steam and fire


She asked me what a cloud feels like.
‘It’s just steam’ I said without thinking, but eagerly,
because of course the Wonder lives
in the pragmatic complications of the machined parts.
But she didn’t want steam. She wanted the solid stuff
seen from the rounded square,
the pressure-resisting porthole of a working 747,
the pink-tinted landscape of uneven cotton,
some of it mountainous and so on,
it looks like stuff you can stand on,
there are valleys to explore
and the cloud mountains cast shadows on each other
and you sometimes spot the shadow
of the aircraft itself tracking along below.
The clouds stretch away and away to a companionable sun
beneath the immense idiot wings and engines.

Our common space is not filled with mere magic
but a strong and weak nuclear force
and other such measurable gossamer.
‘Oh, my dear’, I will explain in a plummy and patronizing tone,
a Gielgud reassurance,
‘the stars are only fire,
self-important know-nothings in a large cold room.
A cloud is a buoyant puff of steam,
such as a teapot emits without ceremony.
And God has no beard.’
To the broken stare dulled by these exertions
I’ll make no further comment.


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