The Starship: XII
by Sarah Blake. Illustrated by Caits Meissner.
Clipping your daughter’s toenails
makes you want to clip your husband’s.
See if they curve, if they bend over the toe,
in the same ways. Different from yours.
In a moment she seems foreign to you
and that feels dangerous. But
the moment passes so quickly that
you don’t even remember feeling that way.
Honestly, the danger has come and gone like that
countless times. It is beginning to have a cumulative
effect that you feel as restlessness. You don’t know
where it comes from. And how could you?
says the starship. You’ve got your daughter asleep
in your arms in a chair in the back yard
and as you look up at the starship you know
you could see her from almost anywhere.
Your husband surprises you with a daytrip
to an ocean, to a reef, even if that’s not the word,
and you have spots reserved on a submarine
with giant observation windows. You wear
your daughter strapped to your chest, facing
out, and you hold her little feet as you board.
It’s the first big ship you’ve been on since
the starship. You pause. You hesitate.
And when you realize what you’re feeling
is fear, you realize that your journey on the starship
was a trauma. At least, that’s how your body
is recalling it now.
In some ways these views of the life
under the ocean are more spectacular
than all those views of space.
Your neighbor would disagree but
he’s not here. There’s just more color,
you can hear yourself saying.
And when you want to name everything
for your daughter, but you don’t know
the names, you end up describing,
excitedly, the scene of color. Look
at that red, baby. Vermillion!
On the ride home you read about
the names of all the species of all the fish
they’ve discovered so far. You wonder
if you can get plush toys of them
so your daughter will grow up with
the right words. You remember
you once tried to find an octopus toy
in all your old toys at your parents’
and you found seahorses, jellyfish,
dolphins, whales, turtles—but no octopus.
And now you’re just a walking dictionary
of the archaic language of Earth.
You decide to run away with your daughter.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you,
but it does. And you know you’re not really
running away. He’ll know where you are.
But even then, he won’t come after you.
You’re not in love like that. And it’s not
a human trait anymore—abandonment.
He’ll keep expecting your return. And you’ll
say things to promote that. You can see it now,
how you two will stay in touch, cordially.
And you still won’t have to go back.
You can raise your daughter by yourself.
She’s walking now. She crawls out of her room,
pulls herself up on the doorframe, and walks
into the room at your applause and laughter
and cheers. You two can do anything together.
And there’s a whole infrastructure to support
any choice you make. You hold her hand
with the plan in your head and you can feel
this new world’s potential. In the steadiness
of its systems, it needed one unpredictable being.
And your life bursts triumphant through a stitch.
“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:
Caits Meissner is a poly-creative poet, transformational educator, and vibrant creative spirit standing at the crossroads of art, community, and justice. With a long-ago BFA in Communication Design from Pratt Institute, she’s thankful the starship beamed her into this project. You can learn more about her work and play at caitsmeissner.com