PORCH POEMS: ‘Overhead’

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“Overhead.” | TheStoryIsTheThing.substack.com photo

‘The clouds don’t care,’
he said. Blowing a puff
of cigar smoke at me

from across the porch.
I sent a pretty good
smoke ring back his way.

It broke up three feet from
my lips. We were not
six feet apart, so could

be killing each other, should
the virus hitch a ride upon
our exhalations. Mine from

Honduras, his from Cuba
(he’d scored a Cohiba from
somewhere). He’d busted

out of quarantine. Had to
get out of Dodge.’ Drove the
50 miles to my front porch.

Ever since neighbor one, then,
neighbor two, felled ill and ailing
trees of some height on the

cul-de-sac the last three
years, my view of clouds had
improved. I like to sit on the

porch when rain rides
west to east, and clouds the
shade of grapes and plums

roll like tumbleweeds
across the sky. When the
rain falls, my ears pick out

a half-dozen sorts
of sound. The initial patter like
cat footfalls in the house.

A more insistent plash,
like the whap of windshield
wipers beating time. Then,

the deluge, which never
lasts for long, but is a sight
to behold. And smell, when

thunderous ozone charges
new-washed air like static current
crackling in flung

wool blankets on the bed.
“What do you mean?” I ask,
tapping off a toenail’s length

of ash into a white Berea
Chamber of Commerce ashtray.
It might have been my

father-in-law’s, before he gave
up smokes three years before he
died. “The clouds,” he says,

“don’t care about all this.”
Points the Cohiba toward the
cul-de-sac. Neighbor Lavinia’s

golden SUV. Craig’s lawn,
well-manicured as an actor’s
beard. He put up a Trump sign

last election, surprising us. We
thought he wasn’t one of those.
They’d sheltered our first kid the

night our second was born. He
and his wife would feed our cats
when we’d leave town. Before

they resigned, with a polite
but simple note: ‘Our
cat-sitting days are done…

“We get sick, we die. Trump wins
again. We off a million species
in a hundred years,” my friend says.

He taps an inch of ash into his
ashtray, a green glass one, its
provenance unknown to me. “The

clouds don’t care,” he says.
I look up at them. A big one holds
its shape — a herd of wild horses.

Five seconds later, just a charcoal
Rorschach blot above our heads this
cold late-winter day. It’s almost too

cool to be on the porch. He sips his
Diet Coke. I draw a swallow of a
kombucha which tastes like root beer,

although not quite. “I should be
going. I need to pick up take-out
on my way.” Take-out, for the moment,

is the only option. After he’s gone,
I swig the last liquid in my bottle,
clouds tumbling overhead.


‘Porch Poems,’ is an occasional series by Douglas John Imbrogno, 2020, TheStoryIsTheThing.substack.com

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