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Heat Lightning

by Richard Merelman

In shafts and forks and loops
lightning whitens the ashen horizon.
For over an hour, never a pause.
No echo of thunder. Not a drop
of rain. Only a silent rending
of stacked clouds that rise
from the cornfields miles north of us.
The weather’s been endlessly steamy. You and I,
wordless as usual, peer at the storm
from our rear window. We do not touch;
we haven’t for weeks. A funny season.
As if enraged, the galaxy of energy
rakes a swath of farms and towns
across the lake. I manage to whisper
Have you ever imagined such fury?
You answer Yes, of course I have,
not once glancing my way.

If lightning should find the silos,
the trailer parks, the schools,
they would burn to cinders in seconds.
Nothing could survive those strikes, I mumble,
my pulse starting to judder. You shrug.
Thank God, it isn’t here, I continue.
You snicker, as if I’ve hit upon a joke
unknowingly. I crane my neck to search
for where the bolts begin their descent.
My vision lifts through scrims of clouds
until it reaches absolute emptiness.
There the lightning is brightest, the fire all-
consuming, self-renewing.
You follow my gaze
and when you’ve seen enough
you slowly back away
without a sound.