Because so much consequential thinking
happens in the rain. A steady mist
to recall departures, a bitter downpour
for betrayal. As if the first thing
a man wants to do when he learns his wife
is sleeping with his best friend, and has been
for years, the very first thing
is not to make a drink, and drink it,
and make another, but to walk outside
into bad weather. Itís true
that the way we look doesnít always
reveal our feelings. Which is a problem
for the movies. And why somebody has to smash
a mirror, for example, to show heís angry
and full of self-hate, whereas actual people
rarely do this. And rarely sit on benches
in the pouring rain to weep. Is he wondering
why he didnít see it long ago? Is he wondering
if in fact he did, and lied to himself?
And perhaps she also saw the many ways
heíd allowed himself to be deceived. In this city
it will rain all night. So the three of them
return to their houses, and the wife
and her lover go upstairs to bed
while the husband takes a small black pistol
from a drawer, turns it over in his hands,
the puts it back. Thus demonstrating
his inability to respond to passion
with passion. But we donít want him
to shoot his wife, or his friend, or himself.
And weíve begun to suspect
that none of this is going to work out,
that weíll leave the theater feeling
vaguely cheated, just as the movie,
turning away from the husbandís sorrow,
leaves him to be a man who must continue,
day after day, to walk outside into the rain,
outside and back again, since now there can be
nowhere in this world for him to rest.
Even from the beach I could sense itó
lack of welcome, lack of abiding life,
like something in the air, a certain
lack of sound. Yesterday
there was a mountain out there.
Now itís gone. And look
at this radio, each tube neatly
sliced in half. Blow the place up!
That was my advice.
But after the storm and the earthquake,
after the tactic of the exploding plane
and the strategy of the sinking boat, it looked
like fate and I wanted to say, ďDonít you see?
So what if youíre a famous biochemist!
Lost with all hands is an old story.Ē
Sure, weíre on the edge
of an important breakthrough, everyone
hearing voices, everyone falling
into caves, and youíre out
wandering through the jungle
in the middle of the night in your negligee.
Yes, weíre way out there
on the edge of science, while the rest
of the island continues to disappear until
nothingís left except this
cliff in the middle of the ocean,
and you, in your bathing suit,
crouched behind the scuba tanks.
Iíd like to tell you
not to be afraid, but Iíve lost
my voice. Iím not used to all these
legs, these claws, these feelers.
Itís the old story, predictable
as falloutóthe rearrangement of molecules.
And everyone is surprised
and no one understands
why each man tries to kill
the thing he loves, when the change
comes over him. So now you know
what I never found the time to say.
Sweetheart, put down your flamethrower.
You know I always loved you.
Lawrence Raab is the author of six
collections of poems, most recently Visible Signs: New and Selected
Poems (Penguin. 2003) and The Probable World (Penguin,
2000). He has published a chapbook of collaborative poems with Stephen
Dunn, Winter at the Caspian Sea (Palanquin Press, 1999). His
poems have appeared in several editions of Best American Poetry and in Garrison Keillor's Good Poems. Raab
was a finalist for the National
Book Award in 1993. Penguin will publish The History of Forgetting