A History of Rain


It has been one of those really difficult weeks. A good friend of Tom’s has just died (an expected death, but very sad circumstances); I have been laid low with labyrinthitis (truly terrifying) and even poor Bruce is suffering (he’s been in the cone for four weeks now due to a horrible infection on his foot). And outside, it just keeps on raining. It has rained so much, and for so long, one runs out of adjectives to describe just how wet it is. Today I finally felt well enough to go outside (without falling over or vomiting) and really enjoyed a short walk (in the pouring rain, of course). As I was pottering about Loch Lomond, I noticed how all the bare birches were festooned with usnea – a lichen of luminous green that thrives in the clear air out here. This lichen brings colour to the woods even on the greyest of winter days, and it also called to my mind a poem I’ve loved for a very long time, by American poet Marc Hudson. I was introduced to this poem by an old friend who was taught by Marc at Wabash College. It is a beautiful poem that I find both consolatory and restorative. I hope it is ok to share it with you here.

A History of Rain
Marc Hudson

So you arrive in the old country of rain.
The road sign says Mist, Jewell,
Vernonia. Woodsmoke
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

From Afterlight (1983)