Pick-a-Poem: Jeffrey Thomson

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Welcome, blog readers, to  another installment of our Pick-a-Poem feature. Each week here on the blog we feature a new poem that you may not have read before. Hopefully, through these posts, you’ll find a poet whose work you enjoy. All of our featured poems come from Poetry Daily, which is a great website for finding new and interesting poetry. This week we’re featuring Rain, or a local poet long gone returns home by Jeffrey Thomson.

According to his bio page, Jeffrey Thomson is the author of several books, including the poetry collections, Birdwatching in Wartime, The Complete Poems of Catallus: an Annotated Translation, and From the Fishouse. He has also written a memoir entitled fragile. He has received an NEA fellowship and the Fulbright Distinguished Scholar in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Poetry Centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He currently teaches creative writing at the University of Maine Farmington.

Rain, or a local poet long gone returns home by Jeffrey Thomson

The lightning bangs and the rain takes its cue
and looses its sacks of stones across my spring-
cleared roof, but I hear another night in another city
when rain rushed down as never before—a night
in Belfast when poets read into the rising atrium
of the Ulster Museum and rain was shrapnel
on a steel roof, rain was horses in a galloping dark,
the audience marooned there in that tower of art
and history—soaring pterodactyl crossing space
above our heads, Irish wolfhound hugely in the corner,
posters acknowledging the Troubles down the hall—
as the main lights vanished and the fingers
of emergency lighting pointed out faces in the crowd
while heavy shoulders of thunder trapped us
in that bamboo garden of rain that fell and fell
all around us and the rain kept coming and coming
and water flowed feet deep down Botanic
and flooded cars all along that street of bookshop
and pub, the chip shop’s lights like a ship lost at sea,
until there was nothing to do but retire to the pub
beneath a rain that fell like history and tenacity
and filled Friar’s Bush graveyard
across from the pub—stone-bound acre
of tall grass and headstones thin as roofing slates
where the fake ‘Friar’s Stone’ found inside and
inscribed AD 485 is in fact Victorian affection
for a gothic past of mist and myth, because back then
everyone was trying to forget the bodies felled
by cholera and famine in 1847 when the island
hunkered beneath another rain that gathered like
the accumulation of syntax, long layering of grammar
and history and hatred and dogged abandonment,
and people either left or died, which is the condensed history
of this island, and the easy answer, and wrong,
because someone had to stay behind, someone
had to write it all down, someone had to catalogue this space
made empty by rain—green land of stone and rill
and the vandalized sheep, small back room of an island
now dark and filled with chatter and pints,
a peat fire burning ancient, heaped accumulations,
and these bodies warming, ridding themselves of the rain.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s featured poem! For more posts like this, click here.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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