Notes to Poem:
Angel Cloud

Peter Y. Chou

Preface: When I got off Bus #40 on March 16, 2013 at Foothill College Los Altos Hills upper campus, I saw cirrus clouds resembling a giant brushstroke in the blue sky canvas. It inspired the haiku— "Swoosh of white on blue— / cloudburst of energy / inspires us to create." After reading "OP-ED: The Winter of the Monarch" (NY Times, 3-15-2013) about dwindling monarch butterflies migrating to Mexican forests, I noticed the co-author Homero Aridjis wrote a poetry book A Time of Angels (October 30, 2012). It reminded me of "Angel Seen in Florida Sky After Pope is Named" (Latinos Post, 3-15-2013). Since white puffs of smoke rose above the chimney of the Sistine Chapel when Pope Francis was elected at 7 pm on March 15, 2013 at the Vatican, these synchronous events were woven into this poem. I honored Dante quoting from Paradiso 2.3, 2.11 ("setting sail to deep seas unto the bread of angels"), and Homer Aridjis as well, borrowing lines from his A Time of Angels.
Commentary on Poem "Angel Cloud":

Brushstroke of white on blue
canvas— cloudburst in sky
inspired me to create

Brushstroke Cloud (3-16-2013)
Foothill College, Los Altos Hills

Brushstroke Cloud (3-16-2013)
Foothill College, Los Altos Hills

Brushstroke Cloud (3-16-2013)
Foothill College, Los Altos Hills
Whenever a majestic cloud appears in the sky, I imagine a Cosmic Cloud Painter up there with the blue sky as his or her canvas. There is a Cloud Appreciation Society with 31,754 members (3/20/2013) from 86 countries. Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon whereby a random stimulus is perceived as significant. Examples include seeing animals & faces in clouds, and man or hare in the moon. Earlier photos of clouds were shown at Cloud Photos 2009-2010. After getting off Bus #40 at Foothill College Los Altos Hills upper campus, I noticed cirrus clouds resembling a giant brushstroke in the blue sky canvas. I took three photos (Saturday, March 16, 11:47-11:53 am) and wrote a haiku— "Swoosh of white on blue— / cloud burst of energy / inspires us to create." Photo Sources: Brushstroke Cloud (

something synchronous such
as the white puff of smoke
above the Vatican rooftop—

Peter Macdiarmid (3-13-2013)
White Smoke from Vatican Rooftop

Joe Raedle (3-13-2013)
White Smoke from Vatican Chimney

Gregorio Borgia (3-13-2013)
White Smoke from Sistine Chapel
"Black Smoke From Conclave Signals No Pope on First Day" (New York Times, 3-12-2013) as none got the 77 votes from 2/3 of the 115 Cardinals inside the Sistine Chapel. On March 13, just before 7 pm, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina received 90 votes out of 115 and was elected Pope as white smoke appeared over the Sistine Chapel ("The story behind Pope Francis' election", USA Today, 3-16-2013). In "Smoke at the Vatican: How Do They Do It?" (National Geographic News, 3-13-2013), it was revealed that while burning wood may generate black smoke, metallic zinc dust with elemental sulfur create zinc sulfide gas that produce thick white cloud of smoke. Photo Sources: White Smoke from Vatican Rooftop: Peter Macdiarmid (; Joe Raedle (; Gregorio Borgia (

Pope Francis elected!
Jorge Mario Bergoglio—
Jesuit of Argentina.

Pope Francis
Time Magazine
(March 25, 2013)

Pope Francis appears
on balcony of St. Peter's Basilica
Osservatore Romano (3-13-2013)

Pope Francis asking for prayers
with curtain backdrop shaped
like the Platonic Lambda
Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Jesuit Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was elected as the 266th Pontiff. He took the name Pope Francis in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) and also the Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552). Bergoglio was known for his humility, always sitting in the back row of the conclave of Cardinals. He is known for taking buses to work instead of limos, cooked his own meals, and regularly visited the slums. Before blessing the pilgrims, he asked those in St. Peter's Square to pray for the pope emeritus, Benedict XVI and for himself. It is interesting that the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica has a red curtain in the shape of the Platonic Lambda. So Pope Francis is blessed by "Soul of the Universe" backdrop curtain behind him. Photo Source: Pope Francis (; Pope on Balcony (; Pope Francis with "Platonic Lambda" curtain backdrop (

On the same day people
saw an Angel Cloud at
sunset in South Florida.

