A Taxonomy of Storms
by Theodora Goss
You tell me there are seven kinds of storms.
Rainstorms that come in autumn, soaking the leaves
which have fallen, red and gold, on the city sidewalks,
running down the gutters and into the grates,
forming pools in potholes that we can stand in
with our rain boots on, pretending to be children
once more, and mirroring back another world
we could get to if only we could jump through puddles
to the other side. Then there are hailstorms that send
pellets of ice to beat on our umbrellas
like inexperienced drummers. Snowstorms seem
so much gentler in comparison,
as though winter had shaken out her counterpane,
sending stray feathers over the shrubbery,
over the lawns. At first we make angels and snowmen,
at first we have snowball fights and dream of Christmas,
but after three weeks, trudging between packed banks,
we curse the stuff, no longer immaculate,
but splashed by cars, the brown of axle grease.
Then there are ice storms, which bring down power lines.
One morning we wake to a world encased in ice,
glittering like a diamond, and as hard,
brilliant, deadly, reminding us that nature
is a careless mother who kills more than she heals.
Thunderstorms, you tell me, are rainstorms with thunder
and lightning — which of course I could have guessed.
I know the pleasure of listening for that rumble
in the distance, of waiting for the lightening flash
from behind the safety of a window, warm beneath
a blanket, with a book open on my lap.
You tell me about tornadoes and hurricanes,
which are different, you say, although both involve high winds,
rotating winds, like being on a carousel
that you can’t get off, whose horses are mist and cloud.
Those sound the same, I say, simply to provoke you,
because I like to see your forehead wrinkle
when you frown, explaining that there are differences,
important differences, such as for example
that tornadoes occur on land, while hurricanes
are almost always at sea, where they topple ships.
Instead of blowing houses from Kansas to Oz,
I say. You look at me doubtfully, and I try
not to laugh, because you don’t like to be laughed at,
not about things like storms, or tax returns,
or car inspections, or the proper occasion
on which to wear your father’s antique cufflinks.
What if I told you that you are my favorite storm,
not a rainstorm, or ice storm, or hailstorm, but some other kind,
an eighth kind of storm the meteorologists
haven’t classified yet? As beautiful and dangerous
as any hurricane: you have blown my ships,
with their fresh white sails, like the wings of seagulls, far
out to sea, where I don’t know how to find them,
and all I can do is watch lightning play on the water,
which rises in foaming crests and then crashes down
on the gray rocks of the shore with a sound like thunder
that I recognize as the beating of my own heart . . .
(The image is Blown Away by Winslow Homer.)