Virga

By Joyce Schmid
Feature image: Rain Clouds Approaching over a Landscape, 1822-40 by Joseph Mallord William Turner

Driving to the baseball game on Highway 101,
we looked at cloudbanks, stacked in bands
from west to east, and in between
were cloud-threads dangling down as if the layers
had been torn apart—
                                          and this was virga
rain that formed but couldn’t reach the earth,
like words that evaporate as they come to mind.

We’d moved to California in a storm, before
the drought that forced us to save our water in a pail,
trickle it on tomato vines, enough for them to live
and leaf, but not to fruit.
                                          You grew impatient
with the traffic, and I touched your hand in gratitude
for the high fly balls we were about to watch fall,
for idling motors and the Bach cantata in our car,
its trumpets turning gold to match the clouds—
those lavish clouds that tried but couldn’t rain.


Joyce Schmid’s work has recently appeared in Literary Imagination, Antioch Review, Poetry Daily, Missouri Review, and other journals and anthologies. She lives with her husband of over half a century in Palo Alto, California.

Feature image: Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported), Photo: © Tate, London.

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