All we lowly wingless grubs
That journey through this hostile place
Know something of the bargain struck
Between individual and race;
Between cartographer and tourist;
Between a mother and her cubs;
Between the brilliant and the boorish
To help us navigate at pace
The routes that help us feed and breed,
And our ancestors’ steps retrace.

All these arteries and veins
That import oxygen and pox
Are something greater than the sum
Of their dirt and dust and concrete blocks;
Of their letters, numbers and symbols;
Of their cabs, cars, barges and trains;
Of their travellers, sluggish or nimble,
And, yes, less; with their quays and locks,
Tolls, trolls, and prices – tall or small –
For all the spices in our woks.

All our gods have fled these paths
Now they don’t tread with feet of clay;
And their absence raises questions:
Will night give way, tomorrow, to day?
Will plans allow for human error?
Will contour lines confound the maths?
Will the beauty counterweigh the terror?
Such fancies keep our fears at bay
While our destinations, dates and fates
Drift further and further away.

All this progress that we make
With these engines and this oil
Makes me hesitate unduly,
Takes this labour and makes it toil;
Takes this neighbour and makes it stranger;
Takes this baker and makes it bake;
Takes this mobile-home and makes it danger,
Such that family becomes foil
For species till, lo: by and by,
To mobility we’re loyal.


Appears in:
Rhymes for all times [2015]

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