Monsoon verses : Five poems for the season

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Monsoon verses : Five poems for the season

Monsoon verses : Five poems for the season

As the monsoon showers begin to fall, scattered across the city and drizzle begins to tint car windows, obscuring the traffic, we welcome the rainy season for all the inspiration it brings. Rain poetry is a timeless idea, and a noble pursuit considering the significance and grace of the season. Perhaps the best part of the monsoon is being able to spend afternoons indoors, curled up with a book, watching a storm unfurl. To provide some reading fodder for those rainy days, here is a compilation of poems that honour the rain and its season.

Song for the Rainy Season

- Elizabeth Bishop

Hidden, oh hidden in the high fog the house we live in, beneath the magnetic rock, rain-, rainbow-ridden, where blood-black bromelias, lichens, owls, and the lint of the waterfalls cling, familiar, unbidden.

In a dim age of water the brook sings loud from a rib cage of giant fern; vapor climbs up the thick growth effortlessly, turns back, holding them both, house and rock, in a private cloud.

At night, on the roof, blind drops crawl and the ordinary brown owl gives us proof he can count: five times--always five-- he stamps and takes off after the fat frogs that, shrilling for love, clamber and mount.

House, open house to the white dew and the milk-white sunrise kind to the eyes, to membership of silver fish, mouse, bookworms, big moths; with a wall for the mildew's ignorant map;

darkened and tarnished by the warm touch of the warm breath, maculate, cherished; rejoice! For a later era will differ. (O difference that kills or intimidates, much of all our small shadowy life!) Without water 

the great rock will stare unmagnetized, bare, no longer wearing rainbows or rain, the forgiving air and the high fog gone; the owls will move on and the several waterfalls shrivel in the steady sun. 

Elizabeth Bishop was a twentieth century American poet born in Massachusetts, whose work is often praised for its vivid and accurate descriptions of the visual world. Many of her poems were inspired by her time spent living in Brazil, this one among them. ***

Monsoon Poem

- Tishani Doshi Because this is a monsoon poem expect to find the words jasmine, palmyra, Kuruntokai, red; mangoes in reference to trees or breasts; paddy fields, peacocks, Kurinji flowers, flutes; lotus buds guarding love’s furtive routes. Expect to hear a lot about erotic consummation inferred by laburnum gyrations and bamboo syncopations. Listen to the racket of wide-mouthed frogs and bent- legged prawns going about their business of mating while rain falls and falls on tiled roofs and verandas, courtyards, pagodas. Because such a big part of you seeks to understand this kind of rain — so unlike your cold rain, austere rain, get-me-the-hell- out-of-here rain. Rain that can’t fathom how to liberate camphor from the vaults of the earth. Let me tell you how little is written of mud, how it sneaks up like a sleek-gilled vandal to catch hold of your ankles. Or about the restorative properties of mosquito blood, dappled and fried against the wires of a bug-zapping paddle. So much of monsoon is to do with being overcome — not from longing as you might think, but from the sky’s steady bludgeoning, until every leaf on every unremembered tree gleams in the abyss of postcoital bliss. Come. Now sip on your masala tea, put your lips to the sweet, spicy skin of it. There’s more to see — notice the dogs who’ve been fucking on the beach, locked in embrace like an elongated Anubis, the crabs scavenging the flesh of a dopey- eyed ponyfish, the entire delirious coast with its philtra of beach and saturnine clouds arched backwards in disbelief. And the mayflies who swarm in November with all their ephemeral grandeur to die in millions at the behest of light, the geckos stationed on living room walls, cramming fistfuls of wings in their maws. Notice how hardly anyone mentions the word death, even though the fridge leaks and the sheets have been damp for weeks. And in this helter-skelter multitude of gray-greenness, notice how even the rain begins to feel fatigued. The roads and sewers have nowhere to go, and like old-fashioned pursuers they wander and spill their babbling hearts to electrical poles and creatures with ears. And what happens later, you might ask, after we’ve moved to a place of shelter, when the cracks in the earth have reappeared? We dream of wet, of course, of being submerged in millet stalks, of webbed toes and stalled clocks and eels in the mouth of a heron. We forget how unforgivably those old poems led us to believe that men were mountains, that the beautiful could never remain heartbroken, that when the rains arrive we should be delighted to be taken

in drowning, in devotion. 

