Friday, April 16, 2010

Dogs in the Rain
by Hank Kalet

This is a new poem, mostly finished, I think, but I am open to suggestions -- including for a better title.


“Be wet
with a decent happiness.”
-- Robert Creeley

Rain pools on vinyl chair covers,
the dripping from the bent edge of the gutter
a rhythm that pushes
steadily into the hard
improvisation of a wind
chilly with the last
talons of winter grasping
to hold off the change of season.

The creek is full and flowing
beyond the fence, breaking in white
crests as the mud-brown stream
rushes across the rocks and
fallen limbs and toppled trunks.

The dogs run, bounding through a yard
stripped clean of grass from a wet year,
a vast sea of rain and heavy run-off,
mud spraying back into air
from fast-moving paws like
infield dirt from a base-stealer’s spikes.
They like it out there in the rain,
can sit for hours as it
pours down, soaks into fur,
or splash like two children in a puddle,
like my nephew Dan does,
stamping his sneakers
just to watch the surface crack
and the water spray out.

They love that spot at the rear of the yard
where the water collects,
a mucky pond, lake-like when it rains,
bobbing and digging in dirt-brown water,
tracking mud into the house and
smelling sour for hours as they dry.

This storm is biblical, a friend says,
but that seems extreme,
though the rain has been coming down hard,
beating the windows and the roof
like a heavy-metal drummer,
lights flickering, phone going in and out,
and the dogs jingling the back-door bells
to go out every ten minutes.

Is there
a lesson in this I wonder,
this deep pooling of rain water
in the sinking corner
of a yard ignored for years,
a depression in the ground
near our shed,
at the base of a slope that runs
the length of the street,
yard to yard, the runoff
a rushing river almost
and this temporary pond
an attractive nuisance for the dogs?
Is there a lesson
or maybe a warning,
the storm overpowering it all,
dimming lights and closing roads?

We’ll install a drain, re-grade the yard
to redirect the flow
of water, but nature always gets its way;
even the massive trees that
shade the streets we walk with the dogs,
the northern red oaks with thick trunks
the width of a sturdy fullback
or an Olympic power lifter from Russia,
even they fell in the presence
of the rain and wind, storm-soaked sod
giving way, the aging oak
tipping, ripping roots from saturated soil,
sidewalk’s cement slabs
wrenched upward and flipped
like burgers on a grill,
like the branches and stray sticks
the dogs will find and play with
after the storm fades to calm.