A poem about rain

 

I subscribe to an e-newsletter from the Daily Rumpus http://therumpus.net and quite often receive personal emails from a man called Stephen Elliot. He’s got a great voice, and I love reading what he has to say, even though he tends to go off on some bizarre tangents. Anyway, he sent through some poems on the weekend, and I particularly like the one here, below, which he wrote. Above all else, I like its honesty. It feels like a genuine piece of writing, which has spilt out of him quite spontaneously. It also takes me back to San Francisco.

My dad used to live in San Francisco and I haven’t been back for many years. But a couple of weeks ago, I was commissioned by the Guardian to write an introduction to the city and I was reminded of what an extraordinary place it is. Superficially, it is beautiful and exciting, but it’s also home to a lot of lost souls. My father became an alcoholic in a seaside town called Bolinas, not far from the city, where he lost his business and his home, all his money. Soon after he was deported back to England he died. The city reminds me still of my loss, and haunts me with images of homeless men on the sidewalk, caught beneath the bright blinding sun. So this poem, below, feels significant. Thank you, Stephen Elliot for letting me publish it.

The Rain

The rains came last night

sweeping the homeless off Market Street

Flushing them into doorways

Pressing their bodies against the churches

I didn’t notice at the time

I was clearing dishes

Scrubbing glasses and plates

There had been a party

I split when it started

My girl said my manners were just awful

Instead I went to a bar and drank the evening until I knew I had to go home

The party was winding down

I started clearing the plates and the bowls

Pouring left over curried chicken into plastic baggies

The rains came last night

Flushing the junkies in the Mission down into the Bart stations

Washing the needles from the corner of 16th and Mission into the gutter

Cleaning the storefronts with dull clouds

 

When the rains came I was washing dishes

The last of the dinner party already gone

I waited to hear her breath on the bed

I cleaned the counters

She lay, waiting

I tossed the trash

Washed the oven

Every spoon gave reprieve from the steady march of my thoughts

And when she was finally asleep I crawled into bed with them

With my infidelities and curled to the wall

To be alone with the wall, alone with my thoughts 
I didn’t know the rains had come

The rains struck across the Haight

Mudslides in Buena Park had residents wide eyed and scared because nowhere in

San Francisco is there more indifference to the

addicted and the poor than in Haight Ashbury

The rains popped colors on the stores lining the street

The reds of Wells Fargo

Blue for Villians, and Villian’s Vault

 

In the morning my baby stretched her leg across me

Pulled me to her

I could hear the cars on their way to work just outside of our window

But it seemed a long way away

My baby covered me in her blankets

Sleepy, I crawled closer in, not yet awake

Her hand covered my mouth

Her legs held me tightly

She pulled my hand behind me

I started to say something

But could not come with the words

Outside the sounds were raising

The shouts

People on their way to work were noticing that the rains had come across San Francisco

My baby kissed me lightly on the cheek

Held me with her legs

The workers were crowding the Muni platforms

The bikers didn’t want to ride on the wet streets

The Muni cars were louder, echoing against the asphalt

The rains, the rains

My baby enclosed me

Hit me

Held me pinned to the bed

Brought me into her

Washed me against her

Punished me, scratched me, slapped and squeezed me

So that for moments I forgot exactly what I had done

I forgot my infidelities in moments when she covered my face with her hand and

whispered to me to be quiet, to be quiet against 
the storm

By the time my baby went back to sleep it was almost 8a.m.

I pulled on my pants, socks and shoes

Stepped outside

And noticed the rains

Men were building a facade on a building near Castro and Sanchez

The rains had come

The air smelt clean

The rains would not be undone

Not by garbage or exhaust

Or smoke billowing in piles a million miles high

Nothing takes back the rains

I stepped off to work

My feet louder on the pavement

Everything is louder after a rain

I felt happy…

Beneath the crush of the fresh morning air

Happy like dust

 

 

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