A Prayer For Rain
by Lisel Mueller
Let it come down: these thicknesses of air
have long enough walled love away from love;
stillness has hardened until words despair
of their high leaps and kisses shut themselves
back into wishing. Crippled lovers lie
against a weather which holds out on them,
waiting, awaiting some shrill sign, some cry,
some screaming cat that smells a sacrifice
and spells them thunder. Start the mumbling lips,
syllable by monotonous syllable,
that wash away the sullen griefs of love
and drown out knowledge of an ancient war—
o, ill-willed dark, give with the sound of rain,
let love be brought to ignorance again.
Rain is in the forecast this week here in Minneapolis. It will be a cold rain when it comes. The kind of rain that will eat away at the snow piles that remain, help wash away the salt and dirt of winter, deteriorate the piles of dog poo that had congregated beneath the snow and now have resurfaced in back yards. It won’t be until the second or third rain that spring truly arrives in Minnesota. The kind of rain that changes the way the world smells, a smell of hope and growing things, the smell of soil coming back to life.
The sonnet above by Mueller is masterful. It is a framework for emotion, memories and pictures, rendering in each reader a different message. It says a lot but not too much. It is just opaque enough to allow the reader to be pulled in whatever direction their mind is taking them at the time. I like poetry that resembles a Rorschach test, it has a definite imprint you can see in black and white, but what it is exactly, is up to the individual to interpret.
This is not my idea, it is a concept rooted in history. The German mystic and poet Justinus Kerner (1786 – 1862) wrote and drew a series of complex ink blots captioned with accompanying poems. His work preceded Rorschach. Kerner’s work was popular towards the end of the 19th century. Kerner’s idea became the basis for children’s games such as “Gobolinks” and “Blottentots” in the United States, “Klecks,” in Germany, and “Blotto,” in the United Kingdom. In all of these games, the players made inkblot pictures and then wrote short poems, interpreting how the picture moved them. How wonderful to make art and poetry a game in which everyone can play, before we become reserved and shy with words.
by Lisel Mueller
“Don’t cry, its only music,”
someone’s voice is saying.
“No one you love is dying.”
It’s only music. And it was only spring,
the world’s unreasoning body
run amok, like a saint’s, with glory,
that overwhelmed a young girl
into unreasoning sadness.
“Crazy,” she told herself,
“I should be dancing with happiness.”
But it happened again. It happens
when we make bottomless love—
there follows a bottomless sadness
which is not despair
but its nameless opposite.
It has nothing to do with the passing of time.
It’s not about loss. It’s about
two seemingly parallel lines
suddenly coming together
inside us, in some place
that is still wilderness.
Joy, joy, the sopranos sing,
reaching for the shimmering notes
while our eyes fill with tears.