Through the Ear of a Raindrop

Poetry at its best needs to be both seen as words upon a page and also read aloud so the shape of the words can be seen and the sounds of the words can be heard. Poetry wakens our senses, stirs our imagination, stretches our minds, and moves us into moments of pondering and playing with fresh images.

One of my favorite Seamus Heaney poems is called Rain Stick. Read it carefully, imagine the rain stick in your hand and slowly turn it as you read the words aloud.

The Rain Stick

Upend the rain stick and what happens next
Is a music that you never would have known
To listen for. In a cactus stalk

Downpour, sluice-rush, spillage and backwash
Come flowing through. You stand there like a pipe
Being played by water, you shake it again lightly

And diminuendo runs through all its scales
Like a gutter stopping trickling. And now here comes
A sprinkle of drops out of the freshened leaves,

Then subtle little wets off grass and daisies;
Then glitter-drizzle, almost breaths of air.
Upend the stick again. What happens next

Is undiminished for having happened once,
Twice, ten, a thousand times before.
Who cares if all the music that transpires

Is the fall of grit or dry seeds through a cactus?
You are like a rich man entering heaven
Through the ear of a raindrop. Listen now again. Seamus Heaney.

Heaney draws in the poem those wonderful lines from the gospel as to how a rich man can enter heaven – as easy as a camel through the eye of a needle! Heaney with imagination turns this into the ear of a raindrop! A delightful play on words and images. Be sure to listen to the words and sounds he creates in this short poem.

NASA’s Climate Kids website offers an explanations of the origin of the rainstick. Take a look using this link

Like Heaney, I grew up in N. Ireland with the sound of rain being almost a daily occurrence, giving the landscape those wonderful 40 shades of green! Above all, this poem calls us to be silent and to listen, and in listening to imagine, and in imagining to sense the wonder of life, your life, and the lives of all things around you. In a few days time we shall mark Earth Day ( April 22), we would do well to listen and ponder. Who cares if all the music that transpires, is the fall of grit or dry seeds through a cactus? You are like a rich man entering heaven through the ear of a raindrop. Listen anew!

Help me
I pray
To be still
And in my stillness
Might I hear
As Elijah heard you
Not in wind
But in the sheer silence
Help us
If we could only listen.

One thought on “Through the Ear of a Raindrop

  1. I was often reminded by my teachers as a child that there is a vast difference between hearing and listening, the latter of which I needed improvement. But for me, the pleasure came from hearing things I loved, not listening to things I didn’t. The rain, the sea, the breeze, and the mourning doves were things I loved to hear and still do. In listening however, there is an implied instruction to derive meaning and yes, we are called to do this throughout our lives and thankfully we comply much of the time. This post speaks to me, for one of my own favorite books is a limited edition Seamus Heaney and Gifts of Rain is in it, a poem I love, even though I can’t fully understand all its meaning I’m sure. I’m glad to have had your lesson on The Rain Stick today, thank you.


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