The inventor’s wife predicts a storm

Each coming storm, I’m alone, love.
I take to bed as my blood constricts,

is corseted by whalebone. I blot the sky
with clouds of my own invention

and watch the day run
like a shawl’s pulled thread, unravelling.

You’ve meanwhile jailed some leeches
to do your bidding. You ask me

to admire your new device – ugly, but
useful, so you say. Each leech inside its jar

feels the storm, climbs up, rings a bell.
I make a jar to contain myself, pull sheets

around my clanging head,
clench fists

into my ears, my skull
its own barometer. My migraine’s

your storm predictor. Look at me,
not your treasured leeches.



Fiona Cartwright is a poet and conservation scientist. Her poems have appeared in various journals including Magma, Mslexia, Interpreter’s House and Ink, Sweat and Tears. Her debut pamphlet, Whalelight, is available here ( and she tweets @sciencegirl73.


Note:The tempest prognosticator, or leech barometer, was invented by George Merryweather in the nineteenth century. Leeches were believed to become agitated by coming storms and to climb up inside the glass bottles in which they were placed, which would lead to a warning bell ringing. Many migraine sufferers also find that atmospheric pressure changes trigger their migraines.