Brandon Stockwell (3-15-2013)
"Angel Cloud" in South Florida

Ginger Teixeira (3-15-2013)
"Angel Cloud" in South Florida

Rocky Richmond (3-15-2013)
"Angel Cloud" in South Florida
People in Royal Palm Beach of South Florida noticed an "Angel Cloud" near sunset, heralding the election of Pope Francis in the Vatican at 7 pm, March 15, 2013. Many sent photos to TV stations WFLX and WPTV"Angel Seen in Florida Sky After Pope is Named" (By Erik Derr, Latinos Post, 3-15-2013). See also Huffington Post & Coast to Coast. Since Pope Francis is the first pontiff elected from the Americas, perhaps the appearance of "Angel Cloud" in Florida is a cause for celebration. Photo Sources: Angel Cloud: Brandon Stockwell (; Ginger Teixeira (>; Rocky Richmond (

Now I'm reading about
dwindling winter monarch
butterflies in Mexico—

Monarch Butterfly
by Travis Morisse (NY Times)

Dwindling Monarch Butterflies
by Eiko Ojala (NY Times)

Monarch Butterflies in Mexico Forest
from Brower's Video Butterfly Migration

Butterflies Migration to Mexico Forest
from Brower's Video Butterfly Migration
"Monarch Migration Plunges to Lowest Level in Decades" (NY Times, 3-14-2013) tells about Monarch butterflies winter migration to Mexican forest sank to lowest level in two decades. The area of forest occupied by the butterflies, once as high at 50 acres, dwindled to 2.94 acres last year. In "OP-ED: The Winter of the Monarch" (NY Times, 3-15-2013), Lincoln P. Brower & Homero Aridjis tells how the winter monarch colonies in Mexico's Oyamel fir forest has dwindled from 22 acres in 1994 to a record low of 2.9 acres. Reasons include the widespread use of powerful herbicides and genetically engineered crops destroying breeding habitat in the United States, and illegal logging in Mexico's high-elevation Oyamel fir forests (Video). Lincoln P. Brower is a professor of zoology at the University of Florida and a professor of biology at Sweet Briar College. Homero Aridjis, a former Mexican ambassador, is the author of the poetry collection A Time of Angels. Photo Sources: Monarch butterfly (; Dwindling butterflies (; Butterflies in Mexico (

its co-author is poet
Homer Aridjis whose book
A Time of Angels

Homero Aridjis
Homero Aridjis (born April 6, 1940) is a Mexican poet, novelist, environmental activist, journalist and diplomat. He has published 42 books of poetry and prose, many of them translated into a dozen languages. In his Introduction to Blue Spaces (1974), Kenneth Rexroth wrote "He is a visionary poet of lyrical bliss, crystalline concentrations and infinite spaces... I can think of no poet of Aridjis' generation in the Western Hemisphere who is as much at ease in the blue spaces of illumination— the illumination of transcending love. These are words for a new Magic Flute." Aridjis' poems in his latest book A Time of Angels offer faith in the eloquent silence of the angels as a sign of hope and point to glimpses of their presence among us. Photo Source: Homero Aridjis (; A Time of Angels (
A Time of Angels (2012)

