The Way the Rain Came Down


“Night after night, summer and winter, the torment of storms, the arrow-like stillness of fine weather, held their court without interference… only gigantic chaos streaked with lighting could have been heard tumbling and tossing, as the winds and waves disported themselves like the amorphous bulks of leviathans whose brows are pierced by no light of reason…”

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse


The way the rain came down mixed in with sorrow. The way the sounds in the middle of the night turned into an exhaustion of lament, dreams that hung on in the waking half-sleep of the rain’s on-going. It continued, the night or day or evening or early morning weave of November into December. There was always news. The news of it all, the news that would not leave us without reprieve, relentless, the forebodings, the incessant whispers of despair, the way shreds and pieces of it caught into conversations, now familiar refrains, realizations, the sheer body of rain part of the not-so-quiet downpour. The metro stops often closed for no real reason, one of the things this government thinks demonstrates its control, that it is cleaning up the mess it continues, trying to convince (itself most of all) that there is some changing shape to the crisis, and still the rain comes down and we no longer have the kinds of gatherings and demonstrations of a year or two ago, as the humidity and sorrow bloats, as we still speak of what might be done, the dampness seeps in a weary bystander, a dogged hurt blisters the silence; the stubbornness of this mood, the ongoing rhythm of a torrent where there are still dreams. I had one of the wine he had given me, that I had given it to friends who found it too thick, like the pain in these days, not watered down as the saying goes, despite the rain in the currents of wind; the drowning sounds. “Demotion” she said, sitting on a bar stool, “we’re in a space of demotion” despite the anarchy of currents. Or because of them; stilled in shock.  “We’ve lost any ability to hold onto a center,” certainly it is that center that “the center cannot hold” and whether or not “anarchy is loosed upon the world” is still to be seen, but here there’s a habitation. “Why don’t you inhabit the space,” she said still on the bar stool, and irritated that I had taken out a pen to write down something from our conversation, telling me it was “cannibalistic” and I looked up, and wrote it down anyway: “the foreseeable future is bad,” she said, and I wrote, and now am not sure what I found so special about the line unless there was something after that that I didn’t write because she was upset, and I was saying that it is a movement, to write, a habitation of its own; something which resists the “demotion” she described; since to write is to place the self in the vortex of something that threatens to scatter more than that self, something beyond us, as its been with the rain these days and the constant winds that keep unhinging doors and loosened shutters, gathering whatever its currents gather, this shapelessness of feeling, this yearning; (or I yearn) to shape what might have meaning, that is a inhabitation; cannibalistic, maybe, this desperation to manage this inhabitation? But desire has no map: it will forge its own path, even when obstructed it still twists a way, even if it becomes “αμορφο” (amorpho) the Greek word for shapeless that I think of as a root too, lexical and otherwise, a threat to “μορφωση “(morphosi) which means knowledge or education that promises to shape the distortions, the “παραμορσωση” (distortion) of shapeless thinking when desire remains unmapped; unless (like Whitman) there is a self that stands integral in the midst of such dismantling, himself a spore of agency, so unlike the likes of, say, the quietly devastated Bartleby.  Desire, shapeless as rain but like the rain, a pulse. She heard “αγαπη” (“love”) murmured on the street, and turned, it was what he called her when he visited from Romania, addressing her in the Greek he loved to speak, but she saw, instead, the cripple who was begging for a handout, and she shivered, and realized how much she missed him in this cold that was among other things rain-filled and pained. N was weeping in class, and I couldn’t help but think November (not April) is “the cruelest month” this season of increasing dark, this month in which the Greek prime minister proved his stupidity yet again, his ruthlessness too, as he went into the building that housed the public radio station with riot police and forced out those who had been broadcasting there without pay or help for the past 6 months. Then too there had been rain when the government shut it down without so much as a warning. Illegal like so much done in the name of legality and he said (addressing a group of Harvard graduates in Greece – apparently his son is applying there this year): “it was a necessary legal measure to clear away the remnants of the past,” adding that “Democracy is not afraid of the truth, and is neither afraid of the censures of the remnants of the past…”; there was rain again on that November day rain while the city itself would not respond with any nostalgia for the remnants of its democracy, made as it is, the city, of mortar and devastation, a city he does not inhabit in his own blind and ruthless desire, believing like others before him in his legitimacy, his legality. What to ask of the city, or what to suggest when it has become the energy of everything he and those like him have refused to inhabit, what we might want to abate, to grasp some piece of, to hold onto in the torrent. You can’t keep up the way the rain keeps up and keeps you up, soaking the blankets of the exposed in the city in the streets (one asked if I would buy him something, I nodded, and he hesitated, and said potatoes, and meant fries, and I nodded again, and then he said, and maybe something else so when I brought him a souvlaki and told him that was what it was he said, did you remember the potatoes too?) — what of our becoming part of the night’s sheen, skins in the soaked heaviness of proximity to the abyss, intimate, the words are always intimate in the ongoing hitting rhythm of lament please I’d like to have your attention for a few seconds please I appreciate anything you can give I am not in good health I have cancer and four children the conditions we live in are terrible they showed my family on television take a look at this paper thank you thank you for anything and if you have nothing thank you anyway stay in good health god bless be well always be well I’m here only because I have to be I’m not a beggar I’m a Greek citizen I’m here because I’m a pensioner without a pension and have no one don’t abandon me don’t throw me into the streets don’t throw your own into the streets, thank you for buying a pen thank you and be well…


About akalfopoulou

Author of three poetry collections, a book of essays, Ruin, Essays in Exilic Living, and most recently, A History of Too Much (Red Hen Press 2018).
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3 Responses to The Way the Rain Came Down

  1. Joseph Powell says:


    Thanks for sending your blog entry; you draw a striking portrait of the tension and chaos and poverty of Greece right now, not to mention the official bravado and how numb they are to their own power, or how deaf. Those episodes with the vignettes about they guy who wants potatoes, and the pensioner without the pension are powerful and glimpse what will go on here soon. Cities like Detroit are bankrupt which means the pensions of teachers and policemen and firemen and a whole host ex city employees who thought they could count on government promises are going to be on the streets or working at MacDonald’s, not because of anything they did but what their governments failed to do. Some pensions, especially in California, are breaking the state because they were ridiculous in the first place: firemen making hundreds of thousands of dollars as a pensions for 20 years of work. It is all rather sad.

    I hope you are doing okay in the midst of all this. Joe

    >>> “Greece, Voices Inside” 12/08/13 3:54 AM >>>

    akalfopoulou posted: “”Night after night, summer and winter, the torment of storms, the arrow-like stillness of fine weather, held their court without interference… only gigantic chaos streaked with lighting could have been heard tumbling and tossing, as the winds and waves di”

  2. tuscia flat says:

    Hi, well Joe, over here in Europe it usually works like this. You pay from 40 -60% of your salary which goes to national health and pension funds, So when you retire you expect to get something back, since you have paid in advance. it isn’t a present that the government gives you because you voted for their party/

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