Image: “Blueprint of a Dream” by Jaundré van Breda. “Driving in the Rain” was written by Christopher Shipman for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2022, and selected as the Editor’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)
DRIVING IN THE RAIN
Fun fact: during a thunderstorm
more raindrops fall than there are people
in the world. You can look it up.
I’ll wait. Go ahead. But I won’t bother.
My eight-year-old daughter—
everything she says deserves to be believed.
Besides, I’m driving. It’s all true
anyway. Oz is over the rainbow. Just listen
to the tautology of water. Just look
at the summertime street—how it stretches
its torrid tongue beneath us.
A ghostly heat up ahead flails infinite arms.
We watch the rain fall, offering
platitudes in torrents. She says Blue Bird
(our Prius) can handle it. I know
the small human in back who says it
can handle it. The way she takes in the sky
over Benjamin Parkway—I’d
call it a bruise and be done with it. She uses
the opportunity to remind me that
girls see more shades of color than boys.
Now she insists it’s her favorite
shade of purple. This sky the same she used
for a surreal sketch of her mama’s face
before we left the house. Now
she dangles a bracelet made with a friend—
late birthday present. The purple
meretricious gems. The fake feather barely
hanging on even with the windows up.
And just like that, she grows
taciturn, silent as the drenched blur of trees
scrolling by. I try not to, but I wonder
if she sees in her reflection
a semblance of how fractured we all end up.
How momentarily whole. How we
spread ourselves thin as we go. Raindrops
down a windowpane in a movie
about grief, we’re reshaped—smudged over.
Each of us a palimpsest with a pulse.
At the risk of sentiment, I’ll say nothing
is meretricious. Nothing is fake.
It’s all true. Inside every face a palatial sky.
Go ahead. You can look it up.
I’ll wait beneath the rain of platitudes.
—from Ekphrastic Challenge
July 2022, Editor’s Choice
Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “Ekphrastic poems are often the most impressive when they manage to both clearly be inspired by the source artwork and also stretch the image far into a surprising direction. Christopher Shipman does that here, with a gorgeous poem full of memorable lines and more twists and turns than I can count. I didn’t see a face behind rain-soaked glass, but now I do.”