Joshua Mensch


Stan’s Clouds


I sometimes imagine myself among them,
home in the upper atmosphere at last.
But mostly I ignore them, thinking
only of what clouds my mind: debts, bills,
worries, a looming cloud of tasks.
Every so often, though, I look up,
astonished by an accumulating structure,
and remember Stan, my old teacher,
who called them “peaceable masters,”
and to whom each cloud was like a painting
by Constable, that master of clouds,
who “wrote them down in oils
because of their brilliance,” and found
within each a subject “to counterweigh
the airy gravity of trees and leaping horses.”
Yet it was in trees that Stan found his own
subject, clouds rooted to the ground,
where birds gathered night after night
in his mind as he sat down to write,
holding off sleep, sometimes until dawn,
when satisfied with his work at last,
he climbed back down from his tree
and joined the horses standing in the grass.


The lines quoted in this poem come from Stanley Plumly’s “Constable’s Clouds, For Keats.”