~ after “La Pluie” (1889)

Ominous gray overhead; so we ducked into
the coffee shop mid-morning, just before

the rain. I was there to meet Sarah,
to talk about her manuscript draft

coming together. She handed me a sheaf
of poems tucked into a purple binder,

all the while narrating how in the space
of a week she almost moved to Richmond

but after all didn’t, only to a different
neighborhood up the road. My daughter’s

old professor, making for an armchair nearby,
stopped to chat and mentioned he would visit

India and Sri Lanka in the fall. I told him
I’d gone home as well this time last year,

my timing perhaps not the best: I’d chosen
to travel at the height of monsoon season.

It rained for three weeks straight, the whole time
I was there. See, this is what it is, he said,

settling into his chair and opening his laptop.
Have we been so spoiled by living here

in the belly of the beast? I knew what he meant:
for those like us, born and raised in the third

world, what was a little rain? From May to November,
every scene like the one from Van Gogh’s window

in the clinic of Saint-Paul-de-Mausolée—
verticals and diagonals slashing through fields,

invisible towns, the blurred edges
of a mountain range to which we’ve given

all possible names for our nostalgia.
You can watch such rain for hours on end

and feel as if the sun might never come back
again— It leaves its damp signature on all

it touches: mildew on the sill, faint smell
of fatalism clinging to clothes that never quite

completely dry— Endows the stamina that comes
from waiting, from persisting: that kind

of grace given to those who live in this world,
not entirely sure they might have any other choice.

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