Hurricane Fiona crashes into Atlantic Canada, September 2022 Forgive me if I say it might be better not to avoid disaster, to stumble across the shipwrecks, acts of gods and unexploded ordinance. Forgive me, but I’m still speaking of the weather. Perhaps these are the days to fill your belly on unprecedented landfalls, flood the nation’s basements, crushed cars under tumbled powerlines. Perhaps the storm trending towards once- in-a-century, once in a lifetime, knows the difference between halflife and replenishment. Forgive me if I point out the obvious, carbon dioxide-drunk. Seawater doesn’t know the human word for summer, the Two-Man Rule, the formula for finding the brightest object in the constellation Virgo. Try saying to the water, Begin at the Big Dipper, arc to Arcturus, speed to Spicus. Try it. Try pressing your pink ears to its blue lips, pacific ankles against the Gulf Stream’s spine, as it begs Forgive me. Not for this, but for what happens next.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Florida, nineteen hundred and twenty-eight kilometers away I have this dream where, amid all the forecasted paths and weathermen squinting in their windbreakers, I relish asking the right questions. I don’t know who I ask. I don’t ask satellite images or astronauts tweeting from orbit about how Gosh, this is probably the last storm they’ll ever name Ian. One of my uncles was named Ian. In southwest Florida, they’re still recovering the bodies. I don’t ask the seawater, carbon dioxide-drunk, about words like windspeed, stormswell, dry-drowning, cloud systems you can see from space, how cloud shares a root with clod and clot and means a mass or cloud of earth. I don’t ask. I relish what I don’t ask the storm, about people chaining themselves to pipelines and driving nails into fallen trees. The hunt continues, the news says, to recover the bodies. I have this dream where I relish how I’m asking the right questions, category four. What do you think will happen next, I ask the last storm ever named Ian. There’s nothing else to ask.
From the author: I composed these poems in September 2023, during a single week when two unprecedented storms hit the east coast. The second poem alludes to the first line of the Tragically Hip song “Nautical Disaster”: “I had this dream where I relished the fray.” According to the United Nation IPCC’s 2022 Sixth Assessment Report, “Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and migration will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”
Meghan Kemp-Gee is a PhD candidate at the University of New Brunswick and the author of The Animal in the Room, The Bones & Eggs & Beets, and What I Meant to Ask: A Chapbook. She also co-created the webcomic Contested Strip, soon to be a graphic novel.