Poem of the Week: ‘From Atmosphere to Hydrosphere’ by Sarah Ang

Cultured Vultures Poem of the Week

1st Place
‘From Atmosphere to Hydrosphere’ by Sarah Ang

For Air Asia QZ8501


When the seatbelt sign first blinks on

No one bats an eyelid.

Turbulence is common on all flights, after all

The cabin is calm.

A violent jolt shakes the plane-

“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We will shortly be going

through extreme turbulence-

Please remain seated and do not remove your seatbelt. I repeat, please do not

remove your seatbelt until the seatbelt sign is switched off.”

Unease ripples through the cabin;

But mere seconds later it is replaced by more important worries:

What movie to watch next,

Whether to get Coke or 7-Up when the stewardess comes around.

There are more important things to worry about

Than contemplating if one’s life is at stake.

After all,

Accidents are reserved for the black and white print of newspapers

One feels a prick of sorrow before flipping the page

To pore over what Angelina Jolie wore to the Oscars,

And who Katy Perry’s latest love interest is.

“We are experiencing technical difficulties-

This is an emergency, I repeat, an emergency. Please stay calm and follow the

instructions of your cabin crew. ”

The cabin explodes into chaos.

Loud moans juxtapose with angry voices,

Demands to know what is happening, why it is happening,

Go unanswered.

Two planes in one year, isn’t that enough?

Some passengers grip rosary beads with trembling fingers,

Others mutter prayers in a foreign language,

Squeezing pocket-size Buddhas and Brahmas

Still others cling to the hope that to die today is not their fate

We are not ready,

They cry

To travel

To a state that isn’t Singapore.

Lovers hold each other tightly

Whisper endearments in each other’s ears

Later, the remains of two skeletons will wash up on sandy shores

Arms encircling each other, lips locked in a final gasp for air

Till Death do us Part.

Strangers who have not spoken to each other

For the entire flight

Mutely reach over and hold hands.

Later, their tenuous hold might be nibbled apart by fish

But for now, it is akin to the strongest covalent bond.

Mothers bend over their crying babies

Smooth the tangle of hair from their forehead

Plant a kiss on their downy cheek-

A single tear slips from under their eyelids,

Grief for the dreams their child will never realize

Later, the Indonesian government

Will find hunched-over carcasses of women

That, when turned over,

Reveal the bodies of children

Wrapped in an eternal embrace.

Below, the Java Sea ripples

In all its majesty.

The pain and terror of the passengers above it

Is of no consequence to the sea-

It has seen dynasties rise and fall

This tiny piece of metal

Is of no importance.

Static ripples across the radio.

“We are over the Java Sea—I’m sorry”

The plane hurtles towards the sea,

The tip of its wing bursting into flame-

A white speck against a curtain of blue

Unearthly screams fill the cabin

And you wonder; which is more painful

The physical tearing from limb to limb upon impact

Or the crushing of unrealized hopes, the shredding of paper-thin dreams

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it

Does it still matter?

Metal meets water with a resounding crack

The fuselage disappears under the surging waves

Without a trace.


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