This poem was selected as a finalist for the 2021 MAYDAY Poetry Prize.
It wasn’t until today I learned that tornadoes are born from thunderstorms.
I have only ever known the kind
that come on in the evenings, soft but flanked with wind, bearing shade
to ease late summer heat. I only know
the kind of storms that visit deserts, the ones we waited for, yellow lightning pitchforks
like a painting in the distance,
thunder like the answer to a prayer. The raindrops that collect on dusty Southwest streets.
The thunderstorms I know
come upon you like a holiday, minutes red-x crossed off while you watch them move.
They roll on desert air
like something living, something wide and soft and massive, charged with tender,
graceful power. Like ships,
they stay at port above you for a moment; then roll back out to sea, leaving just
the scent of water in their wake.
A cactus child of the desert, I fell in love with storms like these, loved them
with the kind of wonder meant for gods.
It is hard to understand how that kind of care could turn to rage, how clouds could turn
the sky that color. It is something different
to stand bare in the arms of this kind of storm, to feel it reach its windy fingers down, tear furious
at my wings. I know that I have sinned
with my greedy wish for water in the midst of all this green, but it is something new for me
to feel nature’s anger
like the tantrum of a manchild. There is lightning here that makes me think of Zeus,
thunder like a chorus
formed from every other kind of god. This is a storm that teaches me
the other kind of small;
submission involves choice, and here I’m without one.
GUSTAV PARKER HIBBETT is a Black poet and essayist pursuing a PhD in Literary Practice at Trinity College Dublin. He holds a BA in English from Stanford University, is a drop-out of the University of Alabama Creative Writing MFA program, and is originally from New Mexico. His work also appears in Peach Mag, Déraciné, and phoebe, where his poem Oil Painting of a Hand Holding a Taxidermied Bluebird was a finalist for the 2020 Greg Grummer Poetry Prize.