Nine Months of Rain

Posted on October 11th, 2009 by

This week our group was split into two halves for field visits to different parts of southern India to learn more about ‘Globalization and the Ethics of Development’, which is the theme of our second unit. I’m representing the half of our group that went to the coastal state of Kerala. We were in it’s poorest region, Wyanad, which is situated in the Western Ghat mountains. The week was amazing– the region is beautiful (green mountains, incredible birds… you get the idea) and we had some awesome experiences getting different perspectives on issues like health, education, and agriculture. We asked the question “What is development? Who does it, for whom, and at what cost?” and found a plethora of interesting new ideas, both about the Indian context and our own.

I (creative soul and hopeless romantic that I am) wrote a poem one early morning, looking out over a hill in Wyanad, listening to the birds and reflecting on our experience. I hope it gives you some idea of what our week was like.

Nine Months of Rain

The language here falls like
water over rocks
skipping and rolling over itself,
a stream from the green mountains.
Words bubble like a spring from
the mouths of people as old as
earth to say ‘yes, your gods with
human shape are selfish, so, they
steal the earth they rape the forest.”
coming from mouths that now take rice, take
sugar with their tea when it used
to be wild honey, and now they live
in exile and impotence while the
ancient knowledge leaks away.
They speak in words like bitter
water tainted with poison,
scarce despite nine months of
rain because of the greed of bananas
and the big men who buy them.
And even the neighbors, each with too-too
small land who plant their crops together–
even they sell their coffee their
pepper their tea by prices
decided in New York.

But again the air is full of sounds:
it’s birds with long tails, it’s birds
who sing like fountains, it’s shy-daughters
singing old love-folk-songs after dinner,
and then the drums, and dancing–
wildly! Around and around to music
like water that doesn’t stop and
doesn’t stop until we can hardly-hardly
breath. It is like this, too, when we
stand on top of a mountain and see:
rice-paddies like patchwork,
mountains behind the mist, forests unrolling
like carpet, and water that glints in the sun.
and here any words that bubble up are whisked
away by the wind, so we are speechless.

And speechless too when we know that
water-that-glints is water-that-rises:
a dam, or the ghost of one,
where water had risen and risen like words,
like a scream so that homes and lives were drowned
in a word from some big man and
none of their words could stop it.
No. the water still rises and rises,
hungry, and when it rains they hide
their children, or the rising water
will be their end.

And now it’s a foreign mouth with
words rising and rising like water
to say there is this place where moss
grows like velvet,
and birds sing like fountains,
where there is water;
in streams-resevoirs-floods-rains-wells
or conspicuous by its poison or its absence
or as it is tumbles,
from all of our mouths together.

Peace with all of you!



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