Jeannine M. Pitas

Nephophobia: Jeannine Pitas


Fear of Clouds

I need to move to Arizona
but can’t afford it.
Buffalo, New York is where I’m stuck.

Buffalo, land of misty
lake effects, seven days
without the sun.

Day and night, day
and night, they cast their shadows
over the land. I fear those too.

People would laugh if they knew
this is why I can’t hold down
a job, why the computer’s glare

is my refuge, why I stare at the
goldfish bowl and watch the white-and-
orange striped creatures open

and close their mouths. They’re not stupid.
They must know they’re getting nowhere
as they circle around that bowl.

I can’t recall how it first started –
maybe my first airplane flight
when we spent what felt like hours

inside, when I learned they weren’t
made from cotton candy, that if the plane’s engine
were turned off, we would fall.

Maybe it was when I learned that rain
wasn’t sent by Jesus sprinkling us
with some heavenly baptism.

Maybe it was the time when, while walking
the dog, I got caught in the rain
and saw lightning electrocute the ground.

Cumulus, soft, fake comfort; nimbus, thick
with anger, stratus, cold foreboding.
Cirrus are the worst, wispy fingers

of some divine monster
I may or may not meet.
I ask for the purity of open blue,

clarity, light. I ask for the security
of a rainless sky. And yet there’s much
I miss – green reeds under fresh water

I’d wade in, jeweled sand, soft algae
and ferns that caress my feet,
the smell of mint and

lavender, everything I can’t
bring in. I miss
the moon.

Jeannine M. Pitas is the author of Things Seen and Unseen, a book of poems published by Mosaic Press in 2019, and the translator of work by many Latin American poets, most recently Carnation and Tenebrae Candle by Marosa di Giorgio (Cardboard House 2020) and We Do Not Live In Vain by Selva Casal (Veliz Books 2020). She lives in Iowa and teaches at the University of Dubuque.