Lifesaving Poems: Samuel Beckett’s ‘my way is in the sand flowing’

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my way is in the sand flowing
between the shingle and the dune
the summer rain rains on my life
on me my life harrying fleeing
to its beginning to its end

my peace is there in the receding mist
when I may cease from treading these long shifting thresholds
and live the space of a door
that opens and shuts

 

Samuel Beckett, from ‘Four Poems’ (2)

 

‘The summer rain rains on my life.’ Suddenly there it was, a sentence I hadn’t thought about for years. I was standing by the kitchen window making breakfast, trying not to think, as I do. The summer rain rains on my life. A day that began grey, gradually warmed up, then surprised itself by becoming a belter. The summer rain. It must have been in that unspeakable flat in Cricklewood, with finals approaching, all of life and learning on little cards (did we have Post-it notes then?) stuck to my bedroom walls. Quotes by Hopkins, Swift, Orwell and Austen. And some for fun, this among them. The summer rain rains on my life in Cricklewood. Later I read the Goodies chose it for their address because all words with a ‘k’ in the middle are funny. My friend Paul and I stayed up late to watch Dennis Taylor beat Steve Davis on the final black of the final frame, on a black and white TV. Not long after another flatmate Liz decided to cross the road in front of a car and got whisked to the Royal Free, and the whole street turned up to see it. The siren. The look of simultaneous mutual unrecognition and intimacy in our newly discovered neighbours’ faces. The space of a door. No mobiles in those days. We had to go to the pub to phone her mum. Any excuse. The amazing, blousy cherry blossom that year, collecting in pink drifts in the kerbs where children would throw it at each other after school, a wedding in each throw. The pet mouse in the kitchen that Sarah kept feeding. The window that never got mended or closed. Paul’s efforts to mow the grass. My favourite Farmer’s Boys LP that melted in front of the gas fire (with free 12″ single). My life harrying fleeing to its beginning to its end on Lisa’s German bicycle with the brakes that went backwards and going to Hampstead for hot chocolate though it was sweltering in a tie dye vest. Back to the old house by the Smiths. I stood at the kitchen window and all of this in a second, my life harrying, turning the eggs, in a single phrase, the summer rain, though I hadn’t thought of it for years, on a day that turned out warm.

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