Poem of the Week | She Was Lightning by Aisling Twomey

She Was Lightning

by Aisling Twomey


It was years before I learned 

that the lightning comes 

before the thunder. First

a charge, a flash, a strike that 

splits the sky, 

demanding attention. 

The thunder follows; 

a mournful growl 

after the char. 


As teenagers, I survived boys 

and books and tests;

she survived the slow 

dripping poison of the 


She raged against the machines 

that healed and hurt her, 

determined to triumph 

against bad odds 

with an unlucky hand. 


Now, when lightning forks 

across the night, 

I stop and gaze skyward to assess 

the heavens. 

When the thunder groans and 

the sky aches with 

the hulking heft of the storm, 

my heart cries with the rain.


By 25, it was clear she 

couldn’t outlast it. 

Late on a March evening

in a cramped hospital room I

learned the pain of goodbye.


The lightning too is 

short-lived; a flagrant, blatant, fracturing 

clash of commotion, a rushing

upheaval in the vault, a 

colossal blaze across the world, then



Only the thunder remains; 

a reminder 

of what has gone before.


And you would never doubt 

the power of the storm. 

After the bursting flash, 

when the bruising thunder 

rumbles overhead and 

passes on to fray another’s nerves, 

you know you have borne witness 

to the sublime 

magnificence of a 



She was lightning. 


HeadStuff is now open for poetry submissions for our spring Poem of the Week series. We are extending this deadline to the end of April. Check our submissions page for guidelines.

Cover photo by Juvar Abrera on Unsplash