- J. P. Morgan Defines Human Potential Energy, and: Nikola Tesla Discovers Desire, and: Nikola Tesla at the Wardenclyffe Ruins
J. P. Morgan Defines Human Potential Energy
Washington dc, 1913. Tycoon Morgan testifies before the Pujo Committee convened by Congress to investigate Wall Street’s violation of antitrust laws.
You find it sitting in the tongue’s back row, the cherry pit of a kiss, or cry. Why not reach to taste its promise? I remember being young, being choked by my father’s voice welded to my throat. Now I wheeze with a secret. I realize the world piece by piece, merge and rise with every union. How did it come unyoked? I can testify to this—they’ll celebrate you for a moment and turn on you the next. Humans are no different than flame: visible when inertia shifts, rushing through even the quietest streets, rising from the wreck, howling at the mention of your name. [End Page 159]
Nikola Tesla Discovers Desire
Colorado Springs, 1899. Tesla builds his magnifying transmitter outside Pike’s Peak, an area famous for its frequent lightning strikes, and causes a national stir over the city’s strange electrical phenomena present during its operation.
after Tyehimba Jess
Equal to fire, lightning arcs from lampposts. Even snow bursts with static. Drawn by my transmitter couples in dark rooms come unbound again and again. Polarized apart, they crush together. Their touch circles, unable to land. But you can always find more want. Who knew butterflies rode currents? Drawn to my coil’s flash? Erupting, the clouds grow heavy with ash. They fall like rain past my window— wings split from the body. Lit with my own life I’ve sent out so much charge my body has magnetized in two. Katharine, I am jealous of the currents that find you miles away to charge through your blood. I am angry with my hands, the way I spend weeks waiting for shock. An inventor’s life is one of questions: What frequency does desire travel? Every day the universe expands molecules are pulled farther apart. I am left halves I cannot reconcile: You and my work. Myself and myself [End Page 160]
Nikola Tesla at the Wardenclyffe Ruins
Shoreham, New York, 1917. J. P. Morgan withdraws his funding for the tower’s construction, ruining Tesla’s dreams for transatlantic radio transmission and free wireless energy.
The air ripples with a shallow wish: that our voices will come back to us like dogs let off a leash—they’re lost,they’re lost, they’re lost—or that possibly I’m more of a man without it. That somewhere I’m growing out of the telephone speaker’s small pores into a new force. But where, then, will these bodiless hollows lead us? Look how they’ve razed these walls, the innocent equipment left sitting in the cellar like creatures from the future struck to steel—I have tried to shake off the world’s oldest forms and failed. What will go next? Where will we escape once we don’t own our own energy? [End Page 161]
Perry Janes is the recipient of eight Hopwood Awards, a Kasdan Fellowship in Screenwriting, and an Arthur Miller Arts Award from the University of Michigan. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Salt Hill, The Collagist, and Glimmer Train. In 2012, his short film Zug premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival.