- Vol. 08
- Chapter 01
These days we carry the world in our pocket,
shrink-wrapped to fit a six-inch frame.
Always-On, 4G, 5G, swiping algorithmically
through time and space,
status updates, viral vids and memes
don’t mean a thing.
We’re infobese, caught in the jaws
of the infobeast that craves
more more more
of the time we just don’t have.
The clock tik-toks as you Instagram your lunch,
fifteen minutes of Facebook fame a day,
more platforms than a train station,
a voice and a crowd for all.
Look at me. Here I am. I exist. Don’t you see?
Come with me,
I have the answer you seek.
It could be beautiful.
A universal cyberconscious Hive Mind,
One world, one love, one us. Right?
We’re atomised, polarised, hyperfuckingnormalised,
desensitized to any kind of horror
we can imagine and many kinds we can’t,
a twenty four hour atrocity exhibition
not all want to watch but none can turn off.
Before she pulled Grant from his bed and sprinted outside, she scraped away the cursive branded “Dorsey” inside her wrist with a straightedge she found in his closet when he was at work. She bled while she drove with Grant in the backseat but the infection didn’t take until they hit Kennesaw, and that’s when she found them the inn with the room with two beds and two locks and walls that wouldn’t let nobody in unless she wanted them there.
She is charged by the night but pays by the week in the cash her mama wires her behind her daddy’s back every Saturday afternoon, so Saturday mornings she sits outside of Room 18, watching Grant trace the outline of parking spots heel to toe in shoes without laces.
Look… Mama… I don’t even stray from the line no more… hey, Mama, what’s at? He raises his head to the sun, pointing with a bandaged index finger at that above him.
She wanted to say that he was looking at passenger ships in the sky, two-tiered airliners and Zeppelins with folks on the way to a place they’ve never been, airborne boats with flags sprouting from their hulls, men with wings like condors, free-falling, parachuting with flags of surrender. She wanted to say that he didn’t need her to tell him what he saw or what he thought he saw.
Mama, I said what are they? Kinda birds are that?
I ain't never seen a bird that big before. Hey, what if a bird is born without wings?Read more >
We must fly, Ma, I remind her in the hush of the morning. I stop when she glances behind me. Turn to watch the man called Pa pad in, like a looming bear woken from sleep.
They don’t ask questions, but I answer them.
I dreamt it last night, I say, flying beside ships dripping water, joyriders leaning over to watch us paddle in air, and blimps as big as this house. I ignore Pa, who has carried in the usual soggy bran with milk that must last us till night.
Ma’s green eyes once used to set her hair alight. Now they’re all a neutral gray: her hair, her skin, her clothes, her smile. A smile flits across her lips. Terrified, I dive back into my lie of a dream.
People attached to great canvas fairy wings, carrying purses and briefcases, off to work, I croon to her. Potbellied policemen direct traffic, lifted by flappy butterfly wings that struggle with their weight. Focusing on her as she sways, I describe the official parachuting down in a hat and coat, reading his morning paper the while. All of them flying, Ma, us among them. Unable to add exclamation marks to my words, I add them to my voice.
Are we flying over land or water—I want her to argue. To see me, me alone. Preserve the morning quiet but for my unquavering voice describing the ships booming like the last hoots from a far train. Her gaze wavers. She wants to stand up but I hold her hand— keeping her on the wooden bench we share, its knots and grains harsh beneath my fingertips. On its underside, I carve out my dreams using plastic forks and spoons.Read more >
I’m running away from last night’s blue moon
Walking hot bitumen streets
Wishing I was up high in a balloon
On an old comfy rocking seat
I’m young enough to fly
Beyond yesterday’s cloudburst
Travel today’s distant blue sky
Above this land’s ongoing curse
Take my hand, come sail with me
Soar among other floating air-ships
Escape restrictions and disease
Free our hearts for the new script
The bird’s eye view with the world we must live
though vertigo-height funnels, we must live.
Feathers catch air, the water surrounds
but for an olive branch undrowned, we must live.
Placards hung like plucked from the sky
blurred like a distant sigh, we must live.
Stifled screams from dampened free-fall
Helios melts my feathered shawl, we must live.
Fire-licked and crumbling back to dust,
mud runs through cracks (like rust) we must live.
I held beads, they’re strung lifeless
hand-warm prayers listless, we must live.
Hands shake and eyes blind (for dreaming)
voice hoarse and still—screaming we must live.
Call me Caproni, I dream of soaring flight;
The wind rises, tonight! We must live.
Commotion at once, compliments and excitement flew
back and forth, all had successfully avoided the hideous traffic
The attendant shouted “On your left Ladies and Gentlemen,
is the famous…”
Suddenly, his voice was cloaked by the shouts of a
falling man, in a unison we screamed
Assurance came swiftly, all were hushed and the tour progressed
It was a lazy Sunday morning perfect for sightseeing
Instantly, we were surrounded by the strangest spectacle
Undisturbed, a little one took fancy to the announcements
In her soft voice, she cooed “Kindly fasten your seat belts!”
