No 34 - Spring 2006
A Movement in the Sky
Soon it will be twenty years since he last unfurled
a map and made his mark upon it, bearings from North,
magnetic and true, tracing the variations on the Earth’s
delicate skin, stepping the sky with rungs of black ink.
Gulps of oxygen, a shriek in the stratosphere, sonic boom thumping;
oscillating hertz below the white noise – sinking – fifty three, thirty five, lower.
I imagine Dad falling, surrounded by aluminium
and Rolls-Royce thrust, spiralling like a shot bird,
the ground a blur of rusts and greens,
the horizon tilting and dropping before him
until, with a forward push on the stick
and a rudder kick, the world is levelled.
Before the medicals he’d go cycle crazy.
The neighbours would pass him in their cars,
miles from anywhere, his legs gnarling
up hills, his cheeks red to the wind.
He’d never fail, and all the doctors wired
up to his heart could never guess what ticked
beneath his chest, what size and grace,
what aching loss, what pace.
I draw a compass rose and trace his routes
over the featureless fens where everything depends
on a steady needle and reliable watch. I’m planning
the time it takes for me to reach across to him.
I chart my movements by rivers and woods,
looking for clues on the ground and in clouds,
shapes that never quite add up to his face.
Gulps of oxygen, sonic boom thumping;
oscillating hertz below the white noise – sinking.
I imagine Dad dying. What must that have been?
That hung pulse, stalled forever, no recovery.
The aviation medical examiner wires my chest
to his ticking trolley-bound machine,
detects nothing abnormal in his tests.
Just a path of jerking, climbing lines.
So, back to earth, and back to maps, and you.
I must start charting the living, you say.
I hold you, and love, then turn my ear to a roar
that’s almost spent. And we both look, straining
our eyes into the blue for a quick metallic shine,
a movement in the sky, up there hovering on the thinnest air,
the world below him stretched and rounded and alive.
Iain D. Robinson is currently completing a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at university of East Anglia, for which he is writing a novel. He has recently had poems published in Stand and The Rialto.
- 10th Muse
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- Modern Poetry in Translation
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- Pen Pusher Magazine
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