Carrington Event

It strings its connections across the past,
across landscapes lit with low-angle light,
cotton-grass and willow-herb seeds
scattered in the wind,

loops like sagging telegraph wires
across mountains and ferry-landing,
dirty glaciers and clumped sorrel and sedge.

It pulls itself out, skeins of wool ravelled,
to stop the blood of older hands winding in
time; and sheets that flap again
even after the freeze

and we know, as wise old women,
that lines of washing measure our days,
small shirts escape their moorings

and flap across, dirtying their little sleeves
in the mud, and each line,
shall we call it by its name, pain-
lights up the next;

a glorious churning magical sparking disaster-
all of it lighting up the sky together;
my Carrington event seen around the world,

as far south as Lucknow in northern India,
waking Rocky Mountain miners
who stagger from bed, to fry some bacon
and warm some beans, thinking it morning,

telegraph operators jump back
from the shock and the burn,
as pylons threw their sparks,

and little fires start up and down
the gorse and the bracken.
And the light? An indescribable softness,
and movement, a restlessness-

and when the washing
is no longer frozen, moves again,
it is dry and can be gathered in.

The solar storm of 1859 (also known as the Carrington Event) was a powerful geomagnetic storm. A solar coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth's magnetosphere and induced one of the largest geomagnetic storms on record.

Deborah Alma

Deborah Alma

Deborah Alma is a UK poet, editor and teacher. She has worked using poetry with people with dementia, in hospice care, with vulnerable women’s groups and with children in schools. From 2012 she was the Emergency Poet offering poetry on prescription from her vintage ambulance. She co-founded the world’s first walk-in Poetry Pharmacy in Shropshire with her partner the poet James Sheard in 2019.

She is editor of Emergency Poet-an anti-stress poetry anthology, #Me Too – rallying against sexual harassment- a women’s poetry anthology, Ten Poems of Happiness from Candlestick Press and co-edited with Dr Katie Amiel These Are the Hands- Poems from the Heart of the NHS. Her first full collection Dirty Laundry is published by Nine Arches Press.