Siobhan Harvey


from The Autistic Child Considered as a Cloud
Most clouds are roped to this earth, heaving
it into existence, as net hauls fish from ocean's
static veil, as magnet draws magnet from chill,
metallic inertia, along a predetermined path.
But stratus has no impulse, no ties, no lure.
It is a flat, grey body, barely breathing
grey air, leaching grey thoughts, exuding
grey aspect, grey words and grey noise.
Beneath it, cloudboy toils, his heart anchored to
the deafening sound of silence which prevails,
while the ether, compressed, senses a bitter wind.
Just out of our reach is the cloudboy, we know,
who understands Relativity, emulates Rutherford,
considers Descartes and speaks fluent French,
La plupart des nuages sont attaché a la terre ...
Just out of our reach is the cloudboy, we know,
who dances in heavy rain, wets himself, mutters
complaints like madness, and is a bogeychild
other mothers warn their darlings about.
Like all bad weather, we wait him out. Bereft
are parents who lose sight of their child: how light
is smothered in him as if we exist solely
in a cold and windowless room.
Yesterday cloudboy ate shampoo and soap.
Clear as convection, bubbles floated from
his mouth as if from a cartoon character.
Tomorrow, he'll be Superman, Doctor Who
or Water Hazard, the miracle of his achievements
unfathomable as the Marianas Trench.
But for now, the skin of a heavy sea presses down
upon him, the oxygen sustaining him is as cloudy
as chlorine, and when he floats in sluggish dance
about us, we think of salps and brittle stars.

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