Tishani Doshi is an Indian writer and dancer based in Chennai. This poem plays with traditional ideas of monsoon in poetry, and explores the season in a less romanticized manner, featuring some unconventional aspects of the monsoon.

***

Summer Showers

- Emily Dickinson A drop fell on the apple tree, Another on the roof; A half a dozen kissed the eaves, And made the gables laugh. A few went out to help the brook, That went to help the sea. Myself conjectured, Were they pearls, What necklaces could be! The dust replaced in hoisted roads, The birds jocoser sung; The sunshine threw his hat away, The orchards spangles hung. The breezes brought dejected lutes, And bathed them in the glee; The East put out a single flag, And signed the fete away.

Emily Dickinson was a nineteenth century American poet who lived in Amherst, Massachusetts. Her work was published posthumously, and she is best known for her rhythm, rhyme, and cryptic language. The major themes of her poetry are god, death, the self, and of course, the natural world.

***

An Anthology of Rain

For this you may see no need, You may think my aim

Dead set on something

Devoid of conceivable value: An Anthology of  Rain,

A collection of voices

Telling someone somewhere What it means to follow a drop

Traveling to its final place of rest.

But do consider this request If you have pressed your nose

Of any shape against a window,

Odor of metal faint, persistent, While a storm cast its cloak

Over the shoulder of every cloud

In sight. You are free to say Whatever crosses your mind

When you look at the face of time

In the passing of one drop Gathering speed, one drop

Chasing another, racing to reach

A fork in the path, lingering Before making a detour to join

Another, fattening on the way

Until entering a rivulet Running to the sill.

So please accept this invitation:

You are welcome to submit, There is no limit to its limit,

Even the instructions are a breeze

As long as you include Nothing about yourself

Except your name. Your address

Remains unnecessary, for the rain Will find you — if you receive it

It receives you (whether or not

You contribute, a volume Is sent). And when you lift

The collection you may hear,

By opening anywhere, a drop And its story reappear

As air turns to water, water to air. 

Phillis Levin is an American poet living in New York. This poem almost playfully compares the rain to poetry, inviting a reader to reminisce by providing relatable instances of interaction with the rain. ***

The Rainy Day

Sullen clouds are gathering fast over the black fringe of the forest. O child, do not go out! The palm trees in a row by the lake are smiting their heads against the dismal sky; the crows with their draggled wings are silent on the tamarind branches, and the eastern bank of the river is haunted by a deepening gloom. Our cow is lowing loud, tied at the fence. O child, wait here till I bring her into the stall. Men have crowded into the flooded field to catch the fishes as they escape from the overflowing ponds; the rainwater is running in rills through the narrow lanes like a laughing boy who has run away from his mother to tease her. Listen, someone is shouting for the boatman at the ford. O child, the daylight is dim, and the crossing at the ferry is closed. The sky seems to ride fast upon the madly-rushing rain; the water in the river is loud and impatient; women have hastened home early from the Ganges with their filled pitchers. The evening lamps must be made ready. O child, do not go out! The road to the market is desolate, the lane to the river is slippery.

The wind is roaring and struggling among the bamboo branches like a wild beast tangled in a net.

Rabindranath Tagore is well known for having reshaped Bengali literature and music in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, as well as for his role in the Indian freedom struggle. This poem features a sort of menace at the impending shower, but retains a sense of play in its imagery. ***

Read more poetry on Bengaluru Review: The discovery of one’s true self ‘I am a footstep on the slippery road’ : Five poems by Sameer Tanti ‘You may see the city slowing down’ : Five poems by Malcolm Carvalho

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