As if in a trance, we all hummed her recitation
She smiled and resumed to play with her dolls
Meanwhile, I couldn’t disentangle myself from the
Doomed man as he embraced the earth below
as he falls, flailing
his featherless arms,
into his final microsleep,
those tiny ruptures that ruled him
and made him appear
reckless. The muscle
memory pulled him up higher
towards the unforgiving eye
of the sun, burning
off the glue, holding
him together. Daedalus is
nowhere to be seen. And he falls,
inside the dream world
where everyone is aloft
with wings, with ships, with strings and oars
gliding through the air.
He is not falling,
he floats by what is possible,
and doesn’t let the ground wake him.
Hanging onto the ropes of parachutes and all sorts of flying and floating machines, I think of the fragility of my life. What do I hang onto? I know what my ropes are: Faith, family, friends, health, confidence in doctors who, one week from this moment, will hold my life in their hands, my very lung, which cancer has invaded. I turn myself over to them, leave the conscious world, and know I will either wake up or not. It is a thought that makes me shiver. I will say to my husband, "I'll see you in a couple hours. But if I don't, please hug the kids. Keep the house clean. Get a cat to keep you company. Be strong."
I have been stoic to this point, busy having tests and preparing for the surgery. But now I am nearing the end of preparations. The time gets close. My mind forces me to think about what is really going to happen. Will every breath I take be agony? Will the pain pills help? Will eating be difficult? Will I be able to find a comfortable position in which to sleep?
I overthink it, I'm afraid. The ropes are tenuous. I have seven days to wait, seven days for my imagination to run wild.
I cling to the ropes, begging them to strengthen.
There was a thought after
And so brilliant I exhaled an "aah"
as one does–if grudgingly–for fireworks.
But before one word attached itself–
thumbtacked 3x5 with a name on it–
it was gone with the other
mayfly inventions. Afterwards
wind takes them, pale nothings
of watercolor dust, to mound
behind twigs and sidewalk grass.
More fantasies than churches in Alabama.
Too light to touch. No suspicion of fluttering
or pulse. Husks of unfertilized loss
to carry even hollow-boned words.
Airspace is a human right.
That’s how it all began and that’s how it got us to where we are right now. Stuck in the air, not going anywhere. We’ve been flying for eight days straight now. If it wasn’t for gravity, I won’t be able to tell up from down. Land is barely visible, though not for the idiots who jumped. Chute or not, they’re probably going to hit a blimp or a propeller before they reach ground.
The Lee-Patels started their journey two months ago. We’re not early adopters, so we were happy to see them take off. But it was their messages that made us start our journey—messages that were full of hope and faith.
We’re lucky, we managed to convert our VW Campervan to a flymobile—we’re probably more comfortable than most. My sweet Dara sits up front with me, as my co-pilot, and our three munchkins strapped in the back with their puzzles for entertainment.
We’re nearly at our destination: the Lee-Patels’ IN THE AIR CORNERSHOP. We’ve already wired them our half of the investment. It’s going to be great. They’ve bought the airspace and they’ve even set up the store and all the supply chains. We’ll arrive just in time to stock up and open up for business.
Well, if airspace is a human right, snacks and magazines will be too.
It wasn’t like this in the classroom.
Modelled the airspace and the environs.
Knew JFK like the palm of my hand.
Learned about Dreamliners and Airbus,
landing patterns and their safe space.
Appreciated the impact of vortices.
Saw wind sheer and imbalance it caused.
Could differentiate between ILS categories.
Understood ALSF and TDZ.
Knew importance of VASI and LDIN but
nothing, repeat nothing, prepared me for this.
Had a Personally Conducted Tour barge
pirouetting free over Runway 3.
A double-decker crammed with old fishermen.
Two twin funnel hot air balloons, or more.
Mississippi river boats en route to landing.
A water wagon with multi-colored wings.
a parachutist reading Roth.
Even honeymooners in boat or with case.
In his head were all manner of fantastical ideas and he drew them, daily and manically, on the walls, the doors, the windows with permanent marker. He wanted Liz to see the visions he had, to make her understand the urgency. If they didn’t go now, it would be too late.
But she just shouted at him: “Frank! What on earth are you doing?” over and over until the sound of it, and the pressure of it, hurt his head.
Yesterday, she’d even tried to scrub off the ones on the windows because, she said, the neighbours would think they’d lost their marbles.
“Why permanent marker, Frank?” Her voice shook with anger, or the motion of her scrubbing, or both. Frank thought she would put the window through.
“Here, Liz,” he’d said, grabbing her hand and pulling her over to the chimney breast, where the majority of his diagrams and drawings were scrawled. “These are the main ones, the main designs. I think this one, with the large double wings, will be enough to lift us.”
It had caused Liz to throw the dirty, wet rag at him and storm out, so he sat on the floor for a while, with his head down on his knees, thinking how on earth he could get her to see.
