They Call Them Clouds


By Alejandro Escudé

There is no study beyond this one.
Calibrated, octagonal, righteous.
The mood gone, the sanctuary built around it.
Secret is to dangle the modifier, to cease suspecting
the roses. I tried the Sriracha sauce
at the Pho place, just a drop of it, like paint,
vinegar was the taste I tasted most, and felt satisfied
Sepulveda Boulevard would remain outside
as long as I ate in peace. You can’t rhyme Sepulveda
with anything Saxon.

The young man’s t-shirt says, “Life begins when…”
and I can’t see the rest, there’s just a basketball I think,
some school spirit thing; no one talks
and the drone collapses onto the lawn, a toy one,
but aren’t they all toys? My son is sad
he can’t make it fly straight, my daughter thinks
it’s a spider. And I couldn’t help
honking at the man driving the giant white Benz
who wouldn’t stay in one lane, a big smile
on his face as I sped by. Nor could I help
judging the other man I saw pacing in the middle
of a parking lot, pressing his phone.
I went into the store and came out and he was still
pacing and pressing.

How fast the foaming comes, the rumor
that kills the master, some god or other
empty as sand, moving further away listening
to Candide. I watch World War II in color,
the soviets retaking Norway, child-sized shells
popped out of the guns, nearly shearing
the arms off the barebacked gunners.
If we are not killing someone, we’re runners.
And I’m sniffing after that shell
as it cascades onto the Norwegian forest
and it’s 2015 and that shell could still be cresting
over the Krauts—or it could be nestled
deep in the earth, unrecoverable, forgotten.

Who cares? What follows that shell
is not the learned snout of a poet, but the police baton
of a politician, the wreckage of a family.
My wife’s uncle posts pictures of Denali.
Mount McKinley; he says one peak
is higher than the other. Cut. Bake. Dry.
My three-year-old daughter starts to cry.
My hope now, age forty, is to one day see
the Magellanic Clouds. They call them clouds,
but they’re actually cluster upon cluster of stars,
as if space where the inside of an artillery shell.

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