Storm Surge, Keith Dunlap

Storm Surge


The wind bangs its fists on the window pane,
like a child beating madly upon a drum,
the only light the lamp next to the couch,
the couch below the window where I sit,
reading King Lear, curled up like a broken thumb.
Nobody here is concerned about
the house shaking with the pitiless storm.
The Prelude almost plays itself,
as Vivica practices piano.
The cat walks stupidly through the room,
and the flames of the fire in the fireplace
tremble across the top of a log.
No reason to let one’s inner thoughts dwell
on the fact that the shadows outnumber us all,
that ruin will come to us all like rain,
no reason to worry, not one.

Keith Dunlap


Review by Jared Pearce

While I’m not much for personification (in the first line) and find the simile (in line two) maybe a little facile, those are small prices to pay for the rest of the poem. The Lear reference is fine (Lear in the storm, madness, the search for comfort and compassion), and I wondered if even the window pane image was to bring Prufrock into the piece? The descriptions of the darkness, the piano, the cat, the flames on the log all lean to that idea of nonchalance against the raging storm—as if we’re in an updated shack on the heath: the speaker is Lear, Vivica is Tom/Edgar, the cat is the cat, the reader is the Fool. Thus the poem opens the consideration of what is wise and what is madness: to be calm in the storm, despite its threat, or to be worried, taking action, being prepared against a possible catastrophe.

And what is lovely here is that the poem allows all wisdoms by allowing us to enjoy our comforts in the house, the protection against the storm, while acknowledging the eventual end (ruin) that will befall us all (no reason, then, to worry, since we’re all headed that direction—into the legion shadows). So on the one hand there’s wonderful storms, wonderful threats, wonderful descriptions of us living against all these (the play, the songs, the light, the dance, and even the stupid cat), and on the other, that worry that it will all come to an end, and, thus, are we mad to enjoy the comfort and wise to worry about that end, or vice versa? The poem’s final line allows both considerations to play. We readers, as the Fool, will only answer it once we leave the poem for our own storms, perhaps to reenter as Cordelia at the end (whom Lear refers to as his, poor fool), full of redemptive power, but ultimately destined for death.


Review by Andrea Jackson

Vivid imagery.


Review by Claire Scott

A great poem about inevitability. I love the images for the storm: “The wind bangs its fists on the window pane,/like a child beating madly upon a drum.” The child introduces innocence, which is later destroyed by “that ruin will come to us all like rain.” King Lear seems to be the bridge between madness (child beating madly) and the storm. I see the speaker and King Lear both in “pitiless storms.” I am not sure who Vivica is? The speaker’s daughter? The cat seems to not have a clue. Maybe a different word than “stupidly” that shows us what the walk looks like? I like the question posed: what do we do about the inevitability of death/loss? The cat and “nobody here” seem to choose ignorance. I like “the shadows outnumber us all/that ruin will come to us all like rain.” I like the sound of it spoken aloud. The theme of darkness you carry from the beginning, heightening the exponent in a wonderful way. I love the last line. The speaker knows about the shadows and is making a conscious choice. A bit of the Stoics!

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