Weather or Not

Weather

We got an incredible one inch of rain in ten minutes last Friday evening. I got some wonderful photos and no, that is not my hand shaking.

In fact the weather in June has been most strange. The end of May saw four consecutive days at 32 C / 90 F. This was followed by four consecutive nights of frost. And then this devastating rainstorm on Friday evening.

Bird Feeder in Winter

Los Días de Noé / the days of Noah, as they say in Spanish. But our one inch of rain fell in just ten minutes and the wind was horrendous. Similar storms are called chubascos and I’ve also heard tromba.

Whatever: it was cold, dark, windy, and wet and 13,000 homes went without power.

Bird Feeder in Spring
(same angle)

Black Death

Black Death
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Outside my window
horizontal hail
rain blown sideways
surgical the wind
dismembering trees
uprooting the weakest
flattening the strong
rages the storm

Who am I
the one who abhorred thee
who now adores thee
and kneels before thee
in grief and pain

Death’s Dance before me
each street filled
with skeletal horrors
bare bones dancing
naked beneath a star-
spangled sky

‘No thought is born in me
which has not “Death”
engraved upon it.’

Michelangelo

The Rain in Spain

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The Rain in Spain

The rain in Spain
stays mainly on the plain.
Except it doesn’t.

It falls on the Basque Country,
the Province of Santander,
now known as Cantabria,
on Asturias and on Galicia.

In Galicia, a native brown bear
has been seen after an absence
of one hundred and fifty years.

La Costa Verde, the Green Coast,
boasts dairy cattle, lush grass,
the best milk, butter and cheese.

Beyond these green hills,
over the Escudo and up to Burgos,
you find Spain’s meseta,
a tableland in a rain shadow area,
a veritable plain,
arid, dusty, dry,
a plain in Spain
that sees and feels no rain.

Comment: Un chubasco … a heavy downpour building on the meseta outside Avila. These severe rainstorms come out of nowhere. High winds, heavy rains, they drench you and the countryside in a matter of seconds and they go as suddenly as they come. However, the normal pattern of weather is dry and dusty. And no, the rain in Spain does NOT stay mainly on the plain. In Santander, on the Green Coast, la Costa verde, they have a saying: En Santander, en el verano, / no dejes el paraguas de la mano In Santander, in summer, never let your umbrella leave your hand. And its true: rain is constant and comes in from nowhere. They have other sayings, equally as efficacious, like Nunca llueve en los bares / it never rains in the bars. I miss Avila. I miss Santander and the Basque Country. I miss my childhood vacations, spent in Spain. But when they tell you that “The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain” … well, just don’t believe them. Check, double-check, and then check again. As they sing in Newfoundland, about sailors and sailing ships, “A sailor ain’t a sailor ain’t a sailor anymore.” Nor, my friends, is the truth. Cum grano salis: take everything you hear with a large pinch of salt!

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Rain

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Rain

And on top of it all,
squall after squall,
rain falls on us all.

It ends the snow, that’s true,
but it dampens me and you.

I’m getting old, my toes are cold,
my hands are cold, I’m getting old.

Arthritis has me in its grasp.
Some days I can only wince and gasp.

Today’s the day when Teddy Bears
stay upstairs.

They won’t get dressed,
they want to rest.

They deserve a holiday they say.
It’s not a picnic day today.

And on top of it all,
squall after squall,
the rain continues to fall.

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After the Floods

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After the Floods
(2004 BC)

as the crow flies
so the pigeon
holding straws
within its beak
time to rebuild

not so easy
mud walls fallen flat
rubble and rubbish
litter river banks

warped wooden planks
water-swollen
so much stolen
by wind and wave

who now knows
the unknown
perceives the abyss
beneath egg-frail
cockle-shell hulls

waters recede
islands re-emerge
bald skulls of hillocks
stripped of grass and trees
water-logged fields

old bones dug up
displayed in the ditch

Rain / Il pleut

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I remain fascinated by Guillaume Apollinaire’s Calligrammes. I first met them when, as a  teenage flâneur in Paris, I wandered the quays along the banks of the Seine, entranced by the literary treasures of the bouquinistes. Eighteen years old, I had just been released from a twelve year sentence to a boarding school education (6-18 years of age). I loved the freedom of Paris and the joys of choosing my own poets and my own poetry books will always stay with me. Apollinaire was not a set text. He was a personal discovery and a true  joy. I remember the light blue cover and the worded rain drops inscribed upon it when I bought my first Livre de Poche, the poems of Apollinaire.

Caligrammes are out of fashion now, their virtues taken over by the joys of concrete poetry. I still write some, drawing them out by hand. I find this much easier than planning them on typewriter or computer, though I have done both. The cartoon – poem hybrid, printed above, is my intertextual reflection on Apollinaire’s original Rain / Il pleut which can be found on page 62 of the above link from Le Mercure de France.

I look at the snow steadily mounting outside my window and I hope that we will not see rain for a long, long time. Not until Easter and the welcome warmth of spring. That said, I miss the rain. It was a constant part of my childhood and I remember spending day after day, head pressed to the window pane (yes, I do know how to spell it), watching the raindrops sliding down while behind me, the old coal fire threw out enough heat to warm me in my daily loneliness.

Rain

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Rain

Parched, the dry brown grass,
taut the earth, tighter than a drum.
Footsteps echo a rhythmic, hollow sound:
marimba music with death tones.
No joy in the barefoot beat of heel and toe.

For months now, no rain has fallen.
The fire crackle is feared in the forest.
Elsewhere, trees catch and the woodlots blaze.
What good are showers, dry thunder clouds,
building, always building, but never releasing
the surging tide that this commonwealth needs?

We yearn for a thick blanket of cloud to gift us
with the long, slow soak of an English spring.
The grass speaks out with its many tongues,
each as sharp as a blade, and calls for rain,
for liquid to pour down from the sky and end
the dryness of drought. We need to fill the wells,
to let the streams overflow with the bounty of water.
We need the green, green grass: not this baked,
bare, arid crunch and crumble of taut brown earth.