Poetry Journal

Issues / Volume 5 Issue 1 , July 2015



Judith Beveridge

  I’m tired of these endless high-faluting blue skies—
  I want clouds common as whisked egg-whites, or mashed   
  potatoes on a plate. Clouds that by dusk are the colour   
  of fish-gutters’ gloves. Wage-earner clouds working   
  like Lanarkshire bog farmers, or Mongolian horsemen.   
  I want blue skies to admit their bumbling stewardship   
  and own up to their enormous cost. I want dissenting   
  thunderheads with their cloud-to-cloud lightning,   
  clouds recruited from monsoonal lows and Scotch mist,   
  clouds circumnavigating the planet then signing up  
  for Greenpeace. I want clouds to resist the oligarchic   
  reign of blue and come striding in like men and women   
  who fling their bodies in protest against the dirt,   
  then get up praising the wings of birds. Clouds whose  
  fluffy tops kiss in public, and without embarrassment,   
  enact the restlessness of the soul inside the body.   
  Let blue skies stop their rhetorical grandstanding.   
  We know they’re filled with the breath of men cocked   
  and fettled by greed. One by one I call the clouds in.   
  A cloud for each child hungry, ragged, naked. A cloud   
  for all exiles whose voices can’t find a single raindrop,    
  whose eyes are stones that out-weather the past.   
  A cloud for those in war-ravaged places where shadows   
  terrorise doorways, and the old live between rubble   
  and crumbled bread. Blue skies will break the windows 
  of your house; they will offer you their emptiness   
  and your life at a knock-down price, their lips will pronounce   
  only names written in expensive ink. Let the clouds   
  come and cross over each other in a gust of wind, scrubbing   
  away the ubiquitous azure that remembers nothing  
  except the value of the moon’s silverware    
  and the silken dreams of dictators and their priests.   
  In the distance two clouds are touching, twisting   
  into a lintel of sanctuary where the blue can’t trespass.    
  I want clouds thick as laundry, soaking under stars   
  that wash away spilled blood. Handkerchief-clouds   
  waving fondly as we drive off towards fields, waterfalls   
  and laughter, sick of counting the cerulean jewels   
  on the ocean. Blue skies rebuke all who come down   
  from the burning mountains, those who believe   
  in snowflakes, rainforests and in the scorpion’s sting,    
  who know the heat calving the glaciers is as convincing   
  as pain. A good cloud will precipitate the deepest   
  source of our moral passion, our principal wisdom,   
  and our affection for those who argue with the dust.