What We Need to Get to Mars, #95

-for Erin Peterson

Apparently, we will need
scarves, lots of them, to keep warm.
Space, they tell us, is a long
cold ride. What harm could there be
swaddling ourselves in yarn,
in hand-knit love, the clicking
of needles against the rapt
silence of space? Start knitting now.
Apparently, we will need
to hang for weeks suspended
in absence of gravity,
and our muscles will wither
from the lack of use even
lifting our head from the earth
affords. Without that tugging
we will arrive little more
than jiggly bowls of jello,
unable to adjust. Blobs
good for nothing, wearing scarfs.

The cost could be measured in
steel, or tanks of fuel,
or we could count the number
of loops it would take to pass
the weeks needed to get there.
And once there, then the building
of shelters, pantries, quarters
to sleep and eat, exercise
to get back muscle, convince
our bodies to adjust to
the odd pulling of one-third
gravity. The cost could be
measured in texes and skeins,
the new martian currency.
But sadly, we will measure
it in dollars, in contracts
to big defense firms, polling
data, seats in congress, in
political capital.

Kennedy would measure it
in pride, in testing ourselves
to go beyond our limits,
to know tomorrow what we
could not figure out today.
He linked it to national
unity, to racism’s
destruction, overcoming
poverty, our sacrifice
to a greater good, homage
to our better angels,
our limitless potential.
We shot him. Then named a space
station, high school, arts center
in his place. Now for those prides
we ignite war, not against
our sloth or complacency,
against each other. Killing
to stem the endless killing.

Nikki Giovanni calls
the trip to Mars essential
for healing, for admitting
our sins. And says take black folks,
a song, some meatloaf, a beer.
She says we will go because
there is something wrong with us
we can not fix. Perhaps on
the way we will discover
our voice, spend time with ourselves,
tap into a will power
we never knew we possessed.
Add to that list a notebook
for me. You teach the knitting,
Nikki will preach, I will add
golf, politics. When we pass
the moon all three of us can
wave as we enter the calm
and untapped waters of space.

Apparently, we will need
to bring those who love talking
and listening, who enjoy
time off, start endless projects,
build arks, comforters, ships
in bottles, who use time to
catch up on correspondence.
Let’s measure our success by
not by how long it takes to
get there, or how long we stay,
or what we pay in dollars
and cents. Let’s measure it by
what is left when we come back,
give the earth homework, due by
our return. Use the data
provided. Piece together
a planet worth coming home
to, people worth portraying,
life worth rebuilding on Mars.

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A day is not done, until it's filled with words.

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