Third Avenue in Sunlight

By Anthony Hecht 1923–2004 Anthony Hecht
Third Avenue in sunlight. Nature’s error.   
Already the bars are filled and John is there.   
Beneath a plentiful lady over the mirror   
He tilts his glass in the mild mahogany air.

I think of him when he first got out of college,   
Serious, thin, unlikely to succeed;
For several months he hung around the Village,   
Boldly T-shirted, unfettered but unfreed.

Now he confides to a stranger, “I was first scout,   
And kept my glimmers peeled till after dark.   
Our outfit had as its sign a bloody knout,   
We met behind the museum in Central Park.

Of course, we were kids.” But still those savages,   
War-painted, a flap of leather at the loins,   
File silently against him. Hostages
Are never taken. One summer, in Des Moines,

They entered his hotel room, tomahawks   
Flashing like barracuda. He tried to pray.   
Three years of treatment. Occasionally he talks   
About how he almost didn’t get away.

Daily the prowling sunlight whets its knife   
Along the sidewalk. We almost never meet.   
In the Rembrandt dark he lifts his amber life.   
My bar is somewhat further down the street.

Anthony Hecht, “Third Avenue in Sunlight” from Collected Earlier Poems. Copyright © 1990 by Anthony Hecht. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Source: Collected Earlier Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1990)

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Poet Anthony Hecht 1923–2004

Subjects Friends & Enemies, Health & Illness, Living, Relationships

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza