WN Herbert is caught in the night rain

Night Rain in Emprosneros

For once the mountains that peer down through the vine at us
like giant scientists, sheer aunts with pine-pocked octopus skin,
vanished before nightfall behind a mat of tufting grey cloud
we reassured ourselves could not mean rain.

But rain it did, in darkness, hesitantly, as if unsure of protocol,
and scattershot, so that you could hold your hand out
and not feel a drop, while beside you the little flame of the oil lamp
was precisely sizzled out. And start and stoppingly, so that

you couldn't tell whether the towels needed taking in or not
and went and stood beneath the separated-out rain, gauging it.
Then furiously, for five minutes or so, or so the vine leaves claimed,
though that could just have been their patter. Glancing up

between the unripe grapes you saw the white belly of the rat
who visits here by dusk, then moved the white plastic chairs
beneath the plaster eaves, and draped them with the towels,
and filled your lungs with the scent of the astonished earth,

that freshness compacted of dirt and leaf and air, delicious
as chilled fruit, then watched the jasmine flowers being struck
over and over, as though the stars were being stung, then lay down
and listened to the passage of the clouds throughout the night.

*Bill Herbert (WN Herbert)  is from Dundee, lives in an old lighthouse in North Shields and teaches Creative Writing at Newcastle University. He is mostly published by Bloodaxe and is finishing a book of poems and an anthology of contemporary Chinese poetry. 

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