Written On A Shady Porch In Post-Derecho Mt. San Angelo

Poem Concluding with a Derecho 
by Aaron Baker
It doesn’t know the names of things and won’t stop to revise.
Summoned, wraith-like, out of the corn fields of Iowa,
out of general error, the oath of the deserted wife,
the farmboy’s dream of the coast, out of bitterest arguments
too long delayed, it builds among the inland prairies and plains—
not ignorance but total and undifferentiated knowledge.
It moves—slowly at first—against Illinois, Indiana
and the Virginias.
                                   And so dusk on Mount San Angelo
where the artists are gathered, crackers and wine, to greet
the arriving genius. Lights flicker, flicker out. The treeline hoves
and plunges in the teeth of the squall. Hold hands! Hold hands!
The painter puts down her knife, then takes it up in darkness.
The composer puts his hands over his ears.

Listen: the dream of the artist is transformation.
The derecho shatters the cedar, pitches treetops into housetops
and brother against brother. Separates roots from earth,
action from principle, the right hand’s knowledge
of what the left hand is doing—and then gives us
ten days of life among the wreckage. Downed lines, broken
limbs, the music of chainsaws and generators.  Said the novelist
from New York with a note of disdain, “It’s like somebody
came through here and pitched a giant tantrum.”

And so we mistake ourselves, fumble and mutter
amidst our notebooks,  canvases, and drained laptops.
We curse  the heat, the power company, the governor.
We try to convince ourselves of everything except
that we’ve been stunned into enervation and futility
by our encounter with the one true genius of our age.
A poem ends. The derecho ends the poem.


Aaron Baker, poet
Chicago, Illinois

To see photos and read more about the Derecho Days at VCCA, see our blogs posted between July 2-9



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