I was thinking about what it would be like if I became an astronaut. The problem—or the benefit—is that I would be a poetic writer astronaut, so when Mission Control said something like . . . I don’t know, “Push the red dial to wanky quad 4” or whatever they say, I’d be sitting there thinking, “Man, look how the sun is shining on the ocean out that little window.”
Other people on the ship would be doing experiments and sciency stuff, excitedly exclaiming things like, “The Drosophila flies are laying eggs!” and I’d be looking down at the earth saying, “Look at those colors” and wishing we had brought a CD of Yo Yo Ma.
Anyway, NASA won’t take me, not because I’m too old, or not in physical condition, or don’t have the slightest idea how to fly a spaceship or do anything an astronaut actually does. They won’t take me because I told them I don’t think their missions include enough wine. So instead I wrote a poem about being an astronaut, and if I run out of wine, I can walk into the kitchen.
I made a ship of pale blue ice
and sailed beyond the moon,
with reckless friends, an old star map,
and bottles of rare red wine.
We aimed at silver Saturn
with its moons like tiny planets,
and singing songs from circus days,
we drank and sailed through darkness.
When we entered dreamspace, past the moon,
every monster we ever feared
was riding on a comet.
We watched them pass
with their gleaming eyes,
their ragged coats, and their sharpened knives,
but on we sailed through darkness.
The sun swam small behind us,
and space spread vast ahead.
That’s when we found what no one
back on Earth
had even guessed,
that space was full of sounds,
like wolves and wind and lonely babies crying.
Still on we sailed through howling, moaning darkness.
Our wine ran out
and empty bottles
floated all around us.
The songs that we’d been singing
now seemed childish, misconstrued,
so instead we started quoting starlight poems,
as stars were all we saw off in the darkness.
When we’d been frozen gone too long
at last we came to Saturn,
where we stood crying at the sight
of glittering rings.
We were hoping we could touch them,
maybe taste what they were made of,
but the gravity of that giant took our ship.
It swung us hard in a windless circle,
swooped us round and rushed us by,
with colored rings like frozen oceans down below.
So we sailed around the planet,
then it flung us back toward Earth,
and all that we brought home were wiser eyes.
These days we sit beside a lake,
talk about our space trip days,
and with bottle after bottle
drink to Saturn.