CLOUDBURST

church rosemont
I am teaching at the amazing Rosemont Writer’s Retreat.  The house in which I’m staying (below) is just across from this church.  When I’m here, I always end up writing poems about the church.  I think it’s lovely, enigmatic, and inspiring.  I wrote this one during a storm yesterday.  

Above the steeple, disgruntled sky slits her wrists, slashes lightning bolt veins until they bleed acid rain.

The chapel shudders, cinched tight in a crackling casing of kinetic energy and original sin. Gutters run red with communion wine. A stone Mary shakes her head, wondering at the mess. Clicking his honeyed tongue, Jesus thrusts out his sacred chest until his heart shows gold. Dogwood roots uncoil, soak sun from soil that hast not yet cooled, has not bothered to understand that this storm means business, is here to drive out all warmth, make refugees of rat families, drown entire ant populations in collapsing tunnels.

Remember how in the Bible they said heaven cracked? It was like that, only passing alley cats found no ark. For them, there was no Noah offering gopher wood salvation. Dripping, they bolted beneath staircases, twitching tails indignantly, howling. Hens tottered, beaks gaping wide, cursing God in six languages, aghast at their wet, dented feathers. Squirrels stood on hind legs to pen heaven a strongly worded memo written in the alphabet of snails, sentences looking something like the slick left behind by a terrier’s tongue on drywall, slippery and bumpy at once.

I wanted it to be like this, prayed for the sky to be angry,

like me.

I needed the wet to mean business, to make a damp tramp of the whole world, turn her saucy sweat to mud, drown her horrid history in the irascible sounds of thunder and the silent screams of dying sidewalk worms.

As if memory can be undone.

Once, I tried to uncarve your name from the elm where I wrote it, but it had sunk deep into the heart of the tree, become a piece of its spine. “Mine,” the hungry trunk said, and swallowed your name whole. I can’t say that I blame it. When I was young, I wrote your name in lipstick on bathroom walls, thick, red scrawls bleeding my love onto every surface I touched.

How can two syllables say so much?

Rain washes present tense away, erases the shaky line I have walked between invisibility and quasi-fame. Near-acclaim, like near-beer. A tenth of the flavor, none of the kick in the head.

Once, the game show host asked me what my favorite word was. I said your name. She wasn’t impressed. Didn’t she understand the miracle of you, that there is this man who stands taller the sun and wears rainbows in his hair?

I suppose she’d have to see you to get it, the same way the word “ocean” doesn’t do justice to the ever-swelling miracle of Pacific sand-sea-tide. “There are whales down there,” I told the host, trying to explain. “He holds whole schools of fish in his kneecaps.”

The earth burps at heaven, shrugs, unmoved by her tantrum. Sky slams her door. Grassy ground says, “Come out again when you are ready to act like a lady.”

The storm rolls bone white and cold over the horizon, disappearing two inches at a time,

like you.

I tried to hold on, but when was the last time lightning let anyone ride him bareback?

Sky emerges at dawn, dressed in pink gauze, wearing lilacs in her hair. Her singing sounds like the cardinals who gather on the steeple’s point, like drops of blood on the tip of the needle that pokes heaven in the eye.

Sky doesn’t cry this morning.

I huddle here beneath my upended umbrella, utterly undone.

mansion Rosemont
The incredible house in which I stay when I’m teaching at Rosemont.  “Beautiful” doesn’t do it justice.  I’m 96.8% sure it’s haunted, but I turn up my music really loud when I’m here alone so I won’t hear bumps in the night.  

 

 

 

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