Today I am reading a story about a woman who has been struck by lightning. She believes she’s a failure at everything – because of the lightning – So she drinks whiskey at parties to get past the failure, past the burning.
I have not been struck by lightning – but I have been struck by a hurricane –
That burn comes not from heat but from wild, warm slaps of wind, rain, seawater, -- A slapping that just goes on and on and on – you would not believe it – Now part of me, maybe for always -- Did I imagine this hurricane?
My mother once warned me about just this sort of thing. “We need to talk,” she said one morning,
“You’re honest in your own way, but you just make up things that never happened.”
But mama, so many people are crying and crying – still crying– we look at trees
No longer there, homes no longer there, friends no longer there, animals no longer there And we cry without warning
And, for some reason, and this is a mystery, we are ashamed of our tears.
So, I am thinking: if I were struck by darkening, could I believe I hadn’t been burned?
And where does it happen – how does darkening strike?
And what, after all, do I want to do today?
Having a plan, they say, is a step forward.
I do not want to write an essay,
I do not want to write a book,
I do not, Sam I am, want the rules of punctuation ruling around in my brain.
I want to print these letters -- letters that, one by one, build up words --
By my own hand -slowly, carefully, elegantly gentle.
And I want spring to roll in and I want to roll in spring.
Most of all, though, I want to finish a thought – no cutting it with sharp-scissored
criticism, or worse,
rusty-wire cutter edits that seesaw back and forth, never completing the cut but damaging
the thought away, anyway --
Just one complete, silvery line of thought -- uninterrupted, unedited – that’s all.
That’s a lot – for a day.
Elizabeth Kay Harris
Elizabeth Kay Harris is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Women's Studies at the University of Southern Mississippi. She recently gave the plenary address at the University of Northern Iowa's "Culture and the Medieval King" conference and presented a paper at the Georgetown School of Law's "Law and Humanities" conference. Her essay, "The Precognition of Crime: Treason in Medieval England and Terrorism in Twenty-first Century America" is forthcoming. She lived in Biloxi at the time of Hurricane Katrina.