Friday, April 29, 2011


I wish I knew more about poetry.  I wish I had the composure and capacity to sit and read a volume of poetry, because I imagine that some erudite people do this.  I wish I could sit on my veranda and gaze out at the trees, looking down once and again to savor a phrase, a verse.  The fact is...I'm too manic to ponder for long and most of my quieting-down happens in the moments before sleep or when I am forcefully detained, such as in the dentist's chair yesterday, where I came upon a fabulous idea for a play.

At any rate, there are some poems that stay with me and I return to them countless times for inspiration and pleasure.  Reading Seamus Heaney's The Rain Stick is like having a piece of rich chocolate cake, or whatever food stuff causes fireworks to explode in your mouth.  It's like listening to your favorite music while someone massages your back.  It's a one-stop, all-you-can-eat buffet for the literally-minded. 

A word from it came to me this morning..."sluice."  See how Heaney has paired it with "rush."  Say this over and over; note context in poem; look up sluice at  I promise you won't be disappointed.

Without further ado:

The Rain Stick
Seamus Heaney

Upend the rain stick and what happens next
Is a music that you never would have known
To listen for.  In a cactus stalk

Downpour, sluice-rush, spillage and backwash
Come flowing through.  You stand there like a pipe
Being played by water, you shake it again lightly

And diminuendo runs through all its scales
Like a gutter stopping trickling.  And now here comes
A sprinkle of drops out of the freshened leaves,

Then subtle little wets off grass and daisies;
Then glitter-drizzle, almost-breaths of air.
Upend the stick again.  What happens next

Is undiminished for having happened once,
Twice, ten, a thousand times before.
Who cares if all the music that transpires

Is the fall of grit or dry seeds through a cactus?
You are like a rich man entering heaven
Through the ear of a raindrop.  Listen now again.

1 comment:

  1. Mary, have you read any of Louise Gluck? Try "October" - absolutely beautiful words!
    Regards, Elizabeth


"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka