Category Archives: Photo

Gust from the West

Image

First Storm and Thereafter

BY SCOTT CAIRNS

What I notice first within
          this rough scene fixed
in memory is the rare
          quality of its lightning, as if
those bolts were clipped
          from a comic book, pasted
on low cloud, or fashioned
          with cardboard, daubed
with gilt then hung overhead
          on wire and fine hooks.
What I hear most clearly
          within that thunder now
is its grief—a moan, a long
          lament echoing, an ache.
And the rain? Raucous enough,
          pounding, but oddly
musical, and, well,
          eager to entertain, solicitous.
No storm since has been framed
          with such matter-of-fact
artifice, nor to such comic
          effect. No, the thousand-plus
storms since then have turned
          increasingly artless,
arbitrary, bearing—every
          one of them—a numbing burst.
And today, from the west a gust
          and a filling pressure
pulsing in the throat—offering
          little or nothing to make light of.

Source: Poetry (April 2011).

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Why Do They Sing?

As I sit on my back stoop, the day that was thick and heavy with humidity is transforming all around me. To the northwest there’s the rapid flickering of what I grew up hearing called “heat lightning.” The air is tangibly cooler from occasional puffs of breeze high in the treetops. Thunder rumbles in the distance and the dogs are nervous.

The light show high above the solid ceiling of the clouds is working its way steadily to the south southeast maintaining its apparently regular yet certainly random rhythmic dance. The thunder sounds like bowling balls pushed down the alley by a very young child – meandering its way along the hard wood before reluctantly thumping into the gutter just short of finding the pins. Though the light show is now overhead, the children’s bowling birthday party stays far away yet nary a pin has fallen.

Now the promise of more relief as there’s a light but steady and gentle push of air from west to east down here close to the ground while the treetops are quiet. The cricket’s chatter and sing.  Is it because they anticipate the storm or because they are oblivious to it?


A New American Gothic

(This is a post from my old site written in October, 2007. I still think of this couple quite often.)

Kim and I caught a quick supper at Wendy’s this evening. When it’s just the two of us, as is the case most of the time these days, we normally sit across the table from each other and engage in near constant, and often animated, conversation.

Tonight, we both were fascinated with an elderly couple seated across the restaurant. (Pardon the grainy cell phone photo. I tried to be surreptitious as I snapped it…I don’t know how successful I was.) This couple had arrived before us. They were quietly involved with their meals when we sat down.

Their table, like ours, was a four-top, with seats available on both sides. As is our habit, we sat opposite each other. This couple chose to sit side by side. Per our habit, we talked throughout our meal. We observed not a single word pass between them. At no point did we see one look in the direction of the other. When they finished their meal, they carefully folded their sandwich wrappers and continued to sit quietly with each other. At irregular intervals, one or the other would take a sip from their drink. She used a straw. He didn’t.

I can imagine each of them in their Sunday School classes each week…she in her ladies’ class, he with the men. They’re sitting in straight, ladder-back chairs that creak occasionally, with cushions in the seats that could use fresh foam inside their faded, handmade covers. Both have adopted the exact same posture we see in this picture as they patiently listen to the teacher standing behind a slightly off-perpendicular lectern made in someone’s home wood shop years and years ago. Neither class is as large as it was last year, two years ago, five years ago. So many of their friends…the ones he used to share a smoke with on the front porch of the church between Sunday School and church, that is before it became frowned upon and besides, the doctor made him quit…the ones she used to call once each morning and once each afternoon “just to catch up”, that is if she could catch that chatty neighbor off of their party line…they’re in the cemetery behind the church.

There’s a place waiting for each of them in that same cemetery. It’s a thought that each of them used to ignore because of busyness, because of energy, because of fear. Now, neither is as busy, neither has as much energy. But neither is there as much fear. Because after all of those years sitting with those friends in their separate Sunday School classes, listening to the Sunday School teachers teach behind those homemade lecterns, the lessons on living, dying and hope – especially the ones from Ecclesiastes – ring truer than ever.

To everything there is a season…a time to use a straw and a time to go without…a time to sit across from one another, and a time to sit side by side…a time to talk and a time to sit quietly…a time to be born and a time to die.


Greeting the Sun