Category Archives: Guinness Book of World Records

Lit-erature

My friend and fellow writer, Nicole, organized a reading this weekend at The Ear Inn. You can see pictures (and pitchers!) here.

I read a new piece I wrote about Roy Sullivan, the Shenandoah National Park ranger who holds the Guinness Book World Record for surviving the most number of lightning strikes: seven. When Roy finally died, it was from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He allegedly couldn’t withstand a broken heart.

roy.jpg

The poem is untitled and in seven parts.

1

Fire Lookout Tower

Kestrels dropped to spy ignition
spread like a rival wingspan. I was
stationed alone in the rock. How long
did I keep watch? Taut
as empty fingers fire’s exit.
Lightning rose, flared in my toes
and pooled familiar pressure like a match
struck against sole, such after-
sulfur.

2

Mountain Road

At eight I feigned snakebite with a fork.
I tined my arm one tooth too many — similarly the sky
that day was fanged but wrong. Hootinany
Blue Ridge, as plated linen swans hills
puckered, yellow paralleled, in rear-view
air bellied out — the road went dark, then blue,
then lit by nothing but the light
of my skin’s tinfoil.

3

Third Strike’s The Harm

A bottle of 80 proof Tullamore Dew is all
that should of got me heat-
whipped in the neck. I was crossing
the yard mindless of a backing
wind — in my head a woman
singing James Taylor to changed lyrics: “Oh, he’s seen
fire, he’s seen fire.” Later, salving flesh,
she felt for my singed socket, said
“Honey, that ain’t no cold shoulder.”

4

Baptism

I was most connected to my higher power
when I had no choice. At strike four
relinquish and allow. Carry
a pitcher. Embrace the methodical wisdom of
if fire I am there, if pitcher I am there
too but umbilical to God unembered,
hair safely soaked, body drenched, I tell you dive
into the swim hole
of the holy until The Lord can reach you
only in the slick wet church
that you’ve secured.

5

Five

When the fifth strike fell
to round out my counting hand
so I could tell how many times
by holding up my palm,
it wasn’t a gesture of stop,
at the hollow between each finger
a newly visible kindling, a bird’s nest
of dry bunting like the inside of a quilt
spilt out and dipped in gasoline, I could
smell the tinder, I could hear the many
oxidations being born inside my mouth, a second made
known by spread fingers, I was near-blind
with anticipation, with forgiveness,
my blood all touch and pyre –- it was then that I brought
my palm to my tongue to taste
the splay of burn.

6

Cloud as Conscience

First I saw its shadow on the campground lawn
and pretended faces, the way a child on his back might see
a lion or a clown. The cloud
was me. It attacked. It kept to its course
unrelentingly, gathering itself at its
cumulus tips, threadbare lurching –- dropped
rain like three-day old confetti in a sooty
street, clumped and stuck to my frame. I ran
towards a cabin, ran to outrun the shameful
brume which only hovered faster, unseen but
tethered, obsessive, until it seemed
to miscall my name — Ray, a light — and I
collapsed, ankle twisted, struck by a strange
interior weather.

7

Casting-Off

Bead, ribbon, staccato. These were the warnings
rocket triggered. I knew
I was blessed and I knew the language,
the magic a ranger uses to welcome
in his guest. I let the fire in. I went
fishing, cast the line out to where the black gum
meets horizon, the mountains gauzy and fog-
backed. The seventh took the bait:
it traveled down my pole, charred my chest
in an imprint like an oak leaf at the height
of fall. I was staggered and red. Unrequited,
I took a gun to my head at seventy-one.