Storms and rainbows are quite different things

Rainbows need sun and softness, ambiguity,
but here the storms come raging in from the west,
flash floods and the shrill sound of car alarms,
and the trees whipping back and forth –
and we name them – why do we name them? –
Ellen, who always sang alone, that pure voice,
passing it on to Francis, like the pope,
who seemed so nice, we liked him, then
he hit a woman, back at the start
of this mad year of fires and fevers.

You show me the shape of the storm,
but I can’t feel the logic of it, just the wind,
and the noise, and the utter darkness,
and half an hour ago it was still,
and now the wind is winding up again,
and what can we do? Gather up windfalls,
check the fences, close the windows,
breathe these small spaces. Wait.

For Brendan at Earthweal. Check it out.

7 thoughts on “Storms and rainbows are quite different things

  1. You’ve captured last night and this morning in this poem, Sarah. It has died down a bit, but I have to take Mojo to the vet this morning and I’m dreading branches on the road and where the vet is there’s usually flooding. I enjoy a good storm, they are exciting, but also devastating, and a rainbow takes the edge off, when there is one. I love the opening line, the ambiguity of rainbows, and the madness of naming storms – Ellen could have been named after my daughter! The final stanza reminded me of Heaney’s ‘Storm on the Island’.


  2. Storms are fructive and necessary — it rained for millennia filling up the basins of the Atlantic and Pacific — but in a Holocene world there have been, for the past 10,000 years or so, a gentle gradient of tapers and margins, limits and thresholds. Only rarely have storms so convulsed. Now — the Anthropocene is one of violated atmosphere and wilder wicked weather, who knows how much (the freshened storm violence at just 1 degree Centigrade of warming is horrific). Your sudden storm reminds me of two which clenched our house just this past week: As the wind whips greater and greater, the query and prayer: Will our roof hold? Such a thinning threshold. Personifying storms — giving them human names — is becoming problemmatic as these children behave like escapees from an asylum. What can we do but hunker down and wait? Well done and thanks. – Brendan


  3. I can feel the preparations, which always feel inadequate before the unknown, and then the nothing to do but wait………..what a year this is!


  4. This is so good Sarah, particularly the shrill sound of that car alarm, the detail among many that anchors the poem, don’t know how you produce that quality at short notice.


  5. There are so many delights in this poem. The ambiguity needed for a rainbow. The shrill sound of car alarms. Ellen’s pure voice and a year of fire and fevers.
    “You show me the shape of the storm,
    but I can’t feel the logic of it, just the wind,
    and the noise, and the utter darkness”
    It’s a lovely poem.


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