Shock Therapy

electricity (n.) 1. A physical phenomenon arising from the existence and
interactions of electric charge. 2. Intense emotional excitement.

Growing up, I never understood the concept.
Electricity is like plumbing, I was told.
Turn on a faucet, water comes out,
turn on a bigger one, more water comes out.
Turn on a circuit, electricity comes out,
turn on a bigger one, get more.
They said it was that simple,
but I couldn’t see it.

Water, I could see:
The sweat on my brow,
the tears

My father taught me to measure the world
with my body.
This knuckle a half-inch, these two fingers
squeezed together, an inch.
Stretched out, pinky to thumb,
was its own distance.
Picture the length of your body
against trees, stretched along fences, spanning rivers.
Know all this,
he said,
and you’ll know
the size of most things real.

Was this, then, the lesson
when the length of his electric shaver’s cord
measured its sting across my legs:
to teach me the true size of my world?

It shocks me now to see my height in store windows
I wonder what my reflection sees
as we watch each other walk.
Two fingers squeezed together,
or a full hand stretched to its limit?
An open circuit, or closed?


Bill Siegel is inspired by jazz, Japanese wood-block landscape prints, and his own search for meaning in this sometimes disjointed but always beautiful world. He writes about fishing (as a child), family (growing up), jazz (as an adult), and the best of all possible planets (where we live). His work appears in In Motion Magazine, Blue Mesa Review, Brilliant Corners, Cruzando Fronteras (Crossing Borders), JerryJazzMusician, Rust+Moth, and other print/online publications. He is a contributor to the books, Indigenous Pop: Native American Music from Pop to Jazz (University of Arizona Press) and Beyond Lament: Poets of the World Bearing Witness to the Holocaust (NorthWestern Press).