- 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.
That’s where we live
imagining we now see
the world clearly.
for a bird’s-eye view
of the devastation
we have made of home.
We call it progress
and think fortune
smiles on us
when dry winds
lift us up over
what was our land
fertile and generous
in the old days
when we understood
how we depend
on what Earth offers us.
crucially there is still air if all else fails
let's call it the final gambit
even better there's lots of it
for those mothers of invention
set loose within it
they'll never come down
will just skim the surface now and again
let's call it the ultimate celebration
of cranks just doing it for themselves
in an unlimited variety
set loose within it
they'll never come down
and now it's all a great theatre in the sky
let's call it a remarkable presentation
where boats full of people hang
from enormous balloons
and some roam below small wings
they'll never come down
We all sit, or lie, or walk
in our own little space.
All four walls hug us tight
and keep us in our place.
Our workplace restaurants and bars
have all been rolled in one,
and now only closing curtains
indicate the day is done.
The world keeps its rotation;
what must be never stops,
like all the other jobs that can't
be done on tabletops.
Then every week (or day or so)
another conference with the press –
another day doomscrolling
through social unhappiness.
And so now if we were to tread
outside our little bubble
why then we'd surely all fall down
and then we'd be in trouble.
Businessmen, bankers and other such wankers
grabbed the earth with their greedy fingers
and sold it to each other, including rivers,
lakes and seas (with special inducements
to yacht and golf club members)
until they went off course
and took the freedom of the sky.
Everyone clamoured for a birds-eye
view, trading stocks and bonds for wisps of cloud,
that vanished as they rose up in a crowd
for personally conducted tours
policed by dark angels and bureaucratic types
trained to scrutinise
and brainwash them with fake news and hype.
There are giants floating in the sky.
Ships have sailed away from pea-soup seas,
fleeing shrinking coasts and killer bees.
They sold their stocks and waved goodbye.
They trail grappling hooks above the ground
that snag albatross wings and pelican beaks.
Bloated, bursting galleons, upward bound,
rudderless and brazen, over fire-singed trees.
Up and away, billowed on the toxic plume
from ravenous, flatulent greed, they glide.
Look out! They bluster as they barge ahead.
Get out of our way. Move it aside.
Or you’re dead. These skies belong to us.
Prepare to meet your doom.
For, no one in this life deserves a free ride.
A limited number of tickets are sold.
So, like Icarus, feet over head
one by one, tossed over the side
all stowaways fall. To lighten the load.
Above the riffraff, it’s them or us
among the world of cumulonimbus.
These new modes and their modality
Fail to take into account the totality
Of the power of the locality
To impose their supreme morality
That hold onto with sheer brutality
A superiority they call neutrality
So power is kept in a centrality
And choice becomes formality
Only the chosen receive consent
Which must be given with intent
For the recipient to be content
To look not to their own ascent
But for the giver's sole extent
To grow as much as their advent
So that no one can prevent
Whoever the power will torment
That power, made incomplete
If not rooted in its seat
Needs support against defeat
And so he names himself elite
So he can justify retreat
Because his power is replete
With fragile strength, full of deceit
As with these new modalities – obsolete
Fear rises like steam
In a hot kettle
Sirens break the air
Into incoherent gravel
And hope demands
We find our way up
Above the battleground
Far enough to see our limits
The earth’s short curve
The measure of our efforts
Against the stars eternal stare
Watching with blind indifference
As we crowd the sky
With arguments like airships
Bloated with opinion
Eager to elbow
all opponents out
And plant our own flag
On this sore contested land
Hyper-helium did the trick.
A Jules Verne effect took hold
And up we went, sometimes erratic,
Yep, and sometimes cold
At those amazing heights,
Those giddy, giggly altitudes
In former days reserved for the flights
Of ocean-going birds –
But there we were. You waved your hat
At the couple in the rowing boat.
I savoured the bird's-eye view
Of oceans, lands and you.
The water wagon winged away.
Commuting couples soared.
Humanity just will not stay
On earth, grounded – and bored.
You disembarked. The great commotion
Continued in the air:
Life, death, danger and passion
In the upper atmosphere.
Arise citizens of the globe,
Let’s vacate the earth
Leave our shoes behind
an unlatched door,
for someone else to wear.
Be it for a day, a week, a year.
Take leave to view the world anew.
Tickets admit one,
To freedom of an afternoon.
To an opening of the mind.
To become tourists on a
limited trip so sublime.
Of our own land our
own space continuing time.
To view it as a whole,
To view it anew,
Bringing it into the conscious.
Bringing it into a future view.
Before it is all gone,
Gone and disappeared.
For alas we blindly destroy
all that we hold dear.
Let’s row our way through the atmospheres.
Fly between our sub-conscious
and the conscious dear.
Drifting between the day-dreaming colours of our times.
Wide eyed and honestly
Read more >
My five-year-old daughter leans against my arm and asks me to tell her a story. I rub her head gently and begin.
“Once there was a teenage girl fascinated with the sky. Wishing she could fly as birds do, with wings flapping in the wind, she pictured large flying machines and an abundance of people overlooking the peaks of mountains. She envisioned herself holding her parents hands, her hair blowing behind her shoulders, whisking through the clouds watching the earth below, its roundness a marvel. Oh, she dreamed of carefree days with no worries about school or fitting in with friends. One day she will fly her troubles away, way up in the sky.”
My daughter is calmly asleep.
I remember this girl. I am still waiting to fly.
This is what I live for:
I graze the frostbitten stars
With outstretched fingers
Cutting through the dark
with softly circling blades.
I am born again
From a plywood womb,
Dusting fields below
with my twin charges
A night witch's curse.
Then home to refuel.
And I talk to Betelguese
and to Sirius
Who mirror the explosions below.
I tell them of the scalding freeze
on my skin
From the whistling wind.
I tell them of comrades lost,
comets spiralling from
heaven to hell.
I tell them that I am like them:
Radiant.Read more >
I used to get on a plane at least every six weeks, sometimes more. Entrusting my life to fantastical flying machines, the technology of which I don’t understand and seems quite impossible. It’s all in the wings, apparently. Specifically, the shape of the wing that channels the air beneath it at speed, allowing take-off. But we are not birds, and we don’t have wings, and strapping them on – however well engineered – seems both remarkable and terrifying.
My grandmother remembered the introduction of flying as mass transport. She also remembered vowing she’d never get in a plane. What would be the point? After all, trains could go everywhere she needed to, and she could bring the whole family and maybe even a pet when heading off to the mountains for skiing or walking holidays, or to Warsaw for some urban delights.
But her most memorable journey turned out to involve bundling everyone together in just a few hurried hours. She stuffed her aging parents, a toddler, and her pregnant belly into a small car and sped across the border. Eventually there were other cars, trains and an occasional boat. First Romania, then Cyprus, on to what was then Palestine, and eventually – whether she liked it or not – she got into a screechy plane that took her over the expanse of war-ravaged Europe and into Britain, which she never really left again, not properly. As testament to her stubborn refusal to accept her new normal, she never really learned English either.
She told me those stories in Polish, having arrived to visit us by plane, of course. I couldn’t grasp that sense of urgency she’d felt all those years before, that desperate need to flee, and subsequent fear and horror at what happened to the people and places she’d left behind. Read more >
We tame the peaks
of our Shangri-las
in cable cars,
enjoy the altitudes
through reinforced glass
Pose for selfies
beneath Wi-Fi masts.
Paradise has Portaloos
flanked by grand views,
ticket stubs littered
‘round toll booths
Burger vans and souvenir stalls,
peddling plush macaws
and snow globe waterfalls.
The Seven Wonders
built by our Ancients
to honour their Deities,
are propped by scaffolds
and scrubbed of graffiti
mortared with pixels,
the camera concealing
our feckless footfalls.
These inflated castles in the sky
once so pleasing to the eye,
have been punctured and patched,
Read more >
Prosaic Biden rowing, sailing, gliding through air,
Pedalling the "Water Wagon" like billyoh, glint-eyed,
Mask kissing the Blarney stone, Irish roots extended;
Harris boldly, sensibly parachuting her path of destiny.
Commander Trump bullying, exhorting desperate efforts,
"Bird's Eye Views" accelerates to earth for hardest of landings;
50 Cent a ride, VP Pence bailing for a 2nd moonshot, 2024?; DJT:
"Arizona! Georgia! Pennsylvania! Litigation! Melania?!"
darling i have been made aware,
despair no longer, let your heart
disoriented in flutters, confide in me.
the flights were desperate,
each piece of luggage put on the scale
meticulously a million times over; our lives
folded into 23kg and a carry on bag,
over the years i reckon
landfills with the size of me scattered throughout.
heartache on poems by rotting apples
mindless doodles crumpled beneath plastic bags,
my childhood gameboy scarlet scratched
somewhere across the world.
i would shed as much of myself as i could,
each move getting easier in time,
the vanishing possessions lightening the bagpacks.
i still go back and forth, condemn and condone
my mother's absolutist practice, cleaning slates,
never treating the physical as holy. i suppose
it made room for better things
just as it left little room for memories
in tangible souvenirs.
now i resign to specific items, easy to pack and collect,
among my most precious remain:
3 caravaggio posters from tokyo,
colour pencils along with a poetry diary,
and ocean vuong. oh, and postcards too, Read more >
Living as birds do, will make us light in the head.
We’d be much safer on the ground, tied to our beds.
But there is so much to be seen, in the expanse of the sky.
It would be a waste of our time to stay down here and only wonder why.
So much time spent on the canals of the world.
Panama, Suez and Regents, that all bend and curl.
However, in the sky we can travel as the crow flies.
I do wonder if the owls up there think of us as wise.
We must remember Icarus, and not get too close to the sun.
As we do not wish to singe our wings, and fall, and burn.
I’m sure in no time we’ll be travelling through the blue at the speed of sound.
But, alas, we must not forget those still on the ground.
Yes, take me far away from troubles near.
Coronavirus threatens. We need ships
and planes to bear us gone. Use every gear
to take me on these journeys, on these trips.
Machines with wings or sprockets, even trains,
provide us getaways and whistle-stops.
We need these so to travel in our lanes,
to see the world's blue waters and its crops.
Coronavirus, don't intimidate.
I have so many ways to get away.
You think your power sneaks closer to my gate.
I hate you. Leave. Go. Leave without delay.
The vehicles with engines give me hope,
and help me through these chilling days to cope.
what some will do
for a bird’s eye view
is past belief.
As for the
personally conducted tour,
that idea that,
that is something
I would never chose,
If I were to buy
the idea of an Icarus try,
I would insist
on an empty sky.
over a comfortable lake
just in case whatever I use
for wings and tail
just in case they fail.
One look at that
crazy filled up sky
is the reason why,
to leave well alone.
It is a stupid
manmade death zone
for which we all
definitely will atone.
The suited race to make progress—
their days of action crammed into silver cattle tubes
measuring collections, treasuring the seeing of it first
(so it can be told to those who weren’t there
in the air)
Keep up, they cry!
Some see past the mirrored wings
through the contrails of
hot air and noise
and wait for Hamlet’s clouds,
those beyond measure, just meaning
They live in days where time still walks,
their backs pressed into the grass of the season
as the evening paints its pink fuzziness on the horizon
and the last of the day’s light flames and dies
and they think to themselves:
the clearest view is from the ground.
typical really that
this airship rally
holds no proof
that we can fly.
Tickets are sold,
for skies as if
they are candy
dripped in sugar
and colour so sickly,
where children can
launch into space.
Watch this space;
the helium and
oxygen, hot air
like a rocket bomb
flying tall with a tail
that sparks in the
dark like the guy.
We are all the
we will burst...
we’ll take to the air like ducks to water.
Magnificent men in their weapons of destruction;
over-population forces erratic solutions and
Read more >
Sailing up into the glorious atmosphere of being
Away from the bland-suit cityscapes and the stench of the dying breed
Our greys now replaced by yellows and blues
There is an exodus all around us
One person, following another, attached to air
Ill-tempers dissipate through our achievement of freedom
It is our imperial march into the heavens
So that we leave our trials reeking discretely below us
Down there amongst the gloom-merchants and death-dealers
Up here, we are the children of our own star-making universe
She climbed into the gondola, my mother,
helped by hands knowledgeable, kind.
