Jacob Brogan

The world is always ending

Heat Lightning

(for SK and BS, in advance of their wedding)


            We have all known bright rifts that tear open the sky, diagonals on diagonals, angles acute and obtuse, shattered signs signifying the mere fact of electricity. What does the lightning bolt tell us? It tells us that for a moment, only a moment, heaven and earth might come together. A narrow path binds them. We must sprint if we hope to traverse it.

            When we are children, it is not the flash that frightens us, but that which lags behind. The lightning bolt is beautiful; we delight in it. It is the sound that shocks us, the audible crack that chases the light. Thunder names everything that comes after the first flash of affection. As we age, we learn to hide our fear, but somewhere inside we still run from the sound. By the time our ears stop ringing, we are elsewhere, gazing up at the sky, waiting for the next storm.

            When I was a child, I sometimes imagined that love, like the sound of thunder, had a constant speed. How else to explain why adults always fought on road trips? Was the interstate traffic simply too fast for the heart to keep up? From the back seat, I would watch as clouds gathered, knowing there was no time to take shelter, no way to flee. Its arrival would go unannounced by lightning. Only the explosive call and response of thunder waited.

            Perhaps heat lightning put me at ease because it is silent. For an instant the whole horizon lights up. Then again and again. With no definite source, these diffusions of distant storms seem to be one long moment of illumination. Too far from us for sound to carry, their intermittent yet uninterrupted light is all that we know, all that we can see. Heat lightning has a quiet beauty, a beauty without bluster.

            Part of me remains stranded in the Ohio summers of my childhood. See me standing on the edge of an endless corn field, my body dusted by rain. Light blooms to the east, blooms like a closed fist slowly opening. In the absence a sudden peal, the light itself seems to roll toward me. It lingers like the memory of lavender , gathers like a benign scar on the brain. It fades but the tentative brightness stays with me. The rain falls like a blanket, and I am warm.

            Love names the hope that a light will fill the Midwestern sky. A light that will last.


            -August 23, 2014-September 13, 2014

            North East, MD - Washington, DC - Beacon, NY