A study of clouds

From a sequence about the paintings of Alexander and John Robert Cozens. This poem responds to Alexander Cozens' painting 'Study of Sky No. 4 with Landscape'

A study of clouds

A study of clouds

If you stay long enough, studying the sky
as storm-clouds gather and heave,
the land will lose substance and become
a vapour, sketchy and insubstantial.

If you let the brush move with its own volition
and see what you see, not what you know,
sky and earth will swap places; you will
lose all sense of what is figure and ground.

There will be nothing but body in the shapes
you trace on the stationary page, there will be
nothing but mass in those abstract blots
of sepia and ochre and saturated brown.

Look up, and forget there was once a horizon.
That great black looming sky has stolen
the shadow from where you stand.
You have vanished; you are lost in meditation.

You are centuries out of your time;
there is nothing left of you but your mind.
You have no medium but cloud.
Form has become your one foundation.


Alexander Cozens, 'Study of Sky No. 4 with Landscape'