Heat Storms

It’s the kind of evening we call electric, though faced with such power, the meaning of our words begins to drift from the sky like the first soft spats of a storm. I’m paused for rest tonight in a valley south of Nashville, eyeing the silence of heat storms as they strike up somewhere far away from here. In sharp flashes, the sky becomes a shock blue the color of daylight. Scaly cirrus clouds like fishbones splayed against the surface of a still water shatter the humid air.

Driving north into town, the clouds begin to separate, and dark patches of night give rise out of the wind. As the highway lanes split before me, I remember driving into Georgia two Christmases ago, the roads suddenly turning to ice as fractured as the sky on this night. Feeling the asphalt give way to ice, my tires gave way to the careening, my body and the weight of the car together passing in slow motion, freeform, across lane after lane of traffic.

At home, at rest, the clouds are still bursting electric, purple fires and jagged cliff-like shapes in the sky. The first drops are falling, transforming the roads, the sounds, the passage of headlights. And only now is it appropriate to think of all the different energies and weathers a body might waver through before arriving into the other side of night.

Found in Nashville

Earlier this week, walking out of my apartment at five o’clock in the afternoon, I could have melted into the asphalt. With temperatures over 100 degrees for days on end, it takes a lot for me to leave the house. But, I was overdo for a game of darts with some friends, so what else does one do?

Before meeting up with my friends, I ducked into one of my favorite local bookstores, Bookman Bookwoman, to kill some time. Of course, it didn’t take long before I found a book I couldn’t pass up: The Made Thing: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern Poetry.

The most memorable artist of this crew of anthologized poets is David Bottoms. Out of the seven works Mr. Bottoms has in the anthology, one is particularly remarkable: “Under the Boathouse.”

In this piece, we follow the poet in the arc of a dive that takes him under a lake in “a fog of rust,” where he becomes trapped, a hook through his left hand. Flailing like “a bait hanging up/instead of down” he’s looking toward the sky, helpless, awaiting his salvation, which comes in the form of his wife.

But, it’s not until the last line of the poem — when we finally take our first aching breath as readers — that we actually hear of the hook that has held the poet submerged.

The beauty of his poetry is the suspense, the element of the unknown that draws us under, holds us close, and refuses to let go. And, when we’re released, we wonder how we were living before the experience, before the work of art unfolded.

“Under the Boathouse” can be found here.