The poem "Kauai" by Rachel Jamison Webster has this verse:

Their cups fill with rain, rain
drinks the leaves drinking rain.

I can sort of puzzle out the metaphors/imagery in the rest of the poem, but I have no idea how rain could be "drinking" the leaves. What does this mean?

2 Answers 2


This is a paradox, “an apparently absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition, or a strongly counter-intuitive one” (OED) that challenges the reader to come up with an interpretation.

What I think the poet might be referring to is the process of transpiration in plants, a process which works in both directions. Leaves (in many species) can absorb rainwater though their pores or stomata—that’s the sense in which “leaves drink rain”—but leaves also exhale water vapour from their stomata, and water vapour, being lighter than air, rises and condenses into rainclouds—that’s the (metaphorical) sense in which “rain drinks the leaves”. Cloud-formation via transpiration is characteristic of rainforests, which can be found on the island of Kauai as described in the poem.


Maybe that the "drinking" is mutual - the rain gives life to and is being "drunk" by the leaves, but as it pours down on and engulfs them, the rain too partakes of the leaves.

  • 3
    But how does the rain partake? In what manner?
    – bobble
    Jan 13, 2023 at 3:46
  • why the downvote? I only shared the feeling that the line evoked in me. If that is considered out of line, I won't care to speak on this forum in the future. Jan 13, 2023 at 19:55
  • 3
    This answer doesn't actually explain the line. I asked how rain could drink the leaves, while understanding that leaves could drink rain. The poem already specifies that the drinking is mutual. Therefore, I found an answer reiterating the fact, instead of explaining how it is so, to be non-useful. The downvote arrow says "This answer is not useful" so I used it
    – bobble
    Jan 13, 2023 at 21:01
  • Good to know. As a non-native speaker of English, who has often found this site unwelcoming to people like me, your response confirms the general hypocrisy of English language communities who don't really value the inputs of others. Jan 13, 2023 at 22:35

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