Outer space
Playlist by Tiana Nobile
A poet's fascination with the sky might seem pretty cliche, but these poets prove something as old as time can continue to offer infinite invitations for inspiration to those of us who choose to look up.
1. Planetarium
Adrienne Rich
2. Mirror Meteor
Edwin Torres
3. The Universe: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Tracy K. Smith
4. I’m Over the Moon
Brenda Shaughnessy
5. Mail-Order Planets
Adrian Matejka
6. Pluto Shits on the Universe
Fatimah Asghar
    Thinking of Caroline Herschel (1750—1848)
    astronomer, sister of William; and others.



A woman in the shape of a monster   
a monster in the shape of a woman   
the skies are full of them

a woman      ‘in the snow
among the Clocks and instruments   
or measuring the ground with poles’

in her 98 years to discover   
8 comets

she whom the moon ruled   
like us
levitating into the night sky   
riding the polished lenses

Galaxies of women, there
doing penance for impetuousness   
ribs chilled   
in those spaces    of the mind

An eye,

          ‘virile, precise and absolutely certain’
          from the mad webs of Uranusborg

                                                            encountering the NOVA   

every impulse of light exploding

from the core
as life flies out of us

             Tycho whispering at last
             ‘Let me not seem to have lived in vain’

What we see, we see   
and seeing is changing

the light that shrivels a mountain   
and leaves a man alive

Heartbeat of the pulsar
heart sweating through my body

The radio impulse   
pouring in from Taurus

         I am bombarded yet         I stand

I have been standing all my life in the   
direct path of a battery of signals
the most accurately transmitted most   
untranslatable language in the universe
I am a galactic cloud so deep      so invo-
luted that a light wave could take 15   
years to travel through me       And has   
taken      I am an instrument in the shape   
of a woman trying to translate pulsations   
into images    for the relief of the body   
and the reconstruction of the mind.
Pixie-dust infusion
shoots steady shock through incline—
is that crooked
or slyster meat tong, grabbing hold of night
so as not to pulse so bright past outcome

Pardon the excess—it’s a point to make
that out of all this dirt
comes glass or shiny sheen
meant to gloss
over rough spots—let’s moan and breathe

At one time, so that anything shattered
will sound pretty
I need to show how I love—sound and vision
if I sing and move to what I hear
and feel, just for you

Well, let’s see if we can match
our limbs to the credible—or maybe the possible
let’s play again, so that
you know what you’re in for,
when you save your last dance for glass

How clutterdust of me—
and here’s where I lose
my head over a star system,
a horny section
ten thousand years older than me
I don’t like what the moon is supposed to do.
Confuse me, ovulate me,

spoon-feed me longing. A kind of ancient
date-rape drug. So I’ll howl at you, moon,

I’m angry. I’ll take back the night. Using me to
swoon at your questionable light,

you had me chasing you,
the world’s worst lover, over and over

hoping for a mirror, a whisper, insight.
But you disappear for nights on end

with all my erotic mysteries
and my entire unconscious mind.

How long do I try to get water from a stone?
It’s like having a bad boyfriend in a good band.

Better off alone. I’m going to write hard
and fast into you, moon, face-fucking.

Something you wouldn’t understand.
You with no swampy sexual

promise but what we glue onto you.
That’s not real. You have no begging

cunt. No panties ripped off and the crotch
sucked. No lacerating spasms

sending electrical sparks through the toes.
Stars have those.

What do you have? You’re a tool, moon.
Now, noon. There’s a hero.

The obvious sun, no bullshit, the enemy
of poets and lovers, sleepers and creatures.

But my lovers have never been able to read
my mind. I’ve had to learn to be direct.

It’s hard to learn that, hard to do.
The sun is worth ten of you.

You don’t hold a candle
to that complexity, that solid craze.

Like an animal carcass on the road at night,
picked at by crows,

taunting walkers and drivers. Your face
regularly sliced up by the moving

frames of car windows. Your light is drawn,
quartered, your dreams are stolen.

You change shape and turn away,
letting night solve all night’s problems alone.
In 1981, Eris’s spacious face hadn’t been discovered
yet, my mother hadn’t taken a day off from Fort Ben
yet, & Pluto was still a planet. One of nine celestial
bodies snapped into drummed orbits around the Sun
like the orthodontic rubber bands no one in Carriage House
had. I hid my gaps by not smiling, imagining an astronaut
future as sharp & fixed as a dentist’s smile—236 miles
above Earth where up & down are instructions instead
of directions. Behind a mirrored visor, the singing inside
my American-flagged extravehicular mobility unit
so robust it could keep a black boy from Indiana breathing
in outer space. We didn’t have any solar system models
at PS113, so I had to get my own. I dove into dumpsters
searching for cans & bottles under the OJ cartons & maggots
fat in swallows of juice. I dug through frozen dinner boxes
& apple cores shaped like moldy infinities, then foraged
the iced-out underpass—M&MKim painted in moon-
eyed red, then X-ed out with black paint by the time
the frost went away. I hunted the ice- & tire-clogged creek
where I would have spun the bottle with Cynthia
from science class if I wasn’t chicken. The A&P paid
by the pound & I dragged sacks stuffed with sand-filled
Schlitz & Tab cans around back where the braceface
sweating on the scale knew my game & paid me anyway.
Three months of collecting & I had enough money
to order our system from the black of a Star Trek comic—
all nine planets in adjustable orbits & Earth’s majesty
anchoring the third lane. The kid in the ad was as excited
as I was—waiting for the mailman every day after mailing
five wrinkled bills—but the solar system never came.
    On February 7, 1979, Pluto crossed over Neptune’s orbit and became
    the eighth planet from the sun for twenty years. A study in 1988 determined
    that Pluto’s path of orbit could never be accurately predicted. Labeled as
    “chaotic,” Pluto was later discredited from planet status in 2006.

 

Today, I broke your solar system. Oops.
My bad. Your graph said I was supposed
to make a nice little loop around the sun.

Naw.

I chaos like a motherfucker. Ain’t no one can
chart me. All the other planets, they think
I’m annoying. They think I’m an escaped
moon, running free.

Fuck your moon. Fuck your solar system.
Fuck your time. Your year? Your year ain’t
shit but a day to me. I could spend your
whole year turning the winds in my bed. Thinking
about rings and how Jupiter should just pussy
on up and marry me by now. Your day?

That’s an asswipe. A sniffle. Your whole day
is barely the start of my sunset.

My name means hell, bitch. I am hell, bitch. All the cold
you have yet to feel. Chaos like a motherfucker.
And you tried to order me. Called me ninth.
Somewhere in the mess of graphs and math and compass
you tried to make me follow rules. Rules? Fuck your
rules. Neptune, that bitch slow. And I deserve all the sun
I can get, and all the blue-gold sky I want around me.

It is February 7th, 1979 and my skin is more
copper than any sky will ever be. More metal.
Neptune is bitch-sobbing in my rearview,
and I got my running shoes on and all this sky that’s all mine.

Fuck your order. Fuck your time. I realigned the cosmos.
I chaosed all the hell you have yet to feel. Now all your kids
in the classrooms, they confused. All their clocks:
wrong. They don’t even know what the fuck to do.
They gotta memorize new songs and shit. And the other
planets, I fucked their orbits. I shook the sky. Chaos like
a motherfucker.

It is February 7th, 1979. The sky is blue-gold:
the freedom of possibility.

Today, I broke your solar system. Oops. My bad.
New Poetry, Every Week
Sign up to get a new poetry playlist in your inbox each week. You'll receive set of poems around a different theme, with a focus on contemporary poets.