One At­mos­phere

New England Review - - Cultural History - Kevin Craft

I do my part to hold up one loose end of it, to shoul­der my spoke of the bean­pole sky which keeps fall­ing heav­ily on me some days loaded up like a straw full of camels, some days lighter like a nee­dle’s eye but on av­er­age mea­sures 65.4 New­tons per square inch press­ing like the weight of the shirt off my back, no more than a back­pack stuffed with as­terisks, in fact, or a bas­ket of star­fruit I bal­ance on my head walk­ing from room to room alone in my house or stand­ing mod­er­ately still at the pe­riph­ery of a cock­tail party not un­like a weather bal­loon or a te­la­mon in a grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony or one of those up­stand­ing women on At­tic vases or in African deserts or Me­soamer­i­can jun­gles with per­fect equipoise portag­ing great wa­ter-jars from well to vil­lage trans­port­ing a river off the top of their heads only for me so much eas­ier to bear like eu­pho­ria like the rit­ual en­thu­si­asm that grips me when I see sandhill cranes danc­ing in playas

their tra­cheal laugh­ter con­ta­gious as cloud seed­ing or tram­po­lines or an aria for trom­bone un­til I feel my own neck ex­tend­ing in­side which mixed by tur­bu­lent dif­fu­sion and cross-ven­ti­la­tion a ther­mal rises, an up­draft climb­ing its pil­lar of air warmed by equiv­o­cal sun­light, strafed by crows and ra­dio waves bounc­ing off the Heav­i­side layer so that even in Othello, Washington, I sense a ten­sion like the hun­dred thou­sand fist-sized bolts of the Eif­fel Tower strain­ing against a North At­lantic squall, a low pres­sure sys­tem which be­gan in an aerosol can or as a mild dis­agree­ment on a hon­ey­moon in the trop­ics or the courtship nose­dive of an Anna’s hum­ming­bird near the Gulf of Cal­i­for­nia: in this heady mood when auro­ras ig­nite the iono­sphere like static elec­tric­ity comb­ing your hair it’s hard to steer clear of the opportune me­teor punc­tu­at­ing the mesopause, hard to miss the noc­tilu­cent clouds shiv­er­ing thin skinned and limb­less above the strato­sphere ex­ud­ing its blue halo like a con­spic­u­ous wish, harder still to dis­tin­guish among the many words mis­spo­ken at the bound­ary layer— all guff and stam­mer, bluff and re­crim­i­na­tion min­gling with ex­cess CO₂ emis­sions to con­dense as par­ti­cles of ice at the tropopause

where the pe­ri­odic sen­tence breaks— the cold trap with­out which no word would turn over, fall back to earth as alpine snow, rain fill­ing the playas, head­wa­ters brim­ming a jar.

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