The Starship: XI
by Sarah Blake. Illustrated by Lynne Kovalchik.
All the things you thought
you’d have to teach a daughter
about her period and condoms
and rape and watching her drink
at parties—you don’t have to
here. You know it’s relief
you’re feeling but it feels like
you fell, quick enough to
reach the bottom of a well,
and all you can do is look up.
You take your daughter to the museum
where you work and introduce her
to your co-workers as you walk around
the halls with her. They coo over her.
She sleeps most of the time. You love
the sight of her body next to the alien art.
Your husband’s heartbeat is a little
slower than yours. But you don’t
listen to your own heartbeat.
It’s more accurate to say that his
heartbeat is slower than that
of your first husband, whose you
also listened to, at night, in bed,
in the pauses in conversation.
You put your daughter down for a nap
and you put your ear to her chest.
You hear her heart race. And lying
like that, it feels like you’re waiting
for it to slow down. But you’re not.
For God’s sake, you’re not.
Sometimes you think you’ve forgotten
about God except for how he’s in
your speech. Not that they don’t pray here.
They do. They have the idea of God you
have from when you studied mysticism
in middle school. An idea that has
to do with energy. And they see prayer
as mindfulness and an expression
of gratitude. The moments they spend
silent in temples seem to buzz and
it feels like you’re touching people
who you’re not touching. A loss of self.
Almost everyone chooses to live longer
than any life you expected to live,
but no one chooses to live forever,
as a program of sorts, though,
the technology is available. But they
want to go into the energy. Exist another
way, says the starship, trying to explain.
You don’t know what you’ll do.
You might let your daughter decide.
You might let her keep you.
For now, you lie with your daughter in the yard
and listen to the pollinators. So far from Earth
and still pollinators. Flying around, making
sure the plants meet other plants and continue
to grow. You tell her about bees, their yellow
and black stripes, their stingers. How, as a girl,
at school, if a bee came near, everyone froze.
Almost every child that could hear its buzzing
froze where they were and waited,
until someone ran.
You know you’ve been looking for something
to be wrong. You’ve seen too many episodes
of Dr. Who and Star Trek. You can’t help
imagining yourself at the center of a story.
You can’t help words like hero and destiny
entering your head. But nothing is wrong.
Or only little things, spats with your husband,
trouble opening a jar, the loss of a privacy
you once had (but you don’t even mind that).
You know at some point you’ll relax,
and you’re waiting for that point now.
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 Kovalchik is a Visual Studies student at the Tyler School of Art. Kovalchik focuses on illustration and is based in Philadelphia where Kovalchik works with local groups such as Philalalia and Poetry Jawns.