“why is it all so beautiful this fake dream this craziness why?” --Ikkyu

On instructions from my zen Buddhist therapist I have been cloudwatching. After my first two weeks he gives me these hints.

“Your mind is the sky. Clouds are thoughts,” he says.

“Mm,” I say.

“Your mind is bigger than your anxiety.”

“Yes,” I say. “It is, I see.”

The churchyard down the street, on the corner, is where I normally perform these exercises. I lie on my back in the dead winter grass on a slight rise, my legs asplay, one pointing down Young Avenue, one directed down Barksdale.

I’m only talking now about one of my cloudwatching days, a few weeks later, a sunny, mid-December afternoon at the end of the 1900s.

The sky overhead is a cerulean backwash, not even marred by the reflected daystar off a jetstream vapor trail. It’s bright as a thousand suns. I squint toward the heavens from whence my peace will come.

After a few minutes of this I hear the sound of interruption, the shuffle of feet, another human entering my field of solitude. I turn my head and he’s almost upon me.

He’s wearing too many clothes, unwashed, dungy like the sad end of things. For all the world he seems like some prelapsarian loner, or cursed mariner, on the wander. Like myself he is bespeckled in dead grass, I imagine from sleeping outside. His dark, whiskery face opens like a puckered sore and I have to labor to understand his toothless talk.

“Whasha doin?” I believe he asks.


I answer him as literally as possible. No use in over-explaining, straining the delicate twines of this tentative communication.

He turns his dirty countenance upwards and squinches his face like a newborn child does right before it cries. He stays that way for one, two minutes. It’s uncomfortable anyway, the silence, his cogitation.

“Aint none,” he says.

I look at him and I think he thinks I’m chewing over his proclamation, but really I’m absorbing him, taking his place temporarily, imagining myself alone, homeless.

Wretched of the earth, c’est moi.

“I’ve learned not to think that,” I tell him.

He looks at me and a slow smile spreads across his weathered face, a seam in a painting’s craquelure. He glances quickly upwards again, then back at me.

Before he goes he nods once, a friendly jog of the noggin, an affirmation I carry with me the rest of the day. Like the knowledge that the sky is not infinite. Not today.

About the author:

Corey Mesler, with his wife, owns Burke's Book Store, one of the country's oldest independent bookstores at 125 years old. He has published prose and poetry in numerous journals. His novel, Talk: A Novel in Dialogue, is due out from Livingston Press in Spring of 2002.