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The Dowser’s Ear

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Empty cattle trailers
               Rumbled dummy thunder
Down the road all day, and now tonight,
Heat lightning flashes more of the same fake rain.
It’s just as well. I couldn’t get to sleep,
And now it ricochets across the sky
With empty loads of light. We’ve had a month
Of drought that tightens dirt around my pond.
The local wells are dry. But I’ve retired,
Threw out my wand. I hate this time of year.
            
               Roux can burn if flour
               Sticks in skillet butter.
I’ve been cooking up a storm myself,
My Daddy’s filé gumbo recipe.
He used to be a chef on oil rigs
Until the hurricane. I heard the waves
That killed him, and I hear them every year.
It’s emptiness that fills me. That’s my skill.
I hear the vacant rain before it falls.
It’s like the murmur of a spiraled shell.
         
               Hurricane weather, stewing
               Deep for landfall, spewing
Rain-a-plenty in the Gulf and here
In Tennessee they always have a lack
Of something. Two men called today for wells.
I told them both to go to hell, and now
They think I’m sinful, not to use my skill.
They stand to lose so much, but don’t we all.
I lost a lot in Hurricane Camille
And even now can’t hear the end of it.

               More heat lightning flashes,
               Absent rain that passes
Over clouds, and I can make it out,
Each gurgling current under withered fields,
Down kitchen drains. The neighbors think I’m crazy,
Up all hours, but they’ll never know
The screaming voice inside a breaker’s rage
Or how it simmers in my ear. I hate
The sound of water. Give me one good chance
To make it silent. I’d be right as rain.

Source: Poetry

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

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The Dowser’s Ear

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