Quietly, on the way to Mars

15 September 2017

There were things I was sorry to see fade:
the haze of Earth’s atmosphere,

the last soundwaves from home,
and his fingerprints on my skin.

They sent him to sprinkle seeds
like fairy dust, to thaw frozen soil

with the warmth of his touch, to unfurl
green tendrils, rouse a dormant season

and remind life how to grow: stubbornly,
despite it all. But seven months is a long

stretch to travel somewhere—long enough
for the smallest kernel of regret to swell, turn

sour and sprout. If only it were just that.
Wildflowers have sprung from our garden bed.

I want to scream, kick, pummel my fists
but that would only waste oxygen, damage

the ship. I sit tense as a tightrope, silent
as a land mine woken with a click.

I harbour a stowaway, knees tucked
snugly under chin, silently floating,

curled inside flesh — cushioned and
weightless. The most natural thing

in our world is now worldless, blindly
travelling toward an unnatural fate

too late to terminate. I should have
listened to my mother, to every cell

objecting to the centrifuge, the deep
sea dives, all those times I thought

I would die if I had to live through
another day of training. But I was too

stubborn to give up. Couldn’t see
then, I was giving up everything.

I used to read the seasons scrawled
across the sky, watch patterns

track in arcs, look to clouds for cues,
spy cumulus gathering low and thick,

heavy on the horizon. Hear rainbirds
screeching overhead, question the air

to gauge the weight that threatened
to fall upon or shudder through me,

fathom how long I might have left
to shelter, or risk a last-ditch run.

Space wears no clouds, has no cockatoo.
No storm-scent stirs the soul awake

on stuffy afternoons. No change in wind
swings in to prickle pale, goosy flesh.

No cicada chant fades to hush
as raindrops hit the rusty tank.

No crickets thrum their tonal tide,
trilling me to sleep. Your small feet kick

me conscious, cramped in my cold,
climate-controlled bunk. Quietly, I weep.

Hard to concentrate on anything other
than those cells multiplying within,

performing set functions without
questioning—crafting the lovely, tiny

skeleton our blueprints dared to sketch.
The medi-display won’t quit winking

on my wrist. I worry what tales it is telling,
how long till those monitoring suspect

my duplicitous condition. That’s the trouble
with sending humans—we’re not so loyal

as Labradors, nor diligent as DNA.
People are bound to disappoint.

I am pregnant. And day
by day, the I falls away,

becomes vessel, protective
layer for my successor—

all mucus new.
Bearer of bloodlines,

turning in womb, feeding
on me, making me sick.

Without gravity holding us together,
nobody knows how a foetus will grow.

They’ll have to scalpel the child
from me, of course—our bones

too weak for a vaginal birth.
My body has changed

since leaving Earth—
defying its own evolution.

This entry was posted in GUNCOTTON and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

About Bronwyn Lovell

Bronwyn Lovell is an Adelaide-based writer. Her poetry has featured in Best Australian Poems, Meanjin, Southerly, Verity La, Mascara, Rabbit and other journals. She has won the Val Vallis Award, the Adrien Abbott Poetry Prize, and been shortlisted for the Judith Wright, Fair Australia, Newcastle, Bridport, and Montreal prizes.


Further reading:

Related work:

Comments are closed.