The envelope quivered excitedly,
Candy-striped, from crown to mouth,
yellow, red, green, blue, sweet
promise on a sunny autumn morning.
Thumbs up, with fire roaring, waking
the sleepy river underneath
– they took off –
Mother waved at us: farewell! and
soon the balloon’s shape hovered
bright over the city’s sandstone spires,
then floated higher, higher, growing
smaller, smaller, until all we could see
was sky and a few, scattered clouds.
A blissful disappearance.
I see my mother’s waving hand still
as if this had been yesterday, now that
I held it through her final breath,
have seen her vanish right before my eyes
again it is this time of year,
the leaves are turning, and the air, yet mellow,
has begun to dream of winter, and I –
There’s no way
you’re getting me up there,
people don’t fly,
they plummet like rag dolls,
limbs akimbo, diving headfirst,
but you tease me off the ground
with hints of eye splitting views
from a flying machine afloat,
you say, with gin. I cling
to the edge, watch you pedal
for your life, legs in an awkward spin,
as we hover like angels with doilies
for wings, before we take off
into the proverbial sunset.
As a consequence of the Great Cataclysm and its associated worldwide economic crash all state and commercial airlines were either bankrupted or rendered non-viable. Air fleets were initially grounded and mothballed but then left to rust and fall apart as global Green Recovery programmes gathered momentum. By the time people were ready to once again get up close and personal with scores of strangers in confined spaces, the jet engine had had its day. As fossil fuel production dwindled, any resurrection of the passenger air industry had to languish at the back of queue. While many people were happy to regard air travel as a thing of the past others started to look into that same past for inspiration. A new wave of entrepreneurs began to channel the spirit of the early twentieth century pioneers who had taken to the skies on a wing and a prayer. No design was too outlandish, no technology too obsolete to be dusted off and hastily written up in a business plan. Hot air and old school aerodynamics became the chief weapons in this new battle to overcome gravity. Within a few years, the troposphere was filled with all manner of unregulated flying contraptions, a large proportion of which were both unstable and uncontrolled.
Even if these machines had been capable of following a steered course, rather than being at the mercy of prevailing winds, a state of carnage would still have been inevitable given the lack of Air Traffic Control. As the death toll escalated, governments were left with no choice but to implement a ban on all flights of any kind. Inexorably, this opened the door for state sponsorship on a massive scale to be deployed to reboot national aerospace industries and it was only a matter of time before tanker lorries full of chemicals were rolling into the dormant airports to start defoliating their runways.
Teeth brushed, face clean, bed warm and cozy, but
peck at my brain like
vultures at the eyes of a stillborn calve.
I sense the darkness deepen and expand, but
the onslaught of thought.
As black gives way to grey dawn,
my mind rests on unfathomable airships
jumbled across a pale sunset.
Absurdity, calm, and exhaustion
lull my synapsis,
my lids rest on dry eyes, and I forget
thought, lost in sleep.
The blare of my alarm breaks the modicum of sleep,
the airships have morphed into whales
a chartreuse sky
in a world slanted off normal in a way
my sleepy brain cannot comprehend, but
which triggers the onslaught of
I roll over, but cannot escape, so
I get up.
Angelica leaned over the side of the airship, Martha’s arms tight around her waist. This was their fourth trip in an airship and still, Martha was pale and sallow in the face the moment the ropes were untied. She would not glance over the edge, not even when Angelica tried to show her the field that was shaped like a heart.
“You’re no fun,” said Angelica, and she leaned over even further.
“Good,” said Martha, and she tugged a little harder on Angelica’s waist. “Won’t you just come back a little bit? You’re scaring me.”
“It’s a Birdseye View of the World! Birds look down!”
“Birds also have wings.”
Angelica gently pulled free of Martha’s embrace. “Well, we could have had wings too, but you wouldn’t let me rent them.”
