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Heat Lightning


By F. J. Bergmann



Wait for it some night in June

when clouds close in the thick hot air

the lion sun exhaled by daylight.

Now the sky lights up with rose;

count and listen for the thunder:

one … two … three … four … five … Around


a mile away; you count between the flash and sound.

Stay: don’t go to bed so soon;

there’s no rain yet, just heat and thunder.

Look up at the sky and stare

(the plants need water, goodness knows).

No, I’m not staying up all night


waiting for magenta light,

but I’m a grownup; I’m allowed.

Out by the garden the scent of rose

releases a golden ghost of noon,

a memory of heat and glare.

The lion roars; or was it thunder?


The charge builds up to pink surrender.

Wow! That one was really bright!

Strikes of lightning through blue air:

ground to cloud or cloud to ground

or cloud to cloud. A sudden bloom

in purple night: electric rose.


I walk between the tendrilled rows

along the garden paths and under

a clouded view, a hidden moon,

flashing skies of rosy light;

the blackened night so brightly crowned

with celestial son et lumière.


A last roar from the lion’s lair,

last petals blowing from the rose.

The powers at play have gone to ground;

I watch the quiet sky in hunger.

Please come to bed; it’s long past midnight.

I’ll sleep until late afternoon.


From behind the fading clouds stares the scarred and blinded moon;

all I know is no one knows what comes after life and light.

Dead roses wither on the ground: I count the miles and wait for thunder.



F. J. Bergmann edits poetry for Mobius: The Journal of Social Change (, is the past editor of Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association ( and imagines tragedies on or near exoplanets. She has competed at National Poetry Slam as a member of the Madison, WI, Urban Spoken Word team. Her work appears irregularly in Abyss & Apex, Analog, Asimov's SF, and elsewhere in the alphabet. A Catalogue of the Further Suns, a collection of dystopian first-contact reports, won the 2017 Gold Line Press poetry chapbook contest.

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