We Could Be the Last: a Sci-fi Travel Poem
I confess. I sometimes worry about the environmental impact of traveling as much as I do.
If all my travels were slow and overland, I would feel better about them. But they’re not. For now, I have responsibilities at home so I travel a week here, three weeks there. While I can make sustainable choices around my accommodation, food and local transportation, I usually fly to my destination. The environmental impact of that flight is a concern.
There are two parts to today’s poem. The first projects a future when our travel is not around the world but to Earth. It muses on a time when we have ruined our planet to the point that we no longer live here and it has become a destination suitable only for the “young and fit”. Do my travels contribute to this potential future?
The second part urges the reader to take it all in deeply, with all your senses. This applies equally to today’s travelers as tomorrows. It explores, more deeply than anything I’ve previously read, the possible ways of experiencing a new place. It is gorgeous.
Today’s poem is another by Sheenagh Pugh, a British poet (originally from Wales). I think I’m a bit of a fan. I didn’t know her until I started this series and now this is the third of hers that I have published. You may also want to read “What if This Road“ and “The Opportune Moment“.
“Do you think we’ll ever get to see Earth, Sir?”
I hear they’re hoping to run trips
one day, for the young and fit, of course.
I don’t see much use in it myself;
there’ll be any number of places
you can’t land, because they’re still toxic,
and even in the relatively safe bits
you won’t see what it was; what it could be.
I can’t fancy a tour through the ruins
of my home with a party of twenty-five
and a guide to tell me what to see.
But if you should see some beautiful thing,
some leaf, say, damascened with frost,
some iridescence on a pigeon’s neck,
some stone, some curve, some clear water;
look at it as if you were made of eyes,
as if you were nothing but an eye, lidless
and tender, to be probed and scorched
by extreme light. Look at it with your skin,
with the small hairs on the back of your neck.
If it is well-shaped, look at it with your hands;
if it has fragrance, breathe it into yourself;
if it tastes sweet, put your tongue to it.
Look at it as a happening, a moment;
let nothing of it go unrecorded,
map it as if it were already passing.
Look at it with the inside of your head,
look at it for later, look at it for ever,
and look at it once for me.
- Sheenagh Pugh