From Jersey to Oregon
by Mike Keith
The second poem below (including the title and author line) is an anagram of the first, and attempts to capture some of the subtle distinctions between rain in the two states involved here.
Now near the end of the middle stretch of road
What have I learned? Some earthly wiles. An art.
That often I cannot tell good fortune from bad,
That once had seemed so easy to tell apart.
The source of art and woe aslant in the wind
Dissolves or nourishes everything it touches.
What roadbank gullies and ruts it doesn't mend
It carves the deeper, boiling tawny in ditches.
It spends itself regardless into the ocean.
It stains and scours and makes things dark or bright:
Sweat of the moon, a shroud of benediction,
The chilly liquefaction of day to night,
The Jersey rain, my rain, soaks all as one:
It smites Metuchen, Rahway, Saddle River,
Fair Haven, Newark, Little Silver, Bayonne.
I feel it churning even in fair weather
To craze distinction, dry the same as wet.
In ripples of heat the August drought still feeds
Vapors in the sky that swell to drench my state -
The Jersey rain, my rain, in streams and beads
Of indissoluble grudge and aspiration:
Original milk, replenisher of grief,
Descending destroyer, arrowed source of passion,
Silver and black, executioner, source of life.
Here I sit, on a Friday, contemplating this life;
What have I gained? Few valid skills, in fine.
An inability to separate tenderness from strife,
A tendency to spend too much time on-line.
Yet sure I see it falling downward in the yard;
It scars and distresses as it pelts our land.
With transverse force the rocks break into shards,
And reshape or destroy, as if by unseen hand.
It crosses o'er the rivers to the sea,
Drives and flies and scars the golden field:
Gall of hyssop, that rivulet of self-pity,
The gradual coalescence of hot to cold.
The Oregon rain, their rain, squashes us all;
It buries Portland, Medford, Beaverton, Bend,
Sweet Home, King City, Oakridge, Klamath Falls.
I hear it still scurrying, even after it ends,
To depress us more, in January just like June.
With ungentle intent, a cloudy zenith's mood,
The rain pours again at the dawn-attended moon -
The Oregon rain, their rain, in bowers and woods
Of cheerless vacancy and overhydration:
The ultimate wet dream, the besotter of souls;
Wretched dowser, shadowy harbinger of extinction,
Mythical scythe-bearer, man's final goal.