A Poem by Joseph Lee Meads
(Recipient of the 2020 Goodnow Award)
A cyclical story: heavens
soften as a cold sweat, infused
with an earthen stench –
leaves of deciduous trees turn
upward, a funeral-like silence
domes slowly downward;
a hair trigger with an uneasy grip...
Birds mute; dogs howl; 5-
hearted earthworms squirm
instinctually to the surface
of sidewalks or concrete lots,
only to be diffused by sunlight
into an extravagant orgy
As the wet lumpen whisper
curses to the all
too typical indifference
of those whom shroud in glossy gossip rags the grace
of their head hairs and scalp
skin; as glass foyers steam
anxiously up – jammed
with golf umbrellas,
umbrella canes, bubble
umbrellas; lavish, wicking fabrics...
Astraphobia (from the Greek word astrape; lightning) is the name given
to an irrational fear of thunder, lightning, storms, epic poetry, phalluses,
drunkenness; the defeat of the dominion over humanity's faux-environments:
with this I can empathize; never, however, sympathize; to quote Horace:
"naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret."
I was born during a blizzard
on the far eastern edge of an outdated concept:
tornado alley (it's shifted);
where the growing season is organized into a deceptiveness of finite perpendicularity
– stalks of corn interrupted via green seas
of toxic-sprayed soy – then harvest, Halloween,
Thanksgiving; the twilit intoxication of early winter,
and the ensuing cruel sobriety of reading clocks,
ticking off the months with a pallid anemia;
black snow, soft sun, metallic-suicide sky;
the ungodly daytime of it all.
I was born landlocked at the level of the sea.
The searing electric ropes of Zeus, Thor;
the hysterical winds of Tezcatlipoca;
the vast reverberations and torrents of Indra – these men
were the least/most malevolent
of my imaginary boyhood acquaintances.
I studied their cryptic tongues;
a given cell with earth rising when warm.
Supercell moisture; the required air.
The ingredients keep
Of heat lines above sunlight:
unstable mechanisms; severe –
surface lifting, rising.
vapors. Rain shadow...
Joseph Lee Meads is a student in the MA Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and has previously been published in Columbia Poetry Review. His work is informed by his diagnosis of schizophrenia and subsequent "disabled" status; he is an advocate for mental health awareness and social justice. He's also heavily obsessed with B movies made before the 21st century.