Category Archives: Guinness Book of World Records


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.


The poem is untitled and in seven parts.


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-


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.


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.”



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.



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.


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.



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.