Its twenty five years since I last traveled by aeroplane, yet the powerful sensations of change, of migratory transitions, of a widening, or shrinking, sense of one's own place in the context of an enormous planetary jumble, is still a very clear memory, evoked acutely by a recent re-reading of Flying Home, a poem by Indian writer Sudeep Sen.
Flying Home contains both memorable images of flying its self - the unpredictable lumps and hollows of a sky and the patchwork quilt of aeroplane lines - with a testament to the emancipation of flying free and leaving the phenomenon of alternate time zones and realities.
I meticulously stitch time through embroidered sky, the poet tells us, explaining how:
I am going home once again from another
home, escaping the weave of one reality into another.
In my case, the flight was across the short stretch of the Atlantic separating England from Ireland, while for Sudeep Sen, the journey described is a much longer one, from England to India, yet, having found myself, for various reasons, lately undertaking different journeys back into my own past, retracing former steps and having reason to revisit the sites of former schools, I feel a sense of connection with Sudeep's exchanging of realities, his nod to how the past gently reminds and stalls to confirm: my body is the step-son of my soul.
In the above lines, Sen suggests that our outward appearances convey only a semblance, second-hand, of our truer, inward feelings, located, for the poet, in the soul. He goes further:
But what talk of soul and skin
in this day and age, such ephemeral things,
that cross-weave blood and breath
into clotted zones of true escape.
What talk of flight time and flying
when real flights of fancy are crying
to stay buoyant, unpredictably in mid-air
amid pain, peace and belief: just like thin air
With its distinctions between formalities with the strength of natural instincts emphasized in clotted zones of true escape, the poem sketches a beautiful evocation of true freedom: of feelings and "flights of fancy" and the liberation of life above the world, where, free as a bird, the soul is unconstrained by human time zones and finds deliverance where another home is built / in free space vacuum.
The poem's strength lies in its metaphorizing of realities into aeroplane lines, with all of the ephemerality implied, and its author's neat yet somehow loose fitting arrangement of the lines into couplets, whose phrases hang over into the next, and whose brief descriptions of a drift through time perfectly distill the subjective nature of overlapping realities, time zones and the idea of places, roots and "home."