Posted in Poetry

A song on impotent promises – for the rain doctor

 by Noel Ihebuzor


The rain doctor shelters under the leaking roof

away from the taunts of the raging rains


The rain washes his impotent incantations

together with the tears of shame that trickle down his cheeks


He looks up to the heavy skies

and rains sterile chants up to them

as the dark bellies of the of the pregnant sky rumble

and open to unleash volleys and rushes of rain


the rain doctor incants as he prances,

He mumbles as his teeth chatter in the drenching driving rain

His frail frame trembles with each rumble of the pregnant sky,

with each gross peal of laughter of the insolent sky

with each flash of lighting


The disobedient rains have undone the rain doctor


His client swells with despair,

roves, raves, rages, trembles and mumbles

drenched in a mixture of sweat and rain

He apologises to his guests

 approaches the rain doctor

with clenched fists and death in his eyes

The rain doctor backs away,

still searching his armory

for the appropriate herbs, chant and gesture

to control or appease the raging elements


Once reassured guests now huddle together tightly packed,

jam packed like generous hampers,

like passengers in Oshodi-bound molues

squeezing into every little corner and

spilling out and over into the veranda

where bold and exploratory pools from the rain slip in gently, and

gradually inch onto and edge onto poor toes, to un-shoed feet,

forcing these to inch backwards


Crowded and cramped in their places of shelter

Tempers shorten, hisses begin and lengthen

And soon the protests, the jostles as

perfumes contend in conflict,

as sweating sets in, slowly but steadily,

as make-ups begin their break-ups,

tempers grow shorter as the down pour lengthens


The empty canopies are now peopled by enlarging pools

The band leader and his troupe seek refuge in one canopy

Bravely holding down the tarpaulins

to protect their instruments …

not knowing who to blame

the rain or the rain doctor

and his failed assurances


All available eyes search for the rain doctor

Eyes have become pointed barbed arrows

sharp daggers and deep cutting swords

the rain doctor seeing these

and reading their unspoken intentions,

backs away, out of his sheltering leaking roof

backs away and away into the driving arms

of the tropical torrential rain



Frustration hangs heavy as a wetness on a drenched hen

threatening to run over as the huge pools on some of the canopies

The rain doctor secretly prays for the rains to stop

or for the earth to open and receive him.



Images now invade his now tortured mind….

Discordant, strident, fluid….


The boastful male of acclaimed virility, the long concealed and denied empty bags

husband of many wives and father of many

now finds himself in a harem

and nothing stirs, bags empty, no quiver

he shivers with shame

secrets on impotence are best traded in private markets

as subdued whispers, not in public spaces


The skies are now open, that which was hid is now open,

The revelation flies from mouth to ear, from ear to mouth,

willing lips and agile tongues twist, turn

and embellish that which is now revealed


The rain doctor sees these images,

In vain he struggles to shelter from the streams of truth,

but the rains drench him and reveal his impotence and he stands,

staggered, dazed and impotent to stop this revelation

of his powerlessness, his irrelevance and the many years

of his fake and sterile promises



Development and policy analyst with a strong interest in the arts and inclusive social change. Dabbles occasionally into poetry and literary criticism!

9 thoughts on “A song on impotent promises – for the rain doctor

  1. Noel–beautiful, sad, and a bit accusatory (?) No, not exactly an accusation, because all is revealed here, in the rain. This is amazing–so powerful (first time I have ever said that about a poem that tells of so much powerlessness–that is it, exactly–a powerful expression of powerlessness). Thank you for this–I am going to have to chew on this one for a while….


  2. This is masterful storytelling. The imagery is so vivid and I feel like I’m right there. I like how you weave different themes in and personalize the rain doctor. You’re really talented.


      1. Noel–I agree with earthslang–you minimize a magical gift 🙂

        But, now I am going to have to check out her blog, because someone you think is terrific is definitely worth the trip.


  3. Thanks, Susan. The rain doctor is part of the igbo cultural space. They claim that they can stop the rain from falling and have made fortunes as people believed this and therefore paid for their services, especially on important occasions. Here I try to expose this scam and also use the rain doctor as a metaphor for all who make false/fake promises!


    1. It works 🙂 I love your ability to capture the rain doctor so dynamically. He claims control over weather, but is powerless. This falls so nicely after your description of the Yoruba priestess.


      1. Spot on, Susan. The two poems were written around the same time . The false prophetess’ setting is in the Igbo culture, such persons also abound in the culture of our Yoruba brethren!


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