Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Mother and the Rain

Early in the morning, she wakes the four of us
and marches us into the kitchen -- while we rub sleep out of our eyes,
our pajamas awry, our hair sticking out (one particular cowlick
even more pronounced than it is during the day),
the two middle ones on the verge of quiet laughter,
bewildered and canny and secretive all at the same time,
the youngest alert-transparent, taking everything in.
"Wait," she tells us, unlocks the back door
and leads us out onto the porch, along the house wall
under the overhang, where she sits us down together in a row,
drapes a big blanket over us and nestles in. Little looks
go back and forth between us: Is she what's called crazy?
Is this a dream we're all having? "Listen," she says.

The rain's falling wildly, roaring down the pipes
that drain the eavestroughs, tap-dancing on the porch,
spraying out everywhere like happily splashing-sounding stars;
out at the edge of the tree-filled backyard, the rain's
hushing itself, filling the trees, making the tree branches
heavier and heavier, making them rise as if to embrace the rain.
And rain mist is whispering in the grass, polished steel
rain hoops are spinning and ringing down the back steps
off into the air and into the grass, and unfamiliar,
ever-metamorphosizing bright musical instruments
made of rain are appearing and appearing, while mysterious
half-visible half-human-sized musicians -- ghostlike, glowing
and made of mist -- play the instruments. Is what we hear and see
what she has meant us to hear and see? All she says is: "Listen."

Later, out in the day, we will be at a bus stop. Those middle two
standing alongside me now next to a post, their four and five year olds'
odd about-to-become-grins on their faces, the youngest
on the bench with her, spilling out of her lap. "Make the bus come, Mom."
She lights a cigarette. Thirty seconds later, like magic,
the bus comes lumbering up. My brothers grinning outright --
and my mother's greenish eyes shining, the rain
falling into the green backyard. Me and my brothers
looking up at her, laughing, and though we don't know it, beginning
the lives we'll have, whatever happens, listening to the same rain.

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