lenten journal: spring rain


    It’s the end of the grading term at school, the students are frantically trying to finish the rough drafts of their research papers, I’m faced with grade reports – so I spent my free period reading poetry. This morning as I left the house, I picked up my well-worn copy of Poems to Live By: In Uncertain Times, which I bought eight or ten years ago and continue to mine for treasure. The one that grabbed me today was a poem by Robert Bly:

    Things to Think

    Think in ways you’ve never thought before.
    If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
    Larger than anything you’ve ever heard,
    Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

    Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
    Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
    Has risen out of the lake, and he’s carrying on his antlers
    A child of your own whom you’ve never seen.

    When someone knocks on the door, think that he’s about
    To give you something large: tell you you’re forgiven,
    Or that it’s not necessary to work all the time,
    Or that it’s been decided that if you lie down no one will die.

    Maybe it was the image of the deranged bear, the child-bearing moose, or the promise of forgiveness that reminded me of a poem by William Carpenter quoted in Stephen Dunn’s book, Walking Light. Both poems share the same sense of yearning and hope, offering voices that calm and encourage.


    A man stood in the rain outside his house.
    Pretty soon, the rain soaked through
    his jacket and shirt. He might have
    gone in, but he wanted to be wet, to be
    really wet, so that it finally got through
    his skin and began raining on the rooftops
    of the small city that the man always carried
    inside him, a city where it hadn’t rained
    for thirty years, only now the sky darkened
    and tremendous drops fell in the thick dust
    of the streets. The man’s wife knocked
    on the window, trying to call him in.
    She twirled one finger around her ear
    to sign that he was crazy, that he’d
    get sick again, standing in street clothes
    in a downpour. She put the finger in her mouth
    like a thermometer. She formed the word idiot
    with her lips, and, always, when she said that
    he would give in. But now he stood there.
    His whole life he’d wanted to give something,
    to sacrifice. At times he’d felt like coming up
    to people on the street, offering his blood.
    Here, you look like you need blood. Take mine.
    Now he could feel the people of his city
    waking as if from a long drought. He could feel
    them leaving their houses and jobs, standing
    with their heads up and their mouths open,
    and the little kids taking their clothes off
    and lying on their bellies in the streams
    and puddles formed by the new rain that the man
    made himself, not by doing anything, but standing
    there while the rain soaked through his clothes.
    He could see his wife and his own kids
    staring from the window, the younger kid
    laughing at his crazy father, the older one
    sad, almost in tears, and the dog, Ossian—
    but the man wanted to drown the city in rain.
    He wanted the small crowded apartments
    and the sleazy taverns to empty their people
    into the streets. He wanted a single man with
    an umbrella to break out dancing the same way
    Gene Kelly danced in Singing in the Rain,
    then another man, and more, until the whole
    city was doing turns and pirouettes with their
    canes or umbrellas, first alone, then taking
    each other by the arm and waist, forming a larger
    and larger circle in the square, and not
    to any music but to the percussion of the rain
    on the roof of his own house. And if there were
    a woman among the dancers, a woman in a flowery
    print skirt, a woman wetter and happier and more
    beautiful than the rest, may this man be
    forgiven for falling in love on a spring
    morning in the democracy of the rain, may
    he be forgiven for letting his family think
    that is just what to expect from someone who
    is every day older and more eccentric, may he
    be forgiven for evading his responsibilities,
    for growing simple in the middle of his life, for
    ruining his best pants and his one decent tie.

    One summer night, when I was Youth Minister at University Baptist Church, a bunch of kids were over at my house for a Bible study or something. We were all sitting in the living room when a Texas thunderstorm blew in quickly and the rain fell in sheets. Everything was soaked in a matter of seconds. One of the kids caught my eye and, without a word, we got up, ran out into the rain, and started jumping up and down in the puddles. It was a moment of unadulterated joy. When I turned around, I saw that everyone else had followed us. We stayed outside until the rain left as quickly as it had come and then realized we had about fifteen minutes before everyone’s parents came to pick them up. I handed out every towel I could find in my house and we were still wet and laughing when the cars started to arrive. I remembered that night as I read about the man soaking the city inside him in the rain.

    I don’t have a big point to make other than these are all stories that felt worth sharing.



    1. I LOVE that you don’t have a big point to make today. And I LOVE everything you’ve written. I am always so happy when I see you’re blog note in my email box. Thanks for all you see, all you do, all you write. If we hadn’t had so dang much rain here on the central coast of CA, I’d even be glad to jump in a few of those puddles myself today.

      Lenten blessings, to you, of new friend in blogland.

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