With acknowledgments to “Rain” by Cynthia Barnett

Whether the rain on Mars was delicate or brutal
            whether it was blue or gray
whether it fell on bare rocks
            that remained bare
                         or on fertile ground
            that raised large forests of leafing trees
it could not last.
                         Mars froze eventually
in the same duration
                         that Venus by contrast
                                       bowed her burning head
            in noxious vapors and gas clouds.
On planet Earth meanwhile
                         after half a billion years
                                       of continuous volcano-havoc
                         meteor storms
            earthquakes               and lightning strikes
vapor stored in the atmosphere
                         eventually began falling.
                                       It soothed the fires.
When the fires died
            it fell silently on the first outcrops of moss.
                         On the tender grass with a sizzle.
            With more strenuous drumming
                         on the resilient fronds of ferns.
It became an orchestra of millions
            across the luxurious expanse of the tree canopy.
Then the sun wiped its forehead
                                      with long filmy fingers
and beamed afresh.
It worked through to creatures
                         flourishing beneath the canopy
            and persuaded them to
                                      interrupt their work
of scouring on all fours
            for delectable roots and berries.
In the clarified light
                         they stared at their hands.
They saw the wrinkled fingertips
            that gave them a firm grip
                         on slippery branches and vines
gradually smooth      and soften.
They rose in amazement
                         onto their hind legs
and crept from shelter
                         across the dazzling savannah.
After a summer of twelve thousand years
after the interruptions of ice
after one particular inundation
            and the shadow of an ark
                         darkening fish-shoals
as they scooted over hills and valleys
after the blaze of one civilization
                         then another
after the destruction of several experiments
                         with law and order
after the extinction
                         of many beautiful languages
rain by and large
            found its place in the scheme of things.
It began to defeat its purpose
            on the private sky of umbrellas.
It babbled through long green fields
                         and melted into the seams of poetry.
It larked in the puddle of its many names.
Cobblers and chair legs and pipe stems.
            Frogs and jugs and beards.
                         Cats and dogs.
Although they are shaped like a parachute
                         thanks to the air pressure beneath them
raindrops                     explode on landing.
Then the sun bears down again
            fitting his monocle into his eye.
            The glass flashes and burns.
                         The rain sweats
and evaporates into the ocean of its air.
            The ocean continues on its way
                         continually overflowing here and there
in quick little splashes
            or reckless floods and drenching.
It is delicate or brutal.
It is blue sometimes              and sometimes gray.
Sometimes it falls on bare rocks
            at others                     it raises
                         large forests of leafing trees.
Other works by Andrew Motion...