Waiting for Rain

  • Finally morning. This loneliness
  • feels more ordinary in the light, more like my face
  • in the mirror. My daughter in the ER again.
  • Something she ate? Some freshener
  • someone spritzed in the air?
  • They’re trying to kill me, she says,
  • as though it’s a joke. Lucretius
  • got me through the night. He told me the world goes on
  • making and unmaking. Maybe it’s wrong
  • to think of better and worse.
  • There’s no one who can carry my fear
  • for a child who walks out the door
  • not knowing what will stop her breath.
  • The rain they say is coming
  • sails now over the Pacific in purplish nimbus clouds.
  • But it isn’t enough. Last year I watched
  • elephants encircle their young, shuffling
  • their massive legs without hurry, flaring
  • their great dusty ears. Once they drank
  • from the snowmelt of Kilimanjaro.
  • Now the mountain is bald. Lucretius knows
  • we’re just atoms combining and recombining:
  • stardust, flesh, grass. All night
  • I plastered my body to Janet,
  • breathing when she breathed. But her skin,
  • warm though it is, does after all, keep me out.
  • How tenuous it all is.
  • My daughter’s coming home next week.
  • She’ll bring the pink plaid suitcase we bought at Ross.
  • When she points it out to the escort
  • pushing her wheelchair, it will be easy
  • to spot on the carousel. I just want to touch her.

Ellen Bass is a well-known California poet and teacher of poetry. “Waiting for Rain” is from Like a Beggar, her new collection from Copper Canyon Press, 2014. She teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Pacific University, facilitates lots of poetry workshops in Northern California and environs, and lives in Santa Cruz.

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