In a Time of Storms

El Reno, Oklahoma, 13 May 2013, photograph by Camille Seaman




Purple clouds mass along the horizon.
Sheet lightning crackles.
Black winds cut,
keen as an obsidian knife.

Out of the dark west she rides.
From the yellowing east she comes.
Her white flags fly to the north.
In the south her red fires are lit.

She speaks.
The rock peaks split.

She speaks
and the past is laid open.

She speaks.
A light rain falls.

She speaks
and the future rises,
vapor on her breath.

She speaks.
Death is real.

She speaks again
and death is not an end.


– Harriet Ann Ellenberger


Note: I wrote this poem in 1989, and it was eventually published under the title “Thunder, Perfect Mind,” a phrase I’d stolen from a translation of the Gnostic Gospels. I loved those three words put together, but felt bad about being a thief—also, the poem had nothing to do with gospels, gnostic or otherwise.

When the poem was to appear in Trivia: Voices of Feminism, I came up with a new title, “Return of Earth.” Only problem was, the earth didn’t go away so how could she return? I ignored the illogic of that because I was desperate.

Years later, climate change so extreme that everyone noticed it gave me the good title, and “In a Time of Storms” appeared in Return to Mago on 24 July 2013.

The moral of this tale of titles may be that if you live long enough, you’re no longer a voice of Cassandra, you’re simply reporting the evening news.


Published by

Harriet Ann Ellenberger

writer, editor, translator; co-founded the journal "Sinister Wisdom"

10 thoughts on “In a Time of Storms”

  1. All the stormy strength, quieting down to the rain and vapor, then death. It is nature as we know her and are part of her.


    1. I guess so, but also I posted that before the agreement was reached at the Paris climate-change talks. Now there’s a framework for international action on climate change, which there wasn’t before, and a whole lot of people who’d never managed to work together before did work together on something that’s essential for human survival. I like turning points, and what people did at the Paris talks looks like one to me. Oh, and the contingent of US Congressmen sent by the Republican party to derail the talks failed utterly in their mission. I like that too.


  2. Aha, you like turning points. And I think turning points in your poems are one of your strengths. Maybe a connection.


    1. You know, this is interesting: the interweaving of minds. I never even thought about “turning points” until you pointed them out in my poems; now I’m seeing them everywhere — in history, in current events, in individual life stories, in eco-systems. It’s fun to find them, like an “aha!” moment.


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