When he’d met her, she’d been the strong one. There was no doubt about that. Like all women, battling through a world that was all for men when you really looked at it. But she weathered it, and bore two children, and endured so much.
He’d put her through so much.Read more >
What is it like up there? He looked up
as if the sky were pregnant, too, blue
belly stretched and ready to deflate itself
into the day.
Do you think the clouds dream? He pressed
his ears to my belly button, his hands cradled
between my thighs and I closed my eyes to
the sky and him.
You never know when the world is ending.
They say there are signs, portents, but one
day you sit with your husband between your
legs dreaming, and the next a city descends
on you, evacuating everything you’ve ever known.
Then, and now.
That’s how it happened.
The old skool aircraft took off,
an experience day for our dad
on his ninetieth birthday
to see the world from above.
Last time he’d been nineteen
strapped into a fighter plane
with other things on his mind
rather than the aerial view.
A circus, is what he called this now,
same crowded skies but this time
pleasure seeking tourists airborne
skywriting new dreams
when his nightmares still clung
to him in grey cloud and smoke,
enemy aircraft bombarding,
tracer fire peppering the sky.
I thought he’d be pleased,
I thought he’d love it,
instead he cowered below
the window trembling.
We'll learn to fly too
When the sky's conquered
We'll call that freedom too
A little weight lifted off this earth
And quite soon
We'll learn to live in the sky too
Every now and then
We'll peep down to earth
Teach our kids to count
the hills and mountains
Trace the rivers from up above
And make wishes too
And this is how crowded the skies became
filled with contraptions, all shapes and sizes
designed to give us a better view of
– of what – a world we remembered in dreams,
somewhere we had once lived. Now we were free
to become new adventurers; out there
something was worth discovering, a joy
we thought we had lost. It was not silent,
there was no reverence for what was gone:
hollers, whoops, constant chatter, instructions
shouted at the top of voices, clapping,
gales of laughter, megaphones of delight,
screeches, the whirling of wings, sails flapping,
air escaping from balloons with a hiss.
Once we were earth-bound, here we sailed aloft
in vehicles meant for water, we soared
in an escape from a fate worse than death,
messy, imperfect humans riding high,
the sky was full of our celebrations.
Strange how thoughts fly
Distort, hook small fry
Sly whisperers on the wi-fi
Who take the bait
Slate with hate
Against the observer
Push them overboard
Into the blue
And then forget
Select the next target
Who knew such a little person
With such a small mind
Could be given this power
To be God, play Herod
And massacre the innocents
Oh, the fine, fragile folly of men, what fools we are
to see ourselves as more than mortal. With each
leap ahead we cannot turn back to see the gifts
discarded, we are blinkered to our past. Scoffing
at its primitive, dragging steps, we gaze long and deep
into the harsh blue glare and fail to find its hold constraining.
Every drawn breath/puffed chest/mouth open dismays
our possibilities, we are captives of this moneyed age,
frittering our finer gifts on hollowed adorations. Wary
of a world that now fights back we bluster, ‘our importance
is the crux of all that lives,’ and so we kill and maim and slay
to make our footsteps pave the way to simpler times, with
fewer lives and less constraints on freedom.
No masks here. No fettered steps. No closed doors and modest
distances. ‘We know best,’ we say, until there are none left to hear it.
Consider the arrogance of flight, the casual slip
of force and angular momentum. We speak
as though the choral winds whipping
cannot obfuscate the most basic gravitation.
In fact, man outweighs nothing
in the air. Observe the expanse,
the boiled remnants of innovation raining
from the edge of sharp, pyramidic fins
gouging the ozone in service
to signage, advertising the latest catch
on pristine wingtips.
Imagine the dissuasion of a fall, the swallowing
openness of sky as the final breath holds
in the hollows of a breaking earth.
I love airships and blimps.
Huge. As big as a dinosaur.
They fly past one another,
and steal each other’s light
as their hinged wings spend
the air like copper pennies.
I love the sound of rain pounding
the tarpaulin above my head.
I love to fly with the rising sun,
love to hear the wind shrill and
rushing into my ears as it pulls
my skin waxy and taught.
This air is my sea, and I sail her
in a small teak skiff, its bow
ballooned and oar locks winged
and ribbed. And if in my dream
I can fly, then perhaps I am living
in a different sky than yours.
waiting for you to come back to me
is like walking through fire and escaping unscathed, unburnt.
i hate to sometimes think that the depth between us is a little shallower
than the sea in between my legs
do you know? i do not wash the sheets.
you live in them.
when I miss you, i hug them tightly
Wondering how you farewell leaving a piece of your soul in my soul.
maybe love is the sublimation of naphthalene. one of those things that slip from being to nothing.
when you kiss this new body, i want her to taste me in your mouth.
then she'll push you away from the fullness of her chest.
What man goes in search of another woman with another woman living in his soul.
come back. for two shall become one.
Trajectories fly high then dive to sigh our lives
and raise vortices beyond demise. Machines,
bird's-eye worlds, shudder hope alive, drive
despair out of sight. Until views of under-wings
usher whiskered whispers and spray water
meant to satisfy want, yet leave mouths dry.
All these men strapped to apparatus, fail
to understand basic thirsts and poke cavities
blown arid in waves of air. They try to mirror
egos, soon turned to dust. Bravo. Fear ends in
deep draughts of women's eyes. Their sight
attuned to sweeping heights and birth-blood
depths. Creation outstrips egos, now and then.
how I would sail the air waves
above chequerboard fields
beyond the curve of my limitations
I dream of launching in a new dawn
bringing promises of lightness
horizons open to clear blue
thinking this will free me
from downtrodden to frivolity
soaring ambition may bring follies
safe landings are not ensured
but this is the way to go
full steam onwards upwards
where impossibilities fly
Our burdened earth feels complicated
and precarious, so we imagine wings,
boats that can fly, and blimps
that can whisk us away
to higher altitudes.
Are viruses afraid of heights?
2020 has been an out of body experience.
It is no surprise that the collective dream
is to hang glide and float.
The air up there must be better,
loftier, decorated with scattered clouds
and the occasional, bold bird.
Looking above means choosing to hope,
searching for answers, and allowing the mind
to follow a footpath into the future,
as if promise lives there.
The old ways of being and thinking,
like outdated modes of transportation,
must be let go.
We begin to drop doubt,
like handfuls of grain in a field.
Blueprints for tomorrow
are sketched today
by artists, scientists, and thinkers.
Steady hands draw lines and angles,
erase first drafts and start over.
Ideas keep rising, flapping in earnest
just to stay propelled in the air.
Read more >
There’s a better world
than the one you see
from a narrow window
There's an exciting way of life
than the mundane
There’s a whole lot of people
trying to soar above the chaos
into a hopeful beyond
An open space,
freedom in the upper hemisphere,
where you fly instead of crawl
If you’d only take a risk,
you might get lucky
and find your wish.
All those magnificent men in their flying machines
of flapping wings
(they went too close to the sun and burned)
or canvas framed
(they barely left the ground with a hop skip and jump)
to begin with.
But soon they were followed by variations on balloons
with hot air
Then came the airplanes
Then the earthly atmosphere became too tame for them,
ready for breeching in their search for more space
they launched their whooshing rockets.
But in the end they’ll all be back
down to earth.
Gravity will ground them.
on silent barges
through dimmed labyrinths,
to feather us
with filmy familiarity,
but they prefer to be airborne.
Impalpable as spirits,
they drift high,
sharing space with
a Tetris of strange encounters,
risen like breathing smoke
the weight of night.
They are quilted
from vaporous patches,
with gossamer thread.
but quite real.
Harlequins of life,
their characters ride,
Read more >
To fly away would be such a thrill
step up onto the windowsill breath in
eyes screwed tight shut breeze kissing my pale
skin I’d be first, right? To take the leap
and float off instead of the usual splat
I’d sail off like a boat both blues of sky and
ocean below me and further down the
grey concrete I’ve come from like a frown on
the face of the earth. But I wonder how
long until they start to notice? Until
they all lick their lips and fight for a cut?
“We’ve burnt all the trees, we’ve caught all the fish,
hell, we’ve fucked the bees! How can we market
the sky?” they’d all muse. It wouldn’t be long
it’d soon bustle like below the sight
of it would dim the sun the land would grow
darker than before. They’d get their green claws
out, lick them clean and start to pull at the
last inches of freedom, until they had
torn down even
When we took to the air,
it was a temporary measure.
Days turned into weeks,
weeks into turbulent months
spent surfing convection currents
up over aging asphalt, down over devastated vegetation.
Firmly-planted feet freed from soil
destabilizes people of faith,
which most claimed to be
before becoming avian.
Now they are the ones belly-flopping
from perfectly-livable transportation,
unable to accept the new normal—
we poisoned the planet below.
Bird’s eye tourism continues to thrive;
no ceiling for binocular sales.
Fishing holidays remain popular
outside hurricane seasons.
Water delivery remains more punctual
than it’s competitor—rainfall.
While aloft, we will build
submarines and rocket ships
to continue this manifest conquest—
humanity trumps everything above and below.
We've occupied the sky,
Like we did with the earth.
We've nudged out the birds
Whose home it once was.
We believe we are flying,
Soaring to new heights.
We don't see it yet
But our journey is downwards.
We selfishly jostle
For the sake of 'mine' and 'ours'.
We care for none
Under the moon, the stars.
But it is not ours
If it is not borne with care.
It is not ours
If there's no love to spare.
'If wishes were horses'
We’d all of us ride
But more likely today
You would find that we fly
For it’s higher and louder
And more people can see
– At the end of today
It is all about – Me
But hold on to your hats
While you flap your arms hard –
There’s no hiding up there
All look on from afar
And your profile does
What all profiles do
Show us only half-truths
Never all The Real You
Take a chance and touch down
Take a breath
Feel the ground
And you’ll find
When you live life
You’ll be fine.
She wants to take flight with the people in the sky.
How glorious they are in these inglorious times.
How valiant, how free.
What she finds most alluring is this: they are sailing to a far-off place where she can change the arc of her dreams.
After all, on this island where she lives, real life is darker than your darkest dreams.
The system turning on you, opening fire on you. The dunes of denial. The limp untruths.
She has stopped counting the dead, the missing, the great streaks of blood on the streets. She has swallowed her last morsel of hope. She has never felt more alone.
Now the people in the sky are her sole source of delight. Watching them brings a full thrill of possibility. She, too, can drift away in a fancy flying vessel. She, too, can look elegant in a top hat, perch on a giant sail, float by herself.
She longs to be open to the world again, to be wholly rid of this aloneness, this despair that knows her mother's middle name.
And so one slow morning, she caves and screams, 'Take me with you, please. Take me.'
But the people in the sky carry on, eyes ahead and heads lifted, snootily silent and silently snooty, until she begins to seethe.
What she doesn't know, of course, is that the people in the sky aren't really there.
Nothing prepared me for the sight, wingless humans had taken to flight,
Ignorant, insolent they stole the sky from the birds, without discussion, without any words,
Giggling, gasping, peering below, they watched the helpless whose lives were so slow,
Hysteria took them as they chased the clouds, all this energy just to escape the crowds,
Travelling upwards they looked out to see, others just like them crowding the scene,
Making a mess of the aerial space, congested together they took umbrage and raced,
Airships, steamships, rowing boats, wings, in it together all claiming to win,
Racing, they fluttered as they flew overhead non of them thinking what lay ahead,
Energy expended, dropped to ground, formed cluttered craters where they slept sound.
Modernity took flight again
in 1905. Canvas birds
grinned as landlings called them ‘airplanes’,
swept together in gathering herds,
doing what humans always wanted:
being like God, a wish now granted
through grease, rivets, skill, theory –
no need for a life more dreary!
Up there I was beyond braver,
where the absence of boundaries
rendered all of my quandaries
infinitesimal, mere quavers.
Above the above, weaving delight;
all the sky my daring birthright.
let us all rise, go sightseeing
and marvel at the world like
kids unaware of the signs. let us
take a ride through the multi-
sphere and feel the weight of
our bodies fall away, down be-
low, where death stays awake
in its oil-stained rags. let us
turn this air into water, into relief
as we grow distant in this melee,
navigating through broken re-
cords, when we go blind and for-
get our old footholds. let us
write down the life forms we have
killed—names & numbers & ages
of our nuclear harmony, of to-
morrows we erased by our car-
boned-age. choke choke. let us
be sly in our shame that we can
not feel anymore, at the state
of a forgotten planet, left for-
s(h)aken by an unyielding name
of an evolutionary mistake. let us
weep and regurgitate our false
hopes. let us breathe. let us die.
let us breathe one last time.
They came across in anything
that would defy gravity for long enough –
boats, mostly, that clung to the underside
of patchwork balloons, faded and threadbare,
that barely made it off the ground.
And here and there a wheelless car,
a trolley bus with wings and fins,
a mini-submarine with makeshift sail,
the dining car from a fancy train
kept aloft by several dozen oars.
One guy had a leather sofa
tied beneath a giant kite,
his parents, wife and kids and dog
all squashed together, facing forward,
staring blankly at a non-existent TV.
The largest was a Mississippi paddle steamer,
arthritic, overcrowded, sagging
beneath the weight of human misery.
People sat on the roof, clung to the sides.
One or two fell off and had to swim behind.
And bringing up the rear,
an old couple on a winged bicycle
whose tyres would dip into the ocean
whenever they slowed their furious pedalling
just long enough to catch their breath.
plump blimps brim with
technicolour drips &
you perch on a precipice of
canvas brushed with
eyes goggle at ribboning
rivers & bursting mountains & you
manhandle the air to taste
brine – pure atmosphere. dusty pink
sunsets bombard your tongue-buds.
tourists of the ozone! poke
your grubby fingers through
the hole & wave
at roasted bodies on the sand.
this brisk swoop will
pickle your cheeks
red raw after filling
your guts with exploration.
pause. breathe in a thimbleful
of gasoline & its roiling offshoots
catching in the airship's wings &
hear the birds scream in their grief.
Fossils / in our bed / furcula
in throat, splayed a drowning
lest we know / ancient hibernations /
anamnesis ribcaged /
rigor mortis yawning / poisoned waves
beneath the creel and sects of
our darkened sleep / zeppelins
on triptych plains / a fear of water
and people / the surf rattles
in damp winter / pet virus
drunk, jumps on each leg
like around the skull
of a tree / we choke
on wishbones / we can't outlast.
I don’t think I used to really believe airships existed,
they were this steampunk fantasy that I encountered
in a game, where you had to fly one to fight a yeti.
Something so vast and cumbersome and yet fragile,
that somehow stayed up, could carry human weight:
I mean the airship, here, but the yeti called to me, too.
I never wanted to fight – I thought the real end-game
would be meeting them halfway, learning their story.
