Rain Like a Stranger and Lightning Like a Tiger

nosunset

I grew up in Desert Hot Springs; I repeat the word desert to emphasize how little I know about rain. Rain was a stranger  most of my childhood. I wore cowboy boots and a blue down vest to keep me warm. We had wind (boy did we have wind!), but I didn’t own an umbrella until I went away for university. Instead of raincoats, at the rare appearance of rain, my sister and I donned black plastic garbage bags.

I spend part of most summers as a stranger in a city in southern Mexico where it rains as reliably as high tide. It is undeniably more insistent on Mondays and Wednesdays when I have to travel some distance to teach classes on an outdoor patio in one of the smallest towns on the planet.

It rains its warning against English or English teachers who failed to pack a tarp or at least a couple of garbage bags.

Summer Rain

What could be lovelier than to hear the summer rain
Cutting across the heat, as scythes cutting across grain?
Falling upon the steaming roof with sweet uproar,
Tapping and rapping wildly at the door?
No, do not lift the latch, but through the pane
We’ll stand and watch the circus pageant
Of the rain,
And see the lightning, like a tiger, striped and dread,
And hear the thunder cross the shaken sky
With elephant tread.

– Elizabeth Coatsworth (1893-1986).

  • Write a memory about rain featuring several metaphors.
  • OR write a poem with an extended metaphor about the rain. Below is another Coatsworth piece:

 

Rain Poem

The rain was like a little mouse,
Quiet, small, and gray,
It pattered all around the house
And then it went away.
It did not come, I understand,
Indoors at all, until,
It found an open window and
Left tracks across the sill.

– Elizabeth Coatsworth (1893-1986).

Why Would Someone Do That to a Baby?

HD drama

Jack-in-the-Box and Home Depot Parking Lot

Standing in the gravel of the planter box between the Home Depot and Jack-in-the-Box, we had a rather large circle of up to eleven at some points in our conversation. We were talking about a certain politician’s plans for building a giant wall and the problems it might pose to the US as much as Mexico when we all noticed a man with a stroller crossing the parking lot. He was arguing vociferously into his cell phone.

Because his volume had captured our attention, we were all witnesses as the woman he was arguing with on the phone rolled up beside him in a black Honda Civic. And, trying to pepper spray him, she showered the baby in the stroller.

It took me a couple of whole minutes to register what we had just seen and to grasp that some of my students had been exposed to the particulates carried by the breezy afternoon. Pepper-sprayed a baby!

The whole scene focused on the stroller. A man in a rusty old truck threw open his door as he was still rolling and poured water over the girl to try to stop her awful wailing.

A woman rushed into Jack-in-the-Box to get more water. Another gave me the car’s license number as I was on the line with the Sheriff’s department.

All of us saw exactly what happened. (We just didn’t believe it.)

I dismissed the students and stayed around to offer my statement. The man who’d been sprayed could not hold his daughter because, just as she, he had cayenne oils all over his clothing, skin, and hair.

Because she was too young to have words, she continued to shriek after paramedics arrived and treated her.

Daniel, one of the English students, asked me in Spanish, “Who would pepper spray a baby?” Though I knew it was a rhetorical question, I responded, “It doesn’t make sense in any language.”

On my way home, the afternoon’s events raging in my brain, I carelessly wiped my sleeve across my face. My lips burned nearly as much as my mind.

In class, the next day, we debriefed the incident. One student confided that she could think of little else. Another, a veteran, shared that, were we in battle, this woman would be guilty of a war crime.

*According to Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him.” Start with an unequivocally evil act, and help readers empathize with, but not condone the actions of, the evil-doer. This reminds me of a poem titled “The Torturer’s Apprentice.”

 

The Torturer’s Apprentice

by Doug Anderson

 

Almost a man now,

he used to shudder

when the old man

slipped hatpin under fingernail

but now he’s got

the master’s calm,

the seducer’s whiskey drift

to ply his subject

to give up his neighbor, tease

from him how many,

where and when.

Next month he’ll have his first,

no more dabbing the old man’s brow

with a cool towel,

no more sopping up the blood,

spraying air-freshener

to mask the lingering stink

of fear and anguish.

They’ve saved a little nun

for him, some dear thing

who still believes

that deep down people

are good.

(From the anthology Poetry Like Bread: Poets of the Political Imagination, FROM Curbstone Press, edited by MartÍn Espada. Get the collection for the rest of this poem. It is a powerful anthology.)