The Starship: IX


by Sarah Blake. Illustrated by Michele Pizarro Harman

MHsection9Your lover works in surveillance.
It’s a big industry. The way he explains it
reminds you of the time you got
a ticket in the mail for a traffic violation
caught on camera in the middle
of the night. A long red near your house
that seemed silly to wait for. Your lover
delights in your story of Earth.


When your lover names the flowers,
he also talks about the history
of naming flowers. He says,
On the second planet the names
were awful. So many named after
the people who studied them.
Can you imagine plants named
Freeman and Goldstein? And then
a lot named New whatever. New
Dandelion. New Geranium.
New Rhododendron was beautiful.
The plant. I can show you pictures.


On this planet, we had a naming committee
to make sure the names were beautiful
and pleasant. And we decided,
if they wanted to reuse Earth names,
they could, without distinction.
Most of the names are practical, too. Like
the trees that smell like Jasmine,
they’re Jasmine Shade. And Remarawound.
That one’s poisonous.


The whole time the starship is still in the sky,
but higher. No giant, plant-killing shadow.
You still talk to her. You mention to your lover
that she must be lonely, so empty.
And he says that there are tons of people up there,
working, preparing her for the next trip.
He says, We’re still going through
the surveillance. You stop breathing.
You think someone would die up there
and we wouldn’t know who to hold accountable?


Don’t worry, he says. What you would call
a computer reviews most of it. We know
what’s private. But you don’t know if
a computer can be programmed
to distinguish between consenting and
non-consenting. You don’t know
what sex looks like for the aliens
that were on board. You never thought
to ask your lover if you have sex
differently than future-women. If you
orgasm in some old fashioned way.


Did anyone die up there?
Yes, he says, but no one
was murdered. You ask,
Why didn’t anyone come
and greet us and explain?
He says, We wanted to
have as little impact as
we could. The ship was
nearly forgotten this way.
No history affected.


Can I read somewhere the history
of the years just after the ship left?
He says, Of course, and brings it up
on a tablet. Notable events of later
that year: another mass shooting,
a factory exploding, fires in Colorado,
a new all electric car from Honda,
and the first woman President.
You cry reading about everything.


You don’t have to ask if you can
look someone up. You figure it out.
One night you stay up late and
read everything you can find about
your husband. Just an obituary.
He remarried, was survived by two
of three children, spent his retired
years in local government. He died
of cancer, but he seemed happy
in that paragraph description
of his life and death.

“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:

Michele Pizarro Harman’s poems have appeared in Quarterly West, The Antioch Review, Midwest Quarterly, Sycamore Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, The Commonline Journal,and Connotation Press. She lives with her husband and the two smallest of their four children in the small town in Central California which raised them. Among the crows, cranes, & poppies, she teaches reading, writing, and literature. She may also be found at: