Abigail Cloud on “The Swarm”
I call it Up North or The North Country or The Wild. My family calls it The Farm, complete with The Barn and The Crick. In truth, it’s not all that wild, a farmhouse in rural agricultural country in Michigan, not even that far north, only about midway up the state’s two-peninsula stretch. But it’s close enough to deep forest, low enough in population that it feels like I am alone enough when I’m there. I walk The Farm, The Cemetery, The Crick alone. I do not walk The Woods alone.
Up North, I can indulge my birdwatching habits right from the giant windows of the house. A massive trumpet vine grows off one side of the house and lures in orioles and hummingbirds by the dozens. I didn’t know until recently that my mother genuinely doesn’t care for hummingbirds. That fascinates me, and reminds me of other flying creatures that people cannot abide. The first swarm stems from the fear of nigh-untraceable movement in hummingbirds. It also attaches to a central project I’m completing dealing with signs, warnings, and divination—the myriad ways in which we try to attach meaning to tiny occurrences. Up North, every small thing rises to be noticed.
Up North, I’m quiet and the Earth is not. The Earth revs awake as the sun hits the first field, and sleep-talks through the night. The magnification of natural sound makes me feel like I have super-hearing, but it also turns sound elemental. The second swarm comes from a moment when I could hear an oncoming cloud of something before I could see it. I tracked it by that bzhir of wings, wondering if it could possibly be bees. It reminded me of that scene in African Queen when Rose and Charlie (because they are Rose and Charlie by this point, no longer Ms. and Mr.) are beset by a swarm of stinging insects, and the wild seizes them instantly, pushing off from shore their only recourse. My horde mostly stayed above me and I could see its progress when it neared enough to identify its members—gnats; I was never engulfed. But for a few seconds, without consciously realizing it, I was ready to bolt.
The exploration of which this poem is a part is full of questions—questions about the surrounding environment, certainly, but more importantly questions of the self. While my poems often explore forms of divination (real and imagined), collectively they act as their own form of divination, making and remaking meaning wherever they can.