Speaking to the Rain (a fragment)
Before the rain fell, I walked out past the railroad tracks to the abandoned place. It was never certain what the place had been used for, only what it had become: a ruin of corrugated metal structures listing under gravity’s pull and a wooden catwalk precariously erect. Perhaps once hands loaded a train with lumber. Now the place was fenced round with razorwire, collapsing amidst junkpiles and tall brown grass always dying. I crossed the cinders along the embankments where the tracks ran, and crawled through a drainage culvert beneath the fence. Cars that drove down the farm and market road would see no one through the stalks of grass.
Where we lay down our heads to watch the moon coming up.
Kiss me, you would say. Quickly before the dying of day. Before we are called back.
The farthest toppling building was mostly intact. I was certain that at any moment the roofs of the other buildings would fall with the first strong wind.
And the crowns of the pines are autumn rust and the bloodred needles pinwheel down to the earth.
A distant mutter of thunder shook the thin metal walls with brief lightning. Fugitive tapping against the ceiling echo gunshots across empty space. Speaking to the rain:
O rain on my rooftop here in this hidden place, bless my darkness. Bless these memories and bless these words. Rain who falls on all the earth, rain upon me. The door is open wide for you to come in. Sparkle against the darkness and dance over the dry places on the earth. Dance over living sleep, the dying, the dead.
The streetlamp outside the window glows blue. I dreamt again of holding your breast, soft and pliant. Was I sleeping? I heard music, hymns, anthems. You breathed in and out. With me, at last. The room is full of the scent of rain, windborne. Petrichor. Blood from a stone. Scent triggers memory they say, quicker than anything. I know that when I pass by the honeysuckle I think of red clay roads, places found on no map, full of cicadas and eternal summer. And like this, the damp smell of wet rocks and the slick, soaked, bark of trees, drowned musk. Where did I read that: God smells like the rain? A story about some little girl who was dying. In my dream, rolled over in bed and my fingers find your soft breast. The window is opened a crack, and the curtains suspire in a fitful gust.
Maybe it was another dream. Rain falls through dark, strokes the rooftop, caresses the window, writhes against the shutters. I should sleep like a child on a school holiday. Fitful. I am restless again in this empty bed. Why are the nights so full of you? My hand explores the darkened room for the arch of your back, searching for your smooth flank. You would stir like a mousling curled up in a nest of hay. You were always a sound sleeper. The sleep of the dead. Not me. From the darkened window, vast night interrupted by the blue nimbus of a streetlight. I held your breast, soft and pliant, and felt the breath beneath your ribs release in a soft snore. Breathing: in and out. It’s automatic. Like a machine. Ghostly clockwork of God. What did you smell before you died? Your own last breath? They say God smells like the rain. And I hope that I can smell the rain. I hope I’m in a room where the windows can be opened. I don’t want the antiseptic deathsmell of a hospital to be the last gasp that I draw. Perhaps, in my sleep then. Go to sleep and never wake up. I wonder if dying is like falling or flying. And what’s the difference? No, more than likely dying is like I’ve read and seen on those TV shows about near-death-experiences. A long tunnel, a bright light at the end. All your loved ones around you, congratulating you. Why can’t death just be the end of it all? Do we really need another life after this one? By the time I reach the end of it, I’ll be ready to just be dead. If there is any peace in death, let it be a long night full of rain. I can’t think of anyone I wish to bump into when I get to heaven except you. If I get to heaven. If there is a heaven. Death makes losers of us all. No matter how healthy we think we are, no matter how rich or poor or sick or happy or heartbroken. We are suckers to think we could live forever. Who would want to? Watching the oceans dry up and the stars explode. Life forms evolving and going extinct. Earth falls through the universe like rain coming down out of the night, at a constant rate. There is no bottom to it. Up and down are just painted signs, and life is water through our fingers. “Here lies one whose name is writ in water.” Keats, ever the poet, even on his tombstone.
There were no last words for you. What would you have said, if you had been able to speak? So if this life is all we have, why are all of us in such a rush to give it away so cheap? We give it away to churches and banks and schools and cops and armies. Like it never belonged to us. They say gravity holds it all in place. Maybe Einstein wasn’t kidding about the correlation between gravity and love. I don’t know. I smash up against what I don’t know and what I don’t understand. Thank God, or Buddha, or Whoever for the rain.
Prayers, love songs. I roll over in the bed and dream that, at last, I find your soft breast.
I believe that I fall asleep again, and in my dream I open our window and let the rain fall upon us where we lay.