I once read a book suggesting yetis are related to us,
our genes having branched off some time ago, the same
with merfolk, and they all exist – and I believed this,
easier than I did with airships. Maybe it is the kinship
and calling I feel to mountain and ocean, not machine.
The earth is, and has, so much. I didn't dream of flying.
Pay no attention to the soles of your joggers as you trample the luna moths dropped from exhaustion beneath the neighborhood's newly installed streetlamp because your morning loops around the block are also your time to listen to your widowed mother Mabel's rambling voice message, left the night before; a teary account of how much she misses watching the stars with Chester, 'on a night like tonight when I can see Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, then the full moon, so glorious,' and wouldn't Chester love to hear that the ISS found the oxygen leak?
It was the only way to travel
during the lockdown
with airports closed
harbours out of bounds
It was using the vacant air space
once densely populated
by jet engines with time-
tables tightly regulated
It was catching boats
with wind-powered wings
with propellers rattling
It was grabbing a parachute
or wings made of tough
sail-cloth getting away
from the tour-guide’s bluff
It was looking down at the
distant horizon staying
well away as the air currents
keep the wagon racing
It was not looking down as
your craft lost height
and hurtled slowly
towards the deep blue bight
Greetings from the Morning After!
Tomorrow will be like today,
but Busier, More, and Noisier!
Streamlining Panic and Excitement
in one sleek combined package!
There are jetpacks now!
But not for everyone!
Live longer! But not forever!
Be closer to people! From a distance!
Great new deals on Platonic ideals
in very classy new packaging!
Keep an eye out! Don't look down!
Better punctuation is coming
along every day now!
They come to meet you on the way up. You knew they would. It is Uncle Fritz who spots you first, sputtering towards you in a rickety contraption, propeller whirring, his loud laugh booming.
“Ahoy, young Gustav!”
He is sailing across the sky, far out, to your starboard side and the sight of him buoys you. Closer, you must get closer. And you pull on the cord to set the flame roaring, the silk billowing. Higher, faster. Remembering the blue glint of his eyes, his laughter, the sour candies he would bring you as a child. Your delight.
“Ahoy!” you cry. “Ahoy!”
The room below, the bed where you had lain just moments ago, the scratch of starched sheets on your skin, the view from the window out over the fields, the tree you had watched from season to season, all of that fading from view now. A world forgotten. Save for them.
They swirl around you now in crafts of every colour and shape, your sister lifted by angels wings to hover above you, around you.
“Agatha!” you cry. And you watch as she is set down in the basket beside you. Her fingers stroking your cheek, your hair.
“So,” she says. “You were gone a long time.”
And you nod and smile and breathe deep, accept her kisses. The clouds parting to reveal a sky so azure, so bright.
“Look,” Agatha says. And you look. See swooping crafts gliding and looping, hear their joyous cries, “Gustav! Gustav!”Read more >
I was born with what they called ‘wings in my feet’; I just could not sit still, and in my head I was always going to faraway places. My desire to travel the world came before I learned how to write or read.
I wouldn’t say my childhood was fundamentally unhappy, but it was above all unrooted. I grew up without siblings, playing on my own, and going around the streets trying to find something to do. While my mother worked overtime to buy us food and pay the rent.
I didn’t mind so much to be alone; I used to pretend that life was a movie and I invented stories with interesting characters, as I jumped in and out of reality and I took them to bed with me.
In my stories I could go anywhere, I could be anyone, and I felt safer. Nothing could hurt me that much, or for longer than I could bear.
I think my writing started at the same time as I started flying. The open blank pages of notebooks soon become my favourite playground, filled with challenges and adventures I could conquer, and there was no limit to places I could visit and people I would meet. Now I could have my own pair of wings.
But as soon as my dresses became too short and my orthopaedic boots too tight, I knew it was time to fly to my biggest adventure yet; to leave the place I called home and all that was known to me. So I said goodbye to my mother, and for the first time, I found myself flying into crowded skies filled with others that like me, also dreamt of exploring beyond their front doors and back fences.Read more >
Everyone’s a flyer today. Last we met, you were collecting
tickets—to London, to Boston—and almost called it philately.
I kissed you and you were thinking of Paris, or Bavaria, or
Cornwall, or somewhere, but not there. As kids we never
thought much of places without carts or boats—or we did
a little too much—but that was all. Now boats and carts
are close to nothing, and you like looking at the wings, cloud-
shrouded on almost moonlit nights. You say the stars are closer
here, so close one could just tiptoe and grab a handful, like
cotton, like dewy little pearls, like white snow. I tell you it’d be
good to think of it that way, but in the green grass, there is
peace in silence, music in noise; that home is always closer.
So you speak nothing a while; I look at you, your name mellow
on my tongue. There are times when I know you love me
no matter what, so when you’re disappointed, I say nothing.
Last night, I left a postcard at your door: Emma, I love you.
