An Octave Above Thunder

Carol Muske-Dukes

 
                                       ... 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.
 
From An Octave Above Thunder: New and Selected Poems, published by Penguin, 1997. Copyright © 1997 by Carol Muske. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Poems by This Author

After Skate by Carol Muske-Dukes
He glides in on his single wing, after the signs go up. After
Like This by Carol Muske-Dukes
Maybe it's not the city you thought


Further Reading

Poems About Weather
(Soma)tic 5: Storm SOAKED Bread
by CAConrad
Becoming Weather, 21
by Chris Martin
Snow-Bound [The sun that brief December day]
by John Greenleaf Whittier
The Book of a Thousand Eyes [Rain, queen]
by Lyn Hejinian
A Line-storm Song
by Robert Frost
A Winter Without Snow
by J. D. McClatchy
Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm
by Carl Phillips
Dispatches from Devereux Slough
by Mark Jarman
Even the Rain
by Agha Shahid Ali
Flood
by Eliza Griswold
Flood
by Miyazawa Kenji
Great Sleeps I Have Known
by Robin Becker
History of Hurricanes
by Teresa Cader
Identity Crisis
by F. D. Reeve
In April
by James Hearst
Into Bad Weather Bounding
by Bin Ramke
It Was Raining In Delft
by Peter Gizzi
L’Avenir est Quelque Chose
by Dobby Gibson
November
by William Cullen Bryant
Now Winter Nights Enlarge
by Thomas Campion
Ode to the West Wind
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Passage I
by Maureen N. McLane
Problems with Hurricanes
by Victor Hernández Cruz
Purism
by Vona Groarke
Radar Data #12
by Lytton Smith
Rain
by Claribel Alegría
Shells
by Elaine Terranova
Sitting Outside
by W. D. Snodgrass
Sleet
by Alan Shapiro
Snow
by Naomi Shihab Nye
The Clouded Morning
by Jones Very
The Hurricane
by William Carlos Williams
The Snow Storm
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Storm
by Theodore Roethke
The Woman and the Flame
by Aimé Césaire
Today A Rainstorm Caught Me
by Matt Hart
Who Has Seen the Wind?
by Christina Rossetti