That was the summer the rains began,
week after week after week, flooding fields, closing roads,
the rain in torrents, in floods, in buckets.
Our skin grew pale and pruny; we slept
under mold–covered sheets and with mildew
in our hair. We stopped bathing, demoralized
by our leaky roofs and the humid air settling in our lungs,
on our skin, we were as if covered in dew. Air conditioners
wore out, laundromats closed. Pregnant women absorbed
their fetuses back into their bodies, like rabbits.
Doctors could not explain this. The thin grew plump
on water, their skin filled in, smoothed out,
fat people slowly eroded like the hillsides
and what used to be the roads. Altar cloths and vestments
of all faiths dissolved in the wet air while the women
who had worked them, day after day, for months or years,
wept. The tears on their cheeks were indistinguishable
from the pellets of rain marking their neighbors’. Schools and all work
closed, and we huddled on upper floors. The more adventurous
used driftwood as rafts. The skin between our toes grew dead,
and split. Vigilante fishermen rowed the streets and kept
a kind of order, their own wives cringing at their flabby,
aquatic touch. The ants and earthworms drowned
and the ground began to sink. Houses collapsed overnight, washed away
by morning, such as it was, a paler grey. And everywhere
the ceaseless drumming sound that drove some to plunge their heads
underwater until the sound stopped and their bodies floated up
to the surface in the next neighborhood or town. Then the limestone and shale
washed away from the cliffs, exposing those things
we had thought long since buried. And those things waked,
and they breathed deep of this amphibious air, and came forth, ravenous
and gleeful. I can no longer count the days, but
there are few of us left and the rain drenches us like blood,
quickening, quickening, and now it will not be long.
Janet Parkinson is a freelance editor in Newport, Rhode Island. Previous work has appeared in the Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Arsenic Lobster, and Balancing the Tides.
Poem © 2007 Jane Parkinson. All other content copyright © 2007 ByrenLee Press
Copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted.
Art Director: Bonnie Brunish