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.
The rock peaks split.
and the past is laid open.
A light rain falls.
and the future rises,
vapor on her breath.
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.
Long silence owing to life (and death) taking over.
Here in rural New Brunswick, Canada, the winter of 2015 has been what Siberia’s winter was thirty years ago. Now I know in my bones why Stalin and the czars before him exiled their dissidents to Siberia. Our new Siberia is beautiful (the stars look stunning in bitter cold) but it’s dangerous. Any energy you might have poured into subversive writing gets sucked up by an icy wind.
My partner, the indomitable and determinedly anonymous Mr. Bear, feeds me the statistics. Between 1 December 2014 and 1 March 2015, we received 13.3 feet of snow (that translates into 127 hours of snow removal using a farm tractor). In the same three months, we experienced 47 straight days and nights of the wind-chill temperature never rising above zero degrees fahrenheit. In northern New Brunswick, some nights the wind-chill temperature was hitting 50 degrees below zero.
It gets worse. On March 6, 2015, just north of Houlton, Maine, the temperature rose 43 degrees fahrenheit within 8 hours. Up until now, that kind of extreme temperature change happened only around the poles — in the Arctic and in Antarctica.
There’s only one thing to do in circumstances like these — HOWL.