THOREAU AND THE LIGHTNING
The white ash tree, the one he’d visited
time after time and season after season
and had studied and admired like a proud father,
had been struck by lightning. Lightning
had gouged downward, tossing broken limbs
every which way, had split the trunk
into six twenty-foot splayed, upstanding fence rails
still held up by the roots, had plowed a furrow
into a cellar (where it scorched the milk pans),
had bolted out in a shower of soil, had shattered
weatherboards and beams and the foundation,
had smashed a shed, unstacked and scattered a woodpile,
had flung pieces of bark two hundred feet
in all directions. It had thrown into disorder
or destroyed in a moment what an honest farmer
had struggled for years to gather, and had killed
a great tree. Was he supposed to be humbled
by the benign, malign, inscrutable purposes
of the Source, the blundering Maker of Thunderheads,
and give thanks he hadn’t been standing under it?
This poem first appeared in Ecotone and was reprinted in Best American Poetry 2011. It is collected in After the Point of No Return (Copper Canyon Press, 2012) and is reprinted here with the author’s permission. Poem copyright 2011 David Wagoner, all rights reserved.
More about David Wagoner.
This motionpoem is presented in collaboration with Best American Poetry 2011 (Scribner), with thanks to David Lehman, series editor.
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