All these years in space have
(among other deleterious effects)
troubling ramifications for one’s
bones, each thinning to a bendable
spindle like the eight spines
of an umbrella, liable to flip up at
just the wrong moment. That’s how
you can tell the aged among us, those
who have traveled furthest
from star to star, who have turned
again and again through their decks,
have worn out impossible miles
on treadmills (or exercise machines
more suited to their limbs
and dimensions) in an attempt
to stave off datedness. Listen
to an experienced space traveler’s
voice and hear in it the vibration
of his bones—like the high tine
of a jaw harp: poor tuning-forked
animal. Ask him his age and listen
to him demur and twist: to hide
his thinning side. Have some
backbone you say on your planet
to indicate that strength of will
you deem necessary to survive
such ages in space, as if you
discounted the possibility
that one can have backbone—
too much of it—but all putty soft.