The Starship: IV



by Sarah Blake. Illustrated by Lynne DeSilva-Johnson.

You find a dead moth in your room.
It must have stuck on a bag or even
your clothes. Or your husband’s.
You wonder if you’ve done things all wrong.
If this was supposed to be an arc.
Animals and plants and insects and
the right people to mind them.
Haven’t you had time to coordinate that?


You’re glad though. You’d be worried
if there were lions on board. Rhinos.
Even cats. They stopped those
at the airport. You would be allergic
so you’re glad for that too. You might
have allergies wherever you’re headed.
You might die an awkward, pointless,
human death among aliens who
did their best in preparing for your arrival.


You decide to keep the dead moth.
It has amassed enormous sentimental
value in the second it took
to figure out what you were seeing.
You haven’t missed insects up here,
but you like moths. You like how they
start as caterpillars. And you like
the metamorphosis. And you like most
the hours hanging on the cocoon
while the wings dry out.


Suddenly the ship turns blue. The lights,
the walls, the trim you’d set to navy—
all a light blue. You think you’re the only
one to guess this means prepare
for departure but of course everyone
is talking about it. For you, it’s a little
different. For you, you hear the ship tell
you in the sweet voice you’ve given her
that’s gotten sweeter since you got here.
She says, Go to your room, little animal.


Now you know which time was the last time
you saw your husband. You can’t help
crying even though you hardly like him anymore.
How funny how different a person he was
in the different lives available to him.
How you might never have known that.
How the ship revealed him in a way you never
needed to know. How you might think the ship
cruel if you didn’t feel, with some certainty,
like you were being saved.


The ship is blue for about four days.
100 hours. And then it leaves. And then
certain windows show the blackness
of space and countless stars. And no view
shows an edge of Earth. You hold
your hand up to a window and you don’t
know how to talk about the speed of the ship
or how it distances you from your husband.
But you know if you ever return
he will likely be dead.


Your neighbor says he doesn’t understand
your relationship anymore without the nights
drinking in the backyard. So you lead
him to a common area, with a high ceiling,
with many rooms overlooking it like a cylinder
above you. You lie down, and he lies down too.
Finally, the lights are changing, you say,
as people move in and out of the rooms.
You imagine the ship flickering through space.

“The Starship” is a book-length poem which will be published in illustrated installments on weekdays from September 15 to September 30, 2015.

About the Author:

Sarah Blake is the author of Mr. West, an unauthorized lyric biography of Kanye West, out with Wesleyan University Press.

About the Artist:

Lynne DeSilva-Johnson is a slinger of image, text, sound, and code, a frequent collaborator across a wide range of disciplines, and a regular curator of events in NYC and beyond. She has served as an adjunct in the CUNY system for a decade, and as a K-12 teaching artist since 2001. Also a social practice artist and poet, Lynne has appeared at The Dumbo Arts Festival, The NYC Poetry Festival, Mellow Pages, The New York Public Library, The Poetry Project, and Independent Curators International, among others. She is the Founder and Managing Editor of The Operating System.