Space Oddity (Poem of Sorts)

Space Oddity

When I was a child and learned that astronauts, in training, were spun around and around, I knew that I, who could hardly manage the back seat of a car, was not bound for space.

Though I never really wanted to be an astronaut.  What I wanted
was to be an astronomer.

I’d read of a woman astronomer so it seemed like something
a girl could be, though she (Maria Mitchell) was born in Nan
tucket, which the book (whose cover showed a night sky over
a peter pan collar) said was near Martha’s
Vineyard, so I worried that maybe
you needed to come from a place somehow devoted
to women, while my suburb was named
for oxen.

Astronomy a leap anyway since I could only see anything at all
through my child’s telescope
if I flattened one hand over the eye that did not look
through the tube,
which was awkward lying down on the sidewalk in front of
my house, one hand propping up
the seeing side, the other, blinding.

But here’s the thing: we are women;
we make up nearly half
of all humans, though that figure may be lessening due
to the killings, and we raise
so many propping hands, and so many covering hands that it seems
we are all hands–
and still (or, maybe, as a result),
we sometimes get so low, we wish we could just use those hands
to cut ourselves
out of the whole picture,
just be the paper dolls they (and we) make of us,
to be swooped (flatly) as a voice affecting squeakiness squeals,
I’m flying.  

But what we also know is this
(when we do look far away):
there is no blue more beautiful than
the seas seen
from beyond the sky;
no brown more profound than land where
it’s only pull,
and, here we are, women–and okay, some men too–our own
softly swirled planets, with our own land masses of bone
and gland and tissue, our own cartilaginous
tributaries, arms that hold,
about our equators, or up near our
North Poles, those beautiful puffs of cloud and ray
we get to call, briefly, our own (whatever it is
we love and hold)

and oh
how we love you earth,
even from this still
second-class berth, where so many yet
are hardly granted space;

even in
this birth.

Sorry sorry sorry for the length–a discursive draft poem for Izy Gruye’s prompt on Real Toads to write something influenced by David Bowie.

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12 Comments on “Space Oddity (Poem of Sorts)”

  1. There is an unfairness that so many cannot reach their dreams. A classmate of mine almost made it as an astronaut… She was in the space program a couple of years… But now she’s happy on the earth… But we can all watch those stars and dream.

  2. Brendan Says:

    Seems like growing up — physically, spiritually, vatically — is always a painful birth into understanding that the fundamental reality is the reverse of what we once thought. As my patron saint said, face fresh unearthed from the grave, “The way you think it is is not the way it is at all!” (Trust the dead to fill us in.) I thought I loved astronomy, but what I was really searching for was ocean depths; I thought I wanted hot sex, but what I really wanted was the heat of gestation; & etc. So what are the heavenly bodies, anyway, and what is a woman to do with hers? All Bowie knew to do was achieve liftoff from his own body, physicality, teeth, mortality: and, no dude for love songs, never thus figured out what women were for. Rilke summed it up in his 10th Elegy when he surprised himself by proclaiming that sometimes a happiness falls: why search the heavens when, Dorothy, there’s no place like Earth, um Kansas. Well done.

  3. hedgewitch Says:

    No need to apologize for the length–I’m sure it could be shortened, but the subject is large, the way through our gender identity, which is also so often a twin of our human identity, is a long one. I have always felt that division, often a congruence, more often a polarity, into two sexes is utilitarian, but damaging in many ways–here you explore that whole country, from childhood on, where the child must become the mother, the wife, the source of home and sustenance, and often loses her ability to take off from that planet where the gravity is so strong, or in doing so finds only isolation. Anyway, sure there is much more here than this, but that is my take-away on one cup of coffee.

  4. Kerry O'Connor Says:

    Don’t apologize for the length of your poem. i enjoyed the stream of consciousness style, as you teased out your theme from a child’s view of the stars to the constellations of self.

  5. I love how you have incorporated the issue of the fairer sex/gender; both being different after all (but often unfairly treated) into a piece of a longing for the heights, for that vast expanse but then, there is that humility(?) or that sense of being grounded.
    There’s a strong voice in this poem, which only amplifies the need for equality when it comes to dignity and opportunities. Mature and understanding… very well penned.

  6. Yes, I too love the transition from a child’s view to the mature eye of a woman seeing inequality with the telescope of experience. Great piece!!

  7. Never be sorry for the length. We should be able to read the poem until the end, especially when it’s a beauty like this one. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  8. Isadora Gruye Says:

    Hiya…lashing and apologies for the lateness in commenting, but I was ever so happy to arrive at your blog. Like all good Bowie work, this poem evolves in scope to be become epic (and also welcoming). I really really dig that progression. How the poem starts with a singular focus on the narrator’s aspirations and ends up questioning the birth right of an entire gender is applaudable. I know you said it was long, but I think a zoom out like that deserves some time to happen and you let it occur at a natural pace. Love this so much. Thanks for posting, viva la and all that groovy stuff.

  9. M Says:

    I have never seen that video – thank you for finding and sharing it.

    What is the name of that book? We hold up half the stars? I wonder / hope if women will figure out that y’all need to take the reins from the men. Not that women per se are better – we each could name a half dozen doozies before drawing a breath – but – it’s worth a shot. ~

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