Friday, February 6, 2009

A hundred words for rain


To an Unknown Rain God

I want to know how to stop the rain.
I met a shaman once in a dry country
who showed me how to call the rain
with a snake dance and sex magic.
When I asked him how to stop the rain
he turned snake eyes on the crazy white man
and wouldn’t talk to me any more.

I have heard of a Chinese rainmaker
who was summoned to a parched village
and sat in a hut for three days
speaking to no one until the clouds opened.
Asked to explain, he said, “On arriving
I felt great imbalance in myself
and sat in stillness until balance was restored.
Then there was no need for drought.”

I know something of rainmakers
but not the secrets of rain-stoppers
and I have not been introduced to the rain god
of these green forests where night and day
water slaps and spouts and gushes
and the brown river rises my height every hour.

I am writing this poem to see if it will pause
the rain. It is about a horny frog king
who lives in a lake above the clouds
and mates constantly with his harem.
When he catches a fresh crop of dreamy princesses
the spurting and squirting and sloshing
makes the lake burst its banks and flood the earth
like a bathroom overhead with the taps left running.

This does not please the lordly blue heron
who must have sunlight to dry his wings
So now the heron sails high above earth
above the pleasure- pond of the frog king
to drape his wings on the warm stove of the sun.
Then great heron dives, and gobbles frog brides.
Those that were once human slip from his beak
and flutter back to the world where they were stolen.
The frog king hides, squat and still, at the bottom
of his lake. Far below, there is a break in the rain.

What’s that? You say it is raining harder than ever?
I do not know whether the rain god of these parts
has a sense of humor, but he is sticking his tongue out.

Sueño Azul, February 5, 2009

Comment: It's still raining hard on this side of the mountains, a day after I wrote this poem. It's been raining harder than I have ever heard or seen rain for the past four days. But life is good. At what would have been sunup (if we could see the sun through the clouds) I started a leisurely two-mile swim in the pool above the flooded river.

Then doña Haydee, one of the owners of Sueño Azul, showed us - with plants from her botanical garden - the intelligence of nature here, and of the indigenes who noted and worked with patterns of correspondence. The spots of the noni plant (shaped like a creamy potato) look both like little sun symbols, with a dot at the center of a circle and sometimes a hint of flaring rays around the permineter, and like freckles or skin blemishes. Doña Haydee tells us the cream produced from the noni is good both as a sunscreen and to minimize freckles.

Hearing my visions of the rana shaman, she opens a pod of the achiote plant, used by the Indians of these parts for face paint. She inscribes a spiral on my forehead, saying this is the mark of a chief, then wavy lines on my left cheek, for power over lakes, and straight lines on my right cheek for power over lands. She leaves it to me to mark the red rings around the eyes, pressing my forefinger against what look like pomegranate seeds but instantly yield the exact orange-red of the poison-dart frog.

7 comments:

Robin O'Neal said...

Robert and Frog King~
I saw a blue heron with wings dried in bright sun earlier this morning. I can't help but think that rainy days are my favorite for writing. The flow of drops from the sky reminds me most of flow of words, each gush and splatter encouraging a faucet of creativity to rain down upon the page.

I also found myself by the end of your post, chanting "Rain, rain, go away, come again another day...All the writers want to play...Rain rain, go a-way!" ;-)

joe_u_no said...

Here's my experience of RAIN in Costa Rica:
It is said that the people of Costa Rica have a 100 words for rain. A misting rain, a light rain, a flower cleaning rain, a plant feeding rain, a horse cooling rain, a lagoon filling rain, a river swelling rain, a monsoon, a flood, the deluge, Niagara Falls falling on our heads.
I thought that I had experienced rain before. I was wrong.
On the shuttle from the airport, our first guide Christian, had tried to prepare us. “Costa Rica has two seasons, the rainy season and the wet season. Be prepared to sweat. Be prepared to get wet.” Solid, clear advice reinforced by rain falling on the windshield.
But the next day the sun was out. The sun that I took for granted.
I thought I knew rain. Summers in Canada camping in Quebec, sometimes it would rain for a whole week. That rain could be ferocious, dropping like buckets from the sky.
But Costa Rica has revealed real rain to me; spraying like a fire hose; falling like a river from the sky.
Noah build your ark. The rainbow promise has been broken. The water is rising. The river is eating trees. Water, water everywhere!
Robert thanks for a great workshop!

Robert Moss said...

Hey Joe - Thanks for your great evocation of the many kinds of rain we encountered in the rainforest. Your wonderful writing is a reminder that writers - and other creative people - can turn ANY material to advantage!

Nancy said...

Joe's post reminds me I've heard Eskimos have many words for snow, dry & powdery or wet & slushy or big lacy floating flakes or hard icy pellets or ... (pick your favorite!), all different words. Having so many unique names for what to us is just one thing ("snow") makes me wonder if we're not appreciating the natural world enough, or even really seeing it & its nuances. There is great power in a name.
Nancy

Robin O'Neal said...

Similarly, English lacks variety in words expressing different nuances of "love" - I love coffee, I love my husband, and I love to run. Hmmm....

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