I’ve looked up at it before and my image of the Shard taken from the river was part of the London Open House Exhibition in 2014. It has been love from a distance. I don’t like heights. But Himself was really up for it, and as I survived the Freedom Tower earlier in the year, I decided to join in.
I shuddered a little when I stepped onto the roof. The Shard is taller than everything in London. The sun is going down and there’s a bit of a party atmosphere. There are drinks from the bar as a man gets down on one knee and proposes. She cries. The police helicopter circles and the lads inside wave to us as they hang in mid air. If I felt wobbly before, this made me more so, but the camera, the wonderful views and the evening light distract from the anxiety.
When I woke up on Friday morning, I was shocked that my cousin had tweeted just one word….Noooooooooo! The UK is to leave the EU. Europe is far from perfect but over recent days, this continues to feel like a huge loss, a split in the family, never mind a huge hole on the map.
Our nearest neighbours, our English and Northern Irish cousins in particular have had a complex relationship with Ireland. But in my generation, like all the best cousins, we have forged a deep bond and friendship that transcends our dysfunctional families. I still don’t know how to process all this or what it means for any of us…..
Up there in the clouds our little planet seems like a magical and beautiful place to live. Now I hope with all my heart that it continues to be…….
Ruin and Beauty by Patricia Young
It’s so quiet now the children have decided to stop
being born. We raise our cups in an empty room.
In this light, the curtains are transparent as gauze.
Through the open window we hear nothing–
no airplane, lawn mower, no siren
speeding its white pain through the city’s traffic.
There is no traffic. What remains is all that remains.
The brick school at the five points crosswalk
is drenched in morning glory.
Its white flowers are trumpets
festooning this coastal town.
Will the eventual forest rise up
and remember our footsteps? Already
seedlings erupt through cement,
crabgrass heaves through cracked marble,
already wolves come down from the hills
to forage among us. We are like them now,
just another species looking to the stars
and howling extinction.
They say the body accepts any kind of sorrow,
that our ancestors lay down on their stomachs
in school hallways, as children they lay down
like matches waiting for a nuclear fire.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this:
all ruin and beauty, vines waterfalling down
a century’s architecture; it wasn’t supposed to end
so quietly, without fanfare or fuss,
a man and woman collecting rain
in old coffee tins. Darling,
the wars have been forgotten.
These days our quarrels are only with ourselves.
Tonight you sit on the edge of the bed loosening your shoes.
The act is soundless, without future
weight. Should we name this failure?
Should we wake to the regret at the end of time
doing what people have always done
and say it was not enough?