Here in the City, it is Raining

How’s that for a self-referential title? We Write Poems wanted a stream-of-consciousness poem; I looked out the window and lo, behold. This weekend I read a book of Mary Oliver from start to finish, and there’s a lot that I admire in her work, which I try to emulate. But while her work (at least, what I’ve read) often seems rooted in the pastoral, and transmutes that experience into the heavenly, I find my own rooted in the ever-changing boundary between the urban and vaguely natural, which gets transmuted into some emotional pagan rite. Otherwise, I think we see eye-to-eye on a lot of the wonder in raindrops, pigeon feathers, grass seed, etc. Oh well: sorry Mary, I did the best I could here.

Here in the City, it is Raining

and my compass needle wanders to you, wondering whether
it is also raining in fits and starts wherever you are

after all, it seems like such a waste, for the roof of this
nomad’s tent we’re under to disgorge so much water

only for the sun to pick it all up again tomorrow: but
I suppose this is a lesson in giving, and giving

have you remembered to open the windows? and arranged
a Ten of Cups along the sill to catch your fortune?

I have asked the mule hide sky to shake its long sides
over your gutters that have forgotten this chatter

and now in the city of orphans and smoke-winged doves
it’s coming down, on its silent toes, its panting breath

and if the light breaks in, I will put it into one clinked bead
that I will roll in the meander of the fleeing storm

which will find you and wake you along your cold cheek
gentle as an ellipsis, insistent as only a gift can be

12 thoughts on “Here in the City, it is Raining

  1. I love Mary Oliver’s poetry, but I live in the country, never thought much about a city landscape. You evoke a mood that can slide from country to town & back again & still include the natural world. Really great!!

  2. Misky says:

    Oh, Joseph, there’s so much to treasure in this poem but my favourite is “mule hide sky”. Splendid.

  3. vivinfrance says:

    A magical poem – a keeper!

  4. Good one Joseph! I’m not a city person (more of Mary Oliver in her natural setting kind of person) but I love how you blended the city with the countryside in this — rain gutters and mule skins. Love it.

  5. Wow. This is stream of consciousness? Seriously? Wow…. za. I want to sit next to you when you write and have some of that Joseph scent to flow onto me and improve MY words!!

    You may not remember what Mary Oliver fan I am… (huge!) and many of your favorites are my favorites as well. Gwendolyn Brooks, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Pablo Neruda, Rainer Maria Rilke, Anne Sexton, Dylan Thomas, Walt Whitman, W.B. Yeats…. and more. Such a treat to read you!

  6. barbara_ says:

    Goodness. You’ve stunned me. That sounds like what’s inside my head but never makes it out.

  7. I too love the ‘mule hide sky to shake its long sides’ as a new image for what can be too grey we(s)t coast weather. How lovely the flow of this stream-of-consciousness and appreciate how you broke into two line stanzas. Thank you.

  8. Oh, my word, Joseph!!! Mary Oliver is one of my favorites….I love what you’ve done here. Almost impossible to pick a favorite part but…

    “only for the sun to pick it all up again tomorrow: but
    I suppose this is a lesson in giving, and giving”

    Just love the message within the entirety…


    Stream indeed!

  9. A beautiful vacillation between the worlds of two separate persons … the longing expressed by you is almost palpable …

  10. Sabio Lantz says:

    I had to look up Ten of Cups — don’t do Tarot.
    the mule hide sky –> was interesting!

  11. Marian: thank you! If I spent more time in the country, I’d probably find Oliver’s work resonating with me even more, but as it is, I love trying to apply her eye to the city and its edges. There’s plenty of opportunity.
    Misky: it was better than “grey-brown”, I think. :)
    Viv: thanks! A bit of editing will come down the line, I’m sure…
    Annette: there are so many great two-word phrases that take a natural object with a city object or process. “Rain gutters”, “leaf collection”, “grass clippings”, “solar panel”, “snow plowing”, etc. all have potential.
    Julie: I admit I went back and dropped in the punctuation, and maybe changed a word here and there. ;) Didn’t know you were a Mary Oliver fan, too! I haven’t actually updated that list since I started my blog, actually… I might change a couple of them. But by and large, they still stand out in my mind as greats.
    Mama Z: thank you!
    Barbara: sometimes you just have to bang your head against the keyboard and let it work its way out. ^_^
    HFWZ002: but the difference is that on the West Coast, it’s often punctuated (several times a day, even) with sunlight. We can have whole weeks of the muley skies over here.
    Hannah: glad you enjoyed it! The lines you picked out were the genesis of the poem; the rest came torrenting down around it.
    Andra: I’m glad that came through, since ultimately, it is a love poem.
    Sabio: that was a sudden choice from it being stream of consciousness. Originally it was just cups on the sill, but then my brain said, “hey! tarot! Ten! fortune!”, and it happened.

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