The flight path on the screen
across the aisle is a green line
joining the dots from Manchester
through Amsterdam, Bucharest,
now Istanbul, now Baghdad.
Far below us the Tigris River seeps
like history from the Taurus Mountains.
Europe is an idea not a market
the French president is saying
on BBC World News though tomorrow
most news will be of stock market
fears, the depression of investment.
The prime minister of the UK
has just resigned, repeating
in his final words, as if at a funeral,
his love for his country.
The little plane on the map
is towing the bright green line
to the dot that is Basra.
Najur the Indian boy is four years old;
he offers me his crisps,
his blanket, his Scooby Doo show
on TV – everything he has.
He counts twenty in English,
then in Hindi and calls me aunty
tucking his mother’s and my knees
under his blanket.
The plastic fold-out table is littered
with plastic cups and plastic cutlery.
I think of Auden,
from his dive on Fifty-second Street
watching his world unfold.
An idea, not a market,
yet here, on screen, is the stock exchange
and the pound has plummeted
taking with it the zloty, the rand,
the yuan, the peso as well as
the CAC and the DAX.
Wales is celebrating, Scotland angry.
Cameron wants a slow separation,
Europe moots a quick divorce.
There are already ruptures
between neighbours and brothers.
On Wigan main road young men fight
and shout; the old men in their forties
sit, as usual, outside the council flats
to talk and smoke.
The young men want to punch
and punch the living daylights
out of everything. Their knuckles itch
for cheek and jaw;
shoppers and schoolchildren
skirt a broad arc around them.
London and the universities
vote Remain; the estates
and the ex-miners and workers
chorus Leave. They are the ruthless
propagandists’ easy victory.
Hope? smiled the Dalai Lama,
the union of Europe
after centuries of bloodshed,
has given me much hope
in the twentieth century.
The Etihad Box screens interviews
with Germany, China, Japan
and Singapore. A wooden block
has been slid from the foundations
of the tower. The idea curls at the edges
like a map to a flame.
The E Box informs us we are flying
at an altitude of 37,000 feet;
at a ground speed of 896k per hour;
outside the air is minus 40 degrees.
Basra passes beneath us.
The altered reality above,
beyond range of the human ear,
is tracking on radar somewhere below.
On the flight map Europe’s green
gives way to a vast arid white.
Beneath the screen’s abstraction
white emits crowds
who hold hopes for the green
where there is water to drink,
where food grows, where fear may abate.
Shutters are drawn against the night;
sleeping heads bump in unison
against their rests as the Airbus,
like a great edifice, catapulting
far above the clouds,
jostles and swoops in the jet-stream.
BBC World News presenter, a latter day
Tacitus watching Rome burn,
maintains her commentary.
Across Manchester’s blue sky
jet planes’ condensation trails
weave a hectic plaid
and in the void a myriad glinting
flight-paths on screens join dots to dots.