for Roy ‘Dooms’ Sullivan (1912-83)
In ’42 the first bolt announced itself, cut a strip from his right leg
and left him grappling the mud, smoke rising from the bloody
cauter. The rain touched his face with the brief regret
of someone who has knocked out their lover.
The second hauled him from the window of his truck, razed
his hairline, and split his brow in factions around the flag of bone.
The boiling water thundered about the cliff, those white rocks
and the black water. The town shunned him after the third,
which was bolder, and found him out at home as he worked
his yard. Down from the dark brocaded sky the white
bird of it alighted on the power line, then came home tame
to Roy’s shoulder and detached his ear so delicately he wept.
And it stayed. In ’72, now a ranger in Shenandoah National Park
he learned the taste of petrichor. But his fourth, he swore
found him out indoors and punched the roof to get to him.
After, he was heard to say I am not a superstitious man.
Though he tried to outrun it, at Williams Fork
the fifth caught him up and held him, stroked his body,
was the first to stop his heart. It undressed him, sliding off
his left shoe, laces still done up, and burnt away a shirtsleeve.
The sixth was wild and carried off a sod of flesh, charged him
with its own electrics. His blood was a battery, a wild, high note
which kept him up into the night, the hair he’d left stood up on end.
He crackled when he walked. The grass crisped under his tread.
The seventh came upon him as a god. His written notes recall
a prologue in childhood when, with his father in the field a bright fire
struck across his scythe. But this one, being unverified by any doctor,
must be discounted by the record book, and forgotten.