John Updike

On an Island
Our thoughts on John Updike's poems
Poems by John Updike
Exploring John Updike
Critics Viewpoint On John Updike
Giving Credit When Credit Is Due
Comparison of John's poem and TOOL's song.
John Updike and Modern Culture
Take a Quiz and become a John Updike addict.

On an Island


Islanded, my wife turned on the radio for the news of home.

Instead she heard that near us a plane had crashed into the



She told me after dinner she couldn’t face the flight home:

“What would I tell the children as we go down?”


I pooh-poohed her of course, said the odds were against it;

we made love with a desperate undercurrent, and fell asleep.


Then I awoke in the dark, and her fears appeared real.

The blinds were tilted balck, my sunburn hurt, I was thirsty.


The tranquil ocean was yet enormous in its noise;

its hissing pursued me into each of the rooms.


My children were asleep, each small mouth darkly open;

“The radio said that a couple with a ten-year-old child


was found in the water, their bodies still clutching him.”

Moonlight, pale as a moth, chasmed the front room with



and lay white on the water, white on the sliding,

the huge-shushing from island to island-


sleepless, inanimate, bottomless, prayer-denying,

the soughing of matter cast off by the sun, blind sun


among suns, massed liquid of atoms that conceives

and consumes, that communes with itself only,


soulless and mighty; our planes, our islands sink:

a still moon plates the sealed spot where they were.