Cloudy Night


Not much to look at, at the start.
Just half-hearted wisps of watercolour white and blue,
Airbrushed on the sky,
Emerging slowly from the summer twilight
Like ghosts caught in moonlight.
Brightening, blossoming, blooming into
An orchid of colour beneath lonely
Capella’s golden spark.

Where there was only empty darkness
An hour before now there is a sight to make
Even the heaviest, most sleep-starved eyes
Go wide with wonder.
Here – teased-out streamers of electric blue,
Threaded through with delicate faerie stitches
Of silver, violet and grey.
There – whirls, whorls and curls of pale purple,
Graffiti sprayed on the midnight sky
By some unseen alien hand;
Nature’s tag shining bright
Above a world long since deserted by the Sun.

Easy to believe you’re looking at a beach,
Tide sucked away leaving dunes
Of glowing cerulean sand behind;
Or an ocean of energy, its mother of pearl
Waves undulating, surging,
Whitecaps burning magnesium bright…

Soon, silhouetting the northern peaks,
They have no rivals.
The streetlights scattered across the Auld Grey Town
Below are mere fireflies, and the summer stars
Fainter by far and more feeble still,
Surely feel ashamed to share the same sky
As the rippled and ruffled clouds
Hanging above the faraway fells like cobwebs
Heavy with sparkling emerald dust,
Sagging under the weight of powdered diamond.

Below, a handful of yawning souls
Are no doubt looking at the sky and sighing
“What the hell is that..?” as they put out the cat
Or take the dog for one last, unwanted walk.
Many will think it’s an aurora,
And smile with misplaced delight,
Believing the fabled Northern Lights are dancing above
Their I-thought-we-were-too-far-south-for-that town.

Others – the ones living happily in fruit loop fantasy worlds
Where Armstrong never left the Earth,
InsistingComet ISON will ‘Shine brighter than
The Moon!” – will swoon then rush inside to witter away
On Twitter how a UFO is hovering o’erhead,
Or seeing some celestial phenomena
Evil NASA knows the truth about but
Is keeping to itself…

Standing above them all,
An unwitting sentinel
Waiting for dawn,
I savour the silence, drinking it in,
Bathing in the rare and blissful peace.
The night is still; the breeze
Warm and soft; every 90 minutes
The space station’s phosphorous spark
Arcs from west to east, soaring over
Castle ruins framed by the starry froth
Of the Milky Way’s core;
Behind me an owl hoots forlornly
In one of the crumbling towers,
Sending shivers down the spines
Of unseen creatures hiding
In the shadows of the trees…

And to the north now, a blaze of NLC.

I know what they are, of course;
My cold astronomer’s brain tells me I’m just seeing
High altitude clouds of ice-coated meteoritic dust“;
Essentially powdered comet corpse glinting
In the summer sunlight eighty K
Above my head, so high
Space-walking astronauts could lean over the side
And trail their white-gloved fingers through them –

But they must be more than that…

Perhaps a Stargate, or a Wormhole,
Opening up to allow a mighty starship
To pass through, its noble crew of Ambassadors
From a star in some faraway spiral arm
Greeting Earth and her people with a fanfare
Of extraterrestrial Elgar,
Ending our galactic childhood…

Or maybe they’re the flare of a magic spell
Cast by some cosmic wizard or warlock,
An incantation tearing a hole in the night
To release Hobbit-carrying eagles, or a flight
Of screaming dragons, into our skies…

Whatever they are, at this perfect hour they’re mine,
And as I stand here, camera click-clicking,
With the sleeper train rumbling
On its way to my right, and Wainwright’s
Pipe-puffing ghost drifting through the sleepy streets
Below, I wonder…
If I reach out my hand to touch them
Will it come back dripping liquid blue,
Fingers sparkling with mesospheric glitter…?

© Stuart Atkinson 2013

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