In San Francisco

August Kleinzahler

I’ve never seen the sky this colour in the years I’ve lived here, somewhere between Methyl Violet and Lobelia Blue. It has an unreal feel to it, like the old Stereoscope cards from the 1950s. And it comes on the heels of two nights of unprecedented lightning strikes that went on for hours, like slow-motion, erratically staggered strobe lights, along with the distant rumble of thunder. There is, very rarely, every few years, a bit of thunder and lightning during the summer in San Francisco, but I can recall nothing remotely like this. A high wind has suddenly kicked up, ominously bending the large palm in the backyard, freighted with decades of unpruned dead fronds and bedizened with thick ropes of trumpet vine with its orange flowers.

If the tree were going to snap and come down I suppose it would already have done so, but I have been regarding it with trepidation when the wind is up for a good many years, or at least for the 35 years or so since the late poet Lee Harwood, in one of his many incarnations, this time as a tree surgeon for hire, scaled it and gave the palm a proper haircut, the result of which was the poet appearing at the back door blancoed from head to toe in guano.

The nominal cause of this weather is a tropical disturbance, Fausto, off the west coast of Baja. But I cannot help regarding is a harbinger of what lies ahead this autumn. Covid-19 will almost certainly surge dramatically and dovetail with the seasonal flu, resulting in incalculable deaths. Much of the economic devastation looks to be permanent and likely to worsen. Tens of thousands of people are being thrown into the streets and unable to feed themselves, much less their children. The Nasdaq is hitting new record highs every day.

The American political convention season is upon us, with the Democrats up first tonight, and entirely virtual, for the first time, perhaps not the last, if there ever is another ‘free’ election. The one due on 3 November is promising not to be terribly ‘free’. Be that as it may, after election night, whoever wins, there will almost certainly be blood in the streets.


  • 18 August 2020 at 12:38am
    ghinand says:
    It is a harbinger. Flee - all has been discovered.

  • 18 August 2020 at 8:38am
    Joe Morison says:
    Surely some revelation is at hand

  • 18 August 2020 at 2:10pm
    Delaide says:
    Word of the week: bedizened. Honorable mention to blancoed.

  • 18 August 2020 at 3:55pm
    garyamdahl says:
    Right, and let's not forget the pyrocumulonimbus cloud that became a firenado on the far side of the San Joaquin, and the highest undisputed temperature in the history of the bleeping world, 130F/54.4C, in Death Valley. Down in my part of California, I have been watching every night for the last couple weeks, from twenty miles away, a fire consume the entire side of a mountain.