The Multiverse

   In one world, it’s all slides and tinkling laughter 

        A monkey rolls you tangerines 

        And sunshine shows you what you’re after, 

   With not a flicker. Solar-powered machines 

                     Propel new towns 

         Above the hills of Martian moons 

             While, back on Earth, dull frowns 

Transmute to sheer elation in hot air balloons. 


But it’s a different story in this other world: 

                    Impulsive rocks 

           Splat pioneers. The hasty flocks 

     Of herons push an aeroplane off course, 

And in the navel of volcanoes what is curled 

               But imminent destruction, 

                    Eruptive force 

And, diametric, slow, some distant plate’s subduction? 


     Still, I that former world, the life is lucky. 

            The lovers? They are always true. 

             The heroes are sincere and plucky. 

     Your footsteps know, by instinct, what to do. 

                     For now at least, 

          Warmongers reach a compromise 

                And shares of land are pieced 

Between free shepherds who rejoice below clear skies. 


But elsewhere God or restless mathematics meant 

                      To fix it so 

           That days are short and passions go. 

    We can’t imagine what the reason is 

It chances that, for all our intricate intent, 

                 We stall where we begin. 

                        To notice this 

Can change one’s spin on life, if not the quantum spin. 

Copyright: from The Multiverse (Carcanet, 2018), © Andrew Wynn Owen 2018, used by permission of the author

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Andrew Wynn Owen is a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He received the Newdigate Prize in 2014 and an Eric Gregory Award in ...

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