Guest Blog Post, Jesse Goolsby: Excitable Ones

Jesse GoolsbyCharles Francis Richter, inventor of the Richter scale, was a nudist.  I’m not sure what this has to do with earthquakes, save the thought that if caught in a big rattler I think I’d want pants on.  And shoes.

A friend of mine serving in the US Army in Afghanistan has dodged rocket propelled grenades, AK-47 fire, an ambush that began with a girl asking for candy and ended with her lifting her shawl revealing a bomb laden vest, and yet, he tells me the most scared he’s been is watching the ground open up in front of him near the dry slopes of the Hindu Kush.

Read this stunner: Quakes

My vasectomy took place in a “minor surgery room” in the bowls of the Pentagon, performed by a doctor and intern that, by military and legal rules, cannot be sued, no matter the error.  Half way through the operation the wide-eyed intern, who I agreed could watch the proceedings, pokes something into my groin and says, “Oops.”  The doc quickly hip-checks the young man away.  Trying to calm my now unmistakable displeasure, she says, “Everything is just fine. I’ve done these during earthquakes.”  For some reason, that helped.

My six-year-old daughter’s current chart-topper fear is tornadoes.  Before moving to Florida this summer she asked me if there were tornadoes in Florida. I told her that I didn’t think there were many tornadoes, but maybe an occasional hurricane that we’d need to be prepared for.

“But no tornadoes?” she asked.

“Not like Kansas,” I said.

“Daddy, are hurricanes worse than tornadoes?”

What could I say? (1) It depends (2) If you could see her eyes at that moment, perhaps you’d lie too.

I think of my daughter’s gorgeous spirit, the vast possibilities that await her, the fullness of her singular presence.  It overwhelms me.

When I try to contemplate the loss of over 225,000 people in the 2004 Indonesia tsunami, or even of three people gunned down in Union County, Florida a few weeks ago, I’m rendered helpless.  I can’t fathom the lack.  Numbers don’t help.

From Encyclopedia Americana: “The name Hindu Kush means literally ‘Kills the Hindu’, a reminder of the days when Indian slaves from the Indian subcontinent died in the harsh weather typical of the Afghan mountains while being transported to Central Asia.”

One of my favorite passages (Whitman):

There never was any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection that there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.

I think that means, in part, stay humble, excitable ones; or, more pointedly, you’re just not that special.

My Army friend thinks my interpretation is crap.  Plus, he’d correct Walt, would substitute “destructive” for “procreant.”

Once, I ask him if he’s killed anyone with his hands.

“Why does it matter if it was with my hands?” he asks.

“I don’t know.  Proximity, I guess. Something about being close enough to see their eyes. I mean, really feel life leaving.”

A pause. He brings his hand to his mouth.

“One had cataracts.”

I don’t know what to say.

“I’ve wondered how much he could see,” he says. He squeezes his mouth. I can see the veins in his hands. “I’ve wondered if he was blind.”

I found this the other day: The Daily Beast recently used data compiled by NOAA’s National Weather Service severe weather database files, which includes tornado reports from 1950 through the end of 2012, to rank states that have the highest tornado incidence rates.

  1. Oklahoma
  2. Florida
  3. Mississippi
  4. Indiana
  5. Louisiana
  6. Alabama
  7. Kansas

Where are we safe?

Florida: almost no earthquakes.

Somehow, that helps.

Jesse Goolsby

Jesse Goolsby

Jesse Goolsby serves as Fiction Editor for War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities ( His work has appeared widely, to include recent publications in Epoch, The Literary Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, New Madrid, Sycamore Review, The Greensboro Review, storySouth, and others. He has received the John Gardner Memorial Award in Fiction (from Harpur Palate) and the Richard Bausch Short Fiction Prize (from Our Stories). He has an English degree from the US Air Force Academy and a MA in English and Creative Writing from the University of Tennessee. Jesse is currently pursuing his PhD from Florida State University.
Jesse Goolsby

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10 thoughts on “Guest Blog Post, Jesse Goolsby: Excitable Ones

  • September 19, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    This whole article almost reads like a poem. It’s not really structured like one, but something about the way it flows reminds me of a poem. Interesting. That said, this is a pretty powerful piece, saying a lot of about human nature and fears. Nicely done.

  • September 20, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    When my daughter was 7 or 8 she saw news reports of tsunamis and was terrified. She vowed never to live near the ocean, no matter which shore. Ten years later, on the cusp of graduating high school, she’s decided to attend UCLA! I suspect she has seen so much now, that she realizes there is no safe place.

  • September 20, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    This is a very interesting piece. It reads as if they’re all separate thoughts unconnected, but they’re about the same thing so they come together and work well.

  • September 23, 2013 at 11:14 am

    I wasn’t picking up on all the different stories or even the general point of the entire article, but something at the end made it all just kind of click. Good read!


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