“Poem with a Cloud and Frank Ocean Lyrics” by José Felipe Ozuna

Kennedy Lake by M-A Murphy, mostly blue photograph of boys jumping from an old pier into a mountain lake

Image: “Kennedy Lake” by M-A Murphy. “Poem with a Cloud and Frank Ocean Lyrics” was written by José Felipe Ozuna for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2022, and selected as the Editor’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


José Felipe Ozuna


August 2016 and the sky and lake bleed
into each other. I’ve spent the weekend
trying to download Blond on my phone
with shoddy WiFi at my friend’s cabin,
where I take my shirt off outside for
the first time in years and we use nets
to try to catch minnows shooting through
the water like scaled bullets. I don’t remember
catching anything. Or showering. I know it
can’t be true but in my head the sky was lower
back then, close enough to touch. If I had
reached my hand out I could’ve stolen a cloud
and crushed it in my palm small enough to fit in my pocket,
so I would always have that sky with me. By the end of the trip
my arms will be darker and my cheeks rosy, something I didn’t
know could happen to skin like mine. In the car ride home
I don’t cry when Frank sings we’ll never be those kids again.
I doubt I really heard it. I don’t know how to swim, but that summer
when my friends jump in the lake so do I, and I aim where I can
see the bottom so I don’t sink too far. So I can come up for air.
The sky isn’t pink and white. But it’s blue. And it’s there.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
June 2022, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “The poems were especially good this month—perhaps because the artwork itself provokes such strong memories—but I thought José’s poem did the best job of capturing the true complexity of nostalgia and the human predicament of being conscious creatures caught in the river of time. We’ll never return to the lakes of our youth, or experience the same great album again for the first time. To love something is to lose it, a fact that remains as happy as it is sad. And it’s there.”

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