the rhythm of an arriving storm

Photo: Minnesota Summer Storm

Photo: Minnesota Summer Storm


atop the roof at the back of my childhood home

I sat, facing southwest

in the summer night the crickets hesitated

the lightning bugs dimmed their tails –

perhaps the sky’s lightning rendered them with feelings of inadequacy

or perhaps nature instilled in them a sense of respect

for the largeness of night

for life’s rhythm

what did the insects understand that I didn’t


with another sequence of flashes

I awaited the delayed rumble of thunder –

the delay that the movies could never get right

even the closest flash of lightning

was followed by some pause before thunder

never thunder at the same time

and never thunder before lightning


in the rumbling a slight breeze scurried over my anxious forearms

a few houses down Mrs. Thurman hummed

as she washed the evening’s dishes

like the crickets

she understood the rhythm of the sky

her hums soothed my skin ahead of the storm


a carp splashed in the river behind my house

then a raccoon trilled cautiously to her young

she’d pulled a fresh clam onto the rocks of the river bank

and wanted them to eat it before the storm arrived

hurry up  hurry up

her babies scooped up every last bit in the flashes of lightning

they waddled back along the bank

the young stood on their hind legs and sniffed the portentous night air


when the sky paused

the crickets stopped chirping

the lightning bugs disappeared

clean dishes were left to dry in the Thurman’s empty kitchen

carp whispered beneath the currents

echoes sounded from empty clam shells


from beyond the lines of tall oaks in the distance

the lightning illuminated bulbous shapes of rolling clouds

that were moving toward my neighborhood

a muffled hum pushed itself northeastward

it grew louder and clearer as it passed through each tree

each leaf was a cymbal against which the wind tapped its rhythm


I heard my dad in the driveway

slam the doors of the car after he rolled up the windows

more lightning flashes came in quicker succession

a neighbor’s restless dog whimpered in a backyard

the rumbles of thunder were quicker and louder

nervous children giggled

their bare feet slapped along the warm sidewalk in front of another house

the approaching wind became a symphony

growing larger

a crescendo


from my crouched position

I stood as large raindrops pelted the rooftop

I pointed my curious nose in the air to sniff at the immensity of moments

and smelled the last moment possible

at the highest sense of elation

before I forced myself back through my bedroom window

attuned to a sublime rhythm



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