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109th Weekly Poetry Contest honorable mention: Interstellar Tract

by Bruce Boston

after William Carlos Williams
I will teach you my Earth people
how to perform a star flight
for you have it over a troop
of astronauts –
you have the space sense necessary.
See! imagination leads.
I begin with a design for a ship.
For Sol’s sake not streamlined –
not silver either – and not polished!
Let it be weathered and familiar,
as full of natural color
as the world it leaves behind.
And let us have glass on all sides!
Yes windows, my Earth people!
To what purpose? So we might
see the stars streak in the wake
of our light-speed passage,
so we might watch our past shrink
and our future swell before us.
No plastics please –
and if there must be steel
for Clarke’s sake keep it covered.
Fill the corridors with earth
which gives beneath our feet,
where grass can begin to grow.
Plaster the walls and panels
with murals of your own making
or common mementos from the past,
a favorite poem or photograph –
an old poster – a dried flower –
you know the things I mean
my Earth people.
Better still, no corridors at all,
no cramped cabins to hold us in –
rather a vast and open space,
spun for gravity, where our
thoughts may freely flow,
with a river known for its warmth,
a forest or two so we can build
homes of our own choice.
A rough and natural ship then,
a miniature Earth, still clean –
green and blue and full of clouds
if you can imagine such a thing –
and for light no glowing tubes
that turn the skin a sickly hue,
but the passing stars themselves –
magnified by sufficient art and craft
to rival the lumens of our sun.
As for the bridge and crew –
bring them down – bring them down!
A navigator, perhaps, to help
plot our course between systems,
but no communications officer
to turn our varied voices into one,
no strutting captain-king
leading us through the cosmos,
calling our ship his ship.
Let the controls remain simple.
For what reason? So any man
or woman can learn to master them,
so every one of us might take a turn
at the board and have a hand
in making our destinations.
And finally, each sidereal cycle,
let us sit openly with one another,
side by side beneath the trees –
my Earth people – as we conspire
to save the best in our origins
and leave the worst behind –
you have nothing to lose –
believe me, the stars
will fill your pockets.
Go ahead now –
I think you are ready for flight.

(First appeared in my collection Nuclear Futures)

109th Weekly Poetry Contest