The Biography of a (Song) Cloud (after Billy Collins)

It is actually not that difficult
to trace the origins of a song.
It is certainly easier than trying
to trace that gust of wind back

to the billows from whence it came.

Just rule out now the notion
of listening for hours and hours
to cassette tapes and eight-tracks–
even vinyl discs unstacked from garages
of octogenarians to try and place its birth.

It is, however, difficult to imagine
the circumstances of the melody.
This song, for instance, given its
baroque beginning and its staccato
delivery, must surely be decades, even
centuries old. Formed on a warm,
humid evening near London.

Of course, the knowledge of music
informs us: the meter chirps along,
four beats to a measure, and the rests
purposefully pause us after the flurry
of sixteenth notes. The fortissimo
at the chorus conjures up Popes,
or at least men in robes.

Once played for friends and family

by its composer, it finally sat listlessly

on the wooden shelf, its notes

warding off the browned, curling edges

of vellum or papyrus or twenty pound

ultrabrite from the corner stationary store.

The first musician who found
its lifeless manuscript, the brittle
skeleton of staff after staff
of black dots and dashes,
symbols recognized by trained eyes
as the melody, plucked it gingerly
on an acoustic guitar, its jittery lilt
crying out the window, whining
for another player, another chance to be heard.

As luck would have it, that musician
rolled back up the gasping song
and carried it across continents
only to abandon it in a music wasteland,
a library of an old professor, where it
impatiently hibernated.

Ordinarily, that would be the end of things.
A new song would emerge. The old composer,
the first musician, the aged professor–
forgotten. Notes never to be heard again.
Oh, sure, a common measure may appear
from time to time; enough for one to
cry from the past, “Mine,” but most

would disappear,eaten by moths and bookworms.

But not this song.
This song lives on.

It did not die, nor would it ever,
for it is the song of the lark.
Or was it the nightingale? No,
it is the addicting chant of the jay,

infinitely stored within evolutionary mind cloud.
Each morning, it caws in my ear.
Each night, I listen for its proximity.

For certain, I would go my whole life with its song

pricking at my heart, creating emotional cloudbursts

in my day, happy to know it,
to have been lured by its
movements, its cadence. In following it,
I  tuned my life and tempered my loves.

To not have laughed and mourned,
been warmed by its windy whistles

or been jarred by its jeering squawks,
would make a life half-lived.
Its song will remain in my cloud
to be uploaded and downloaded as need
arises. My heart will sing along often
knowing the melody and the lyric
will lift me even to the grave.

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