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Umbrella Weather

To be drawn out of doors by the first sign
of rain on the window, to be happier drenched
than dry, to go out in weather
that others come in from, warrants a stare
from passing faces, and i know what it means:
there goes someone with serious problems.
Problems I have, and a nasty stammer to prove it.
But when I run into streets that are shiny,
my love of the downpour doesn’t mean
I’m courting sorrow, or getting sick on purpose.
Umbrella weather, though people who flee
seem not to know it, soothes wounds
by making them bigger:
if pain must come, it might as well be
dripping on bricks and blowing through trees
rather than staying in and turning paler.
None of this happens in calmer weather.
To be sobbing in sunlight, groaning on dry land
always leaves me feeling as if
I’m foreign, I’m freakish, I’m out of the loop
until a storm comes and I’m in it again
only deeper now, with a smile no news can ruin.
I throw up a curse and it comes back a blessing;
I look around and my love is pouring
all over the city—crude sighs, small tears
are larger and finer than they first appear
when they come rampaging down, as wind and as rain.

–Rachel Wetzsteon

Another gem from Wetzsteon’s last volume of poetry, Sakura Park. It has been on my nightstand for a week, and I have no thoughts of moving it to the shelf any time soon.


So sorry to read about the death of poet Rachel Wetzsteon. She was the poetry editor at The New Republic as well as a member of the faculty of William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. Her death has been deemed a suicide. She was 42.

The Times obituary described her as a “prominent poet whose work was known for its mordant wit, formal elegance and cleareyed examination of the solitary yet defiant lives of single women.” One of her poems was included as well—“Sakura Park,” written about a small park near Riverside Church, known for its cherry trees.

The park admits the wind,

the petals lift and scatter

like versions of myself I was on the verge

of becoming; and ten years on

and ten blocks down I still can’t tell

whether this dispersal resembles

a fist unclenching or waving goodbye.

But the petals scatter faster,

seeking the rose, the cigarette vendor,

and at least I’ve got by pumping heart

some rules of conduct: refuse to choose

between turning pages and turning heads

though the stubborn dine alone. Get over

“getting over”: dark clouds don’t fade

but drift with ever deeper colors.

Give up on rooted happiness

(the stolid trees on fire!) and sweet reprieve

(a poor park but my own) will follow.

There is still a chance the empty gazebo

will draw crowds from the greater world.

And meanwhile, meanwhile’s far from nothing:

the humming moment, the rustle of cherry trees.

Another place to go: The New Republic has written a thoughtful memorial about Rachel and also included two of her poems.