Rain

June 17, 2007 at 12:01 pm 3 comments

William Carpenter

Listen

A man stood in the rain outside his house.
Pretty soon, the rain soaked through
his jacket and shirt. He might have
gone in, but he wanted to be wet, to be
really wet, so that it finally got through
his skin and began raining on the rooftops
of the small city that the man always carried
inside him, a city where it hadn’t rained
for thirty years, only now the sky darkened
and tremendous drops fell in the thick dust
of the streets. The man’s wife knocked
on the window, trying to call him in.
she twirled one finger around her ear
to sign that he was crazy, that he’d
get sick again, standing in street clothes
in a downpour. She put the finger in her mouth
like a thermometer. She formed the word idiot
with her lips, and, always, when she said that
he would give in. But now he stood there.
His whole life he’d wanted to give something,
to sacrifice. At times he’d felt like coming up
to people on the street, offering his blood.
Here, you look like you need blood. Take mine.
Now he could feel the people of his city
waking as if from a long drought. He could feel
them leaving their houses and jobs, standing
with their heads up and their mouths open,
and the little kids taking their clothes off
and lying on their bellies in the streams
and puddles formed by the new rain that the man
made himself, not by doing anything, but standing
there while the rain soaked through his clothes.
He could see his wife and his own kids
staring from the window, the younger kid
laughing at his crazy father, the older one
sad, almost in tears, and the dog, Ossian—
but the man wanted to drown the city in rain.
He wanted the small crowded apartments
and the sleazy taverns to empty their people
into the streets. He wanted a single man with
an umbrella to break out dancing the same way
Gene Kelly danced in Singing in the Rain,
then another man, and more, until the whole
city was doing turns and pirouettes with their
canes or umbrellas, first alone, then taking
each other by the arm and waist, forming a larger
and larger circle in the square, and not
to any music but to the percussion of the rain
on the roof of his own house. And if there were
a woman among the dancers, a woman in a flowery
print skirt, a woman wetter and happier and more
beautiful than the rest, may this man be
forgiven for falling in love on a spring
morning in the democracy of the rain, may
he be forgiven for letting his family think
that is just what to expect from someone who
is every day older and more eccentric, may he
be forgiven for evading his responsibilities,
for growing simple in the middle of his life, for
ruining his best pants and his one decent tie.

William Carpenter is my discovery of the week. Maybe even my discovery of the month. I first came across this poem in a collection of essays on poetry by Stephen Dunn called Walking Light. In the chapter where he quotes this poem in full, Dunn talks about “The listen-to-this-isn’t-it-wonderful impulse that has its roots in poetry’s reason for being” – which of course, is exactly what that this blog is about. It’s not hard to see why this poem fits the bill – it’s a poem that manages to be funny, whimsical and deliciously true all at the same time [1].

And it’s not the only one. Rain (Northeastern University Press, 1985) seems to be only available in used library copies now, which is a shame because it’s a marvelous collection, full of poems that manage to be both hilarious and touching. I plan to run at least a few more poems from the book in the coming weeks, but if you can get access to it, it’s a read I highly recommend.

[falstaff]

[1] Plus given that it’s monsoon time back in India it’s probably topical.

Entry filed under: English, Falstaff, William Carpenter. Tags: .

Mind Marriage

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Emily  |  April 19, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    I was thinking that was a Stephen Dunn poem, but I remember now that I read it in that essay. Thanks for posting it; It is a lovely poem!

    Reply
  • 2. Jeff  |  July 14, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Check out the ekphrasis pieces by Carpenter in the collaboration with Robert Shetterly, “Speaking Fire at Stones”. -Jeff (many cheap copies available from abebooks.com

    Reply
  • 3. Patrice  |  September 26, 2010 at 12:26 am

    I LOVE that poem, and have since I discovered it years ago. Thank you so much for posting it.

    Wonderful, wonderful. I’m going to go out and stand in the rain.

    Reply

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