turns my mind to Dante
setting sail to deep seas
unto the bread of angels

Doré: Paradiso 19.37-39
Blessed Souls Forming Eagle

Doré: Paradiso 21.31-33
Angels Descending

Doré: Paradiso 27.1-3
Heavenly Host Singing Gloria

Doré: Paradiso 28.28-31
Circles of Heavenly Host

Doré: Paradiso 31.1-3
Angels Forming a Rose
Dante's Divine Commedy (1321) is the greatest love poem about the soul's ascent to Paradise. Dante compares his heavenly journey to Jason's quest for the Golden Fleece (Paradiso 2.16-18 and Paradiso 33.94-96). The "bread of angels" is cited in Psalms 78.25 "Man did eat angels' food" and Wisdom 16.20 "You gave them the food of angels". In his Notes to Paradiso 2.11, John Ciardi writes: "The bread of angels is the knowledge of God. It is by that, Dante says, that we are able to live, but no mortal man can grasp enough of it to become satisfied, the Divine Mystery being veiled from man." Dante writes: "Blessed are the few who sit at the table where the bread of the angels is served." (Convivio I.i.7). On his ascent to the stars, Dante says none has made such a journey. So he invokes Apollo, god of poetry as pilot & guide. He asks Minerva, goddess of wisdom to fill his ship's sails, and the nine Muses to help him navigate to "the Bears" (Ursa Major & Ursa Minor, where the Pole Star resides). When beginning his ascent to Paradise, Dante addresses his readers:
Paradiso 2.1-12 (Mandelbaum translation):
O you who are within your little bark,
eager to listen, following behind
my ship that, singing, crosses to deep seas,
turn back to see your shores again: do not
attempt to sail the seas I sail; you may,
by losing sight of me, be left astray.
The waves I take were never sailed before;
Minerva breathes, Apollo pilots me,
and the nine Muses show to me the Bears.
You other few who turned your minds in time
unto the bread of angels, which provides
men here with life— but hungering for more
Allen Mandelbaum's Notes (pp. 314-315):
Dante exhorts his readers whether they are adequately prepared to follow his ship,
his poem (taking up the nautical metaphor with which Purgatorio opened), as it
"crosses to deep seas". The ill- or un-prepared, Dante insists, had better return to
the safety of familiar shores, lest in the midst of "deep seas", they find themselves
unprepared to continue & unable to return. Only those who through the prolonged
study of philosophy, dare undertake to follow the poet on his adventurous voyage.
Dante's poetic voyage is unprecendented in its theologiacl & philosophical scope.
Minerva / Athena (goddess of wisdom); Apollo (god of poetry and inspiration).
Big & Little Bears: constellations Ursa Major (Big Dipper) & Ursa Minor (Pole Star)
Dante's Convivio I.i.7: "Blessed are the few who sit at the table where the bread
of the angels is served." Angels feed on Divine Wisdom (Wisdom 16:20).
Only the beatific vision granted to the blessed in Paradise can satisfy this hunger.
Photo Sources: Doré's engravings ( are black & white. They were rendered cyan & blue in Photoshop to symbolize heaven (Blue Krishna).

with a breeze of wings
well beyond the mind
embraced by air, by light.

Homer Aridjis: A Time of Angels (2012)

Monarch Migration

Monarch Butterflies Migration to Mexico
My first draft of this poem ended with "unto the bread of angels". Since I honored Dante quoting from his Paradiso 2.3, 2.11, I wished to pay tribute to Homer Aridjis as well, since it was his A Time of Angels book that inspired me to write this poem weaving some synchronous events of March 15, 2013. In reviewing Aridjis' A Time of Angels at, Noovella cites Aridjis' poem "The eight o'clock sun" quoted below. I've borrowed the phrases "a breeze of wings", "well beyond the mind", and "envelops like air, like light" as the final stanza of this poem. The Greek word for Psyche means butterfly, and also means soul. Gerard's painting "Cupid Kissing Psyche" shows a butterfly hovering over Psyche's head, symbolizing the soul's angelic nature. So the migrating Monarch butterflies are "well beyond the mind" and the "breeze of wings" of butterflies are secretly angels in flight— "embraced by air, by light."

The eight o'clock sun opens up a secret that slept
perched on the trunks of the trees.
and there is a breeze of wings, rivers of butterflies in the air.
Visible through the bushes, the souls of the dead
can be felt with the eye and hand.

The intelligence of the Earth
is well beyond the mind

The earth thinks
outside man's head

The earth's mind envelops
like air, like light.

Photo Sources: A Time of Angels (; Monarch Migration (; Monarch Butterflies Migration to Mexico (

— Peter Y. Chou
    Mountain View, 3-21-2013

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