Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e318149df26
Medicine and the Arts

The Rain Stick

Heaney, Seamus

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Excerpt from “The Rain Stick” from THE SPIRIT LEVEL by Seamus Heaney. Copyright © 1996 by Seamus Heaney. Reprinted by permision of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

for Beth and Rand

Upend the rain stick 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 time before.

Who cares if all 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 raindrop. Listen now again.

© 2007 Association of American Medical Colleges

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