An Octave Above Thunder

... reverberation
  Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
  He who was living is now dead
  We who were living are now dying
  With a little patience.

--T. S. Eliot,
"What the Thunder Said"

1

She began as we huddled, six of us,
in the cellar, raising her voice above
those towering syllables...

Never mind she cried when storm candles
flickered, glass shattered upstairs.
Reciting as if on horseback,
she whipped the meter,

trampling rhyme, reining in the reins
of the air with her left hand as she
stood, the washing machine behind her
stunned on its haunches, not spinning.

She spun the lines around each other,
her gaze fixed. I knew she'd silenced
a cacophony of distractions in her head,
to summon what she owned, rote-bright:

Of man's first disobedience,
  and the fruit...
  of the flower in a crannied wall
  and one clear call...

for the child who'd risen before school assemblies:
eerie Dakota rumble that rolled yet never brought
rain breaking over the podium. Her voice rose,
an octave above thunder:

When I consider how my light is spent--
I thought of her light, poured willy-nilly.
in this dark world and wide: half-blind, blind,
a widening distraction Getting and spending
 we lay waste our powers...Different poem, a trick!

Her eyes singled me out as the wind slowed.
Then, reflective, I'd rather be / a Pagan
 sucked in a creed outworn / than a dullard
 with nothing by heart.

It was midsummer, Minnesota. In the sky,
the Blind Poet blew sideways, his cape spilling
rain. They also serve! she sang, hailing
closure

as I stopped hearing her. I did not want to
stand and wait. I loathed nothing so much
as the forbearance now in her voice,
insisting that Beauty was at hand,

but not credible. I considered
how we twisted into ourselves to live.
When the storm stopped, I sat still,
listening.

Here were the words of the Blind Poet--
crumpled like wash for the line, to be
dried, pressed flat. Upstairs, someone called
my name. What sense would it ever

make to them, the unread world, the getters and spenders,
if they could not hear what I heard,
not feel what I felt
nothing ruined poetry, a voice revived it,
extremity.

by Carol Muske-Dukes

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