Old Dogs

CLOUD FACTORY


the concrete
of the ancient highway
was old and cracking
under our
tired feet

we were
approaching the river
or what used to be
the river
and gazing intently
across at the sun
sharply glinting
off the metallic ruins
on the other bank
shielding our eyes
from the oppressive
ever-present glare
of daylight

"what's that
over there?"

asks my son
as I had asked
the same question
when I was his age
grinning in anticipation
of the farcical reply
from my fabricating
father

"it's where
they made clouds
a long time ago"

I trailed off
hoping to end
the conversation
for I dreaded
the next question
the hole in my soul
deepening with the awareness
of our place
in time

"what were clouds?"

his face
much too seriously
creased with concentration
ready to wrap
his little mind
around some
new information

"they were
white puffy things
that floated
in the sky
and at times
would pour water
out onto the
earth"

"could you
drink it?"

"yes
it was sweet
and pure
and happy
to quench
your thirst"

"where did the clouds go?"

"a great fire
in the sky
chased them all
away"

"will they
ever come back?"

"some day
son
some day"

"good
because
I'm thirsty!"

we were
all thirsty
the portended nuclear winter
just another academic joke
as all things academic
were bound
to become

no clouds
had been seen
for almost a decade
the sun attempting
to extinguish
whatever life
we had failed
to take
with our own
destructive
hands

my son
would not be able
to amuse his progeny
with entertaining tales
of the rusting structures
on the western bank
for his generation
would likely
be the last

sterility
was to be our gift
to the limited future
of a dying
humanity

I remember
being snuggled
in the warm backseat
of our family car
speeding over the bridge
now long since collapsed
hearing my dad whistle
a bit off key
to the radio's tune
seeing my mother
scan the murky water below me looking at the steam
and hazy heated exhaust
rising from the refinery on the bank
to meet the hanging grayness
in the misty January sky
asking the question
and giggling at the cloud story
that ended on a
happier note
of life

the happy endings
had all vanished
with the clouds

at least the sun
was beginning to set
allowing the air
to cool a bit
as my son
deftly skips a stone
across the desiccated silt
of the lifeless riverbed
with the innocent grace
of a child
perhaps
the last child
to grace the face
of our tearless
planet