No earthly image—only clouds,
affluent clouds, seen from high above,
still bright at the approach of evening.
Soft valleys hidden in a snowdrift,
waterfalls of ice and air,
not whiteness but a dream of whiteness,
an innocence one may have felt
on earth—but only for a moment,
waking unexpectedly at dawn
one winter morning after a storm
to find the shabby blacktopped streets
immaculate in sunlight, glossed
by deep smooth banks of snow, before
the earliest car or footfall.
this world the ancients never saw,
and yet their words now come to mind,
nimbus, cirrus, cumuli,
magic names to summon all
the scattered elements of air.
O paradise beyond the glass,
beyond our touch, cast and recast,
shifting in wind. Delicate world
of air too thin to breathe, of cold
that mirrors our desire—not of death
but of your fluent oblivion,
of insubstantial dusk and dawn,
your whiteness burning in the sun.
The plane flies westward gaining time.
The dark recedes—pand up ahead
the sky is cloudless, clear, and bright.
—Dana Gioia, “Flying Over Clouds.”
Art Credit Nadja Sveir.