Summer 2017 - Poetry

Stuart Greenhouse

 

Aphelion

 

Let’s say you are a comet
on the far swing

of your eccentric orbit,         
just coming home

to the Inner Oort Cloud,
gravity desert of your birth

where, like you and unlike you,
 sparse suspension of ice chips

miles or millimeters wide,
infinitesimals and planetesimals

in elliptics unperturbed
since the solar system formed,

tend each to their solitary path.
“Hello!”

you might feel like saying,
barreling up the old streets,

“hey, little bro, remember when
relentless tidal forces                     

spread their hands through us,
broke us apart, sent me

spinning, back when
PSO J318.5-22 passed by?” You don’t

look one eon older. Me,
not so much. 

Each time I swing
down round the sun,

more gets left
behind. Those veins 

of ice we share,
the ones which stitch

and node
the layered dust we are, 

heated
by the sun’s thick flux

geyser and exhale, and
where they exhale

my features
evaporate.

That’s why you don’t know I’m me,
me who once fit you crag

to crag perfectly tight
as any mirror;

but listen, the only real change
between me then and me now

are the stories
I bring home

from the inside. If only you’d
stop drifting off, listen!

Your too-faithful
memory keeps

you from seeing
“I’m still me. . .” 

You pause, you
don’t know how to say that

being in time you
now means being

not just a lobe of dirt
static wherever it floats anymore

but the bob of the swoop of a pendulum
caught up in trading, for the close illumination

and slingshot velocity of that center
whose ignition preceded your forming—

which still shines, though alien, distant—
deeper scarring each time.

 


 

Stuart Greenhouse is the author of the poetry chapbook What Remains. Poems have most recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Barrow Street, Laurel Review, North American Review, and Tinderbox.

 

  © Ninth Letter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.