Copyright © 2002 Thibaut Dancette
Sometimes lightning misfires.
Instead of disappearing into open sky
it flings itself against the earth,
strikes the ground in a concussion of elements
that melts sand and rock as it courses downward,
vitrifies the soil and cleaves a path
tunneled in tubes of glass.
Fulgurites, the form of lightning captured
into what you can hold, energy seared and palpable
encrusted with unfused sand. Once my father
sat alone in a barn, a small boy
with his lantern, enclosed by night
and the company of horses. He told me this
when I myself was small, how the barn's
ancient timbers lifted the darkness above him
and the lantern's flame spilled light
through the glass chimney, shaping shadows
and an awareness he suddenly knew
he would remember, complete,
for the rest of his life, as if an instant
were an object he could handle and admire.
And hand to me so many years later,
child to child. No one knows
why a moment, a bolt of lightning, leaps
from its destined course toward forgottenness
and encases itself, a memory we carry
our whole life, while others perhaps as remarkable
disappear in the blank sky of history without
notice. My father was a man changed.
No, it was nothing distinct,
nothing that anyone could recognize,
but inside him, like the hollow
hardness in the fulgurite, a place
he could find, the rapture of a moment
retained. The world is on fire all around us.
Sometimes we glimpse it. My father is dead,
the barn torn down, but I remember
his eyes alight, witness to when fire
enters secret places, brands us for its own.
Copyright © 2002
Sally Ashton, MFA student at Bennington College, has had previous work published in Reed Magazine.