Erica Goss: A favorite poem

The Rain Stick
by Seamus Heaney

When I first read this poem, I was brought back to the memory of listening to a rain stick in my mother-in-law’s house. I turned the stick over and over; each time the sounds were different, but they always sounded like water falling from the sky.  I love how this poem describes sound, and how reading it evokes that motion of turning the stick to hear that sound again: a jungle rain, hard and wet, inside this dried-up thing.

Erica Goss
50 years old, Poet
Los Gatos

The Rain Stick

Up-end the rain stick and what happens next
Is a music that you never would have known
To listen for. In a cactus stalk

Downpour, sluice-rash, spillage and backwash
Come flowing through. You stand there like a pipe
Being played by water, you shake it again lightly

And diminuendo runs through all its scales
Like a gutter stopping trickling. And now here comes
a sprinkle of drops out of the freshened leaves,

Then subtle little wets off grass and daisies;
Then glitter-drizzle, almost-breaths of air.
Up-end the stick again. What happens next

Is undiminished for having happened once,
Twice, ten, a thousand time before.
Who care if all the music that transpires

Is the fall of grit or dry seeds through a cactus?
You are like a rich man entering heaven
Through the ear of a raindrop. Listen now again.

Seamus Heaney



Filed under Favorite Poem

2 responses to “Erica Goss: A favorite poem

  1. Thank you Erica for introducing (and Sally for posting) this wonderful poem. I didn’t get to hear all the words when you read this poem amidst the noise and clatter at the bookstore. This is my first introduction to Seamus Heaney, and I love the last four lines, and especially, “through the ear of the raindrop”. Lovely!

  2. Thanks for sharing this lovely poem. I have a rain stick and capturing the sounds with words is just fantastic!

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