The Place Where Clouds Are Formed

By Ofelia Zepeda b. 1952 Ofelia Zepeda
I
Every day it is the same.
He comes home.
He tells her about it.
As he speaks, his breath condenses in front of his face.
She goes about her business;
every now and then she looks over.
She doesn’t hear his voice.
She sees the soft fog that continues to form a halo.
She knows he is still talking about that place.
He never tires of it like she does.
Only on summer days when the air is hot
and moisture is still a long time in coming,
she asks him to tell her about that place.
She sits facing him.
Waiting for the first vocalic, non-stops,
the push of air from his lips.
He tells her of the place where clouds are formed.
The cool dampness of his voice is rich.
Even on a dry June day
her face beads with wetness
as he talks directly to her.
Each aspirated sound a gentle burst of coolness.
“Tell me again, tell me again,” she teases.
If he knew she only wanted relief from the heat
and not the story, he would stop talking.
He begins, “The first time I saw the place
where clouds are formed was from
the window of a train . . .”
Another time was in a mirage
in the heat outside Tucson.
Once he thought he saw it
in the dry light of stars.
The place he remembers best
was when he saw it in the eyes
of a woman he spoke to.
When he first noticed it,
she hid it by lowering her gaze.
Soon she let him look freely.
There were times when she opened her eyes
wide, allowing an unobscured view.
Sometimes he saw her eyes smolder
with dryness on a summer day.
Other times she was rich with moisture.
Clouds came in succession.
The earth’s shadows muted.
“You know the forty days
and forty nights?
I was there.
I’ll be there when it happens again,”
she said with a slight smile.
Like a child, he rushed to look
into her eyes at every opportunity.
If he could, he would hang on her eye socket,
peering inside,
marveling at her displays.


II
An unusually cold December day right around Christmas;
clouds, mist find solace in the canyons of the Santa Catalina Mountains.
White moisture quietly moving amid the cactus.
Truly, clouds, wind, and rain are the few elements
that can touch the saguaro from head to foot.
Oblivious of spines, needles.
Rubbery hide surrounded, soothed by elements.
Contact triggers stored heat of remembered summers.
Moisture beads roll forward, unstoppable.
From the city below
we see mist rising, mist rising.


III
We sit close in the cab of the truck.
The weather is cold, wet outside.
Too messy to stand in
waiting for a school bus.
My father’s truck is warm inside,
having been at work since four a.m.
The sound of the engine is soothing,
heater working to capacity.
Inside the cab we are silent.
We don’t need language.
We listen to the regular hum of the engine,
rhythm of the windshield wipers,
soft rain on the hood.
Aware of the cold air
surrounding our temporary shelter.
We look out over the fields
where fog clings to the soil.
Every now and then
with the back of his gloved hand
he wipes the windshield.
“Is it coming yet?”
The three of us sit quietly,
breathing clouds.
Clouds condense as
they contact the coolness of the windows.
My father appears to breathe air
with temperature in balance.
He forms no clouds.
He watches us.
We continue to breathe
gray, soft mist, waiting for the school bus.

Ofelia Zepeda, “The Place Where Clouds Are Formed” from Where Clouds Are Formed. Copyright © 2008 by Ofelia Zepeda. Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.

Source: Where Clouds Are Formed (University of Arizona Press, 2008)

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Poet Ofelia Zepeda b. 1952

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Living, Relationships, Men & Women, Family & Ancestors, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Weather

Biography

A member of the Tohono O’odham (formerly Papago) Nation, Ofelia Zepeda grew up in Stanfield, Arizona. She earned an MA and a PhD in linguistics from the University of Arizona and is the author of a grammar of the Tohono O'odham language, A Papago Grammar (1983). Zepeda’s poetry collections include Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert (1995) and Jewed’l-hoi/Earth Movements, O’Odham Poems (1996). 
 
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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Relationships, Men & Women, Family & Ancestors, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Weather

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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