Sarah James

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.

First prize in writelink Spring Fever contest 2008 and in Into the Yell