Rummy Park, 46
(The Rain Said Your Name)

by Rebecca Lu Kiernan

Your sea foam green irises are dissolving,
Your cautious smile is dripping in,
Your tremulous hands are liquefying.
The rain said your name.

Dead leaves
Are to be pulled from the window box.
Candle wax
Is to be shaved from the cherry nightstand.

You can’t do a thing with your hands.
They’re in puddles by the door.

The rain said your name.
You must have thought it was me,
One foot in your world.

Copyright © 2006 by Rebecca Lu Kiernan

It helps to know at the outset that two major sets of themes dominate the poems of Rebecca Lu Kiernan’s Rummy Park: communication and its lack; love and loss. That context illuminates “The Difference,” in this issue, as well as “The Rain Said Your Name” (in issue 208), which dramatizes the theme of loss.

Does the attention to small housekeeping details mean the narrator is a woman? Possibly, but the narrator could be male or female. Rather our attention is focused on something more important: the process of disappearance.

The first stanza focuses on someone whose presence is becoming increasingly less tangible. Whoever is leaving is not initially addressed as a person, with the pronoun “you,” but is seen as a collection of attributes, with “your”: eyes, smile, hands, in the classic order of description from head downwards. The visual perception is one of disintegration: the eyes have become irises; the face, a smile. And the dissolution takes place in a veritable flood of water imagery: “foam,” “dissolving,” “dripping,” “tremulous,” “liquefying.”

In the second stanza, the narrator turns away and contemplates disposing of remnants of the past: dead leaves and candle wax, both of which are associated with something solid: the window box and table.

The direct address “you” in the third stanza expresses irritated resignation that touch is no longer possible: “You can’t do a thing with your hands.” It’s almost a last appeal to a person who is practically dissolving his way out the door.

The last stanza sums up both the narrator’s and the Other’s disillusionment and regret. “You must have thought” tells us that the narrator does not know what was thought; communication was never there. She remains with both feet in her own, solid world, not with one foot in the world of a fleeting Other.

The title and refrain “The Rain Said Your Name” is both beautiful and bitter. Like hands that cannot touch because they have melted away, the rain cannot say a name: its sound is random noise — which is all the name is any more. The meaningless name, dead leaves and burned-out candles are all that remain; the Other is washed away in the water of forgetting. And yet in the shrinking memory of the eyes, smile and hands we know what is being lost.

This poem is a small, self-contained dramatization of common human emotions and their consequence: disappointment, disillusionment, and, ultimately, forgetting. Like many — even most — of the poems in Rummy Park, it is a study in the use of tactile imagery.

Copyright © 2006 by Don Webb

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