Maurice Manning was born and raised in Kentucky. His first book of poems, Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions (2001) was chosen by W.S. Merwin for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. His other collections are A Companion for Owls: Being the Commonplace Book of D. Boone, Lone Hunter, Back Woodsman, &c. (2004), Bucolics (2007), and The Common Man (2010), a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2011. He lives in Washington County, Kentucky.
All of the sumac is scarlet now
and the thistle heads have gone to silk
and around the field the goldenrod
nods in the rain, and anything
with leaves or height is lowered. Heads
must bend and bow, I almost say,
but then I have the thought that rain—
rain, rain, rain—is the voice,
the very voice of repetition,
each splash descended from the last
in form and falling rhythm, each drop
a long, wet verse before it hits.
Rain was my season when I was a boy,
and rain in fall was best. I’d walk
across the field and find the woods
where I’d lean against a cedar tree
and listen to the steady rain.
I liked the constant sound and motion
and that sound and motion eventually
became the same blurred expression.
But then I’d hear a second rain,
a rain of solitary drops
that fell from the branches with less precision,
yet had an independent order,
a rain that couldn’t help itself
from being strange or stirring me
to believe the first rain—steady
and unified—is necessary
for the second, the other, singular rain.
An accidental counterpart
to unity, a blind pursuit,
like all desire, for the one design—
to fall not fully from the sky
and chase the chance to fall again?
I mean falling for the darker sake
of falling one way only once
and maybe never noticed or known.
What cannot be repeated, what
will not be uniform, what breaks
away defiantly from control—
I’ve been a student of this art.
It is one of God’s better tricks
to make monotony revealing,
but disruption is a subtle craft.
Rain makes itself and makes,
through more and more, the field believe
this is eternity for now.
But more and more of anything
becomes too constant and proves too true
and, so, the eternal must change.
Eventually the rain will stop
and the goldenrod and thistle heads
will straighten, and that will be the world,
or it will seem the world. But I wonder,
I wonder if these prolific weeds
will know they have again and again
been swayed by the God who begins above
in solitude by pouring out
a bucket, an ordinary bucket?
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