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You say tornado, I say cyclone

June 5, 2013

I listened to two things last night: a friend tell how she was caught in Brooklyn’s 2012 tornado, and Glenn Gould play Bach’s Goldberg Variations—twice, nearly 30 years apart (see below). This poem draws both into its eye, as well as my own recent cyclone-survival tale. So hang on.

Taken by Storm

We both describe the wall of water
ensnared in our cliché like anyone
caught by rain so intense it
erases original thought
Hers raced uphill as she
walked breathlessly down
head bent against rising wind
teasing electrified hair into
a coif enviable in 1985
Mine rolls over flat water
darkening Turner sky leaning over
shoulders of a sunset even
Monet would hesitate to capture
looking port to starboard
like channel-flicking after 10 pm

Her shoes tapped gypsy jazz on concrete
1955 Goldberg from Gould
note-filled flurry drowning in storm’s drone
She abandoned the city’s insecure
maple anchors and brick coves
raced for safe harbor
teacher desperately returning to student
My sandals root to fiberglass as I
turn our bow beyond mainland
harbor to claim 20 vessels’ lives
I dream three miles deep
southern ocean fjord
anchor sunk firmly in generations of mud

Boys taking care of their girls
captain’s lady sheltering us all
anemometer registering 30
35, 40, 48 knots
internal danger meter registering
swaying treetops within view
It’s Gould’s ’81 variations
still all speed and bluster
but outlining every chord in ways
that younger self
that Park Slope storm
never saw the point of
And perhaps she dreamed the
Brooklyn Rain he later wrote for her
flute releasing notes of
spring’s falling raindrops
no cyclone, no tornado
only fat and round
full in timbre
refreshing as new love

—Julie Laing

Let me know what you think—about poems, about sailboats, about Glenn Gould. And then check out some other new work at the dVerse Poets Pub.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 6, 2013 5:25 pm

    I love these lines…perhaps she dreamed the
    Brooklyn Rain he later wrote for her
    flute releasing notes of
    spring’s falling raindrops
    no cyclone, no tornado
    only fat and round
    full in timbre
    refreshing as new love…beautiful!


  2. June 5, 2013 1:50 pm

    And perhaps she dreamed the
    Brooklyn Rain he later wrote for her…my fav part..just so wonderfully felt and how cool that he write brooklyn rain for her…maybe i’m taking this too literally but i find it just wonderful..


    • June 5, 2013 5:47 pm

      Thanks, all, for the fabulous comments! It’s especially fabulous because bits that captured your attention were ones I wasn’t sure worked well. The ending in particular–I considered cutting back to “never saw the point of,” because the last section seemed to veer off course from the storms. But I decided to put it up intact because without it the piece seemed to lack resolution. If both Claudia and Brian like it, I must have made the right call! And Claudia, you’re not taking it too literally–my friends are incredibly talented musicians who live and perform together; he wrote a duet for his guitar and her flute and called it Brooklyn Rain. 🙂 It’s gorgeous.


  3. June 5, 2013 5:02 am

    I tumbled down happily. the music carried me.


  4. June 5, 2013 4:47 am

    I dream three miles deep….nice…that line jumped out at me…
    and i love the end of this…what a contrast between the pounding rain above…
    i like hte music of the rain…refreshing as new love…smiles.


  5. June 5, 2013 1:22 am

    I can envision the violence of your storm, just by the mention of Turner… scary times to be caught in such storms, glad you are safe and do hope all is well. Your words bring forth the anxiety of living through such a thing.


    • June 5, 2013 5:53 pm

      Thanks, DiAnne. I was unsure about the Turner reference, because the name “Turner” seemed too common to throw out there like “Monet.” But I couldn’t figure out how to replace him with someone else–he IS the master of storms. My friend made it to safety in time, and on the boat we rode out the storm in style only to return to the mainland to find its destruction everywhere. It seemed unimaginable that we’d be safer on an anchor sunk into mud than on a mooring secured in concrete!



  1. You say tornado, I say cyclone | Ditch the Dog

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