I have a photograph of my sister,
my cousin, and myself. Each of us
is barefoot and standing on wet grass
in gleaming plastic coats. In the Instamatic’s
click, no one is fighting. Our hair is flattened
slick and shiny and drops of rain trickle down
our grinning faces. The rain said,
don’t hide, and we didn’t.
If it rains on your wedding day,
you will be rich.
If it rains on your birthday,
you have been given the gift of prophecy
but you won’t know it.
One midsummer, when I lived in Stockholm,
it rained so hard we cancelled our picnic
in the Archipelago. Sat on the living
room floor with Benny and his dog
Gorbatjov and ate pasta with Gorgonzola sauce.
A few years later, Benny was dead. He was buried
with his dog. His mother told cousins and aunts
that he had died of cancer. We queers
at the funeral knew better. The rain didn’t fall
the day we buried Benny, but if it had,
it would have said, we all die of something.
If you see a sparrow drop from the sky
when it is raining, your hair will fall out.
Chemotherapy will do the same,
but not always. Catch three raindrops
on your tongue, and your true love returns
to your bed; four and she never
walks back through the door.
I have a garden. When it rains, the flowers
in my garden bow as if in prayer,
but the next day, the weight of supplication
lifted, they shoot back up and face the sun.
The next time it rains, I will follow
the flowers, kneel so low to the ground
my forehead touches the dirt. Then,
I will think about sisters and cousins,
dead friends and lost dogs, and listen
when the rain says, let go.
Michelle Valois’ writing has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, TriQuarterly, The Literary Bohemian, Pank, Anderbo, Verse, The Florida Review, Brevity, Fourth Genre, and others. She lives in western Massachusetts with her partner and their three children and teaches writing and humanities at a community college.