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When I was ten, I memorized the names of clouds,
recorded rainfall in a coffee can, clipped newspaper
climate columns; I wanted to earn the Girl Scout
Weather Badge. But it wasn’t just the badge
that sparked what now illuminates my days.

It was my mother’s celebration of thunderstorms,
her gathering us on the porch to see the light show,
to jump at crashing sound, to breathe in ozone,
to smell wet soil. On mild, rainy days, she pushed
my brother and me outside to splash, even roll
in puddles. She taught forecast adages: “Red sky
at night …” and helped us test their accuracy.
We cheered first frost, first snowfall, every single
snowfall winterlong.

Even today, just out of bed, I run to the window,
open the blind, and calculate cloud patterns.
Cumulonimbus, a thundershower; mackerel sky,
pressure’s falling; green sky, possible tornado.
I check weather reports all day. Favorite stations?
The Weather Channel and my window.

Once when my mother was old, I wheeled her
to a waterfront terrace. As the sky darkened,
we sat among many, who, like us, saw a funnel
form across the lake, who, like us, sat mesmerized,
unable to move even when a siren sounded.


Erna Kelly, a retired teacher, likes hiking, cross-country skiing, and looking out her window. She co-edited the 2020 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar, has poems in journals such as The Aurorean as well as in several anthologies. A few years ago, one of her poems appeared on Burma Shave type signs in rural Wisconsin.

© 2019, Erna Kelly

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