The rumours are true, forty light years away sits an exoplanet in the orbit
of a sun-like host star. Lava flows
on her surface in thick burning eddies above a diamond
and graphite core. If we took her, as our human impulses
insist, and cracked her with a hammer, a jeweller
could live a nonillion lifetimes on the riches.
At which point, it all becomes
A headline reads: NASA warns alien life might not be fuckable.
An op-ed, hopefully.
So immense we don’t understand her existence, Planet Wasp-17b gleams.
Think of Jupiter, then think bigger, brighter, lighter.
The teaching feedback form asked: What aspects of this class detracted from your learning?
Someone wrote: WASP
White, Anglo-Saxon protestant, I thought.
Was it me? Was I the problem?
Then, I remembered
the actual wasps. Three times trapped
in our classroom and the girl sat with her allergies
in the hallway, the door cracked an inch.
If a mirror world exists, we wouldn’t find ourselves there,
red-headed instead of brunette, left-handed instead of right.
I don’t know what a mirror atom would look like,
how it might spin, but when I see my reflection in the glass
I remember William Carlos William in front of his. His
wife and daughter asleep, the sun a flame-white disc
in silken mists above shining trees. I should be ashamed
and think, like he does, myself grotesque.
Instead, my shame comes in talking gently, in loving
what I’m told I shouldn’t.
What would this alien body say if she could talk?
But she can, and she does.
Every star is a sun.
We know this.
To name a planet we must first find her
and what she orbits
then catalogue and stick her
numbers and letters (sixes and sevens, Cs and Fs)
in easily searchable spreadsheets.
It is like this with humans,
the passing down of names from something bigger
than ourselves: parents and grandmothers.
To identify a foreigner, we must find
the numbers and letters on their visas.
B through V, one through five.
Some worlds still glow from the heat of their own creation,
on another two suns set over the same horizon.
I have dreamed whole lives just to wake up and grieve for them.
The mind plays cruel jokes. I had been so happy. I remembered nothing
except feelings and colour: love, mostly. Not that it was all
I’ve ever wanted, but it felt like enough in the dream.
It had all been some made up firing of synapses.
Is that life? Synapses. Light. Eyes rolling and twitching behind their lids.
Fall asleep on an arm.
When the blood rushes back the limb feels cold.
Is it true we get three loves in this life?
But what if my loves are places?
And what if I’m not done yet?
I want my clouds mapped like Kepler-7b.
If only for documented evidence of my movements
beyond those stored in US government databases.
On HD 189733b, the sky rains sideways glass
all day, all night, all month, all year.
Gliese 436b won’t melt, though she’s an ice plant on fire.
I can’t write a poem where it’s already been written, when on some planets
you’d have three shadows. This is just a list of facts. Facts so wild
we mistake them for simile. Facts with water down to their core
and retrograde orbits, facts reflecting so little light they glow a dim red.