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The God of Tempests


The God of Tempests
by Neile Graham

The thunder was distant, but the rain already burst
like it meant harm.

The sky yellowed, not with sun—
that was long gone—

but with a bile-beige light. Winds ran
quick estimates

of the strength of walls and panes. Trees
bumped against

the house like a fist's blow to the door.
But those walls, but

the bowing window glass. The weather was loud
and louder.

Louder than you, thundering over you.
The world

meant business: yours. When I let you in,
drowned and dripping,

the black cat leapt onto my shoulder
and peered at you,

her body pressed behind my head. She might
have purred.

Or growled. And the rain abated. Or might have.
For a moment, quelled.

You were in the perfect lull, in it with me.
Drenched. Dangerous.

This curious hiatus, this wonder, this storm in your eye,
this eye of the storm.

* * *

Neile Graham (neilegraham.com) is Canadian by birth and inclination but is a long-term Seattle resident where she can still live close to salt water and rainforest. She won a 2017 World Fantasy Award for her work with Clarion West Writers Workshop. Her work has recently appeared in Polu Texni, The Literary Nest, and Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. A new collection, The Walk She Takes, is due out by year's end, and Cedar and Stone is scheduled for 2020.

Where do you get the ideas for your poems?
I hear voices in my head. Seriously. Well, lines, really. I’ll be going about my daily life when something will spark words to line up until they intrude on my other thoughts. If I’m being smart I’ll pay attention (because the line can so easily tease and evaporate if I’m not). Then I mull the line over to see if it’s interesting enough in sound and meaning, and if that voice seems to have something to say—a story and/or emotion to share. Sometimes it’s already there or sometimes it’s close enough that I can re-shape it enough both for my ear and my story-mind. If I’m really smart (or lucky) the line will immediately lead to other lines and I’ll write them down and let that voice tell her story. Sometimes I have to wait more and focus and often I have to really work for it. Occasionally the poem spins out right away and I get the whole thing like a gift. I will still likely spend a lot of time shaping it until the words have the right sound and motion, though.

Right now my focus seems to be on poems arising from what I call the household gods, the ones whose spheres are smallish, focused things. For example here, this tempest. These are the ideas I find popping up into my head these days: what would a minor god of tempests be like? What would it be like to encounter him/her/them?

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