“Cumulus” by Sarah James

Sarah James is a great lover of clouds – their shapes, the science behind them and their beauty, mythology and inspiration. She recently sent her poem ‘Cumulus’ from her first poetry collection, which has just been turned into a poetry-film.


Even before they met, Thomas collected clouds;
he could taste rain on his tongue
simply by looking at the right sky.

He’d greet each formation like his sheep,
whistling as he recognised its unique shape and mix
of white, grey, black; individual as every new lamb.

Cirrus, altocumulus, cumulonimbus…Betsy, Pippa, Lou…
He’d recite names, munching syllables like marshmallows,
while his sheep munched methodically

through mud-stained grass, only stopping
to collect under trees by the gate
when a nimbostratus threatened rain.

They’d huddle there as if hoping,
like her, for a cumulus
big enough to carry them far away.

Instead, spring lambs gave birth to winter ewes
and the weather brought more woolly skies.
Rain collected regularly in buckets, overflowing

across the farm’s loose-tiled kitchen,
where the air tasted of mildew
and she grew tired of waiting.

© Sarah James
From Into the Yell (Circaidy Gregory Press), third prize winner in the International Rubery Book Awards 2011.

One thought on ““Cumulus” by Sarah James”

  1. Catherine Howard avatar Catherine Howard says:

    Gorgeous poem, especially evocative for us cloud appreciators! Her interweaving of allusions to sky and land, clouds and sheep, and he and she are masterful.

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