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For Faith Paulsen

At midnight in a quiet house
I hold up blue spheres
cut from cold press rag paper

because a friend requested a cover
for new book, Cyanometer,
named for an invention

of Horace-Bénédict de Saussure,
18th -century explorer,
who gauged weather by the sky’s color.

This helped when climbing Mont Blanc
and other summits.
The whiter the atmosphere,

more likely it would storm.
Blue skies are dry — something about
light wavelengths, particles and dust.

All de Sassure needed
was a simple painted scale
ranging from paper white

to the deepest illusion of blue.
He used cyan pigment
from cyanide.

I mix cobalt, cerulean and indigo
with filtered water into little pools,
little oceans,

then brush layer on layer on paper,
careful of boundaries
and think of God

partitioning waters below
from waters above
and calling this sky.

I’m not delusional.
But so much
seeps into this room:

explorers shivering on mountains,
holding up paper scraps
shaped like wheels,

like the bow of God’s covenant
we break, filling the sky
with toxic drift.

I labor much of the night,
the next day, the next,
and for a long time

strips of broken color appear
in whatever I paint,
landscapes, skyscapes, flotsam swirling.



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