Wednesday, July 24, 2013

TUESDAY POEM | The Rain Stick by Seamus Heaney

Upend the rain stick and what happens next is a music you never would have known to listen for (detail)
Charcoal & Pastel on Paper  |  CB  |  c. 2002

                                         THE RAIN STICK 

                                         Upend the rain stick and what happens next
                                         Is a music that you never would have known
                                         To listen for. In a cactus stalk
                                         Downpour, sluice-rush, spillage and backwash
                                         Come flowing through. You stand there like a pipe
                                         Being played by water, you shake it again lightly
                                         And diminuendo runs through all its scales
                                         Like a gutter stopping trickling. And now here comes
                                         A sprinkle of drops out of the freshened leaves,
                                         Then subtle little wets off grass and daisies;
                                         Then glitter-drizzle, almost-breaths of air.
                                         Upend the stick again. What happens next
                                         Is undiminished for having happened once,
                                         Twice, ten, a thousand time before.
                                         Who cares if all the music that transpires
                                         Is the fall of grit or dry seeds through a cactus?
                                         You are like a rich man entering heaven
                                         Through the ear of a raindrop. Listen now again.

                                         Seamus Heaney

I unpacked this drawing last week, one of a batch I've had stored away in my little 'side room'. I'd not visited this particular image for a very long time and was surprised by the ways in which it seems - at least, to me - to speak into our current times. Seamus Heaney's Rain Stick provided the original prompt way back in the early 2000s but there's a lot more going on here than the music of that poem. It's always a mystery to me to discover the questions that make their way into our work without our knowing it and without our conscious participation (even when we think we're fully, mindfully engaged?). Behind this image, I found another drawing I'd long considered 'lost', 'gone', 'evaporated' - what was I thinking when I taped it in behind the Rain Stick? (I might post it here some time; it shows a sun dial atop a craggy outcrop - an exploration into Time after repeated readings of T. S. Eliot's Burnt Norton.) 

Life is certainly full of unexpected surprises at the moment, including - yesterday - a visit to my garden from a broody, rust-coloured hen. . . lovely! I wonder if she left an egg amongst the red-legged silver beet?  

This week's editor on the Tuesday Poem hub is Harvey Molloy (his accompanying commentary is exquisite)
with the tender poem Tika

                              "Goodbye takes the form of a blessing.
                              My family press tika on our foreheads
                              rupees into my palm.

                              Mountain-high through time and air
                              the red paint dries, the rice grains fall
                              leaving a trail that could surely lead us home. . . " Saradha Koirala

Upend the rain stick and what happens next is a music you never would have known to listen for
Charcoal & Pastel on Paper  |  CB  |  c. 2002


  1. very nice poem indeed - wonderful art - and hen

  2. Dear Claire,
    I haven't been by in a while and what a delight it is to come back! I LOVE rain sticks,the poem and your drawings that were inspired by this. Thank you for your 'feel very good' blog. I've been very remiss and haven't written anything for ages, but perhaps reading yours will be my prompt - I do have some thoughts buzzing around in my head post the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown recently - what a treat it was. Hugs to you.

  3. I love surprises like this: poems lost then found, a line you knew lived in a journal, but you couldn't remember which one until a random day you stumble upon it.
    Beautiful post. "Goodbye takes the form of a blessing." I love that. I'm feeling that now for someone. Thank you.

  4. Beautiful poem and drawing!
    (I found this cause they just said Seamus Heany died :( and I was admiring this poem in his collection I have. )