Alley in the Rain


Carrying an oil-paper umbrella
wandering alone in the deep, deep
and desolate rain-filled alley
I expect to meet
a girl imbued with sadness of lilac

She will be steeped in the colors of lilac
sad in the rain
sad and wandering

She will be wandering in this lonely alley
carrying an oil-paper umbrella
like me
just like me
walking in silence
solitary and sad

She will approach in silence
draw close and gaze deep, deep into my eyes
she will drift past
like a figure in a dream

Like lilac
drifting in a dream
the girl will drift away from me
the girl will drift away from me
further and further, still in silence
she will pass a broken-down fence
and out of the rain-filled alley

Amid the melancholy music of the rain
her color will fade
her fragrance will fade
fade away like her deep, deep gaze
and lilac sadness

I expect that as I wander alone
in the deep, deep and desolate rain-filled alley
carrying an oil-paper umbrella
I shall see a girl drift past
steeped in the sadness of lilac


Questions and Answers

About “Alley in the Rain” from Michael Bullock

Almost as soon as I came to UBC from England in the late sixties I developed two ambitions: to win a Governor General’s Award for Literature and to become a contributor to Canadian Literature. The closest I have so far come to the former was to win a Canada Council Translation Award (as it was then called) for my translation of Michel Tremblay’s Stories For Late Night Drinkers. On the other hand I have pretty well achieved the latter, having had numerous poems published in Canadian Literature, many of my books reviewed and having been the subject of a lengthy essay in its pages by professor Jack Stewart.

Since I regard Canadian Literature as Canada’s no.1 literary periodical I have always made a point of submitting what I consider my best poems. In fact, my reaction when I have written a poem I am very pleased with is to think, “That’s good enough for Canadian Literature.”

It was my co-translator of Alley in the Rain who suggested this particular poem when I asked her for something suitable for Canadian Literature. I had been working with Wenting Liao on translations of her own poems, some of which appeared in the New Orphic Review, when I asked her to propose an outstanding modern poem for the purpose. She unhesitatingly suggested Alley in the Rain. As soon as I saw the rough draft I felt it was a good choice. What was it about the poem that so appeals to me? I believe it was first and foremost the figure of the “mysterious woman”. She seems to me related to Andre Breton’s Nadja and my own Noire from the Story of Noire and subsequent stories, as well as Columbine who figures prominently in The Walled Garden and the as yet to be published Enchanted Garden. The whole poem is bathed in an aura of mystery enhanced by the strange role played by lilac.

I shall leave factual information about the author to Wenting Liao.


This poem “Alley in the Rain” originally appeared in Canada Reads. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 193 (Summer 2007): 9-9.

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