It’s space reconnaissance. The new Gonzo—robot journalism, the only downside
is the lag in delivery. A super-teched-up tin can on a string, garbling pictures
instead of words. Let’s play telephone. I’ll start: When I talk to your mother
everything sounds like it is underwater. Or maybe I feel like I’m drowning.
Or maybe she feels like she’s drowning, and has, since she left
Germany for small-town America and young motherhood
for a man who was always gone. Maybe she looked up
to the stars in their shared sky and felt an arm around her shoulders
and a hand pressing her head beneath the waves, maybe
she’s been sending you signals the whole time Voyager 1 hijacked gravity
from one planet to the next, slingshotting Jupiter—Saturn—Neptune—
a rock skipping ripples in the bayou until the edges of the universe unraveled
like an apology, like maybe someday, and the only thing left to do
was throw herself into the unknown next—
Sometimes the story changes. It’s a game of telephone
where your mother starts: My daughter is a stranger with my face.
Chuck Berry changed the lyrics of Johnny B. Goode
from colored boy to country boy so white people would play it on the radio.
The snapshots captured by Voyager 1 take a full year to arrive
back on earth. New moons, there in grainy print like postcards.
Enigma exposed. Voyager 1 almost didn’t get off the ground
on launch-day. A fuel-tank 3.5 seconds from empty on a rocket-thruster
made sure the aliens could hear our rock-and-roll.
Let’s play telephone in space. Chuck Berry can start:
Maybe someday your name’ll be in lights.
Only some of this is true: You go home. You fight with your brother.
Your mother sends a letter choosing sides
and we’re on an island watching the stars with no telescope.
Maybe the house they built on the closest thing to a hill
in Leesville, Louisiana, isn’t a home. Maybe it’s an observatory.
Maybe it’s a launchpad. Maybe it’s where you go
when you are finally ready to leave something behind.
Our wedding is a picture returned a year later.
She lays a hand against my cheek and calls me beautiful
and looks at me like I’m far away, squinting through the convex glass
of her spectacles like an astronomer looking for new patterns in the sky.
Her compliment is loud and easy to overhear, crooned
so it will bloom round and large in my ear. Just like ringing a bell
and gone as quickly.