Rain Prayer

Time passed and my situation changed.

Landis was a slight musician with careful hands.
He rented me a couch, played six strings,
and read political history
a block away from the Asphalt Café.
A bad cook, his people were politicians.
After leaving school he’d returned to the guitar;
now he played in the back room
while I wrote by the front door so we wouldn’t trip
over each other in his small, grimy space.

Books and picks were everywhere.
Both of us stayed poor,
sometimes eating back alley food —
as a couple of fools arguing over pizza boxes.
One night we found a case of beer
and had a few for the postwar farm changes,
another for the music in the bathroom.
We were a winter absurdity enjoying the beer —
and our money came from moving rocks on two-wheeled carts,
which was sporadic work and barely paid the rent.

The following week, Landis took me to
a cold-night campout — a hundred guitars playing
around a Hill Country fire till boss Jay took over,
allowing two guitars at a time under the stars.

Back home, the Two-Guitar Rule became my metaphor
for simple things written on shopping bags.
My punctuation was overdone;
I recalled Fresno nuns from far in the past
who would’ve had issues with commas everywhere —
they’d probably suggest more and’s.

Instead, I asked Landis about semicolons.
Wiping down a guitar, he looked up to say,

“Mary had a little lamb; semicolon;
the animal had white hair. Period.”

“Thanks, man, now I’m better.”

Then the roofers hadn’t been seen for a couple of months
till I saw Leo one day over on the 15th Street —
he looked a little sideways.

“Hiyya, Roy, we still need some rains —
first time I had to tell the crew to find
other jobs for a while.”

Hollow-eyed he continued,

“Raymond’s old truck blew a head gasket,
so did he — we got to have rain, man,
my old cats are staring the clouds in,
purring for the big ones;
but it rains somewhere else, not here.”

I thought about this for several days — overcast rainless days.
Leo’s crew were deserving hot tar roofers without a reason for cover;
besides, I owed Leo twenty-four dollars —
maybe a rain prayer could help Leo’s cats witch the rains along.

So I wrote in a time of blooming warmth:

We need warm rain, we want informing rains,
rains for obligations.
Rains to remind people that water ages cover.

Other places have painful floods;
we have lowering streams and diminished flows.

Don’t send a hurting wind rain,
just a reminder so people know where the water goes.

If the rains come, we can return to boiling tar;
our money can take us overseas.
And while we’re gone,
Raymond’s heads will be sealed
and Burning Man won’t seem so far away.
We need drizzle water — rain words that run to lows.

Desiring a gentle Tuesday storm for roofers,
Thursday weather turned to cold and sleet,
while my debt to Leo remained twenty-four dollars —
I guess we all need rains for obligations.

We need warm rain, informing rain,
rains for our obligations …

No more lowering streams and diminished flows,
just reminders where the water goes.

Just reminders where the water goes …
send us rains for our obligations.

We need warm rain, informing rains,
rains for obligations.

No more lowering streams and diminished flows,
just reminders where the water goes.

Just reminders where the water goes …
send us rains for our obligations.

Ahhh ah ahhh.

How’s the goddamned sky?