How strange is the proclivity of dreams and desires of us humans? We humanoids cartographing the earth for millions of years yet are still trying to capture every single inch of that cobalt sky. Our hunger never recedes but turns a shade darker and deeper with every single church of our incessant dreams and desires. We turn our gaze and simply want to acquire. We look at the thick suffocated sky corrugated by these metals beasts with blaring noises day in and day out and want to conquer it. With these oversize large blips carrying us over the grasslands and drylands, with every inch of the ground, we mark our territory. Boisterously. We compare our hollow conquests to the exalted gods in heaven and chest-thumping calling ourselves the master of the land, sea, and air. We live in our own lands of isolation. We possess the airplane, jets, and things which can fly at the speed of the sound and yet still envy the carelessness of a soaring eagle, as it gently carries the melody in its shifting wings and grazes the skin of the water just enough. A mellifluous symphony is making. We lack that and much more. We are stitched in time like a protracted fog and still hope to make it to the end. Believing deeply in our ashen hearts that one day or another we will possess the hollow bones light as air and a slender bony body, wings sprouting and cutting out of the shoulder blades. Our body will get lighter by every passing minute, draining the heaviness of the sorrow from our bones, and will lift us upwards like an oversize blimp, and will fly far far away.
Getting in the air was the easy bit.
My arms were bone propellers
treating my feet to a bird’s-eye goodbye
to my street tarmacked with worries.
There’s nothing wrong
with having your head in the clouds
if you appreciate the clouds,
but I filled mine up with rain.
It doesn’t matter where you go
on holiday, you always travel with yourself.
Todd winks at me, wipes his brow with a grease-stained hand. He’s been working on our boat: replacing the motor with airplane engines, installing a propeller at the nose, attaching wings to the sides. I peck his sweaty cheek.
Roads are full. No space for one more ant to crawl. Dried-up rivers, seas, and oceans have been converted to parking lots. Car travel requires booking of lanes and time-slots, days in advance.
Parachutes, balloons, and battery-operated safety wings are selling like pumpkins before Halloween. Air vehicles are being prototyped by geniuses. People are growing restless, as always, and creative.
“Kelly, Sean, let’s pick up Papa Pilot’s pepperoni pizza,” Todd shouts, poking his head through the door connecting the garage to the house. “I’m placing the order.”
A chorus of “Yay” followed by the pitter-patter of feet down the stairs. A predictable outcome of the words “pizza” and “pick up.”
“Wear your safety wings, everybody,” Todd instructs, goes inside to wash and change.
I clip the pink wings to Kelly’s shoulders, blue to Sean’s, red to Todd’s after he returns, smelling fresh and clean. Todd helps with my green wings. Colorful butterfly-family. Everyone hits a button to fold the wings before stepping into the boat-plane.
We sail in air, the sky obscured by awkward vehicles and beings: a woman on a winged kitchen island, a boy on a bicycle tethered to balloon, two girls on a swing set pulled by tens of kites.Read more >
Stella spots him amongst the dirigibles, the blimps
and trippers, supreme in his morning suit, top hat
& bat-style wings, his flight path so mature & precise.
She dreams of an invitation to fly tandem above
all the flurry & flap, the kittiwakes & condors, when she’d
slip off her silken evening wear to be Stella in free fall
skinny gliding on gentle zephyrs until his powerful
wings envelop; O Stella smitten by her Sky Captain
ready for a long long mile-high coupling;
Stella the star at play with his tails to a back drop
of evening light, such magnificence; let the wiggle
& point of his joy stick for ever be your guide.
from dawn to twilight
friends and foe alike
deride my lack of height
mocking suspended legs
that never shared
their quick-sand surfaces
as I hear – I too, smirk
at feet dangling secrets
‘they’: will never unearth
joy, that finds me unperturbed
swivelling – free,
within whimsy’s breeze
The way to notice
absence is to be present—
the spaces are magnified,
the holes gaping in the fabric
torn out of a past
that drains away without mercy.
Can it be sailed, what is gone?—
tossed about like a ship,
capsized and righted again—
battered but rebuilt?
And you may ask:
where do crows fit
into this story? What wings
carry the journey through
the sky that belongs rightly
to hawks and other birds of prey?
What galaxies call to the air?—
waves rocking them
with a cosmic rhythm
gathered in fury?
The starlings remain
landlocked—the city streets
Hot air rises
Leaves burnt earth
For the dawn of the new day
(So they say)
Hot air rises
Mechanised we fly
One swarm of I’s
Go with it
In the same boat and
On the same bandwagon so
Sky’s the limit
Go with it
(If you’ve got the hard cash
If not, take the hard crash)
Hot air disguises
Processes stark truth
(Were we to choose?)
Hot air disguises
I have a head full of sky. It’s blue.
Clear blue as far as the eye can see
Voices float in, demanding to be heard.
I slam them into hot air balloons,
pin them to blueness where I can’t hear
the vast dirigibles with prurient passengers,
shouting nonsense at the world.
More and more they come, filling
all the spaces of the mind.
I have a sky-full of balloons.
You say they are all me; versions of me,
floating, aimless; a jumble of thoughts.
