I’ve often wondered how the earth began,
how this once bubbling, molten planet
had stirred in a mixing-bowl of upheaval,
and how such unsettled bedlam ultimately settled into place
to cool and form our oceans and continents
and mostly calm the horizons
to bring the many things we know.
But it’s hard to tell with any certainty
what it was like way back then, long before
there was history or charcoal or paper,
before the origins of language itself,
long before the first lonely humans stood to walk
the crusty, greening-face of our still-warm planet
and learned to write it all down.
And so after passing through ten-thousand, thousand millennia
to witness its calming conditions today,
I find myself able to daydream and observe more casually
the vast beauty of our vast blue world,
and follow, in amazement, the slow-skating clouds
gliding effortlessly under the deepest-blue skies,
and lounge in the gentle breezes that seem to flourish each May,
and think of how such idyllic venues can be so deceiving,
especially when looking back to how it all began,
how the real earth evolved and took us to this day.
And just this afternoon, while gazing up at the sky,
I watched some larger clouds gather
while others tumbled apart, all this spare time
to busy an idle imagination to shape the clouds
into anything I might envision, even the unthinkable:
clouds fashioned to create a new map of the world.
As the gentle May winds nudged the clouds into new-world order,
each evolved into a familiar continent, moving like early steamships
along silent journeys on the familiar trade routes they knew,
white-smoke billowing out of their stacks.
Straight above, the continent of Europe skated eastward,
the slender boot of Italy visible but more bent at the knee.
And below, Africa wrung-out the seas of the Mediterranean
by inching northward on a march into Spain. India was navigated
into Russia with barely a ripple and the borders of Ireland
floated off into Greenland, then steamed to the shorelines of Maine.
As has been known about clouds for centuries
through pens of poets and mouths of theologians,
anything is possible with them and the real-world
mimicked or cloned by their whims or simple movements
can be turned upside down in a manner of speaking,
the theater of centuries altered in several minutes.
And after a time, and in just a few inches,
all parts of the world were no longer as they were,
and thousands of map-miles were traveled in makeover license,
and each country was huddled together, a giant mass of moisture
spanning the width of two states, without
peculiarity and nothing much varied at all.
No watery canals of Venice
or soaring sky-writing mountains of Asia
or deeply earth-scored canyons of America’s far west,
abandoned were the parched treaties horse-trading had drawn,
historic lines of distinction no longer valued,
no rugged boundaries cut jaggedly across mountains
to separate arch-rival ravines or long-quarrelsome valleys.
And it struck me how things so beautifully-commonplace
can be forsaken so quickly, and how carefully
creative imagination must thoughtfully be applied.
I started to wonder, if clouds could be imagined
to mimic real life, and a new melting-pot of continents
could be molded, real-life could be shaped to mimic itself,
and anything placed into a bubbling caldron of progress
could be transformed as someone might think,
and whatever an imagination may have sketched or said could be,
then could surely be. The real world, and the imagined one,
interchanged and history overwritten. The real one
no longer nailed to a post but dismissed as just a myth.
In my mind’s eye, the new world a vastly different place
on an easel-stand of blue sky above,
my creative task innocently painting the new world
a less sunny more demanding place, imposing these newest rules
on even Mother Nature. And I see that clever is not as simple
as changing uneven lines drawn on a map.
But clouds do what clouds do and resume their charm
to disband and float into familiar sunsets. The calm,
now reddening-sky making clear, the fuss after all
was just inspired musings pulled from a dreamer’s head, except
I did take notice that in the far lower-right-corner of the sky,
Australia still billowed proudly, alone and afloat
in its own independence.
SR Inciardi was born in New York City in 1956 and grew up in Brooklyn, New York attending Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and then New York University. While at Brooklyn College, he was influenced by David Lehman and John Ashbery, both professors at the college at that time. He has been writing poetry since his teen years and has been heavily influenced by Robert Frost, WH Auden, Billy Collins, Louise Gluck, WS Merwin, and Frank O'Hara. SR Inciardi has been married since 1978 and has one married adult child and four grandchildren. "Cloud Cover" is from a collection of poetry that he released in 2022 entitled "Coloring Outside the Edges" available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other. bookstores.