Clouds From Above

By Peter Halstead

All across the world today,
As far as we can see,
The tops of clouds are on display,
Like a flat white cotton sea.

Some days clouds are lumped and puffed,
Reaching higher than the plane,
Other days they're blown and roughed,
Dark with snow or rain.

But now the tops are neatly mown,
As manicured as grass,
Not unkempt or overgrown,
But one-dimensional as glass,

Like an endless piece of paper
With subliminal designs
Carved into its field of vapor
Like a grid of Nazca lines,

A floating world of streets
Stamped by some consistent hand
So the trellis of the air repeats
Its pattern on the foamy land,

As if the wind has had to blow
Symmetrically on its way
Around the empty plain below,
Leaving windrows on the airy hay,

Some nameless kind of cosmic mop
Imposing order on defiant batches,
On the chaos of its windy crop
With these tightly-drawn crosshatches,

Where some arbitrary currents
Accidentally coincide,
Each one acting as deterrents
Lest competing routes collide,

As if the plane geometries
Of perfect shapes dictate
That opposite but equal corollaries
Should exist for every state.

It doesn't really matter why
These crossing figures rhyme,
Or if their inner systems dry
And sink to animal cartoons in time,

Just that finally we intuit
From this current splashy pose
That there's a deeper method to it,
Which now and then it shows.

Tippet Alley
November 23rd, 2000

Tippet Alley
Redone January 4th and 31st, 2001


Another attempt to find intergalactic methodology in inexplicable phenomena. What could be sufficient explanation for the geometrically perfect surface that one day materialized on top of the clouds, a flat lawn extending as far as the sky, visible only from above, crisscrossed with perfect lines, like graph paper, a rooftop imitation of the cloudy Kansas day down below, the lines mimicking irrigation or fences?
I am sure somewhere a scientist will hazard just as implausible a guess as this. When I was a child I was taught by the nuns that to sin with a woman in your mind was to do it in the flesh. Although not as satisfying. I certainly found that to obsess over something was sooner or later to accomplish it, or, in nun, to commit it.
So if it works for hell, why not for heaven? As Mark Salzman asks in his novel Lying Awake, if a brain tumor that causes a nun to see visions is removed and the visions stop, were they and the poetry they caused only physical? Or is there a metaphysical nature to our minds that is repeated visibly in the world? Is the point of a phenomenon simply that we observe it? Are we expected to get the point? Or is nature just a random slideshow, with no timeshare pitch? As Stendhal said, no one would ever fall in love if he hadn’t read about it first. But would we have read about it if it didn’t already exist?
Behind the shadows of clouds, is there a Platonic essence that is created by such questions? Does the very act of guessing intimate that an answer exists? Do chefs cook when there are no customers?
As in school, only the ones who did the homework know enough to ask the questions. Ignorant people (of whom I am often one) don’t dare.