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The Book of Clouds

When the time came to tell the story,

he wrote it down in beautifully measured

cadences that touched lightly upon

all the old verities. He erased each line

as soon as it was perfected and then

proceeded to the space below it where

he composed another small perfection

to follow at its heels, loping behind

with the unhurried gait of a stray dog

so that in the ensuing months and years

he filled many hundreds of pages with

a most resonant and haunting emptiness

and had, at last, a manuscript stacked

like a chiseled white brick on the table.

It glowed softly in the light of dusk.

Before long it became the unspoken talk

of the town. When asked by the radio host

why he hadn’t simply used a single page,

writing each line in the space voided

by the erasure of the line before, he smiled

and said, Surely, my book is not a work

of history, a lineage of dead kings where

each generation consumes the previous

so that the present moment is no more

than a smeared blur of déjà vu and nothing

moves but that it spins. No, my book

is words fallen into a contemplative silence

because the ache and joy they once carried

was torn so roughly away by the invisible

hands of the wind.

I see, said the radio host,

then repeated the phrase, unaware of the ironies

she conjured by using those particular words.

Given this is radio, said the man, might

I ask your listeners to imagine clouds?

High clouds in an autumn sky, stalking

the sun in silence. They tear their hair

in the running wind. They move in slow

feathers. Clouds embody the eternal

whether. Even as we look at them, they

change their minds. If God could return

as a cloud, he might come as cumulus.

He would accumulate himself in cream

then topple down in thunderous nothings—

Well, that sounds good, interrupted the host,

but how do we know your book’s not just

a bunch of blank pages?

You don’t, he said.

And in the pause that followed, hundreds

of listeners phoned in to swear that they

had seen his face.

But what’s it matter, really?

he continued.

A book’s not

meant to be read, after all. It’s meant to be

held in the hands and felt, hefted and cradled

close against one’s heart like a wounded child.

from Poetry Northwest 12.1 Summer & Fall 2017More by Michael Bazzett from the library

Copyright © Michael Bazzett
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Published in Michael Bazzett Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.