‘After Rain’ by Segun Adekoya is a thirty-five line poem that is written in blank verse. The poem is notable for it’s intense and creative imagery as well as its heavily descriptive metaphors. The poet references stories, faiths, and experiences in real life to craft this narrative.
The poem begins with the speaker describing the physical impact that the rain had, and now the lack of rain has, on the region of the Sahel in Africa. The rain has ceased and now a depressive heat has descended on the town. Bugs have come out in droves and are endlessly flying around and stinging everything in sight. No one can escape them. All who live in this area dream of an escape to a cooler a paradise where it will not feel as if their head is on fire.
The poet continues on to describe how different types of people react to the lack of rain. Some are pleased that it has finally stopped, others know that the dry times are worse and that the heat will go on for too long. Rich men envy Lazarus as he got the opportunity at a new life and all their money is unable to buy them that. The whole town is said to operate around a bartering market at its center.
The poem concludes by describing how different animals act during dry times. Their actions are misplaced and everything appears to be out of alignment. This time of discord ends with the Harmattan season that brings cooler winds to the area.
Analysis of After Rain
The speaker of ‘After Rain’ is a resident of or someone who is very familiar with the Sahel region of Africa. This is clearly the case as the entire poem is made from very vivid experiences had by someone who knows what it is like after it rains.
The poem begins with this informed speaker describing the basic setting. The reader has been brought to a time after it has finished raining in the Sahel. This has not been a normal rainstorm, but a “deluge.” The following lines describe moments that occur during this time period. The “tarred city streets” have been washed clean and the enormous storm clouds seem to have disappeared “into the earth like ghosts.”
A great heat has “descend[ed]” on the land and it is as if one is baking “in a pan.” The rain has done nothing to cool off the day. It only brought up the humidity and air density. Not only does one have to contend with the greater temperature, but the mosquitos come out in droves. They are everywhere, they,
…seek, kiss, sing and sting all
They are not the only bugs taking advantage of the rainstorm, the “brush flies” also come out and “blacken night lights.” Additionally, now that the storm has cleared, the sky has brightened. It is described as being “bright-clad like a new bride.” It is beautiful, but it can also be deadly as one’s body is forced to endure the heat directly from the sun. As all this is happening, one’s “oven-head,” is dreaming of a different life. One that is filled with “golden streets,” not tar-covered ones.
These dreams physically affect those that are having them. When their minds return to where they are actually living their bodies become like “fretful fish in flight.” It is as if they are running from
…a blaze of water-boiling sea flames.
Their own world, in which they are trapped, is trying to kill them. It is like the sea is turning against the fish within it and there is no way for them to get out as they need the water to survive.
The speaker continues describing the sensations of this post-rain world through the next section of the poem. Those who have experienced the dreadful heat after a rainstorm are
Craving a shower of cold water….
Or perhaps a “bath” to cool the “glowing embers in the mouth.” The heat has penetrated through the heads of the residents of this area and inflicted them with a terrible thirst. The benefits that the area received from the rain are long since passed. The arid nature of the landscape is still in desperate need of more water.
The area is “Longing for fresh rainfall,” if for no other reason than to put out the fires that are burning in the brush. After these lines, the speaker moves on to describe the people of the Sahel region in more detail. He explains how different men and women feel about the rain, and who is better off.
In the hottest, and busiest, center of the town, described as being like a “whale,” live a number of people with different options about the benefits of rain.
There are the rich men, who are unable to change the weather, even with all their money. They “envy Larzarus’ beggar’s lot.” They would change places with Lazarus, who dies in the bible, only to be resurrected by Jesus. They all want to be reborn somewhere else. Even if it means dying. The speaker also states that the “Bored women” in the area profess the desire that it “didn’t rain at all.” It is unclear why this would be the case, unless, out of boredom, they are interjecting with an opinion for the sake of attention and a cure for their state of being.
There are also the fish sellers living in the town, who after a time in which their catch is “lean” and they are running out of cash, smell like their product. They are forced to eat what they catch rather than sell it. Then there are the “young lovers” who do not worry themselves over any aspect of the region. They “yawn” away their losses. They could not care less.
The next lines, while not certain, could refer to a story that has been told in a number of varied iteration around the world and would appeal to the “loners” referenced in the poem. That of the “fox and the cock.”
In the story, a fox approaches a chicken who is roosting in a tree. He tells the chicken that he can come down as all animals are now like family and the fox is not a danger to him. The chicken does not believe this story but feigns excitement. In an effort to force the fox away he describes the approach of some dogs in the distance, in fear of these animals the fox runs off.
All of this is occurring around a center point, the market place in which things are exchanged and “barter[ed].”
In the concluding lines of ‘After Rain‘, the speaker describes some additional creatures that can be seen around the market. There are “hens” that “bare” their “rumps” as well as a “he-goats” that attempt to charge a pachyderm, such as an elephant or rhino. All things are out of proportion and happening in the incorrect order. Without rain, the world is howling “for the liquid of life.”
It is as if heaven and hell know what is going on down below and high above them. The gates of heaven are shaking and hell, or “Hades cave” is embracing the disturbing behavior of the town.
All of this pain and confusion fades as the region enters the “Harmattan…season.” This is a time in which a cooling off period can occur due to high winds. It is now, after the end of the rain, and the end of the heat, that the pain stops. It is the “sweat after rain.”
The town has released it’s pent up discord as sweat is released from an overheated body.