Keith Westwater


Fulgura frango

In the middle ages, a monk would ring his abbey’s bell
to exorcise evil fire-breathers from the clouds.
He probably knew when a river of fog at times
shrouded his tower, it was just clouds lying on the ground.
But a sky of towering anvil heads meant
the blacksmith’s blazing sparks were not too far behind.

With no paper, TV, or radio he didn’t know one hundred
and three bellringers died in a flash in 33 medieval years.
Or, Benjamin Franklin would one day invent the lightning rod
that might prevent him dying as ash to heaven’s fires.

So he’d hitch up his sackcloth, trudge the belfry’s steps
wishing there were fog and chant the words writ on his bell—
Fulgura frango, fulgura frango
(I break up the lightning, I break up the lightning)

and pray that it were true.



Keith Westwater lives in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. In 2006 he received an equal first place and a ‘highly commended’ for entries in Yellow Moon’s ‘Spirit of Place’ poetry competition. His work has appeared in: Caught on Canvas—Richard Ponder’s Wellington; Tiny Gaps, the New Zealand Poetry Society’s International Poetry Competition 2006 Anthology (‘commended’ entry); and will shortly be published in JAAM #24, and Place, the magazine (USA). Westwater writes: “This poem was roused after I read Eric Brenstrum’s engaging writing about lightning and fog in The New Zealand Weather Book (Craig Potton Publishing, 1996). I was unaware when I wrote the poem that Eric is also a published poet.”