"Beth Brown's Last Agreement"

Words & Music by James Nihan

I was hangin' at The Meetingplace where I sang for crepes and tips
A skinny kid from Massachusetts with twenty-nine inch hips
My callused left-hand fingers, they were reaching for a dream
Competing with an old espresso machine; we were both losing steam
While this poet in the corner couldn't seem to get her coffee stirred
She was staring down a notebook that was fighting every word
Just another vagrant victim with a heart about to burst
Believing love was poison; she was dying there of thirst

It was Tucson, Arizona; it was 19-7-9
We agreed that we'd be friends with our telepathic minds
My name back then was J.T. and she told me hers was Beth
We talked all night and smoked cigarettes till we were nearly out of breath
Her upper right incisors had been neglected for awhile
But that was not the only reason Beth Brown didn't smile
Once a free spirit, now a lost soul on the corner of Seneca and Grant
Every time she said she could she heard a voice that said, "You can't."

Behind a house on Lester Street near the university
Surrounded by adobe walls, we sat beneath a grapefruit tree
Sheltered from the desert sun and a world that felt so wrong
She'd read me sweet perceptions and I'd sing her hopeful songs
Sometimes she had no shadow and her eyes would almost dance
Those were times I thought Beth Brown might even have a chance
But the cruel words kept bouncing back and forth inside her head
And she couldn't seem to love herself beyond what others said

Where is she now?
I truly do believe she found her way back home somehow

Over at the U of A one autumn afternoon
I followed as she slipped into an empty practice room
When she sat down and closed her eyes Beethoven's ghost arrived
She never had a lesson but that keyboard came alive
I remember on her birthday, our gifts were all refused
She just shrugged, "It's my party. I can do that if I choose."
Then she celebrated everyone with a piece of poetry
She talked about sunflower smiles in the one she wrote for me

The little girl inside Beth Brown was like a china doll
Some twisted hand of fate picked up and threw against the wall
She told me her daddy put a bullet through his head
Trying to kill those shameful thoughts that just lived on instead
Beneath the Superstitions, in a flash the creeks would rise
And I could see Beth holding back the water with her eyes
Dust devils spun around while she was drowning in her truth
There were no illusions; she grew ancient in her youth

Well, I moved to San Francisco and I never quite looked back
Till a friend stopped by one Saturday and I had a shame attack
She told me that Beth was dead and I got sick inside
But I stuck to an old agreement and, y'know, I never cried
If the voices called her worthless then I'm thinkin' she agreed
There was nothing accidental in the way Beth Brown OD'd
Sometimes I wish that she had seen the light we all saw
Slipping through the hairline cracks that she believed were flaws

Where is she now?
I truly do believe she found her way back home somehow
Sun shining down
Oh, that smile I see among the rays could only be Beth Brown

Now twenty-five years later I've been looking back a lot
Reflecting on the man I was and the ones that I was not
Beth Brown's last agreement didn't take me by surprise
I just thought we'd meet again before she said goodbye
We'd sit beneath that grapefruit tree and laugh at what was sad
Living in the moment, knowing that was all we had
With her parchment paper poems and my old six-string guitar
Creating brand new stories of the angels that we are

- In remembrance -


Published by Composure Music (ASCAP)
Copyright 2004

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