The Starship: VI



by Sarah Blake. Illustrated by Michael Pattison.

All the constructs you’ve been working on.
The police watch, the nurses, etc. They all fail
when the ship is full of two different aliens.
Now when you walk quietly around the ship
it’s just for yourself. Though one time, just
once, you find a group of aliens restraining
one alien. And you show them the rooms
that lock from the outside. And they’re
grateful to you. Though you’re not sure who
should’ve been locked up. You wonder
if they have gender like humans do.


At the next planets, the story is similar.
You realize there’s a long list of planets.
The ship will return when it’s full.
How many different aliens by then?
You start to wonder if your husband
was right. This collection—a little science
experiment. You go back and forth between
worrying about that and all the dying planets.


Six planets. Six planets you watch for months
and then leave. Including yourself, seven aliens.
The ship is noisy. Everyone has trouble
staying on a schedule together. Everyone sleeps
a little differently, a little longer or shorter,
or with breaks in the middle of the night. You
try to adjust to whatever planet you’re on,
but the days spent traveling through space
are difficult. You’re up late. You sit with people
who aren’t people and try to learn a few words,
enough to tell a joke and hear a new laugh.


When you arrive at the last planet, your
destination, there’s a ship there immediately,
filled with aliens who will help everyone
to get off. They use a sound system that no one
even knew the ship had. People of Earth. You
were the first on. You will be the first off. Gather
where the ships come in. Then it’s like
the Olympics, the message repeated in all
the other languages, calmly, like there’s no rush.


You hadn’t packed so you do it now.
You tear the photo off the wall. A drawing
your neighbor made of you sitting and talking
with the first aliens. You’re nearly fluent
in their language now. You were less dedicated
about the others. Soon your bag is full
and on your back and you’re waiting.


To get to the ground, you take a space elevator.
You’d read about these on Earth. That’s
something you’ll be saying a lot now. Adding
on Earth to the ends of your sentences.

You would’ve been so impressed
with the space elevator ride two years ago,
however long it’s been. But now—in the shadow
of your arrival, your first steps on a planet
after so long—they’re just forgettable minutes.

“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:

Michael Pattison is a watercolor illustrator from Philadelphia, PA. An athlete himself, he specializes in sports illustration but also works in editorial and design. He graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2010, majoring in Illustration. Find him online at