Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Calgary inversion layer

From eighty miles out
through the
frost edged windshield
of a cold stiffened car
I can see
the gritty orange glare
reflected from the bottom
of a single
city sized cloud
hanging frozen on
an otherwise-clear horizon.

I lived under there once
used to climb
North Hill in summer dusk
to look out at
the Palliser Hotel's
blocky brown sandstone
rise above all lower lights.

The city has grown since,
thermal pollution
the visible result
as I drive closer
in the rare absence
of the warming westerly
Chinook wind:
an infinite bowl of colder air above
pressing a barely warmer
trapped air layer
of winter smog
down to the bottom of
the Bow River Valley;
at the overhead boundary
where the two masses
grind into each other
that disembodied cloud smudges
the night's starry clarity.

I move into the outskirts
work my way north
up Macleod trail
through hanging crystals
of vaporous exhaust
draw closer to
ghosts of the memories
I'd prefer to keep younger,
grown older and fewer
under that cloud;
the dog I chased
become arthritic
and fond of dozing
in her warm wicker bed
the people that keep her
waiting out their age
wondering who will be next
to wisp out of the warmth
into that colder layer above.

Slowed tires yelp against chill snow
on a familiar street
I see a green and white picket fence
stop and get out
watch my frozen still breath
decide to delay a moment
walk back along the street
turn and climb
a slanted childhood alley
skidding on dirty snow
and scales of December ice
to the lookout on North Hill.

The Palliser now sinks
in a rising icy sea
of reflective glass
the numb chill above me
pins down
any warmth buried
in the bottom of my mind
and where the two layers meet
a single cloud hangs.

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