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21st Century Poetry Net Zero

by Julian Bishop


Like any safety net it was nine-tenths air,
a woolly narrative woven of invisible mesh,
riddled with holes.
So many gaps
in its plaited fibres! So many strings
attached to nothing at all!

The yarn stretched so wide
whole schools of whales coasted through.
Word of the net
spread like wildfire,
snagging on solemn-faced promises,
landing in vacuums between the barest of threads.

Still the strained fibres carried on being spun
out of hot air to cover melting glaciers
lifeless deserts – a tangled language
to camouflage diesel, every evil
offset by another sapling.

Big oil cast the empty net wider than most,
a sea of zeros bobbed around every rig.
Strung along everyone
pinned their colours to it
like bunting dangled over roads in a fete,
while people continued to party beneath.

Salt-crusted and torn, the net washed up
on a faraway shore, empty as the day it was born.
Its ropey bones
still hang there
on beaches strewn with idle tackle
battered by seas whose tides never turned.


Julian Bishop is a former BBC and ITN journalist and a member of Poets for the Planet. 21st-century Poetry is edited by Andy Croft, email


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