As if to illustrate Angelica’s point, a pair of businessmen drifted past. Snatches of account numbers trailed in their wake. They wore crisp suits with thick Velcro straps around their shoes and heavy leather harnesses over their chests. The mechanical wings sprawling behind them glowed eerily in the backlight of the sun. Martha was pouting. Angelica turned around and kissed her, smiling softly. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Angelica let her lower back rest against the side of the ship, the wind caressing her shoulders. Martha’s face creased in worry. Angelica smiled wider, began to say that Martha should just relax a little, what did she even think would-Read more >
Across the times, I carry
The truth, spoken and heard
Forgotten, or not as yet,
Beyond the skies, I draw
The happenings, in times of reckoning
Somewhere, they must belong too,
Through the boundaries, I see
The invisible, the spread of pink
On earth, lives and more,
With words divine, I fly
Across the times
I am the winged hope.
Or shall I board yours?
Mine flies beautifully,
Sometimes sedate to allow
Viewing of this spectacular world;
Sometimes with surprising speed
That will get you to destinations
I'm ready to share my journey
With a fellow traveller.
My baggage which took up all the room
Is neater, lighter now
And will not weigh me down.
Be warned I have only enough room
For well packaged personal luggage -
The rest you will need to leave behind,
I do not tow.
I am happy to step
Onto another vessel;
To take part in
Some adventures, not my own -
If we can share the navigation.
I have mostly, solo flown.
Enjoyed the beating wings,
Drifted on thermals
Led by my own compass.
But this ticket I hold,
Embossed with gold
Is worded –
Passage for two.
Mr Jenkins shook his cane at yet another traffic hazard on his way to get the newspaper. He let his wings carry him to a higher altitude, huffing to himself while holding his top hat in place. Sunday flyers, on a Tuesday? Bah! The world had truly lost its mind when the government decided that anyone with enough financial means should be able to experience the clouds. There was no respect left for The Ancient Pact these days.
There. Blissful silence, far away from the machines thundering through the sky below. He enjoyed the stillness around him for a moment, inhaled the distinct cloud-scent deep down his lungs, before looking down. The sight didn't surprise him, though it pained him as much as it ever had. Smaller creations, like the floating boats and winged bikes, mingle with big cloud-liners, filled to the brim with people. One particularly large one, a hideous red balloon with big letters offering 'the birds-eye views of the world' enraged him more than the others. Fools. Did they not understand that they can't escape their current fate by bringing what caused it when they move elsewhere? Humans had long been curious about what they didn't know, or understand. They rarely ever considered the consequences of their actions beforehand.
His jacket buttons had become undone in his rapid ascent. So be it. He only kept it for appearances. His skin, though its shape and form had altered to blend in better on this forsaken planet, was immune to the cold. He let the flaps move in the wind; a flaccid wing pair next to his own, vibrant and very much alive wings.Read more >
Bring in the brash
the bold and the brave
three piece suit, top hat
a fine summers day.
Coloured in skies
aren't these times
embracing the need to aim high.
take in a jubilant tour of the skies
are we rising free as birds?
or is this the fall?
and are we all
growing ears on our backs
that won't flap
are you listening?
have you checked the sky traffic map?
are you even aware
of the air
we might lack?
'Travelling through the world will bring some strange experiences,' said Diana. 'I should know.'
She blew a ring of hot breath into the frosty afternoon, then put her finger to its centre. 'My mentor,' she said, 'was a woman of immense charm. Her education had come entirely through being given a library made up of fiction. She told me that she had never read anything else, and that enjoying both classical and modern writers had resulted in an inability to refuse seeing truth. For her, even the most challenging situations were as clear as glass.'
We had reached the end of the path, and I saw that our destination was not Diana's home. She had brought us to the muddy bank of a broad river. 'It looks deep,' I said.
Diana said, 'That was not where I began, and I knew that I was too late, but still I begged her to change the range of my vocabulary.'
The water was heavy with sediment, and on either side of the path dense beds of thorns and thistles closed us in. Diana drew me to the edge of the bank, and we sat on the dry mud. It had baked so hard that the surface had cracked into a jigsaw of flakes. I picked one off and shied it towards the opposite bank.
Diana said, 'I didn't see that it was time for me to graduate, even when she pried my fingers from the door then locked it behind me.'
