Cloud Study

Clouds, come down to sleep in the treetops— 

if you’ve seen the pines’ wide boughs 

 

cradle the snow, even from a distance, 

you know they can hold you. Or float 

 

yourself into a roofless, falling-down barn 

and lie in the moldering hay. So what 

 

if the crows panic at the fallen sky, at the erased 

horizon? They’re suspicious, easily startled. 

 

Let them blanket the ground, barking. 

Let them spook the horses. The horses 

 

will settle in the amnesia of darkness. 

Clouds, come down. The end will be no 

 

nearer than when you kept your distance— 

nothing will keep you here. When you’re ready 

 

to rise again, you will. I can almost hear you 

considering. If you want to lay your whiteness 

 

in the field, if you want to steep in the lake 

where you’ve watched your slow reflection cross, 

 

come down. It will be like trying on glasses 

for the first time. See, the hills aren’t one 

 

unbroken reach of green but pointillist, 

millions of leaves—spades, spears, hands. 

 

Clouds, have you seen me? I’ve cut my hair. 

I have a new son. My boy mouths everything, 

 

and he ’d mouth you. Come be a cold discovery 

dissolving on his tongue. Let me see you 

 

up close, no longer godlike, not Constable’s, 

but sweet and slack as any face in sleep,

 

a clean page anyone could write on.

 

Maggie Smith’s second book of poems, The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press, 2015), was selected by Kimiko Hahn as the winner of the Dorset Prize. Smith is also the author of Lamp of the Body (Red Hen Press, 2005)—winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award—and three prize-winning chapbooks, the latest of which is Disasterology (Dream Horse Press, 2013). A 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, Smith has also received fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council and the Sustainable Arts Foundation.