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BEFORE THE RAIN

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Minutes before the rain begins
I always waken, listening
to the world hold its breath,
as if a phone had rung once in a far
room or a door had creaked
in the darkness.

Perhaps the genes of some forebear
startle in me, some tribal warrior
keeping watch on a crag beside a loch,
miserable in the cold,

though I think it is a woman's waiting
I have come to know,
a Loyalist hiding in the woods,
muffling the coughing of her child
against her linen skirts, her dark head
bent over his, her fear spent
somewhere else in time,

leaving only this waiting,

and I hope she escaped
with her child, and I suppose she did.
If not, I wouldn't be lying here awake,
alive, listening for the rain to begin
so that she can run, the sound
of her footsteps lost, the sight
of them blotted away on the path.

Source: Poetry

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This poem originally appeared in the May 1999 issue of Poetry magazine

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BEFORE THE RAIN

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