Poems of the Week

Cut Away

by Julia Griffin

“A child stowaway has been found dead in the undercarriage of a plane at a Paris airport, officials said, having probably frozen to death or asphyxiated on the flight …
The child, aged about 10, had clambered into the underbelly of the Air France Boeing 777 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. …
Temperatures drop to about minus 50C at altitudes of between 9,000 and 10,000 metres at which passenger planes generally fly.”
—The Guardian

“According to oral tradition … the name “Abidjan” results from a misunderstanding. When the first colonists asked a native man the name of the place, the man misunderstood and replied ‘M’bi min djan’: ‘I’ve just been cutting leaves.’”

So clearing out the landing gear, they found
(After the jet had safely reached the ground,
And temperatures had reached a safe degree—
No longer minus 50 degrees C—
With atmosphere and pressure back to suit
The needs of earthly life) a furled-up shoot,
Withered with cold, or choked for lack of air:
A rootless child, who no one knew was there.
What should we tell his mother in her grief?
M’bi min djan. Here is your precious leaf.