Christopher Edgar


The Cloud of Unknowing

Is not a cloud at all
But a wall colored so efficiently
It seems to be an alley of trees
Some believe this cul de sac
Can be approached from every angle
While others consider it merely a frontage road
To the remnants of summer, the disused
Anchorage inside the spiral jetty. But we
Have seen this cloud, you and I have,
Just before we set out to martinize the infidel
It was there, fifty miles south of Tripoli,
Sometime in the late 50s, hovering above an Italian restaurant
Perched on the edge of a depression. White-tunicked
Waiters with jet-black hair served us canelloni
And Chianti yet at the same time did not
Serve us canelloni and Chianti—but then
We were at sea as we always were in those times
On a ferry yes the Dover ferry
Everyone was heaving
Patches of sawdust everywhere on deck
Always followed by the cloud
The sun came out but it was still raining
North of Leningrad the tramline ends
We trudge through acres of mud between
Grim apartment blocks in a colorless landscape
Day for night whistling in the sleet
The mud becomes woods, beyond the woods
We finally reach the little wooden village on the far side of a hill—
Bent-bark roofs as in the poem—with a little
Orthodox church, a bit like St-Cloud
From a distance this is Old Russia I think
We meet the priest whom I like
Immediately we parted as old friends—
Never saw him again. Funny, like the
Facial expressions of the father and son
Pickpocket team in the Mexico City subway
June rush hour you all of a sudden turn to
Shake their hands "¡Que pasa?!" They looked
As if they had seen a ghost
Probably like my own face when I lost my passport
In a dream. I was in Heathrow and hung my coat
On the convenient too convenient rack outside the duty-free shops
The Pakistani woman at the gate was very helpful
But could not help me. For some reason
I was interested only in which languages she spoke
The truth was all I wanted was for her
To say Urdu, which she did.