A Low Bank of Cloud

By Ed Roberson Ed Roberson
But for a low bank of cloud,
         clear morning,    empty sky.
The bright band of light beneath  the cloud’s gray
       I thought at first was open distance,    but it’s ice
that by extension raised the lake above the lip of blue lake
       and spilled it farther out than that horizon
along the sky
       and floods the clouds.
      Seeing the distant level further
unfurl into the sky says not to trust
      blue line as terminus
when a meniscus of ice
       can ride up that wall of the skyline,
a measure of illusion how close
       the eye can be to filled
with seeing,        to widen instead the tube of that measure
of sight we are given.        There is the larger
        lake the wider look we open
eyes to see. That glance of the lip
        put in a bigger cylinder falls away,
but how much deeper the spring
       to fill the cup.
As if the surface we are seeing
        drops          the more seeing is added,
       while we feel the stories well as our height
from which to see.         And watch the dawns coming.
…I seem to be emptying
of time        the more time I put in,
       and see like a man with weathered eyes enough
to face to face up   to the sight’s field expanded
       to insight.    To the dark the lake can turn
and curl up like a map for poems to have
these likenesses to graph,
        then come un-scrolled from semblance back
to just this lake.        Water
       cities are led to        layout
beside.      But never in stillness;
       always the restoration to change,
from ice, from cloud, turning to clear
        liquid—as is most of our body
        water—       thinned sheet, layer
that if written        on or with,         a bearing
a name chiseled on water

Ed Roberson, "A Low Back of Cloud" from To See the Earth Before the End of the World. Copyright © 2010 by Ed Roberson.  Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: To See the Earth Before the End of the World (Wesleyan University Press, 2010)

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Poet Ed Roberson

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Living, Time & Brevity, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Ars Poetica, Free Verse


Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Ed Roberson studied painting in his youth and was educated at the University of Pittsburgh. His extensive travels inform his work,which is also influenced by spirituals and the blues, and by visual art, such as the mixed-media collages of Romare Bearden. Poet and critic Michael Palmer has called Roberson “one of the most deeply innovative and critically acute voices of our time.”

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Time & Brevity, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Ars Poetica, Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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