(the following was written in New Orleans after Jazzfest on Friday, May 2)
It's raining at a Stevie Wonder concert
We groan, but nobody leaves.
Stevie switches immediately to an ad-lib rendition of
"Raindrops Are Falling On My Head,"
even though he's covered by the stage.
It's then that I Wonder:
How does Stevie know it's raining?
It must be the pattering on our umbrellas.
And magically, as the song finishes, the rain stops -
and the sun creeps sheepishly out of the clouds.
Stevie smiles, as if this had been his plan all along.
And we are fully willing to accept that idea,
at least until the dark clouds spill open again
and we are forced to redeploy our umbrella defenses.
Those without, huddling to our fringes, can't escape the drenching;
even Stevie and all his positive energy cannot control the weather.
Water courses down our staggered make-shift roofs,
drizzling and drooling on our shirt sleeves,
then stopping just long enough for us to put them away.
The rain is now a bearable, soft mist -
with the exception of those singular,
thick drops on the skull.
I now know where China got the idea for their own torture.
Back and forth, like Stevie's rhythmic side-to-side head motions,
we put away our cover and then hoist it up again.
It's all these half-betweens that are getting us,
the Almost-Rain and the Somewhat-Sunny,
the mostly-damp and the relatively-dry.
The Drenched at least know that they are The Drenched,
and sing and slide in the mud with a kind of freedom
that we Umbrella People won't really know.
I Wonder what Stevie would think if he could see us,
could throw off those dark shields and gaze at his crowd
with resurrected pupils:
A mass of people lost in the Gray,
just wanting to be either wet or dry.
And I'm glad that all Stevie can sense is
the sound of the rain, the touch of the keyboard
and the wet slap of our encouraging applause,
which makes him give us that huge smile,
as warm as a summer's day.