For a while, all I saw were novas for miles, Earth decreasing behind me. Space so dark I keep the wander tumbling with no end. No walls left to hit in my orbit. No comforts of home: wedding pictures, silver frames, clever throw pillows, my distance from a dinner table when talk dissolved into history, which is full of weapons and walls to hit if you do not look where you are running.
We need a different word for sad event anniversaries. A less joyful term to carry. Asteroids hurtle on, looking for walls or blue-green icebergs taller than buildings. My sadness does not make me special, but sometimes it feels that way. Brief contact with whoever is in control. The gravity of the situation. I try not to think about it. I get anxious. I get intense. I burn out like all the stars dissolving into smoke and want and flecks of silver that fall to earth, cure moon madness, inspire wishes and proposals.
In an old video of astronauts dropping cats aboard a spacecraft, the cats have minimal gravity. Maybe the moon makes me sick. Maybe nothing is the matter. Maybe you are having a heart attack. These things happen.
To say these things happen is not the same as saying this thing happened and revised my chemistry. This thing happened and revised history. This thing happened and repeated history.
The space cat video voiceover says, In these experiments you can see the disorientation resulting when an animal is suddenly placed in a weightless state.
Sometimes I still think I can break my teeth on night if I bite down hard enough. These things happen.
Time happens differently in space and hospitals. Once we took your heart to the emergency room. We felt stupid as soon as we got there but the walk across the parking lot was clear night, hot stars, shapes someone named for myth. We listened to a woman in another room, her arm holding a thread. Her friends in the waiting room dressed up for Saturday night. The slow-timed beep continued and your heart was okay.
This automatic reflex action is almost completely lost under weightlessness.
Time happens different in space and bodies. My dog ate a tentacle off a toy shaped like a space alien and the vet mistook the mass on the x-ray for part of the dog and the tentacle came back up two weeks later.
I have heard I have a biological clock even if I do not hear it. I have heard don’t wait to want one to have one. I have heard, “Just one?” like motherhood is a dish I should try and maybe I will like it. These things happen.
I watched it for a little while, I like to watch things on TV. When I was younger all my worst boyfriends adored the cartoon about trash-mouthed boys, the joke that starts, I just don’t trust anything… When each said the joke, they said it like they wrote it. They said it like I had not heard it before. They said it like my body was a joke. I think about that joke once a month. I think about that joke when a nurse takes a picture to source my pain. I just don’t trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die. Can I trust the picture the machine spits out? Image like space photography, a moon or Mars. Small satellite of plastic and copper. I am more cosmos than floral.
In space no one can hear you scream but what if I told you I did not scream. I froze like water spilled out the side of a vessel in space. It happened so fast and went on for what felt like forever.
I am full of mourn and trivia. My list of top ten ghosts to take tea with is longer than ten ghosts. My list is more like 80-something ghosts. It’s possible to remove cup rings from wood furniture with a hair dryer. Or to organize excessively long cords in a discreet shoebox. Or to strip stovetop spots with a paste of baking soda and water and the sponge with the roses fading into grime. Or to organize your life into something nice so you walk around in a nice dream in your nice dress, walk home to your nice pink house and no one has to know about the black holes in your head. It’s possible to use home improvement and décor as a distraction or filter. Or to saturate a garment with hairspray to erase a bloodstain. Or to walk around half a day with a bloodstain on the back of my dress, ebbing wider like a black hole. I’m not a fan of the phrase life hacks. But if you have a minute… If you have a minute, you can…
In an emergency it is best not to move the injured. It’s best to call a professional. An ambulance dispatched from the house beside the funeral home. The gravity of the situation. Now another. And another. My new ritual involves rising early to cry before the day begins, but in this blue light, the eternally metallic grey sky for months, I am not sure when day starts or when someone else will decide that floating into the universe is better than being on earth, so I am always crying to be safe.
Asking how far a bullet may travel in space does not seem as important as asking the direction the bullet will take. In the video of cats in space, the cats have tiny hearts we cannot hear. Hearts the size of walnuts. We do not know if the cats died in space or returning to Earth, which may not be important to the voice telling us how they fall. The cats may have been mothers, or not. In the video, the cats twist forever like gas station hot dogs on a silver grill, rotate slowly mid-air, so they may land on their feet. And this teaches us about gravity. How we, too, fall. What terrain. What stretch.
***This poem borrows lines from an educational film about gravity and cats in space, a line from Lou Reed’s song “Satellite of Love,” the tagline from Alien, and an unfunny joke from South Park.
GINA KEICHER is the author of Wilderness Champion (Gold Wake Press) and two chapbooks–Here is My Adventure I Call it Alone and Ars Herzogica–both from Dancing Girl Press. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in New South, Phoebe, Poetry Northwest, and Salt Hill.