Meteorology — It’s So Not about You

Robert Peake, Ojai's most distinguished poet this century, thinks deeply and writes beautifully about topics that only poetry has the means to bring down to earth.

Over the summer I happened to see him read the following, which may be of particular interest to the readers of this site, because this poem dares to suggest that we humans may not actually be in control of our climate, nor even of the meaning of the day's weather.

Ever since Chekhov began using elegant descriptions of the weather to describe his characters' inner lives, a certain metaphorical confusion has reigned — when we write about the weather, are we talking about how we feel at this moment? Or the actual air we breathe?

Robert looks at this conundrum head-on, and speaks about it amusingly. When I chatted with him and his charming wife Val about it, he joked about us how we humans are forever imposing ourselves on the landscape, both metaphorically and physically — tainting the very clouds with our moods. According to super-blogger Andrew Sullivan, this is actually a hot topic in psychological research.

Well, leave it to the shrinks to drain the topic of all humor. Here's Robert's version, a rendition you might remember:


And then, it is over—
a break in the clouds,
which were never evil,
and the sun, which is not good,
streams into the wet yard,
glistening, not as a symbol,
but the simple refraction

of light. The rain and I
leave messages for each other
in this way, in the language
of facts: seven drops
on a mulberry leaf, a streak
of mud in the gutter, twigs
for divination, scattered
overlapping and apart. I give

the rain a few stacked stones,
offer up an old chair, one
I never liked much, let it
work away at the varnish.
And my mind, which is also
neither good nor evil,
I offer up now, to the sky's
window cleaner, the one

who summons the worms,
and scatters the trash,
that I might contain, someplace
in my own clay body, the gentle
indifference of rain.

2 thoughts on “Meteorology — It’s So Not about You

  1. Thanks for this, Kit. I seem to recall we (half-jokingly) came to the conclusion that anthropomorphism in extremis was its own category of environmental abuse.


  2. Your poem reminds me of this write by Bhuwan Thapaliya. Its called Climate Metamorphosis.

    Climate Metamorphosis

    Surrounded by desires, we are cold.
    Altitude of dearth makes it hard to breathe.

    Yet standing up the side of Mount Everest,
    we are willing captives of the things unseen before.

    We have never seen so many things
    happening at the same time above and below us.

    A slender twister forms in the convergence
    of the heat and the altitude’s chill.

    Something up above the earth is changing,
    is a new source of light kissing the sky?

    Paroxysmal blasts rocks the crater.

    Something down below the earth is changing,
    is a new source of lava feeding the flank?

    Everywhere we hear the roar of the lightening
    and the thud of the incandescent rocks.

    What’s really going on?

    Copyright 2009 Bhuwan Thapaliya


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