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Melody Wilson

Cloud Animals

Seventeen summers on Mojave lawns,

more clouds than trees, more training jets

than flocks of birds.

I pretended to be a girl sculpting animals

in the air but never was. Shapes shimmered,

but before I could name them,

jets tore through. Sometimes the sonic boom

came as a surprise, but it was always

deja vu, image of God, breath held,

cheeks puffed out, then Boom—

they kept me on my toes. Even once

I understood speed and sound,

booms punctuated the days: school bus,

dinner table, bare feet cooling in the pool,

then gasp in the atmosphere

and Boom. Shatter. Like when I tried

to picture you, vague form I couldn’t


I got a ride to the city, signed in at the sterile

desk. A specter in scrubs said count backward

from 100. I came to,

Boom, the gurney wobbling, the hallway’s

sequence of fluorescent lights struggled

to resolve through tears.


--after Secretariat’s record-breaking Belmont Stakes, 1973

Whenever I think of

the big red colt

I remember

your chair turned toward the sliding glass door,

you watching the desert while you drank.

We asked, sometimes,

if you had been in the war, but Mama said

your heart was too big.

I was too young for metaphor, but adopted

your heroes, Rooster Cogburn, Man with No Name,

and now this horse,

the weight of whose heart

you never knew.

I was still twelve, and it was only June

when you carried your beer to the road,

paced off ten lengths, thirty-one,

explained velocity, objects in motion

tend to stay in motion,

how each action propels the next.

You stood on one line, sent me to the other.

I couldn’t make out your words

for the wind.

You hadn’t worked

all winter, but spun fables about outlaws

and Gila monsters. I cast myself in the role

of audience while my sisters

counted bottles, decided what to do.

Anyone could hear the crew

breaking down the scenery, first the foothills,

then the wheatfields. The water tower,

the whole Mojave folded flat,

petrified wood from the yard,

the sandy graves of all those dogs,

our whole world stacked neatly in a truck,

shrouded in tarps, hauled to a warehouse,

where it gathers dust still. Nothing

either of us could do,

you in your chair

one side of the window, me galloping

my little mare line to line on the other.


And now I'm serving time for mistakes made by another in another lifetime...

Indigo Girls –“Galileo”

My daughter stands between

the tombs of Michelangelo

and Galileo.

The photo she sends is a gift.

She’s telling me she remembers

the book I chose

when we cleared my father’s

apartment, carried with me

all these years.

When he received the cloth-bound

collection he also unwrapped

a rock and a chisel. Artist was just one

of the myths in our Pantheon of one.

She thinks I treasure the book,

but what I really want

is an incantation

where I set fire to each color plate—

a charm to make her understand

what matters more:

the pair of front row tickets

she won, the two of us singing along

with the band,

remembering most of the words.


Melody Wilson’s recent work appears in Nimrod, Quartet, Sugar House Review and on VerseDaily. New work will appear in Fiddlehead, Tar River Review, and Red Rock Review. She received 2022 Pushcart nominations from Redactions and Red Rock Review, and was semi-finalist for the 2022 Pablo Neruda Awards Her first chapbook, Spineless: Memoir in Invertebrates comes out this year—find more of her work at


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