When the clouds broke, when the clouds
Truly tore apart: that was the moment
We realized, at last, that the sky
Was above us after all. Nothing
Makes you more aware of the
Vastness above you than the sudden
And entire collapse of it,
Its iron clang, the ferocity,
Its uncompromising reign from
One horizon to the next
Now bereft in the throes of war.
The sky, falling upon you, heavier than lead.
When the clouds broke, it was heaven
Breaking. It was the law
Of nature, just breaking. The taste
Of metal was water on the tongue,
The earth began to smell of it too, damp
And slick and under siege,
A cry was heard, the rain was a crowd
Jostling and jeering all around us;
You couldn’t move for it. As the clouds broke,
It was suffocating: the air was contaminated.
It invaded our lungs, coats, sodden shoes;
The cold clung to us. As it tore apart,
We sought shelter for ourselves, looking on
In abject homelessness; and
Our idle understanding that the sky
Would always be up there, benign like some
Passive, laissez-faire and absent God:
That too was broken.
I’m often asked to write with less reliance on structures and meters. So I decided to translate that to the subject matter in this poem, too: the moment in life when, all at once, something you have taken for granted is torn apart above your very head.