Forty words for fog

Eskimos in urban myth have their
forty words for snow
And famous San Francisco fog
has its names and forms.

Morning gathers itself
for a day's summer seething,
but a canopy of fog
shields this gentle city
from the sun's naked sneer,
sending skeptical dream-light
over slow, echo-less movement.

As the day strengthens,
sky punches holes through the canopy
above the Mission's low lagoon
and Potrero's rebel-steep streets.
The delicately painted fogscape
quietly tears itself apart.
Only wet-rag fog remains,
clinging to coast and hillsides,
making gleeful birds.

The new Mediterranean sky is clear,
jagged blue, but still lit with
fog too faint to see,
a pink-singed ocean breath of fog
easing through the Golden Gate,
spilling carefully across
sun-scratched sailboats filling the Bay,
best seen from the dim volcanic serenity
of Diablo peak, and best felt
while walking in hello-friend Duboce Park
with the diggledy dogs
and holding out your hand
to feel the frisky sea
cohabiting secretly with the day.

The most gladly photographed fog
is the Aqh-wa-le, American native for "smoky."
In summer you can watch it loitering
discreetly around the peaks at the
spine of the city, wispy and chilled,
a mound with a deep, bright-sky glow,
like dry-ice vapors on a warm afternoon,
asleep.

As our aging day flees
toward Tokyo and the restless Pacific,
a black fog approaches,
dismal and deep.
Traces of smoky fog race across the city sky
like a flock of desperate phantoms.
The wind is now.
Fog storm.
On the deck of a ship they built this city.

Then the sun is down
and the wind gives up.
The sky clears beyond the hills,
showing mist-marked stars.
Growling foghorns sigh and mourn
like whales making song
in the cold summer night.

Michael Webb

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