Luke Bartolo is a writer and illustrator living in Western Sydney, Australia. He has written poetry for the journals Burrow and Cicerone, and two plays for the publishing company Phoenix Education. He has also written non-fiction for a range of journals and textbooks on Indigenous histories, English teaching, Shakespeare, Asian-Australian poetry, and Dylan Thomas.
Drumming water-sound that envelopes my house at night
is an auditory womb that puts a warm spot in the thick of the neck
muscle, at the back of my head.
And rain as fine as mist lifted sideways
over Moss Vale by the wind and
settling in droplets on my hair
is like dew on gossamer.
I tried twice, found two moments in two months
with both peaks precipitous in scenes,
the rainfall a pathetic fallacy,
the brightness that can no longer be reached.
Here now, a gurgling drainpipe
I can hear now, once a respite
from days of sunny action
and now only a distraction
from the pain in both our hearts.
Driving in this weather
towards a silver destination, you remark,
“I like this.”
And that’s all we say.
My wife and I experienced the trauma of stillbirth two years ago and the road from this moment has been a heavy one. As far as journeys go, it is also by no means over. I’ve been a writer in some form or another for most of my life but the writing of poetry only really began for me two years ago. During my days spent sitting in the hospital while my wife was bedbound for a month, I began to compose poetry in the notes section of my phone (there was no phone signal, so there was little else I could do while we waited to see if our baby would pull through or not) and the habit has stuck with me ever since.
One year later we were taking a drive through the Southern Highlands and my wife made an offhand remark about the rainy weather. It was a nice moment, a reprieve of sorts from our ongoing grief – a moment of ‘brightness’ oddly juxtaposed with the gloomy weather. I appreciate the ambivalence of these sorts of moments, the way stereotypically depressing weather can paradoxically act as a catalyst or symbol for pure, visceral joy felt in the gut and not in the head.
So I worked backwards from my wife’s comment for this poem.
It reminded me of a prior feeling also connected to the rain, and I built the poem around this motif. I wrote four stanzas in free verse as a way to slip back and forth between the two rainy moments. The first stanza establishes the two exact moments, the second synthesising them together in the form of a personal reflection, and the third recentres the persona’s perspective into the space experienced while driving before revealing a gentle moment of healing in the last stanza.
The symbolism of the rain became a fascination for me while writing this piece. Not so much what rain stands for but the idea of rain being this semiotic sign in general. Rain is a symbol that is widely taken as shorthand for a particular feeling. I was drawn to the idea of referring to the rain as a pathetic fallacy – using its status as a figurative and making that the metaphor. Metatextual and reflexive.
I also like circling back around to homophones like here/hear to force the reader to focus on exact meaning.