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.


I’m afraid of the things with you I might forget.

There was the player piano in Falls Mill, a quarter at rest on the wood, and in the memory I still have, a fine line of dust across it all. Amidst the old cookbooks and mounted firearms there was a stillness; there were feelings only born in a room filled with dust. A motion in my body dropped the quarter.

Some years we say spring bursts forth. Other years, we say nothing at all. This spring there was a rupture in the stillness, and the negative space was filling the room, drawing the trees, the stream outside into its powerful vortex. As the music became faster, it became louder, too, and it was as if you could see the corn dust dance and shake from the shelves above.

You can imagine the pounds of corn these people breathe each year, the pounds that are sucked in by the player piano that is never tuned. It coats the keys, the strings, the hammers. It becomes a part of everything here. In the quiet that has followed the music, I am hoping this corn has found a way into my ears, has settled in my brain like a fertilizer. I am wishing for rows and rows of cornfields in the tissues of my brain like a fecund field.

I think I will become hungry, and I will go there, and I will find you lying face down in a row of cornfields somewhere in my cerebrum, and I will say:

“See, don’t you remember the dusty player piano? Didn’t you think it nice, the cobwebs that could catch only corn? Wasn’t it beautiful when something started, and you could hear it without putting an ear to the ground?”

Life was effortless poetry.

Writing is Persistence

A week ago I was able to revisit one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Tennessee, Cummins Falls. There are several plateaus that terrace downward to a pool below the falls just before the water spins out into the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River. At 75 feet, Cummins Falls is an impressive sight. But, it’s not always the largest figures that demand the most attention.

These shallow shelves of water below the falls were full of fish: tiny minnow-esque creatures that drifted in nebulous schools, merging and dissipating in furtive motions.

And, no matter what came their way, they remained on their small, waterfall shelves. Simple, shallow grounds, but they could not be pushed on.

There is no key to writing, but there’s something to be said for persistency. Sitting down every day with a cup of coffee next to a portable heater for warmth and just starting.

Hemingway said, “Work every day. No matter what has happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail.”

Perhaps he meant that there are those who claim their 10×10 shelf of water below the falls before moving on to the next one. And when they move on, they move to swim.