(1) write a poem about a sound, and
(2) write a poem that looks at something in different ways or from different perspectives, like Wallace Stevens' "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird".
So here is my somewhat autobiographical take on one of my least favorite sounds, thunder. And yes, as the last stanza suggests, we are expecting heavy storm here today.
10 Ways of Hearing a Thunderstorm
The ancients had their gods
Like Zeus and Thor
who manufactured lightning bolts
and smote the undeserving.
Thunder was the sound of retribution.
My grandmother used to tell me
that thunder was the angels bowling.
A rumble was a ball rolling down the lane
and a clap was the pins smashed by a strike.
My mother said thunder was God
moving His furniture.
Once, after a particularly loud boom,
I said, “He must have dropped a sofa.”
Despite her reassurances,
Mom would always pace the house
nervously during a thunderstorm,
especially at night, when she would
walk the hall in her white nightgown
like an agitated ghost.
I can’t sleep through thunderstorms either.
At the first distant rumble, I’m awake,
and stay up till it’s well past.
Some people use recordings of storms
to help them relax and sleep.
I don’t get it.
My dog used to cower under the bed
at the first loud thunderclap.
If I were small enough
I’d be there too.
I studied the weather as a kid.
I wanted to be a meteorologist.
I learned that you could tell how close
the lightning was by counting the seconds
between the flash and the bang.
It only made me more nervous.
Rolling thunder doesn’t bother me much
because I know it’s only cloud-to-cloud.
I can see it in the distance, actually beautiful,
the clouds flickering orange, white, or blue.
It’s cloud-to-ground, the bright white flash
and the house-shaking boom
that puts my nerves on edge.
Once I watched a thundercloud
from a plane at 30,000 feet.
It looked so innocuous down there
like one of those old friction-spark toys
rolling across the earth
and I couldn’t hear a sound.
Today I am minding
my two young granddaughters.
There are storms on the way.
I will bite my lip, push down my fear,
and tell them some myth about the thunder.
It’s just the clouds bumping together, I’ll say,
and the lightning’s from the sparks
when they collide.