

Thanks for this, both for itself and for giving me the impetus to track down more information about it. Curtis