Brian Spears

Poet, Editor, Teacher, Blogger.

Day 17

Today’s prompt was for a science poem. I love science–I love that it makes my life better in often unthought of ways. Had I been born a hundred years ago, it’s likely I wouldn’t have made it out of infancy. I had asthma as a child, and a severe reaction to the smallpox vaccine, which meant that I was particularly susceptible to that disease as I understand it. I wore glasses from the time I was in kindergarten, and took allergy shots through my teen years to control my asthma. So even when Big Science screws things up–and it does at times–I still look at the progress humans have made and think we’re well ahead of the game.

I haven’t really had the chance to follow the Iceland volcano story closely until today, and I’ve been struck by how this natural occurrence, so powerful we can’t even begin to consider how to control it, has paralyzed one of the most technologically advanced parts of the world, at least as far as mass travel is concerned. And yet it’s easy to forget just how amazing the travel that’s unavailable right now, the lack of which has inconvenienced millions and could cause massive economic damage, really is. Flight, nearly unthinkable a century ago, is banal now. That’s where I was coming from with this poem.


Half of Europe can’t fly right now
because of a volcano in Iceland.
And we are amazed, not that we
can fly at all, but that something
so distant can stop us. We act
as though this is the plot
of the kind of movie we would
be forced to watch on a flight
across the ocean, the very kind
of flight we can’t take right now
because of a volcano in Iceland,
a volcano whose name most
couldn’t begin to pronounce
(the guide in the NY Times
was not helpful). The German
Prime Minister is taking a bus
home from Rome–I am not
making this up–because of
an unpronounceable volcano
in Iceland, and this is
the remarkable thing: we can fly.


April 17, 2010 - Posted by | National Poetry Month, original poetry, Poetic Asides |


  1. Wonderful poem! this made me laugh! So true! so very true. We are so lost in our comfort we have forgotten how lucky, how amazing it is that we can fly! great observation!

    Comment by zabethmarsh | April 17, 2010 | Reply

  2. It’s rare to find a poem that has a big lens and a small lens at the same time.

    I don’t know if that makes sense, but it’s how I felt about this poem in relation to current events.

    It was refreshing

    and so fucking true.

    Comment by Hannah Miet | April 18, 2010 | Reply

  3. I’ve been thinking about the link–or lack of link–between poetry and science lately, so I googled “Poetry” “Science” and there you were! I’ve been reading several books on the history of science–notably “The Age of Wonder: The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror of Science”. Back then, poets (like Byron and Coleridge) had a lot to say about science–not so much now. Language hasn’t caught up with String Theory, and I hold the poets responsible for this! But then, the science writers (like on Pharyngula or “Bad Astronomy” have a lot to say about skepticism–not much or nothing to say about poetry.

    Comment by Whomever1 | April 18, 2010 | Reply

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