CROPPED-Bend by Toby Gonzalez

Four Poems

Benjamin S. Grossberg

The Space Traveler and God

I hear there’s an Earth species
(“bear”) that can give birth
while hibernating in a cave
little bigger than its body.
I imagine the cub crawling
blind and wet from the folds
of its mother, groping
helplessly for warmth in the
unaware flesh.  According
to some, that’s just how God
initiated the universe: galaxies
tumbling out one by one, rolling
like pinwheels in an attempt
to wedge in close, and God
on his side, hands pressed
to make a pillow under his head)
in the tight cave of creation.
Come spring, God will wake,
yawn, in a surge of smiling
realization gather all to him,
bring us out into a kind of noon—
a commodiousness, incandescence
we can’t imagine. Of course
tiny creatures like us won’t
notice much difference.
It’s for the greater creatures—
the far away titans, the planet
walkers whose hearts
hourly lubdub oceans—
to linger, muse, fret about
whether spring will ever come.

 

The Space Traveler Awaits a Call

When two arcs seem likely
to intersect, it’s not inconvenient
to halt in space: to let the silence
of halting become another
sort of territory to fly through
for a while. This medium
is filled with anticipation—
because it’s never clear
what form life will take, or
if that traveler will appear at all.
It’s also filled with wondering
at the wonder: why the shaking
hands, the pacing corridors,
why the shallower breaths?
Movement through this
territory is ragged. Then
the beep comes, the alert
that another ship approaches—
and silence opens up to jangle,
a rush of it as ships prepare
to interlace their clinking skins,
to fashion a bridge in the vacuum
where creatures nothing alike
(except in essentials) can
cross, can for a spell mingle.
The jarring lock, the suction
of vacuum withdrawing,
the lifting of eyes and intake
of breath toward another face:
no wonder the tremor. It even
sounds like too much. But
most of the time the beep
never comes, and anxiety
subsides toward the usual
movement: the outward one,
the one that mesmerizes
with white streaks of light.

 

 

The Space Traveler and Bone Density

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.

 

Space Traveler, Time, Alone

Spend enough time alone
and the difference muddies:
internal, external. Walking
the corridors of the ship,
walking through ideas—
chambers merely platforms
for lingering: a memory,
a possibility, choices
revised or pending. As if one
were one’s own homunculus
and the ship a larger self, though
that suggests a nearly infinite
regression of selves, a series
of Russian dolls with the merest
grain in the center: identity
reduced to an essential fact—
dust mote in an otherwise
sterile room.  That’s as good
a figure as any for this ship
wandering the vacuum
of space, the way the ship
catches star light, glistens
as it falls toward or away
from absolutely nothing
like itself.  In the cockpit
I linger with the idea of time
chagrined that the process
does not slow it, and where
I sleep, inhabit the notion
of alone, suspect it would be
little different in company.
At best, I find peace in how
these vectors answer each other:
ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

 

Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

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Benjamin S. Grossberg  is director of Creative Writing at the University of Hartford. His books include SPACE TRAVELER (University of Tampa Press, 2014) and SWEET CORE ORCHARD (University of Tampa Press, 2009) winner of Tampa Review Prize and a Lambda Literary Award.