Big-backed Rain by Patricia Karamesines

Supercell photo public doman courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Above Four Corners,
nimbus-shouldered gods
rev the engines
of their summer rainmakers.

East in Colorado,
up from Utah’s deep country,
rashes of electrical impulses
bloom on chaffing skins of water
and air-born ice.

One silver-plated maelstrom sheers
from Sleeping Ute’s igneous brow.
It steams into Utah, anvil raised
to the highest stratum of the day,
bottom, pressed black night.
Between the cell’s chassis
and the ground, grey velvet cloudburst
and lightning forging, breaking—both—
bonds hotter than the sun’s face burns.
To the storm’s starboard, Scorpio
surfaces in early twinkle.
Fulmination lights the cloudworks
then tats one billow edge in pearly scallop
as the bulk winks briefly out.
The approaching earthmover’s intermittent
Groan deepens to near constant grumble.

In Arizona, out of hearing’s range,
lightning flakes evening off mountains
in noiseless cracks of light.
A second thunderhead
fires bolts as orange as pumpkins
into the rooted spine of the Carrizos.
Shredding rain, crooked veins
of fire bind both bodies,
filling canyons and arroyos with watery flash.
The frenzy squalls west, lightning intensifying:
Firecrackers going off under a hat.
.
The Milky Way swells then swirls
into southern lightning chambers
until figuring where storm cloud ends
and star cloud begins
poses riddles too expansive
for the mind’s casual play.

The male rain*, the rain with big shoulders,
muddies boundaries between heaven and earth,
splits an evening hour into tiers of high day
and gradations of disquieted,
low-hanging
night.

_______________________________________
*NiÅ‚tsÄ… BikÄ…, Navajo for “male rain”: the rain that falls during summer thunderstorms.

Patricia and her family live in the Four Corners region of the southwestern U.S.  She has won many awards for her poetry, essays, and fiction.  She is the author of The Pictograph Murders, a mystery set in the area where she lives. Some of her poetry appears in the recently published landmark anthology of Mormon poetry, Fire in the Pasture. An adjunct English professor for Utah State University-College of Eastern Utah, she teaches English composition and also works as a tutor for English.  She is founding editor of Wilderness Interface Zone.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

5 thoughts on “Big-backed Rain by Patricia Karamesines”

  1. Amid the metaphors of engines, anvils, electricity, etc., one soft reference to tatting. At first I thought it was out of place, but then it occurred to me that this was the quiet eye of the poem’s storm, the center of the maelstrom where there is peace for a time before the anvils and lightning and shredding rain pick up again. Very nice poem.

  2. Thanks, Will. I appreciate your reading the poem.

    BTW, this poem describes the actual scene from my back porch one summer’s eve a few years ago. I have a 60 mile view across the remainders of SE Utah into Arizona.

    Desert sky, desert light, desert thunderstorms. Evenings like these stick with you a while, bugging you to find a way to describe them to interested others.

  3. This poem brought back memories of being caught in a thunderstorm in Utah’s San Raphael Swell. Waterfalls flowed for hours afterwards off the high red cliffs. It’s a wonderful memory I return to often, and this poem is one of those I’d like to return again and again. Thanks for sharing it. — Cara

  4. Thanks for your kind words, Cara.

    It’s cool how the mind stores these events for revisiting. I’ve heard of the waterfalls off cliffs but never had the pleasure of seeing them. I do have memories of a lighter rain running off cliffs in a canyon in the San Rafael desert about 30 mi. from the Swell. No waterfalls, but strings of water pearls dangling from the rims. Pretty enough.

  5. My favorite passages so far:

    In Arizona, out of hearing’s range,
    lightning flakes evening off mountains
    in noiseless cracks of light.

    Then this passage reminds me of laying on the desert floor at night, looking up at the clear night sky:

    The Milky Way swells then swirls
    into southern lightning chambers
    until figuring where storm cloud ends
    and star cloud begins
    poses riddles too expansive
    for the mind’s casual play.

    Is it my imagination or does this poem have a rhythm to it that is different from most of your work? It is very effective.

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