By Charles Tomlinson 1927–2015 Charles Tomlinson
Three jets are streaking west:
   Trails are beginning to fray already:
The third, the last set out,
   Climbs parallel a March sky
Paying out a ruled white line:
   Skywriting like an incision,
Such surgical precision defines
   The mile between it and the others
Who have disappeared leaving behind
   Only their now ghostly tracks
That still hold to the height and map
   Their direction with a failing clarity:
The sky is higher for their passing
   Where the third plane scans its breadth.
The mere bare blue would never have shown
   That vaultlike curvature overhead,
Already evading the mathematics of the spot,
   As it blooms back, a cool canopy,
A celestial meadow, needing no measure
   But a reconnaissant eye, an ear
Aware suddenly that as they passed
   No sound accompanied arrival or vanishing
So high were their flight-paths on a sky
   That has gone on expunging them since,
Leaving a clean page there for chance
   To spread wide its unravelling hieroglyphs.

Charles Tomlinson, “Skywriting” from Skywriting. Copyright © 2003 by
Charles Tomlinson. Reprinted by permission of Ivan R. Dee, Publisher.

Source: Skywriting and Other Poems (2003)

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Poet Charles Tomlinson 1927–2015


Subjects Nature, Stars, Planets, Heavens, Travels & Journeys


Poet, artist, and translator Charles Tomlinson was born in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire in 1927. Fluent in German, French, and Italian, he read English at Queen’s College Cambridge, studying with poet Donald Davie, who was an early influence and later became a close friend. Tomlinson taught elementary school before joining the University of Bristol, where he taught for 36 years. His collections of poetry include Relations and . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Stars, Planets, Heavens, Travels & Journeys


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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