A History of Clouds

by Christopher Brean Murray

You can think while walking, running,
washing the dishes, reading, grocery shopping,
or sleeping. Driving across Nevada at night
breeds thoughts—they leap from sagebrush
like jackrabbits into your high beams.
Most people can’t think while writing.
They have ideas, yes, but not thoughts.
Anyone can snatch an old idea out of the dust
and show it around. Trying to think
will invariably prohibit thought. I thought
of writing this poem while driving to work
this morning. I made sure not to
think about it much. The wind swayed
a stoplight until it turned green.
A man in a yellow tank top leaned
into the window of a parked car.
It was not yet 8 a.m. Wisps of cloud
coursed though the sky over Houston.
Someone should compile a book
called A History of Clouds. It could be,
among other things, an anthology
of descriptions of clouds, from novels,
from the love letters of exiled princes.
Shakespeare’s “pestilent congregation
of vapors” speech would appear, as would
Mayakovsky’s “A Cloud in Trousers.”
Clouds aren’t mentioned much in the Bible.
God did, however, call to Moses from inside
a cloud. Enoch speaks of “the locked reservoirs
from which the winds are distributed.”
Crane’s “To the Cloud Juggler” and
Stevens’ “Sea Surface Full of Clouds”—
and that passage from Gogol where
a cloud slithers over Nevsky Prospect.
It stretches and coils and becomes an intestine
embracing the anxious protagonist until we realize
he’s being suffocated by his thoughts.
Somewhere Rilke speaks of “vast, ruined
kingdoms of cloud.” That, from the love letter
of another exiled prince.


Illustration by Courtney Bennett

One thought on “A History of Clouds

  1. Lovely Chris. good work.

    My cloud book is more practical and less literary. THE CLOUDSPOTTER’S GUIDE by Gavin Pretoria-Pinney, which always does my hear good.


    Grant Cunningham


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