Derek Mahon

mahon-earth-smallLife on Earth

Derek Mahon

2009 International Shortlist



We who used to drift
     superbly in mid-air,
each a giant airship
     before ‘the last war’,

shrink to a soft buzz
     about financial centres
surprising visitors,
     hackers and bean counters

in cloud-flown highrises.
     Cloud-slow, we snoop for hours
on open-plan offices
     and cloudy cocktail bars.

Amnesia and mystique
     have cast into oblivion
fiery failures like
     Italia, R101,

the whole brief catalogue
     of mad catastrophes;
and showy Hindenburg
     of course, the last of these.

A temporary setback.
     Our time will come again
with helium in the sack
     instead of hydrogen

while slow idealists
     gaze at refrozen ice,
reflourishing rain forests,
     the oceans back in place;

at sand and stars, blue skies,
     clear water, scattered light
as in the early days
     of nearly silent flight.

From Life on Earth, by Derek Mahon
© Derek Mahon 2008

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