It's time for the WEP April 2022 challenge. This month for the Year of Music, we have Bob Dylan's A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall.
From the blurb, courtesy of Nilanjana Bose.
A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, described as the ‘most idiosyncratic protest song ever written.' Bob Dylan, the Nobel Laureate and another 60's icon, wrote, composed and sung it in 1962 when he was only 21. It’s been covered by many artistes including Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and has never really stopped being sung ever since.
The form is modelled on the traditional ballad in the question and answer format, the themes being human suffering – pollution, warfare, isolation, angst. Sixty years after Dylan presented it at a performance at Carnegie Hall, the lyrics are striking in that how relevant they are today, how contemporary their feel and the depth of their appeal. Read more about the song here and here.
Unsurprisingly, I've gone with the human suffering angle. The #flash wrote itself. Sadly.
Ode to the
I can’t move, I can’t think, I’m freezing.
her overcoat around her, pulls her woollen hat over her ears, wriggles her
toes in her stiff boots. There’s no room to stamp her feet. Bodies press against her from all sides.
she run when she had the chance? Was it her love for her country? Her reluctance
to be parted from her remaining relatives, especially her brother who returned from Poland to fight after her mother died in the bombing. She has no answers, not even to
herself. Glory to Ukraine.
Lord only knows how long she’s sat upright, huddled, with nothing to lean against. Her back feels like it’s breaking. But she's grateful to have escaped here after the bombing of her apartment block. Yelling and screaming, along with hundreds of her neighbours, empty handed, she’d stumbled through broken earth, tripped on broken glass, only just avoided being torn apart by sharp steel girders lying half buried in her path. But she made it here.
To the shelter. Dark as pitch. It separates them all as surely as it binds them together. She’s been inside the shelter for hours, days, weeks, she’s lost track of everything but the gradual warming of the atmosphere from the press of too many bodies against the coolness of the cement floor, the weeping walls. Their collective breath in the chilly room forms a moving fog. The faint aroma of fragrance, the smell of beer breath, the bitterness of stale cigarettes is by now woven into their clothes, hair and skin.
sharp notes of a Jew’s harp played by an old man sets her teeth on edge even
though it’s no more than a whisper. The vibrations resonate with the beat of
her heart. Her grandfather played the Jew’s harp. Now her grandfather is dead. Her
father played, but she has no idea if he’s dead or alive. The last she heard he
was in an operation to take back a city in the south. Her brother was learning to play before war broke out. She wonders if he'll ever place it to his lips again. Glory to
conscious of every movement, each and every sound – the whimpering of small
children and beloved dogs, the snores of the elderly exhausted by the sharp
turn their lives have taken in a short time, the rustle of clothing as people
try in vain to get more comfortable, the faint click of knitting needles as a middle-aged
woman fashions a colourful scarf to keep
her son warm at the battlefront, the fragile stillness of the woman sitting
nearby as she holds her breath, afraid to exhale.
Then … air
raid sirens … muffled gasps as the missile sings its death song overhead.
shudders. Is it only the weight of tanks and trucks on the roads escalating the
ferocity of sound, drowning out the knitter’s coughing fit and the elderly
gentleman’s incoherent cries. She clenches her teeth, holds her breath, counts,
waits for the next blast and the weight of the debris and soil as it presses
down, weighs down their flesh, levels the building as they all disappear
further beneath the earth. She imagines being found days, weeks later, her
stiff arm protruding from the rubble, her legs snapped like twigs, captured for the evening news. The two lovers who embrace at her feet, will their
arms still be locked around each other? Their desperate lips clamped together
for eternity? What about all the bundles of clothes and prized possessions
brought to the shelter for safekeeping, will they become lonely artefacts in this
head, she tries to dispel the gruesome images which isn’t helped by the laments
from those awake who know what’s about to happen. Glory to Ukraine.
die. I won’t die. I have my whole life before me. God help me, I’m only
nowhere to run. This is it.
thickens. Her breathing intensifies. Opening her stinging eyes, she sees flecks
of ash skittering around their heads. If she pokes out her tongue, she’ll taste
death. She struggles to think of something else, to grasp hold of a thread of
something normal. Not this deepest, darkest hell. This slow death. She wills
the thudding of her blood and muscle to cease, to force her heart back to its
normal size and her breathing to slow enough to stop overtaking her thoughts.
the fear all around her in the dank perspiration of the terrified inmates of
this prison which had offered the last vestige of hope in a city being pummelled
into the ground. She senses it in the unease that has overtaken their shared
space. Hears it in the desperate prayers as people call on God to deliver them.
But God has turned his back on this hideous war where once again it’s man against
man. When will they ever learn, she imagines Him asking?
Her legs are
numb now and her back locked rigid, her muscles set in permanent contraction. Head
between her knees, she shivers uncontrollably. The earth is so cold and pressed
against her so tightly that the pain begins to spread through her like the fire
that surely rages overhead, engulfing the shattered building where she shelters.
Ukraine!” The cry is so loud she wonders if it will rally them all in their last moments.
grows eerily quiet. Above their heads, the cement girders snap, falling,
burying them. Her mouth fills with debris. With her last breath, she can
see in her mind’s eye the latest video from her President.
here with you,” President Zelensky said. “Glory to Ukraine.”
TAGLINE: All too often, hard rain leaves victims in its wake.
This was difficult to write. Maybe it lacks editing because I found it so painful to re-read.
Please click on the names in my sidebar for more takes on the prompt, A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall.
And if this prompt stumped you, start thinking about the June prompt,
Thanks for coming by and supporting the writers at WEP.