Postcards from Malthusia DAY SIXTY-THREE: Jack Houston

Ballet Lesson


A blue plastic bag twirls up to lift

and float on an updraft that began

with a flap of pigeonwing

somewhere on the outskirts of Xi’an,


an updraft that built slowly and then, in a seemingly organic fashion,

raced out over the Pacific,

its final destination

not yet specific


and anyway unknowable

to itself, it simply being a gasp of the heavens

and therefore completely unable

to sustain in its inexorable quest even


the illusion of agency toward something

either exciting or banal

as it now heads south to blow over the ocean funnelling

its way through the famous and Panamanian canal.


How one section of the wideness of our sky

can be considered separately from

any other I don’t know, but as this breeze carries over the Caribbean Isles

it will not create any sort of storm,


will in no way accumulate to wipe out the homes

and small businesses,

the dreams and things bought on loan,

the very existences


of an entire island’s inhabitants, but instead come here,

high outside my fifth-floor window, where it crumples and flexes

this blue plastic bag, pushing it through the air

into a twisting motion which is as expressive


as a ballerina

executing a perfect fouetté

as I sit and watch, concertinaed

into my settee,


the ballerina’s arms stretching out, the ground

below them spinning on the pointe of their toes,

their other leg kicking them round

and around and around three more times in a row.




Jack Houston is Hackney Library’s poet in residence and hosts their online Lockdown Poetry Workshop. His work has appeared in a few anthologies, and in Blackbox ManifoldThe Butcher’s DogMagmaPoetry London and Stand. (email to join/receive his poetry-packed ‘Lockdown’ emails until the libraries re-open).


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