Bridal Veil. Was that the name of a waterfall? The name came to me sometimes in the morning. I couldn’t remember what exactly it signified and I felt like the reason might be that I no longer flew: I no longer sat thousands of feet above and looked down, listing, remembering, naming. No, I thought, I was—we were—at once squarely within the present moment and totally unconscious of that fact. Like flying, but few of us were flying. Time moved weirdly and that was all we talked about. Can you believe that was in February? Can you believe it’s only been a year? Today feels so long. But at the same time, people had always been saying things like this. Right? Maybe the fact was that we no longer were able to lift ourselves above it to make fun, to stand at an edge and look down. Instead I felt an ongoing hurtling, and I drove as if on autopilot, around my small town. Anyway, in my memory, Bridal Veil and Baby’s Breath combined into one kind of thing. Vague and white and made of many little dots. A waterfall, a flower, a constellation? I knew, but I didn’t. What I could remember was that the world flew with these kinds of funny names inside which sat slightly mundane realities. Or, not mundane. Just real, and mainly unrelated to their soft and loving titles.
Everywhere I read signs that the world was ending. I tried harder and harder to remember. I read up on maple syrup production (diminishing). On fires (growing). My boyfriend and I kept trying to watch a movie about honeybees and failed every time to want to watch it badly enough. A sharp vagueness of purpose. Lots of little dots. Downtown in our small town I saw other dog owners do the same thing I did: stop, bend, scoop, tie the bag with an unnecessary flourish, as if to say thank god that’s over with.Read more >
I used to wonder what it felt like to fly, high above the clouds, in one of those dingy balloons that would cross over my village every so often. I would always stop in my tracks and wonder about how life was up there. Was it fun? Exciting? What would the wind feel like through my hair?
Every time my mother would catch me staring, she would smack the back of my head and scowl. Idiot, she’d hiss. You spend too much imagining and too little time working. Where are you going to get with your heads in the clouds all the time, huh?
I suppose it made sense -- there was much to do around the house, laundry, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids, feeding the goats -- the list went on and on. But I couldn’t help wonder: what would it feel like? To be free and away and gone, high up in the sky.
But now I am here. I have gotten the wind that whips through my hair, I have the birds-eye view of the world. I have the never-ending stretches of sky and cloud that turn golden-pink in front of the setting sun. I have the dingy balloon-boat that I have longed for my entire life. A blimp, we call it. The elders below deck call it a zeppelin. From the war.
I have all I wanted. Yet I am not happy. I look and wonder at the metal tubes that fly overhead. The flashing lights and vibrant colors. Suddenly the blimp seems dirty, old, aged. Like my village. The one I left behind, years ago. Now I want more. I want to be in that metal tube, flying effortlessly over the sky. I want that. The wind tangles my long hair. The never ending sun leaves my face and skin scorched pink. I want a sealed tube, wings that stay still. No sun, no wind.Read more >
Who was the first to see the lizard’s tail regenerate? Maybe it was someone who brought a telescope on board a flying ship, or maybe it was the man who fell safely—with openness—right into the arms of those he trusted, loved. The point is, the lizard waited with gusto as it grew back its own tail, and the travelers saw.
People started traveling by air, in ships and canoes, a long time ago. They wanted to see everything, and of course they got to see so much, but not everything. They missed Mrs. Waterflower pouring her morning coffee; they missed young Juniper running away from the nanny, playfully, as rescue horses grazed not too far away. Still, the people launched their ships. Some even grew wings and flew alone.
They missed the loving people catching the lost man. They missed the houses being built, one by one, and then the dogs running in and out of the houses. They missed the deer waking up as the sun shone. They missed lady Waterflower build a trailer, after years of dreaming of one. They missed little Juniper sleeping inside of it, on the road, underneath a calm night—quiet—surrounded by open land.
When the air travelers saw the lizard grow back its own tail, they shouted to each other, from ship to ship. They also appreciated the vast shapes of land and water. The travelers with wings moved down to get a closer look at the lizard, and so did the ones in canoes. The travelers on larger ships asked to fly toward the earth, so they could see, too.Read more >
The world couldn’t stop fighting, so we, the peacemakers, decided to leave it. “Say cheese,” the conductor said as we floated into the sky, watching as the swirling ocean became a crystal pool of blue and the parks filled with arguers merely became patches of pleasing green. The mountains looked flat (a metaphor, if I’ve ever seen one) and the dessert appeared smooth, like if I ran my fingers over the top I’d be met with glass the color of sand.
