Thunder and other poems

Thunder and other poems
Author photo: © Constance Christopher


A snowstorm appears on radar maps
yet no snow falls on the city

plows are dispatched
trucks salt the streets

and the planets line up
as they do once a millennium

in a year when so many you knew
and loved have been returned to the earth

or consumed by fire
transformed by laws (however flawed)

that Lucretius recorded so carefully
including those murkier ones

that apply to the spirit
which he claimed was neither birthless nor deathless

when he attempted to chronicle
its flight from the body

the evanescent ribbon it trails
to the edge of the universe

(a month’s journey by his calculation)
where an orchestra of lost souls 

performs its angry music that some nights 
on Earth is mistaken for thunder

The Yellow Peril

Maya Cortina martyred in Wichita
Kansas on All Souls Eve 1950
by a costumed mob
skeletons werewolves clowns
beating her to death
while two policemen or men
dressed as policemen watched
from a darkened doorway

For weeks the newspapers
had been blaring warnings
about the Yellow Peril
the fact that no sooner
was the Empire of Japan vanquished
than the People's Republic of China
annexed Tibet and asserted
its hegemony over Indochina

Born and raised on Bali
widowed at twenty-two by a G.I.
killed on Guadalcanal
Maya was an actress who that night
played one of the schoolgirls
in kimono and obi
in a performance of The Mikado
after which to save bus fare
she chose to walk home
still in costume beneath her coat

The Green Lighthouse

In Sardinia and all the world
there is only one green lighthouse
looming against a green sky
and only one key to unlock its door.
The widow gave it to me
when she moored her boat
and left me on the beach below.
I followed a winding trail up the cliff
to the lighthouse and climbed
the stairs to the lantern
and through the salt-flecked glass
watched the widow sail back
to her island of thorns
the stone house
in which she would snuff her candle
just as the great lamp came to life
flashing across the cropped waves
guiding ships to shore
and drowning me in light.

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