Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rainy Season. A poem.

“Thailand has three
Hot season, cold season, and __________”?
A test question asks my students.
Hot and cold they know already,
but rainy eludes them
even as they sit in a classroom the usual
kid noise of which is drowned out
by the drumming of torrential rain
on the school’s steel roof.
Sheets of water pour off the corrugated metal and
slide past the windows,
darkening the room.
Guiding them through the question
(this is a test of me as much as of them),
I ask, “What season is it now?”
and point out the window.
“Cold?” they ask.

Rainy season is sometimes cold
in the way it is always cold to be too wet
with no promise of drying anytime soon.

Mostly though, it’s cool and the days progress slowly.
It seems as though the sun has gotten lazy; it rarely
rises into perceptible view until early afternoon
when the clouds deign to share the stage with their brighter, more
ostentatious sibling.
But the clouds and the rain must depress the sun the same as they
depress me on some days,
because the sun slips away early, too,
letting the sky grow dark in late afternoon as the clouds gather for another
celestial game that the sun isn’t invited to join in.
Sometimes, they play long into the night,
a kind of heavenly match no mortal understands.
The scoring is too complicated, the object of it all elusive.
After long nights battering the ground below, the clouds look restful in the morning,
fluffy, white,
somehow satisfied with the damp they’ve wrought below.

In some weeks, the taa din daeng never dry out completely,
the muddy puddles in the red dirt only shrinking and growing
as if they’re breathing at some impossibly listless pace.
Sometimes the puddles become splayed ovals
taking their shapes from the ruts grooved out by
E-tans that pass through,
carrying farmers to their flooded fields,
bouncing over the less and less smoothly packed
dirt roads that criss-cross the paddies out behind the houses.

In rainy season there is always enough water
for dishes
and laundry
and bathing.
There’s no sense in restricting the flow from the reservoir to the houses when
the reservoir is threatening to overflow and flood the nearest ones.

In rainy season everything wet stays damp for days.
You can only do laundry as often as the laundry you’ve already done will dry.
Otherwise, everything mildews
and has to be washed again
swirled in the abundance of life (and chore) -sustaining liquid that
flows so easily from the tap
into the basin
and out the back into the yard
and from there under the fence
into the empty lot next door
which sits lower and has begun to serve an important purpose
as it collects the water that drains away
away from the houses
which for now
aren’t flooded.

In rainy season
the klong fills up to within inches of the level of the road.
Maybe sometimes it spills over
quietly, bringing mud and sand with it,
leaving the road that curves around the wat
full of red dirt and puddles that can’t be avoided by any form of wheeled transport.
Maybe sometimes it runs over,
but I haven’t seen it.
Near the bridge before the wat, upstream from it,
where the high school kids farm fish and spend their afternoons
jumping into the klong and swimming in its muddy sluggish current,
the school is constantly less than an inch away from imminent
But it hasn’t happened yet.
That road stays dry,
with the klong only lapping at the cement shore
quietly coming to meet it
and then sinking back as the water is called further downstream.
Someone is good
with the doors along the canal,
the locks that open and allow the water to flow into fields,
or further downstream
to other communities
that accept the water, or send it flowing
on back to its mother river.

A kilometer or so
past the wat
the road has straightened out and runs between fields
for a while.
No houses crowd the road or the rice.
If they did, they’d be sunk.
The paddies here have become local swimming holes.
A road between two villages carries an old man in a canoe
carefully putting bait on a hook
that’s attached to the end of a bamboo rod.
If these fields were planted,
they are now lost,
whatever rice had managed to sprout now trampled
by shrieking children
who are learning to swim for the first time.

“The children love the rain,” Kru Ning remarks,
as we pick our way back from the cafeteria,
across the flooded soccer field,
to the classrooms after lunch.
At lunch she had recited the old children’s rhyme,
“Rain, rain, go away
Come again another day,”
and now I thought about how few of my students,
given the chance,

would tell the rain to go away.