Jonathan Tulloch

How can you keep losing the sky?

To lose the Sky once
might be regarded as a misfortune,
but thismany times? I mean ffs
where did we mislay the Empyrean,
whose fiery heights were once visible
not only through the entire universe, but eternity?
How did we let the brave, o’erhanging
Firmament prove so impermanent; standing under it
someone must have seen its majestical roof
slowly growing ruinous – why didn’t we repair it,
before it fell in on us? Vanished too
is the massive blue balloon of the Lift;
deflated to a mere platform, rising and falling
in the shallows of our crass, glass buildings.

The heavens also have faded
though our eyes still look for them
when we score a goal or find out
we are dying.

The weirdest one is the furthest gone.
Originally just a cloud, the Welkin grew to mean
the whole kit-and-caboodle, those trillion and one
restless, restful, grey and blue shifting seagull shades.

The Ether, the Vault, the Celestial Sphere, Plato’s
Hyperuranion, the Realm Supernal, Ymir’s skull,
these too swept across the wordstock like fleecy clouds.

Where did they all go? Is it worth searching
inside some giant’s couch, rifling
amongst the lost golden keys, doubloons and immobile
phones, or did we drop them down a drain, where,
for all intents and purposes, they are gone forever?
Perhaps we meant to lose them, throwing each one
on the fireback along with all those unfaithful photographs,
pages torn from diaries,
and never sent letters? And yet all this colossal carelessness
might just be the quiet word of advice
we’ve always needed to give ourselves:
you can’t step
into the same Sky
twice.

Jonathan Tulloch writes the Nature Notes in The Times. An English novelist and nature writer, he has won the Betty Trask Prize and JB Priestley Award. His novels have been filmed, staged and adapted for BBC R4. He also works with asylum seekers and refugees on Teesside. He has only just turned to poetry.