You are so wrong. I fly without wings.
All I need is silence.
You sit here with your pencil
and clipboard, your pseudo-empathy.
You have no right to judge me.
I take your pointed pencil,
stab all the balloons. Their air rushes out.
You are silenced at last. I fly.
Must have been the early eighties when I first heard the match strike, the first call to action. Admittedly my memory has been stretched much too thin, though it must’ve been close to the Iron Lady’s arrival at Number Ten. I was a much younger man then. Stronger, forward thinking; the way everyone needed to be when the recession took what it did. Everybody lost their livelihoods back then, bleeding pieces of themselves daily, like a coin purse with a frayed hole in the bottom. Millions of us, my wife included. My old Dot. No jobs and too many mouths to feed. That was when I first realised: the whole world’s a Hindenburg awaiting immolation, a miscalculation away from catastrophe.
‘The world’s filling up,’ I had told my Dot. ‘Lightening fast.’
She understood my concerns but refused to make it a conversation. Didn’t help anything, she’d tell me. Rightly so, I’d say, though it didn’t take long for the problem to grow too big to overlook, for concern to do its work like it had done on me. Was probably when our firstborn arrived that the spark of fear first flared in her eyes, or perhaps when she beheld the world we were bringing him into.
He did just fine, our boy. Has a family of his own down south, probably feeling how I did four decades before. Makes me wonder how my father would’ve coped in this time of cables and unsocial society, of hunger and wool covered eyes. Then again, he wasn’t much of a thinker, nor was he one to worry about his children’s future. He had concerns greater than plastic farms and plastic oceans, bigger than living in a time that isn’t your own.Read more >
a root meandering around the wall
prostrated, I rue the loss
meanwhile a floating bee
settles on my floral shirt
my face buried deep, I whisper into the earth
to revert, to reinstate
in the eternal summer of my creation
drifting carefree, like a summer market
from the contrived world above
I see the endless earth
figuring out a way
meanwhile I float above
like a bee on a floral shirt
Wait a while longer.
Departure is scheduled for when they stay put.
Place your ticket face up under your pillow.
Please note, tickets slipped inside your pillowcase will not be accepted.
We cannot guarantee which model you will be travelling in.
If it’s one of our longer ones, or a double decker, please don’t worry if the service seems busy.
You may notice your high-school boyfriend, or that friend you lost touch with years ago, or the neighbour’s older sibling who used to walk you to the bus stop as a child.
Don’t be alarmed. You don’t have to interact with them – although you might want to, of course. And they might choose to interact with you.
No matter how many others are on board, this is a personally conducted tour. Tailored to you.
Please note, if you have consumed intoxicants such as alcohol or tablets of any kind, you may be allocated to an individual apparatus. Flying solo is generally a less smooth experience, and not advised.
If you notice bodies plummeting through the nearby airspace, this isn’t a cause for concern.
It’s just how some begin their return journey.
Swollen and bloated with salty brine
the tatty fishing boat lay at my feet,
pleading for a hand up from the earth’s gutter.
I threw an arched brow at my father
who caught it with arms and smile broad,
batting away the trailing pink plumes of the luxury liners,
which left without us.
Through dragging heat and cutting cold we worked.
Pasting our faith and dreams into the veiny grain,
my mother weaving sails from car seat covers my father retrieved
from the 80s,
padding the cabin with off cuts.
The coughing Cortina engine, stuttered to life under my father’s hand,
bandaged together with reams of duct tape and an elastic band.
“Turn up the radio,” said Dad, muting the hiss and whine.
We broke the air,
chugging and bobbing through rippling cloud,
overcoming battering breeze and tossing turbulence.
We held tight.
mere fingertips and a breath away from the ivory clad ship,
I felt for the rope ladder to climb aboard.
“Go on,” my father’s hand was on my back.
The passengers peered down,
eyes glassy and black.
I turned, settled back in my seat and said,
“Let’s go home and have a cuppa tea shall we?”
"And to your left, ladies and gentlemen, you will see a highly rare specimen of the primate Homo Sapiens, of the kingdom Animalia, a breed which used to tread the Earth on two feet, and scour the jungles for food."
A loud gasp escaped from the beaks and elongated maws of the crowd as they examined the creature hunched on the barren waterbody beneath. Some turned their bilateral heads to get a better look.
"It may sound surprising, but the realm below used to be covered with real flora and fauna. Everything you see below was green- and blue-hued, teeming with life. Once these creatures governed the land, they began to replace it all with fabrics and plastic."
They watched as the pathetic beast below attempted to chew on something inedible.
"Next up, the incredible Red Planet! Let us observe how contemporary colonisers are making ends meet!"
Can you see the world from
How it spins out of control?
The parade from street view
Is an opening gift,
From up here, a complete story
All in one sequence, like
Identity captured and shared,
The whole film in an instant
Rather than snapshots.
Take a good look because
A plummet comes swiftly. Soon
We will be moored to the earth
Once more, remembering
This portrait as a distorted dream.