You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Seamus Heaney: "The Rainstick"

Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney died this morning in Dublin. Over the years, he published many poems in The New Republic. In tribute, here is "The Rainstick," first published in the magazine in 1993.

for Rand and Beth

Upend the rainstick and what happens next

Is a music that you never would have known

To listen for. In a cactus stalk

Downpour, sluice-rush, spillage and backwash

Come flowing through. You stand there like a pipe

Being played by water, you shake it again lightly

And diminuendo runs through all its scales

Like a gutter stopping trickling. And now here comes

A sprinkle of drops out of the freshened leaves,

Then subtle little wets off grass and daisies;

Then glitter-drizzle, almost-breaths of air.

Upend the stick again. What happens next

Is undiminished for having happened once.

Twice, ten, a thousand times before.

Who cares if the music that transpires

Is the fall of grit or dry seeds through a cactus?

You are like a rich man entering heaven

Through the ear of a shower. Listen now again.