After a storm


Two nights ago the curtains billowed with a slight draught
puffing in where the polar wind hammered at the window
the house giving way a little at its edges where the joints are worn,
its skin permeable, windows and doors secure but no, not impervious.
Just a tent in the universe of things.

But it holds.  It hunkers down, lamplight golden, warmth breathing from the heater, fat rain spattering on the roof and the clatter
of hail gusts, dropping hard and crunchy on the bay window.
The syrupy light indoors splits with white flashes
followed, after a breath-holding pause
[counting the seconds as kids, the longer the pause the safer we were, we thought], by the crack and BOOM of thunder at the very top of the sky.
Blow wind, and crack your cheeks!

The authorities had scattered a deluge of hyperbole: we were in for
a polar outbreak, a once in 100 year flood, the worst storm since… well, estimates varied.
Best check on your emergency supplies they said.
But today we can exhale.  “Now that the wind has abated” the newsreader said
and I thought – lovely word, abate.
To reduce in amount, degree, intensity; also
to remove as in stone carving, or hammer down as in metalwork, in order to produce a figure or pattern in low relief.
And ‘bated breath’, from falconry.  A bated hawk is tethered, restrained, held back when it wants to fly from the gloved fist.

Now that the wind has abated
though a few whistles of it linger
we may inspect the damage.  Mop up the mess.
Holes rent in roofs, fallen trees, autumn vegetation flung and
stirred into drifts of sludge, a wintry porridge.  Scrapings, parings of detritus, ooze underfoot.  Watery skies give way to weak sunlight.
O yes the sun.  We blink up at it, taking comfort in the return, the cycle we count on, the cataclysm then the hush, the bating, the abating, the deep breath, the setting to rights, the shoring up of the structures.
This too shall pass.

Someone also said today
that after a storm we see how the strong
bones of the landscape are formed. Extremes are needed to reveal the form,
wild convulsions to carve and twist and blast
the soft surface away.  Then we see what endures.
A storm changes the outline of things.

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