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Nikola Tesla. Smiljan, Serbia. 1875

Blue light chases the heads of wheat crops,
leaps the divide from field to my hands
on the windowsill. Mother outside, bathed
in its watery glow, works to clear a path
to the ocean, sends tall crops
fleeing from her grasp. My father
elsewhere blesses the sick and dying.
My brother Dane, no doubt hiding
his trysts, was first trampled,
now tamped beneath horse hoofs.

White light curtains the window –
one of my flashes.
I see Dane, like myself, victim
to the brain’s firing synapses. I turn him over
in my mind, look for the glitch, the gear
out of place, the overwrought power source.
The light recedes but he remains
superimposed on the field,
fleeing with the wheat.

I was nineteen when I left home.
That was the year
I kissed a girl on horseback,
I made love in the stables,
I learned lightning
is just ice particles brushing
in the air,
is the product of attraction.

Chicago, U.S.A. 1892

Blue light chases the heads of the crowd,
leaps the divide from theatre to stage, bathes
the taut face of a woman turning over
the annular pillars in her mind.
Their iron scent smells like taper wick
burning beneath the kerosene sign
Chicago’s World Fair.

White light curtains the stage.
I see the audience
jam fists against their eyes, rub the picture
from the retina, the electric flash
superimposed on the red dark of eyelids.
I take the current through my body,
the dipole pull. See, Dane?

I know what powers and splits the world.
Metal coils that crack like women’s laughter
send people fleeing for the exits. It’s safe
I say. They cannot understand.
The discharge of energy exists to erase itself,
is the product of a greater force.
Train your hearing on

the noise beneath the lightning blast,
your lover’s breathing in your ear.
The hum that means We’re growing.
The hum that means We’re here.

Perry Janes is a student at the University of Michigan, where he has received four Hopwood Awards, a Paul and Sonia Handelman Poetry Award, and a Jeffrey L. Weisberg Poetry Award. Poems from his series on Nikola Tesla have appeared in Salt Hill and The Collagist.

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