Carol Moldaw’s Poem “The Lightning Field”

Of course out in the Lightning Field I was thinking of Carol Moldaw’s marvelous poetic sequence about it.
The first section is below. The entire poem actually imitates, or re-creates, the structure of the field in poetry. It is collected in her book of the same name from Oberlin College Press.

Four hundred equidistant stainless steel poles,
twenty-five by sixteen, gird and grid the mile-long
kilometer-wide field that was once a plain.
Like polished spears, with solid tapered tips,
they rise over twenty feet. Sounding the air,
attuned to the light’s least vibrato,
between dawn and dusk they all but disappear.
It was the hope of lightning drew us here,
and for an hour or so there is lightning–
violet strikes, frequent, sharp, and silent
above the mountains ringing the plain
but the poles do not require lightning, they
are aggregate enough. Would we have walked
so casually into the scrub and desert plain
without the reassurance of these metes
and bounds? Past the first gulch, before we reach
the corner pole, the cabin drops below
our line of sight. Quickly, characterize
and distinguish the mountains to the west from the range
to the east. The north. The south. But we could rely
on the sun, you say before I’ve had a chance
to get my bearings, your profile still so new,
studying not the mountains, but the cloud-
lit sky. Leaving the perimeter, we work
our way in, zigzagging from pole to pole.

–Carol Moldaw

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well ( The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

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