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
9 thoughts on “A song on impotent promises – for the rain doctor”
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….
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.
Thanks! whatever talent I have pales when compared to yours!
sweet of you to say, but I completely disagree : ) So glad I found your blog.
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.
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!
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.
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!
The natural world, so beautiful, and created to shout praise to the Creator, can also be used to mislead. Shame. Story old as creation itself.