another poem about the whole goddamn universe

by Sally J. Johnson

(because all poems are about the whole goddamn universe if you think about it that way and you should)

the current count of men in space is six
which is still some unbelievable number. still too few
to say we reached anywhere beyond ourselves. still something
to believe in if you’re little enough and that earth-as-marble
perspective lets us know we’re all little enough.

so far two times that many men have made it to the moon.
met that place and said their words and left their flags
and footprints and golf balls and statues and
yes their own shit because if anyone is out there
they need to know about how capable humans are
when it comes to always leaving a mess.

of course we’re now making laws
so that nobody touches our things
all those empty miles away. meanwhile:

here on earth in america in the midwest
a woman with a cinched waist looks up at orion’s belted
sword and thinks of course there is no god. of course

there had to be the violence of starting
out. no deity needed to learn to touch
each other with hurt and tenderness. with
the same hands. so yes the big bang. yes
the smoking gun proof of our arrival. the explosion
that says how we got here. that says yes
heaven is anything we can think of
and still isn’t as vast or perfect as space.
placed here how lucky we are I can’t say.
it’s too cruel or stupid to do so.

so. hope is either the thing with feathers or
combustible fuel and a countdown facing upward.
it is a dying or dead star still showing light
and taking up space in the necklace on the collarbone
of a constellation. original umbilical cord of stars strung together.
the blood trail all milky. way out there. then every one

of us but six still here. so let’s meet on some crushed rock
parking lot to crank our eyelashes skyward. curl them to space.
mascara them the color of open sky around asteroid. afterward
drag our woozy eyes away from our mirrors to see
our reflection past atmosphere. view our profile:
the curve we slice into the crescent.
past that: an act of looking at our baby pictures.
our puny hearts hoping out signals. let’s check
our teeth in the ozone layer. smile at those floating men
up there. ask them if from there they can smell the smoke.

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