The Weight of a Cumulonimbus is One Million Tons
Morning is a drawn-in breath. Morning is
an old boat, drummed out of its mooring,
left to sink or drift. The dread inside the shell,
the mantle and its empty rainbow. The dawn shatters
lilac, lavender, the colors of an old woman’s scarf.
Just last night I dreamt I was older, my skin and hair
bleached in desperation, made late to my own wedding
by the madness of a flock of sheep, their white bodies
stretched down the road like an endless sky. I woke up
to darkness and felt relief. Then I remembered.
Morning breathes me like the weight of a cloud,
suspended in air despite its million pounds. Morning
floods my chest with something like light. Morning
is a ticking clock, the place where my face and the face
of my father merge in a composite of old man, oyster shell,
cloud full of rain, time too short to call anything mine.
I have 40 minutes until my daughter breaks into my room,
her body sticky with last night’s urine. I have 40 minutes
to dream I am holding the shell of dawn in my hands before
it is broken like a plate. It falls away too soon. It all falls away.
Deep rain, the night stretching long into morning,
the day’s portrait: muted leaves, soggy toys scattered across a yard.
All night long I dreamt of my family’s homeland, watching
from the arms of an old oak—Tennessee farmyards, barns
and fields dotted with cattle. The rain wound its way in
as a river rushing along the base of the hills, carrying
small yellow boats like boots filled with straw. Portrait of a place—
every house for sale, every house an Airbnb: soulless, spotless,
with a guest book perched on the kitchen counter. Someone else’s
baby in my arms. Someone else’s floor beneath my feet. In the dream,
I was searching for somewhere to rest—stairwell, porch, basement,
attic, but all were full of knick-knacks, family rustling around old chests
looking for heirlooms, biting coins to test their worth. I ended up
in the bathroom, counting the tiles, counting the drips from the tap
as the rain pursued its ends relentlessly, claiming its place.
Meghan Sterling’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Rattle, The Pinch Journal, Rust & Moth, The West Review, Colorado Review, Pacifica Literary Review,SWIMM, Sky Island Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review and many others, and was the winner of West Trestle Review’s 2021 Poetry Contest, Sweet Literary’s 2021 Poetry Contest and Equinox’s 2021 Poetry Contest and a Finalist in River Heron Review’s 2021 Poetry Contest and Gigantic Sequins’ 2021 Poetry Contest. She is Associate Poetry Editor of The Maine Review, a Hewnoaks Artist Colony resident in 2019 and 2021, and her debut collection, These Few Seeds, came out in 2021 from Terrapin Books. She and her family live in Portland, Maine. Read her work at meghansterling.com