The Starship: V



by Sarah Blake. Illustrated by Peter Oravetz.

It’s not long before you’ve stopped again.
At the windows you see the ground of a new planet.
You see water. You see that plants are moving
in what you would call wind. You see aliens,
but they’re so small from this height.
You expect a rush to the ship. Warm greetings.
Introductions. Names given to every new thing
you can see. But their response is the same
as Earth’s was at first. They wait.


They’re more advanced than humans. After
they waited, they must have decided to board,
and then they’re here. Easy.

You go to where the ship pulls in the smaller
ships. You watch from a window. They come
armed, and they threaten you in their language.
They quickly realize you know nothing. No one
does. To them, it is as if they, too, were sent
an empty ship.


They leave a few armed guards to watch,
but most of them return. You go up to one
and try to talk to him, but it’s more difficult
than you’d imagined. So you hold up
your right hand. You grab a finger and say,
Finger. Then you count, One, two, three,
four, five. I have five fingers. One, two, three,
four, five. He understands. He counts
your fingers. You learn five new words.


Then the fanfare begins. Aliens come recording
and curious. Alien children visit. You do your
best to say hi and introduce yourself to anyone
who stops. You let them touch your hair and
your skin. They look closely at your eyes. When
you get nervous you blurt out that they’re round.
And then you get stuck trying to explain that
your eyes are perfectly round but hidden mostly
in your human head. You’re so glad when they
give up trying to understand your gestures
which probably look like you’re punching yourself
in the face.


They always all leave except for the guards.
It’s disheartening. And then the ship turns blue.
You run to the guard and try to tell him.
The ship will leave in four days! But the days
are longer here. The ship will leave soon!
He doesn’t know what you’re saying, so you
countdown in his language, Three, two, one,
boom! And you throw your hand up like a rocket.


The aliens come in three giant ships.
It’s not that they weren’t coming. It was just
that they were better managed,
better equipped. But, you guess, still,
they have nothing like the starship.
You feel like you could count them;
they’re coming on so neatly.
But after you count the first hundred,
you feel sick and go to your room.


Is their planet dying too? This planet
you’ve watched for months. Did they
poison it? Or is it something inevitable
with the star that is their sun? Is it
a death that’s still hundreds of years
away? Do they feel that passage of time
like you do? You have no trouble
imagining it and the ones you could’ve
loved, descended from you, living
how they shouldn’t. Dying like that too.

“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:

Peter Oravetz is a working artist and published illustrator living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 2004 he graduated with honors from Montserrat College of Art, where he received a Bachelors degree in Fine Arts. Presently, he is pursuing an original illustrated series entitled “Robots!” which will soon be developed into a children’s book. Other drawings, including his series entitled “Catastrophe,” can be viewed at his website Beyond his illustrations, Oravetz is developing and co-producing an independent animation. He can be found in independent galleries and craft shows in the Philadelphia area.