Poems with Weather in Them
Why We Have Rain
One day, tired of a changeless sky,
a river and a raven
had a shapeshifting contest, each one
chasing the other’s idea downstream.
When the river thought about mist rising up,
the raven stitched it with dragonflies,
and when the raven thought about stillness,
the river pooled.
When the river carved a channel out
and sent itself a new direction,
the raven became a salmon,
a waterfall, a leaf.
And the sky followed after them,
turning half of itself into night,
in the shape of the river,
stirring up wind—
something for the raven’s wing.
But then the river poured into the ocean,
and the raven couldn’t find it in the waves.
The sky heard its broken voice calling out
and made rain.
Storm, Rural Missouri
Though the coming rain
announces itself by rustling
the distant corn,
the barns remain immutable
as weathered grey monks.
Without words, they pray
over the dog who sleeps
forever in his soil bed
beside the oranged relic
of a horse-drawn plow.
On rage the blood sugar wars.
The lust for nicotine continues.
The time-crumpled angels
pull on their Carhartt robes
and stand under wide awnings
as lightning unstitches the sky.
Here, every storm is forty nights
from stating the profound.
[from The Inheritance, Blue Horse Press, 2019]
It is not easy trying to make peace
with the fact that I am one of the lesser ones.
How exactly is that supposed to work?
I know I love this February blizzard
as much as anyone. So that is something.
And Sally, who has lost all language
and smiles out of habit not pleasure
or understanding, Sally is not lesser:
if there is a God Sally sits with her silence
at that God’s table. One way to see it
is that Sally and I are somehow partners,
like this blizzard and its man in an orange vest,
carrying a shovel, walking through it.
I can assure you, that shovel is completely useless
in this unending snow. How beautiful he is, though,
that man walking through falling-snow-light,
carrying over his shoulder his useless shovel.
I Call Ex
For a long time I never missed
a day—I called through breakup
and years of acrimony, through
occasional subtle jabs,
through our tentative peace.
I ask him how he is, how
is the weather, and how’s
the old dog, who knows my voice
and listens as I talk. I mean it
when I tell him he’s good
and handsome and deserves
a treat, and he tries to tell me
what’s wrong, but it sounds
too much like a person, keening.
Ode to the Troposphere
Jim Cantore’s saying
“When you think
about the troposphere….”
I don’t. I should.
Should haul my thoughts
up out of this
that sucks and clings
with such compelling
stink. It’s not as if
we’re talking stars,
beauty fuming and freezing,
posing for Hubble portraits,
nor yet mere stratosphere,
we huddle under
against the dark —
keeping us breathing
one more day
in hostile surroundings.
No, Jim’s right.
I should think
about the troposphere,
lowest layer, closest neighbor,
where weather is created —
frantic backstage, publisher
of our longest story.
Any novel without weather
is an arid lie, claustrophobic
chronicle of dead flies
on a dusty windowsill.
As we huddle,
clutching our tiny
miseries, the troposphere
strides on stage, shining
with ice crystals, trailing
ribbons of cloud, thumps
the stage three times
and unites us
in that day’s drama,
comedy, endless telenovela.
Spectacle or deluge,
begged for or dreaded,
plot beyond personalities,
in no need of heroes,
without the dirt.
The Poet Gets Advice from Tom Wolfe
A hundred degrees in Cambridge today:
a living heat that licks the melting crowds—
like cheap popsicles they seep and drip. Cafes
abandoned to the searing sun—no clouds
in sight—their chairs too hot for summer skin:
Bartley’s Burgers’ sidewalk tables stand bare
where a limp musician plays his violin—
the wilting notes condense and disappear.
The door to Toscanini’s sweats and beads,
so cool it is inside where sweetness chills
the air. A dozen flavors today, I read.
Then, dressed in white from head to toe, he smiles
and whispers, “Try the Earl Grey Tea.” It’s new
to me, but he is he, and so I do.
[previously published in Stimulus Respond]
w e a t h e r
what art here
what heat there
threw the earth
a wreath, a wrath
here the water
there the heart