The rain, in the back yard where I'm watching it
come down, comes down at many different rates of knot.
Its central zone is finely woven curtain – sheer net, perhaps –
thinly broken, relentless in its fall, but
relatively slow, which must be down to the lightness
of its drops, a sempiternal, frail precipitation,
like real weather atomised.
Heavier and noisier the elemental drops
that fall close to hand to the walls to the left and right:
here the calibre of grains of wheat, there plump as peas,
elsewhere ample glassy marbles. Along window rail and sill
the rain washes horizontally, while clinging to
their undersides in rows of tetrahedral beads.
According to the whole surface of a little zinc roof
overhung by my lookout, it streams in a very fine sheet,
shimmering on account of the currents
variously created by the imperceptible undulations,
bumps and ripples of the metal blanketing;
and in the adjoining gutter runs slowly along with all
the force of a low-gradient runnel, managing
to let go its flow in a long, perfectly vertical,
elegantly braided thread to the ground where
it shatters and spatters into brilliant glinting needles.
Each of its modes generates a particular tempo to which
a particular sonority responds. The whole ensemble pulses
like a complicated, living mechanism, as precise as it is
erratic, like a store of clocks whose springs depend on
the weight of a given mass of constantly condensing vapour.
The tinkling of vertical strings as they strike the ground,
gutters going glug-glug, dings, dongs and tiny gongs
resound and multiply in simultaneous concert, by no means
monotonous, and not without a certain fluid delicacy.
And in due course, as the springs run out of steam,
some of the waterwheels go on operating, though more slowly
and more slowly, until the mechanism ticks to a halt.
Then the sun comes out once more to wipe the slate clean;
the whole brilliant apparatus evaporates: it has rained.
* * * * *
Irish writer Ciaran Carson recently published this water-poem (permitting the suspicion of a tribute to Robert Southey's famous High Romantic water-poem of 1820, The Cataract of Lodore) in the London Review of Books.
He (Carson, not Southey) appeared once before on this rolling screen – for the excellent epistolary novel he offered to a largely indifferent public in 2011, The Pen Friend.