Caught by the River

Jeb’s Jukebox

Jeb Loy Nichols | 24th February 2022


You’re Messing Up A Good Thing


United Artists

All evening I listen to the night swim through and around and between the trees. The rain too is out there, threatening; creeping and waiting; everything and nothing is out there, a mist of unseen visitors.  

This morning the sky tumbles into rain; the roof trembles. The world dissolves. I stand all afternoon, my nose inches from the glass, watching water run in sheets down the windows. The day drips and drains. My yard is now a lake, the lake is now a vast grey field.

What do you do on a day like this? What can you do? You reach for some comforting little thing, a blanket, a cup of soup, to get you through. I reach for Bobby Womack. I go straight for ‘You’re Messing Up A Good Thing’.  Two and a half minutes of perfection. Womack  delivers. I feel a great wave of blessings, a swell of goodwill.  And why not?  Is it not right and proper to look back with affection, every once in a while, when in need, to the songs of your youth?  

The yard, the hedge, the garage, the fields beyond, is all a dull grey wash. Only the rain moves. The bottomland, beyond the house, is an inland ocean. The world is simply what it is, what it’s slipped into being over millions of years. There’s no beauty in it. Beauty is a fever dreamt by humans. An idea, a notion. A way of ordering and making sense of nature.  And as long as humans consider nature beautiful they’ll feel an ownership, an assumption that what is beautiful can always be made even more beautiful.

I admire the rain.

During my younger years this was the weather I most dreaded. Now I love it. The most unhuman weather, the least hospitable, it makes things impossible. The world is slowed. I look out at the empty, water-lashed fields and wonder, what chance of human endeavour is there in that?

Let it rain. Let the floods come.

I lay down and nap, calmed by thoughts of extinction.

When I wake it’s still raining. I play ‘You’re Messing Up A Good Thing’ again. And again. For some reason I’m reminded of an Edward Thomas poem: hark at the rain, windless and light, half a kiss, half a tear, saying good-night.

The rain will last all day.  Longer. The rain will last all year. Longer. The rains will last forever. Longer, certainly, than us. Longer than Bobby Womack or this house. Which is a good thing. Let the rains come. I’ll listen to ‘You’re Messing Up A Good Thing’ as long as I’m able. And when I’m no longer able, when the rains have washed away the pylons and the electricity stations and the power plants, I’ll stand here and sing a new song, a remembered mix of Womack and Edward Thomas: hark at the rain, windless and light, girl let me tell you something that I hope you understand, I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you cause I’m not that kind of man, half a kiss, half a tear…


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