Before you became a cloud, you were an ocean, roiled and murmuring like a mouth. You were the shadows of a cloud cross- ing over a field of tulips. You were the tears of a man who cried into a plaid handkerchief. You were the sky without a hat. Your heart puffed and flowered like sheets drying on a line. And when you were a tree, you listened to the trees and the tree things trees told you. You were the wind in the wheels of a red bicycle. You were the spidery Mariatattooed on the hairless arm of a boy in dowtown Houston. You were the rain rolling off the waxy leaves of a magnolia tree. A lock of straw-colored hair wedged between the mottled pages of a Victor Hugo novel. A crescent of soap. A spider the color of a fingernail. The black nets beneath the sea of olive trees. A skein of blue wool. A tea saucer wrapped in newspaper. An empty cracker tin. A bowl of blueber- ries in heavy cream. White wine in a green-stemmed glass. And when you opened your wings to wind, across the punched- tin sky above a prison courtyard, those condemned to death and those condemned to life watched how smooth and sweet a white cloud glides.