Monday, February 21, 2005

Storm Shelter

They say that rain’s like tears.
What do they know?

I’ve seen real rain
run down the faces of my friends

while they laughed and cried
with playful happiness

to greet the huge warm drops
splashed down from
- not clouds

if these grey slops are clouds -
from bulging
dizzy uproarious pregnant
white blue-black grey light-shot
sky mountains. How do they know

there are no gods in there?
What does a man of any colour know of gods?

Those trembling raindrops
turned tawny dust a bloody brown

and in a lightning flash (it seemed to us )
the magic world turned green.

That’s rain. This isn’t rain.
It’s more like a cold sweat

one drawn out moment when you
wake from nightmare

and fear to sleep again
in case you go back in.

But this is worse, the nightmare carries on
under the sun. You’re caught both ways.

Instead of thunder
we got bombs

instead of flames from dry thorn sticks
crackling to warm a calabash of stew

we got the spitting fire
of small-arms battle noise

and all that sunlit
brown skin life joy stopped.

This cold thin silver greyness
is not tears. Tears are hot.

Faces that shone with rain
went still as stones, eyes now forever dry,

open in blank surprise,
and dead teeth shining

cloud white in faces pillowed
in brown skin mother mud.

The sun forever left my land
only the burning stayed.

Dreamlike we travelled,
ran, hid and waited until

somehow that moment
when the big bird roared and pushed

and I was born again
borne off the rumbling roughness of the ground

smooth into sunlit white-cloud world
where gods live for a day

to wake up

stood on a tarry Bristol road
polished with streetlights

crashing with cars
cold water running down my face

caught here alone, alive
but in a cold dark hell.

Of course, it doesn’t always rain.
Sometimes I see a spark of good in someone’s eyes.

© Richard Lawson

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