Cover my earth mother four times with many flowers.
Let the heavens be covered with the banked-up clouds.
Let the earth be covered with fog; cover the earth with rains.
Great waters, rains, cover the earth. Lighting cover the earth.
Let thunder be heard over the earth; let thunder be heard;
Let thunder be heard over the six regions of the earth.
— Zuni Prayer for Rain
This week the governor of California declared an emergency in our state. “California faces water shortfalls in the driest year in recorded state history.” Jerry Brown said, “We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas.”
This urgent news started me thinking about things I can do: take shorter showers, reprogram the irrigation system so that the lawn is watered less. Reuse water from the kitchen for house plants and the veggie garden, as much as possible. (I already drive around in a dirty car, so I can’t save water by washing it less!)
I was a high school student in Cupertino in 1977, and I remember collecting water with buckets in the shower for my mom’s azaleas. You can see more photos like the one here in SF Gate’s interesting article about drought years 1997 and 1991.
As the governor says, we can’t make rain. But what if we could? Some people pray for rain; there have been rain dances and prayers and ceremonies throughout the history of humankind on the planet. Water is more precious than gold or salt — the ultimate in life-giving elements.
Today’s prompt is to write a rain prayer poem. A rain dance song. A poem in which you celebrate rain and ask for rain to fall. There are many poems on this topic to be found in books and on the internet if you like to read to get ready to write.
- I found the short “Zuni Prayer” posted above on one website dedicated to prayers for the earth.
- “A Prayer for Rain” by poet Lisel Mueller, was published in 1964 in the journal Poetry.
- Weather poems are popular among teachers because of their universal and accessible content. This site shares poems and links to the books for children that include them.
Mueller’s poem is a classic sonnet form, with strict rhyme and meter, qualities is shares to some extent with the less formal Zuni prayer. The Zuni prayer also uses repetition to suggest a ceremonial style. Many rain poems have a rhythm or beat that suggests a dance or chant. Several of the poems for kids have language that imitates* the noises rain makes:
Dot a dot dot dot a dot dot
Spotting the windowpane.
Spack a spack speck flick a flack fleck
Freckling the windowpane.
(From “Rain Weather Poem” by Eve Merriam).
So! Write about rain, about its sound and feel, about its value and promise. Praise rain, dance and sing for rain. Maybe it will work.
(Rainy palm trees photo credit here.)
* Bonus prize for anyone who comments with the name of this poetic technique!