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John Updike

On an Island
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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

sea.

 

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

shadow

 

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.

island.jpg