Posted by: John Looker | 28 October, 2013

Frequent Flyers

This is the first of a new batch of poems with the collective title “The Silk Road”.

.

Frequent Flyers

Camels crossing the desert in a melancholy line
stepping to Timbuktu …

… junks of the Middle Kingdom coasting alone
and low in the water with silks, ceramics and tea …

… tributaries
trekking in the thin air of the Andes …

… resolute Polynesian fleet …
but today … today … we have flight.

In business class
the seats are deep and no-one is too close.
From time to time they turn away
from their spreadsheets, reports and mail
or five-course airline meal
suddenly aware
of the shining clouds below:
drifting as desert sands
or tumbling like the sea’s rough billows –
a sight to die for,
seen daily.
When the clouds clear,
the dream of ten thousand years
is theirs, is theirs.
Far below them …

… turquoise waters of the Caribbean
and a great ray gliding, ancient, alien …

… mile upon mile, acre on acre,
of flayed Australian ochre …

… green meadows,
grey conurbations …

… and a moonlit Siberia, its lakes and rivers
drawn in charcoal on a ground of silver …

They fly on. Glass in hand
they fly on.

.

© John Stevens 2013

I’ll spread these poems out over many weeks. They take their place in the longer theme of poems that try to look at Life through our experience of Work.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. I am already hooked, John. The imagery, so trimmed down and immediate, scarcely impedes on a BlackBerry screen, while the imagination goes slightly punch drunk from the richness. And your telling us we have to wait, this won’t be rushed, recollects the caravan’s pace. I love it!

    Like

    • You are most encouraging, Elaine. Thank you. I hope the rest are up to the mark!

      Like

  2. I do so like the melancholy line of camels, the vision of Siberia etched on the silver ground, the wistfulness of those glimpsed magical landscapes. Perhaps a little less on the people in the aeroplane? Maybe even drop from flight… to the sudden awareness, and leave us to imagine the sterility of the journey (one we know too well) in contrast to the beauty you depict so eloquently and finely? ?

    Like

    • I really appreciate your openness in making suggestions and reporting your reactions, Kalila. You might be right that these changes would improve the individual poem but I think that the later poems will show why the passengers feature in this introductory one. You give me something to think about however – I like that and I’m honoured that you’ve given this poem such thought.

      Like

      • for some reason I’m not receiving notification of your reply, but I look forward to seeing how the series links together. On a re-read I’m also taken by tributaries trekking… another wonderful image painted on the page.

        Like

  3. Hi John, it is amazing to imagine the speed of those business class people up in the air compared to the camels in the sand. You make a new dimension here!

    Like

    • Hello Ina, it’s good of you to comment – and I’m glad you like that contrast!

      Like

  4. great pictures here John, I’m looking forward to the rest

    Like

  5. John, I think I’ll cast my vote for each poem appear with a little time pass between them. There is a difference between one long poem and a sequence of individual poems, yes?
    So, what to make of these civilized jet lagers so comfy in their isolation? Technology with its two edged sword is in play here. Flight! How can we forget? All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t get the king off the ground not so very long ago (a hot air balloon? King’s do specialize in such things—I mean the hot air, not the balloons.) Still, flight, in a shell, with huge engines with specially curved wings, a rudder to stabilize the whole operation—is a miracle, isn’t it? No, not if you take a miracle to be a suspension of a law of nature, for flight has always been in the cards. We just couldn’t be sure about it, until we actually did so, that’s all. The birds could always fly. Even your most obtuse CEO can see a seagull. Can’t he? What he can’t see, though, is all those sumptuously painted caravans and junks and resolute Polynesian fleets below him. Why? It can’t be that five course meal he can’t quite digest. Maybe he can’t see it because he isn’t reading this poem—or anything to help him get out of this tin can—this flying tin can—he is in.
    I especially like the way the central poem is framed by the majesty of sights that can’t quite be seen, the little poems, a strange type of blindness. Should we call it ‘human blindness syndrome’? We can’t appreciate flight in the same way we can’t appreciate many things. I often think that if, say, a hundred years ago, we managed to get ourselves moving at 70 mph, it would be a life changing event. Most of us do it every day without thinking much about it.
    This poem laments. It critiques. That glass in hand is not enough. Is there a solution out there, John? I can’t wait for the next poem.

    Like

    • You make an intriguing point here about “human blindness syndrome” (as you term it). I’m persuaded by your suggestion that we can’t appreciate flight just as we can’t appreciate many things. Perhaps the human mind succeeds so well in adapting because it can quickly take new discoveries and knowledge for granted? This poem does, I think, ‘lament that’ – as you put it. They fly on “glass in hand”.
      Thanks for offering your thoughts on this one Jim – and please don’t feel any obligation to comment as the others are posted. All the best.

      Like

  6. Before offering comment on the statement or imagery of this poem, (the latter of which is indeed “to die for…”) I want to say that I am entranced by the sound of it….not only alliterative, but especially incantatory: ” today…today,” “is theirs, is theirs”…”they fly on, they fly on.” It’s lovely. That’s all. I reserve further comment for a more integral glimpse of what you are doing with this series. Asusual, Cynthia

    Like

    • Thank you Cynthia. Your comment about incantation prompts me to take another look at my draft of the closing poem in this group which, I now feel, needs revision to better echo the sound of this opener. So that’s really helpful.

      Like

  7. I agree with Cynthia. One becomes aware of the intricate music in the worldly diction, prosaic yet charged. Once we get to the jetset, the music becomes more subjective, until those places seen from above have a hallucinatory quality, the free vodka keeps us safe from self -knowledge. Weird!

    Like

    • Thank you Tom. Complimentary vodka on its way!

      Like

  8. This was wonderful Sunday morning reading. The poem is beautiful. It has me up in the clouds, above it all, oblivious but also in awe of what is below. The comments are a pleasure to read and I look forward to more, too.

    Like

    • It’s now Sunday evening for me – and this is a wonderful encouragement – thanks Anna.

      Like

  9. I have been pondering recently on our increasing desire to be linked electronically at all times and how this must gradually erode our ability to concentrate; how the constant demand for bite-sized snippets of information must surely destroy our ability to take a longer view, or even to focus for long enough to read a book for example or to appreciate a landscape.

    Your poem fits in well with my thought processes.

    I shall look forward to the rest of the series.

    David.

    Like

  10. I have made a small but worthwhile change. Towards the end are these two lines:
    ” … turquoise waters of the Caribbean
    and a great ray gliding, ancient, alien … ”
    Previously that read “and a great ray gliding, dark and Jungian” which meant something to me, but Cynthia Jobin helped me to see that this would be lost on most readers and I have rethought the line.

    Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: