I. PRESS RELEASE
To honour the Year of Perfected Vision, in 2020
the PDK-4 Corporation signed up its first
Hibernation Astronaut for the missile, ‘After life’,
launching its Perpetual World Campaign:
‘Preserving Our Most Beautiful Offspring for the New Life on Titan…’
They chose my child. I visit him
daily in the tiled room. His naked skin
looks backed with ice. I see his heart
beat hourly on the screen. He is safe,
I know, for his will be an innocent world,
conquered in peace.
He does not breathe
more than once a heartbeat. My own
small breaths haunt the cold when I speak
into the audiofile they have contracted to play
across his light years on repeat. ‘Don’t be afraid,’
I say. ‘Like a handshake, palm to palm,
a gentleman’s agreement,
your heartbeat tenders you – Are you cold?
Listen, out of these bypassed years,
silence in your mouth, you will amass such –
Only to think of you, falling from your name for sky
in this astonishing vessel!
Press release, my darling,
and do not sorrow. Do not once sorrow.
If you will think of me, think only of these years
I held your unfailing present in my empty hands.’
II. THE HISTORY OF SPACE TRAVEL
In truth, the history of space travel
is a history of rooms
– I kept a room
those eleven years in the Hotel Hyperion.
It had been a prison, the first in orbit,
and its guest rooms kept the old locks.
The Futures Museum was paying me for artefacts
from the failed outposts of settlement.
– Those years, voyaging
to the forsaken places, I slept
more than I woke, never shaking off
the after-weight of anaesthetic sleep
before I slept again – places that held then
in my mind like so many self-lit dreams
but for the relics I brought back
– I used to time my waking
for the radio line where their abandoned
voices first shaped words in static
the way a figure wades out of mirage
dripping with light– Whispers, pleas,
accusations, prayers: voices in their afterlife
talking me out of sleep …
Routine search, Kuiper Peninsula.
This blank of Titan where the wind is
visible, anodised with cold –
I don’t hear it.
I am closed in my life, my machine-
fed breath, a true ghost haunting
the loneliest idea –
from the settlement’s small world
of manufactured atmosphere. Strange to see
and not to feel the cold –
this ice-waste eating
rifts into itself, fitted to the screen
as if to say ‘I have walked through mirrors,
shrinking to scale
Then to come on the wreck, its landing chute
ice-caught, flaring, torn throat of the wind’s cry up-
out of itself –
and like pure fiction the ship, propped in debris –
years lost to a trick of light – the door sealed in ice
it will take days to clear –
That instant I see them
in my mind as they will be found, unwaking,
stored in the machinery of patience,
in their Perspex coffers
blindly face to face and nothing decayed –
Only, on their ice-backed skin
this filigree of ice
the machine is breathing them, resembling
the mechanism of a clock copied in snow.