Weather in Dublin

The night Heaney died it rained so hard in Vancouver
the gutters clogged, flooding the streets. In all our years
in the city we’d never seen rain like it. We shouted as much
to our neighbours, who were at their windows, and they nodded
and laughed and agreed. We went down to the street, barefoot
with umbrellas, and danced like Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds.

The night Heaney died an old woman two buildings over
raced out in a rain slicker, boots and rubber gloves, and worked
with a broom at the storm drains. She hauled up leaves and feathers
and plastic containers and—the wet centre bottomless—
a rock the size of two fists. We watched as water rose up,
breached the curb, rushed over lawns and flower beds,
sloshed against apartment blocks. Humiliated, we stooped
beside her and lowered our hands into the swirling dark.

The night Heaney died it was morning in Dublin,
so what am I going on about? It was thirteen degrees
and partly cloudy. Visibility good, wind from the southwest.
The light that leaned through the window was bright enough
and soft, I imagine, like the light that greeted us this morning
when we woke and learned the news.

Under our window, a clean rasping sound.
Our neighbours have made their way outside.
They are gathering up the scattered heads of flowers
and talking to each other. One has a rake, another a clear
plastic bag. A third is calling around about water damage.
Two are distributing paper cups full of coffee
and the rest are drinking from them. We call out and wave.
We will remember this morning forever, I am almost sorry to say.

First published in Sweet Water: Poems for the Watershed.

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