Heat Lightning

Gary J. Whitehead Click to

Gary J. WhiteheadGary J. Whitehead’s third book of poems, A Glossary of Chickens (Princeton), was published in 2013. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The New Yorker, The New Criterion and Measure.


The whole drive home it split the swart-browed sky
like the forked veins of my forehead –
root rents, rhizomes
of light

and associations. Clouds of musings
now – why I’m reminded of rains
I wished would come
and mute

flashes of brilliance in a blue distance.
Late that afternoon we’d released
purple balloons
that rose

almost spookily towards a rainbow.
Someone said it was Lady.
A nephew asked me

for which I had no responses. Can we
see rainbows up close? Is there life
after death? How
high would

they rise and where and when they might touch down?
I thought of a boy happening
upon one in
a field,

a half-deflated, wrinkled mass trailing
a lavender ribbon. Were they
up there? I asked

on the drive. Were they dodging the crackling
of the atmosphere, or had they
already gone

flowering like the human idea,
which flashes even as one steers
between the lines
toward home?