The Storm Before the Storm, and the Actual Storm: Everyday Magic, Day 819

IMG_5891 2Driving home from teaching Curvy Yoga tonight, I was delighted by the flashes to the north and south. A parade of storms was circling its wagons. Because I love a good storm (good thing too, considering I live in Kansas), I drove foot loose and carefree, despite Wagner’s dramatic “Tannhauser” blaring dramatic build-up on the radio. Barely to the southern edge of Lawrence, Ken called: a blinding rain was here, and I would be driving right into it. I told him it was dry where I was but he assured me that the road to our house, just three miles away, was barely visible for him a moment ago.

There’s nothing like listening to Wagner while lightning illuminates a vast, dark grey monster you’re driving right into at highway speeds. I was surprised at how quickly (in a flash, so to speak) my happy storm anticipation turned into wheel-gripping apprehension. By the time I turned onto our road, I realized I was in a lucky pocket, arriving between waves, skirting the fingers of intense downpour.

Now, some hours later, I’m writing in the dark while big wind pours across the land, the rain sheets down, and rapid-fire lightning powers from all sides. The weather radio makes it buzzing sound to say something is upon us. The dog in the back room, the one with few windows and my sleeping son, claws anxiously at the door. The cats rumble across the living room floor, attacking each other and then forgetting their attack in the hunt for another hair tie to kill.

Usually, Ken is out of bed, checking radar for any hook-shaped blotches threatening tornado or hail, but this time it’s me, occasionally pausing to run to the porch and feel the wind, watch the soft gray edges of the traveling clouds, and listen to tens of thousands of raindrops make ground fall. The storm of the storm, unlike the storm before the storm, is the real thing. As I wrote in one poem in Stephen Locke’s and my book, Chasing Weather, you’ve got to respect that.

Respect the Storm of the Storm

Watch like your life depends on it.

The first wave pushes the blackbirds

over the seam of the darkening west.

Uplifting wind multiplies and divides the world.

Flags tatter themselves in its speed. Then sirens.

From the overhang of your porch, wait

for the imprint of lightning to open your eyes.

Surrender to the wide yawning of thunder, the tendrils

trailing the supercell, and the one sweet songbird

at once unaware and aware. Follow

the storm of the storm, not the storm you expect.

When the rotation makes landfall, go inside swiftly.

Rush the stairs to the basement, grabbing the small cat

and photo albums on the way. Call the neighbors

from the crawl space. Press the anxious dog to your chest.

Turn up the weather radio and let the tone of danger

vibrate through your beating heart.

Obey the hunter you once were thousands of years ago.

Finishing the Last Poem for Chasing Weather: Everyday Magic, Day 794

20110620_5447Yesterday, I finished the last poem, the one I couldn’t conjure for weeks, and not for lack of trying. Part of the 70 poems in Chasing Weather: Tornadoes, Tempests, and Thunderous Skies in Word and Image, the book I’m doing with splendid weather chaser and photographer Stephen Locke, “Rain,” capped about three or four years of writing weather poems (after many decades of writing weather poems because weather is the fascinating soundtrack to our lives).

As a poet, I’m not used to writing a body of poems on deadline although there have been plenty of times I’m pushing and praying through a poem for a special occasion. Because poetry is so hard to get published, usually, I have years (decades even) to linger over a book, but for this one, that goes to the publisher, Ice Cube Press, within a week, I had to throw myself into the mercy of the page. Sometimes the right line, image or rhythm would come, and often, it wouldn’t. I tended to play with the not-quite-right poems by trying them out with very short, then very long lines, each time, tweaking the language, and hoping some fresh new image landed in my lap. And that’s kind of the essence of poetry: you show up on the page, surrender all, work like crazy, pay attention while not paying attention, and hope the gods give you something to say.

Such was the case with this poem, which went through many versions, and which I began again to write a dozen times. Part of the challenge was what to say about storms and life that I hadn’t said in any of the other 69 poems. Now that I found something that feels good to me, I let it go, carry the manuscript to a wonderful writer who will proofread the poems for me, and then send it to my publisher. While I’m done chasing poetry (for a short while), we’re not done chasing dollars to fund the high quality printing of this book, so if the work connects with you, and you’d like to buy your copy in advance, and support a small press, please see our indiegogo campaign here. Meanwhile, in honor of being finished, and of this blustery, rainy day, here is “Rain.”


The wall of noise dissolves to rain,

a world held in place by a million falling threads.

In the balance, the fur on the coyote’s belly,

worn as leather but marked with a lifetime of fights,

and the lake hungry for new stories to swim with the old.

Lightning angles and wishbones, branches into branches

that mimic what grows or tunnels below.

Scenery unrolls quick-silver — expanses of land

or water, sky and darkness — in the flash that lights up

all the lines of roads and clouds, cedars and shorelines,

before sealing all back together in shifting hues of night.

What seems like the end, again a beginning.

What can’t be said, suddenly pouring down everywhere.

Two Bodies Always in Motion: A Crowd-Sourced Poem of Sorts: Everyday Magic, Day 793

201110240307 copyIn finishing the poems for Chasing Weather: Tornadoes, Tempest, and Thunderous Skies in Word and Image, the book I’m writing with Stephen Locke, I simply couldn’t get started on writing a poem to fit this magnificent photo. After many months of trying, I asked my Facebook friends to give me words to get going, and did they! I used all I could (got in coruscating, a new word to me), and am sorry I couldn’t make words like bicuspid work. Here’s the latest version of the poem, and if you want to get your copy of the book (and support our campaign to rush funds for the high quality color printing of so many amazing photos), please see the Indiegogo campaign we’re doing here.  Thank you to everyone who so generously helped me find the words for this poem.

Two Bodies Always in Motion

A coruscating kaleidescope of fire, grief,

possibility, and beauty about to be ghosted

in the velvet memory of stars and eyes.


One body bends its light toward land,

the other mirrors its mirage into tall sky.

Yellow-bellied heavens ring jewel tones

of flicker, low notes of boom.


Skirts of electrical impulse rustle

stage curtains across the Great Plains.

What we call a sunbow, neon way of knowing,

thumbprint of the sun, lost ship of florescence

tipping its arctic ridges south

before vanishing north for another decade.


The light never leaves us, only wavers.

No one ever lost completely except

in one slot of time, one way of loving.

Always two bodies: our own, and the world’s.