Monday, July 13, 2009

rain into evening

amy lowell saw the inside and outside of evening rain in the big city. written in grey-scale with occasional splashes of colour, her writing washes from large to small scale, distant to up-close, and all the while painting your senses with the most intimate of detail.

afternoon rain in state street

cross-hatchings of rain against grey walls,
slant lines of black rain
in front of the up and down, wet stone sides of buildings.
greasy, shiny, black, horizontal,
the street.
and over it, umbrellas,
black polished dots
struck to white
an instant,
stream in two flat lines
slipping past each other with the smoothness of oil.

like a four-sided wedge
the custom house tower
pokes at the low, flat sky,
pushing it farther and farther up,
lifting it away from the house-tops,
lifting it in one piece as though it were a sheet of tin,
with the lever of its apex.
the cross-hatchings of rain cut the tower obliquely,
scratching lines of black wire across it,
mutilating its perpendicular grey surface
with the sharp precision of tools.

the city is rigid with straight lines and angles,
a chequered table of blacks and greys.
oblong blocks of flatness
crawl by with low-geared engines,
and pass to short upright squares
shrinking with distance.

a steamer in the basin blows its whistle,
and the sound shoots across the rain hatchings,
a narrow, level bar of steel.

hard cubes of lemon
superimpose themselves upon the fronts of buildings
as the windows light up.
but the lemon cubes are edged with angles
upon which they cannot impinge.
up, straight, down, straight -- square.
crumpled grey-white papers
blow along the side-walks,
contorted, horrible,
without curves.
a horse steps in a puddle,
and white, glaring water spurts up
in stiff, outflaring lines,
like the rattling stems of reeds.

the city is heraldic with angles,
a sombre escutcheon of argent and sable
and countercoloured bends of rain
hung over a four-square civilization.
when a street lamp comes out,
i gaze at it for fully thirty seconds
to rest my brain with the suffusing, round brilliance of its globe.

amy lowell

all images courtesy of shorpy's except "times square 1940" courtesy of life magazine.


leks said...

Hi Steven,what a beautiful post about rain in the city.I love those photos,brings me back to my childhood somehow,not that Ive lived in a huge city but the feeling of the world all washed and brilliant,for as long as it rains.
Good day to you,Sandra

steven said...

hey sandra, thanks for your nice comments. i lived most of my life in big cities. now i live in a smaller one (70,000 people). the downtown in the rain is a magic place to be. it makes people more human when it rains. have a peaceful day. steven

willow said...

It does make people more human when it rains. I love the rain and almost prefer a nice grey day to a sunny one. Wonderful photos and text. I like the part about the umbrellas being like polished black dots. Lovely.

Amelia said...

All of these photos are great, but the 1st, 3rd and last ones REALLY pulled me in...right along with these lines:

"the city is heraldic with angles,
a sombre escutcheon of argent and sable and countercoloured bends of rain..."

I could so get lost in those rain pictures and stay gone for awhile.

Thank you for sharing.

steven said...

hi willow, i too prefer a nice grey day to a sunny one. the only time that changes is in the winter after we've gone for a long time without sunlight. my favourite little bit of the poem is/are "the lemon cubes". it's a soft edged image that makes me think of the melting of coloured lights into rain puddles. have a peaceful day. steven

steven said...

hi amelia, the first and last are my favourites. they resonate so much with my memories of life as a boy in england (even though these pictures are in american cities). i especially love the water at the bottom of the first picture. i love when poets paint with words and use literal colour references that are uncommon like argent and sable. rainy days are magic for folding in on yourself! have a peaceful day. steven

Delwyn said...

Hello Steven

I know why I live here...

the pictures make me feel cold and grey...I am not a city girl...

But called to say good morning...and

Happy days

steven said...

hi delwyn, oh the big city's a whole different place isn't it!! a nice place to visit . . . . there are times and places where it works for me but on the whole i prefer to live in smaller places. but a rainy night in new york city, toronto, berlin, amsterdam, london, manchester, ottawa - well it transforms the place. have a peaceful day. steven