Cloud Stems

By Peter Halstead

How do the lofty clouds impose
Their shadows on the distant sea,
Where the flying cirrus throws
Its weight, no doubt with gravity,

Planting on the ocean's mirror glass
Facsimiles that seem the same
As what we see on country grass
Or shone on fields with perfect aim,

A commonplace phenomenon
On lazy summer afternoons
Of transparent sky and beaming sun,
Meadows peopled with the heavens' ruins;

But, looking down from
Where the racing shades are matched,
We see that nature's copies come
With certain misty strings attached,

As our higher point of view
Shows a smoky sort of light
Against the water's background blue
Like a loose tail on a kite,

But blurry and shimmering, alive,
Like a moving strand of rain—
Umbilicals that jibe
And coil below the plane

And link these flowers to their base,
Although in fact the opposite is true
(As plants their higher masters trace,
So water fakes what water vapor drew),

The world so upside-down here
That our 737 seems to swim
In a waving coral hemisphere
Like a fish in an aquarium,

But still, it's good to see,
If only when the lowly eye
Stumbles on infinity,
That the roots of earth are in the sky.

Duke's Restaurant and Gray's Beach, Waikiki
January 24th, 2002

Tippet Alley
Redone March 19th, 2002