Taiwan Journal: Typhoon Day

Taipei, Taiwan, ROC                                    August 30, 1990

Hearkening back to the treasured, yearned-for “snow days” of grade school, today’s typhoon day seems now to be even a greater surprise and pleasure, simply because it was so unexpected as to be not yearned for at all. The day has been passed amiably here in Yonghe, with the first house meal cooked by housers from the ground up, as well as a great deal of newspaper reading and a three hour nap.

Looking out the window, I’m amazed that there can be so much water anywhere in the world, let alone falling out of the sky. Scores of aerial funnels run off of the corrugated fiberglass roofs and window-covers of the buildings across the alley, as though the apartments were sweating profusely or otherwise manufacturing the unbelievable quantities of the stuff in some interior factory or workshop.The rain is as a curtain, or rather an endless series of curtains (hanging across, parallel, perpendicular, at every conceivable angle to me) when in the atmosphere, before it touches or piles up against anything. In contact with the earth (or under the circumstances, itself), it is a pulsating, translucent force that laps and spits through gutters and drains, or slides off rocks. Reclining in bed after my 3-hour nap, I wondered about the one (or two or three) drops in this vast world of rain that would somehow be blown horizontally by the occasional gust of wind, blown through my window garden, penetrating my screen and flying underneath the billowing curtain, to land, or to touch, as a soft waft of moisture, my legs, arms, and face.

I was stirred to attempt a poem, following the above line of verbal reasoning. My thoughts turned to a sonnet tempo and then began to examine different questions of perspective: Should I be lying down, feeling the moisture coming through the window under the billowing curtain, or should I be kneeling at the window, observing the deluge outside. Although I’d been doing both all day (as well as walking in it and ignoring it), it seemed too dynamic to include both postures in a poem that would have best been a static vignette. Fumbling with the moral of the poem (one referring to poetry itself, preferably) proved to be my ultimate undoing.

I suppose poetic states of mind should accommodate the flow of words and feelings, though not necessarily of stimuli. It seems I’m better at describing natural events with a natural [illegible].

Author: Harry Miller

I have traveled and lived in Taiwan, China, and Japan and am now a professor of Asian history and author of Southern Rain, a novel of seventeenth-century China.

9 thoughts on “Taiwan Journal: Typhoon Day”

  1. This post is beautiful. The irony Harry is that you have already written a beautiful poem about this day. (Please forgive the minor modification to make it all poetical and stuff) Here is your poem:

    Looking out the window,
    I’m amazed that there can be
    So much water anywhere in the world,
    Let alone falling out of the sky.
    Scores of aerial funnels run off of
    Corrugated fiberglass roofs and window-covers
    Of buildings across the alley, as though
    Sweating profusely or otherwise manufacturing
    The stuff in some interior factory or workshop.
    The rain is as an endless series of curtains,
    Hanging parallel, perpendicular,
    At every angle in the air,
    Before it touches the earth, itself,
    Or any thing
    It is a pulsating, translucent force
    That laps and spits through gutter drains
    Sliding off rocks.
    Reclining in bed after my 3-hour nap,
    I wondered about the one drop,
    or two or three,
    In this vast world of rain
    That would somehow be blown
    Cross-wise by a gust of wind,
    Blown through my window garden,
    Penetrating my screen,
    And flying underneath the
    Billowing curtain,
    To land,
    Or to touch,
    As a soft wanderer,
    My legs, arms, and face.

    -Harry Miller-

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The vivid beauty of your second paragraph really touched me. I was also pondering a poem by Joseph Brodsky all day. His poem is not really related to yours, but it caused a strange brew to emerge and I have written a poem in response to your piece. I thought it was especially interesting how you described the overpowering storm and sheets of rain, but how your focus and your wonder turned to a few individual drops that got through layers and barriers to reach you. Brodsky spearated from me by time, you – a stranger- separated by space, yet here we all are, drops settling out of sheets of rain. Here is the link to my response poem. cheers – and stay dry if you can. 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read the Brodsky, but the sun is shining on the tea leaves outside and crickets are chirping and it’s all distracting me from our poems. I wish it were raining; I’d have more clarity. I’ll keep the Brodsky close for the next rainy day or perhaps for December 24 and try it again.

      In the meantime, I’ll search my old journals for more rain meditations, one in particular…

      Again, I’m very grateful for the strange brew you created and shared.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Harry, the Brodsky is perfect for a rainy day, or the 24th, or the next time on a crowded bus, or when noticing a star. I glad you liked the brew, and thank you for the push. Crickets here last night too. Be well 🦗


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