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A poem for Poetry Day

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To mark National Poetry Day, the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy has written a poem.

ATLAS by CAROL ANN DUFFY

Give him strength, crouched on one knee in the dark
with the Earth on his back,
balancing the seven seas,
the oceans, five, kneeling
in ruthless, empty, endless space
for grace
of whale, dolphin, sea-lion, shark, seal, fish, every kind
which swarms the waters. Hero.

Hard, too,
heavy to hold, the mountains;
burn of his neck and arms taking the strain-
Andes, Himalayas, Kilimanjaro-
give him strength, he heaves them high
to harvest rain from skies for streams
and rivers, he holds the rivers,
holds the Amazon, Ganges, Nile, hero, hero.

Hired by no-one, heard in a myth only, lonely,
he carries a planet's weight,
islands and continents,
the billions there, his ears the last to hear
their language, music, gunfire, prayer;
give him strength, strong girth, for elephants,
tigers, snow leopards, polar bears, bees, bats,
the last ounce of a humming-bird.

Broad-backed
in infinite, bleak black,
he bears where Earth is, nowhere,
head bowed, a genuflection to the shouldered dead,
the unborn's hero, he is love's lift;
sometimes the moon rolled to his feet, a gift.

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