What will suffice for a true-love knot? Even the rain?
But he has bought grief’s lottery, bought even the rain.
“Our glosses / wanting in this world”—“Can you remember?”
Anyone!—“when we thought / the poets taught” even the rain?
After we died—That was it!—God left us in the dark.
And as we forgot the dark, we forgot even the rain.
Drought was over. Where was I? Drinks were on the house.
For mixers, my love, you’d poured—what?—even the rain.
Of this pear-shaped orange’s perfumed twist, I will say:
Extract Vermouth from the bergamot, even the rain.
How did the Enemy love you—with earth? air? and fire?
He held just one thing back till he got even: the rain.
This is God’s site for a new house of executions?
You swear by the Bible, Despot, even the rain?
After the bones—those flowers—this was found in the urn:
The lost river, ashes from the ghat, even the rain.
What was I to prophesy if not the end of the world?
A salt pillar for the lonely lot, even the rain.
How the air raged, desperate, streaming the earth with flames—
To help burn down my house, Fire sought even the rain.
He would raze the mountains, he would level the waves;
he would, to smooth his epic plot, even the rain.
New York belongs at daybreak to only me, just me—
To make this claim Memory’s brought even the rain.
They’ve found the knife that killed you, but whose prints are these?
No one has such small hands, Shahid, not even the rain.
From Call Me Ishmael Tonight by Agha Shahid Ali. Copyright © 2003 by the Agha Shahid Ali Literary Trust. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
And sometimes, yes, I’d beg for it—
he’d make me beg: Shy moon,
why shy tonight?
I heard the geese before I saw them again this morning—
this time, flying north. Above them, thunderheads like doomed
zeppelins, like whales when sounding, though they brought
no rain. That’s how I used to write, insisting on ordinary things
being somehow more than that, that they had to mean something,
the way disruption can punctuate with meaning an established
pattern, or as when finding out one’s silence has been mistaken
for arrogance or, worse, indifference, when all you meant
was to be kind—retreat, not exile; less the monsters, than
how we lived beside them, our lives not leaves not trash on an
updraft that at random carries them then refuses them, can a wind
refuse. And yet…
Shy moon --
As if doing what we’d always done were enough to be grateful for,
as if to keep doing it were itself to be grateful. You just forgot,
that’s all. It’s harder not to forget. How the yard gave way
like a ragged imperative to a forest of scrub-pines and oak, mostly,
how a stand of ferns there almost looked, from above, like a boat
of shadows, coming at last unmoored, and the forest a sea—that
endless-seeming, that steeped in night-dark, beg for it, why shy
Copyright © 2021 by Carl Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 1, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.