We could still hear them, of course.
“Why on earth didn’t you put sunscreen on?”
“Well, who are you to tell me if my skin should be pale or a boiling red? It’s my choice, isn’t it?”
At this, the peacemakers nodded from the sky. He had a point.
“I picked the apple from the tree, so I should be the one to eat it.”
“But I can’t reach any apples. How am I supposed to eat?”
At this, we puzzled and flew higher.
“Yes, I used to despise her, but now, I am in love with her.”
“But she’s a mean girl! And she once stole your skirt, and said it was her own! Don’t you care?”
We chuckled at this. It was strange to care who another loved. Perhaps, we wondered, she loved her too (yet was too afraid to admit it).
“Excuse me, my stuff is here.”
“But I’d like to sit here because I’ve got terrible back pain, and don’t you see this is the only seat with a cushion? Can’t you find somewhere else to sit?”
Our brows furrowed. We flew higher.
If only we could run away and capture our dreams in bottles
Hold them tight so that they never escape us when tears line where our smiles should be
If only we could fly through the skies as if tomorrow does not start without us
Snap away the thorns of beautiful roses so that they could never hurt anyone
If only I could see the light blazing inside of your soul
If only you could melt the ice taking up space in mine
We constantly go around and around on this carousel of sorts playing the game “if only”, “if only”, “if only”
Just maybe, just maybe we should call it “as long as we have each other we could never be lonely”
Here are feats of the mind, wishes and hopes, soaring, floating, sailing.
Some go it alone carrying their baggage.
Some travel in groups, heading for Nirvana.
There are no clouds, no storms.
It’s an easy progress through a yellow sky, with fish and gulls, and, beneath them, land and water.
If only it could always be this way.
But, now and then, there’s the odd accident, as a voyager slips and is lost, falling head first to earth.
This search for new horizons is always perilous.
The flight mates are on a lunar trek
Shuttling to space and far above inward ecstasy,
Catalogued the anxiety of the world they are fleeing.
The different narrative and brandishing weapons of words
The division, chaos, loss value, liberty
Is brewing hatred into a raging storm,
In repudiation of a movement they are shuttling to a lunar trek.
Every noise is the sound of chaos
The cultured community fuming in disbelief,
The least developed nations
Reeling from the aftershocks of their earthquake,
Loo! The mirror image of democracy is shattered into broken pieces.
Freedom of opinion and expression have gone into recession
The shout of irregularity and rumbling of the charging sea
Shakes the mountains as it spewed its foams on the blind rocks of justice.
Alleluia! There is a glimpse of hope
The flight mates on a lunar trek
Are descending towards earth,
Sliding on its wings are the spirits of libertarians
The scales that balance the weigh have been broken.
Lincoln and Jefferson with sprouting wings
Are gliding toward the harvest field.
One day you are hitching a ride
sitting on the edge of a wing
atop the water wagon
The next, some smarty pants
named Isaac Newton
gets hit in the head with
a red, shiny apple
Soon he begins to shout
"None of this is possible
You cannot fly here!"
Gravity, the gravity of the situation
At first there seems to be
little effect coming from
his booming words
but quickly we begin to see
First one, then two
then several all at once
The flying machines are crashing
helplessly to the ground
Their wings clipped
simply by being told
that what they were attempting
final hour | break
plunge our eyes into the sea
finally warm enough
chest risen | breathe
through this chosen space
slightly | clouding
the air on which we survived
shake us nevermore
earth paved over | run
away from haunting doubts
prepare our wings swiftly
hollow our wombs | black
void through sunshine’s voice
three long blinks
brightly | burning
over the ocean
sweet opal sublime
fly us high | lift
scatter us across the sky
created to love
revive | circulate
heads with halos
crowns with memories
heavy | grounding
lower the gates
rush us through
we’ve no time | live
— and when we make it out of the fire | bury our wings in the ground | for those who fought to fly