Poem: A History of Rain
Doxology at Glacier Bay
Did He say to the kittiwakes,
"Hunger and be beautiful,
sweep down and take the krill
on avid parabolas"?
And to the pollens of the cottonwoods,
"Be pungent, my sweet ones
lightly float across the Bay
and service the far receptacles"?
And what was on His mind
when He flung the waterfalls
down the cirques and evolved
the narwhal's tusk? Did He know
what He was doing
when He cut those cliffs
and thrust green embers
under the ice? Was He lucid
when He made so much light?
Did He foresee such beauty
could be worth a slow crucifixion?
1992, from Nespelem
Here is my home. Here heap my cairn
at just this hour some morning.
The silence of my corpse
will not be terrifying-
the kinglets with their yellow crests
will cross before the sun
and their cries will be pleasant to hear.
In each of us there is a country-
I have known a man at home in the tundra,
a seeker of barrows and old flints;
and another, a woman,
in the windy grasses of an island.
But here I would have you
heap my cairn, this slippery cleft
of sword ferns, knobs
of young Boletus
and the sound of freshets
the undercolor of my blood
as I close my eyes
like pebbles in that stream.
A History of
So you arrive in the old country of rain.
The road sign says Mist, Jewell,
is rising against the rain
so slowly, you wonder if time
is passing, and did the alders
have leaves this year? Walk on
through a covered bridge and the sun
pours through a thousand knotholes
in lasers of smoking light.
When you emerge it is raining
as it only rains in the first chapter of Genesis,
a rain without ambiguity and guile,
a rain with pointed arches and high clerestories
where the aquiline features of saints
are smoothed away like a child's
in sleep. You discover
your vocation: you will write
the history of rain, you will set down
on usnea and moss the lineage of mist,
the martyrdom of clouds. You will record
the resurrections rain accomplishes,
its infinite extension and seeming absence,
as if it fell to no purpose
but to elicit meditation,
the pause of the scribe before the window,
transparence of a mind
given over to rain.
"Home" and "A History of Rain"
reprinted from Afterlight, winner of the 1983 Juniper Prize for