Counting the Rain

Sean O'Brien

copyright ©Sean O’Brien 2011

Check the gas and hide the back door key.
Lock up. Make sure you have, and then
Go out and count the rain, and this time
Do it properly. You won’t be home again.

Notes on the Poem

In four brief lines, Sean O'Brien's poem "Counting the Rain" leaves us slightly anxious, a bit bemused but definitely intrigued. The first line describes straightforward actions - clear, purposeful, easy to relate to, mundane. Everyone does this when they're leaving home, whether it's to run a quick errand or to depart for a longer time away. The second line introduces a tiny bit of doubt ... "Lock up. Make sure you have" OK, sometimes we have our wee doubts, even as we go about the most routine of activities. No harm in double checking ... But then, in rapid succession, we're crisply directed to do something rather odd and ... "Do it properly." Oh my. The poem then closes with the bewildering, maybe even ominous "You won't be home again." What in the world is going on? Should we be amused or a bit alarmed? At a literary festival reading in 2011, O'Brien commented that this poem was about OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). Whether or not he was joking, this reference to an anxiety disorder characterized by repetitive behaviours aimed at reducing the cause of unusual stress explains a lot. with the image of someone actually trying to count raindrops, O'Brien has powerfully - but still with a touch of whimsy - captured a mood of very strange distress.

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