In this week’s edition of Feature Friday we are pleased to bring you an excerpt from The Lost Cosmonauts by Ken Hunt, an elegy to humanity’s fledgling efforts to explore outer space, and to those who lost their lives in pursuit of this goal. This wide-ranging collection of poems looks deep into the largely unexplored cosmos for experiences of the sublime, not only in celestial bodies and mythical figures among the stars, but also in those astronauts and cosmonauts who dared to explore them.
We hope you enjoy this excerpt from The Lost Cosmonauts. Happy reading!
From The Lost Cosmonauts:
for Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky
Grade schools refused a pupil marred by
scarlet fever, deafened by the virus,
as if time snagged his ears and amplified
their natural decay. Imposed silence
framed childhood vistas of frozen skies.
Rejection fostered an autodidact
and numeric artist, his recompense:
discovering a landmark equation
raised from the mulch of his readings. Intense
study revealed the key to Heaven’s maze,
the mathematical passphrase for the
stern doors of sprawling ballrooms we have gazed
into since we put fire in reins. A sea
of magma parts for Rodin’s gates, knowledge
twisting each self-imprisoned figure. We
struggle against the air we breathe, an edge
of caustic friction, amnion of flame,
while crammed into the cones of crafts alleged
to dethrone gravity. These structures tame
explosions violent as a tyrant’s purge,
each craft sustained by its design, each frame
shaming predecessors. The boy emerged
a teacher, irony of ironies,
this student of himself. His brightly merged
imagination and constraint conceived
of steering thrusters, multistage boosters,
airlocks, and the rocket engine. Appease
the Hyades and Pleiades, lest Zeus
defend his kin, when launching these golems,
metallic guzzlers of rare fuels,
liquid O2 and H2 like silos
of chilled vodka, toasts to the sage who split
the beating organ of his youth before
a cold altar, in order to transmit
his dreams beyond his name, if we permit.
for Christian Waldvogel
Harvester ants transform their sand dunes, legions locked
in automated frenzies. Streams of drones connect
for shared imperatives, patrol their hoarded stocks,
protect languid queens that necessity elects.
Clamped in the vice of their design, these eager slaves
deliver larvae to the vaults they carve, dissect
the clay that blocks expansion of their sprawling maze.
Bewitched by instinct’s chemical refrains, they race
to brace storerooms and passageways for the Great Rains.
Humans enact a plan to increase real estate.
Four sattelites grow toward the Earth. These progeny
of Babel reach halfway to Luna’s doleful face,
with ductile needles of silicon, citadels
for Terra’s oeuvre, soaring arks and archives knit
to house and to preserve, while we construct a shell
nourished by tendrils clad in graphene lattices
that siphon magma from our overburdened globe
into a vacuum-porous scaffold in orbit.
Centuries of construction change the dawn we share,
viewed through transparent sectors of silica glass
that invite sunlight to ideal plains and shores,
to empty seas conceived by architects to grasp
the fleeing hydrosphere of Terra, her mantle
coaxed away by infernal transfusion. At last,
we find the final gift of matter Earth will grant:
the cradle, sacrificed to shape its future urn,
presents its hoarded core of iron, for transplant
to complete an exo-Earth as wide as Saturn,
a bubble that captures Terra’s vital weather,
the restless atmosphere that hovers, clots, and churns
above wildlife roaming vast, verdant reserves
and land masses conserved as artifacts, displayed
terrains to which pensive adventurers sojourn
from cities, the crowns of tailored horizons, made
to glean glimpses of Sol until we build his cage.
for all apostles of Icarus
because defects in
electrical systems caused
because a goose smashed
through the cockpit, Plexiglas
clogging the engine
because the weather
disagreed with their intent
to test metal wings
because of a grievous
in the aileron
may refuse to open like
stubborn buds in spring
because the pilot
veered to avoid tearing through
a weather balloon
because the water
of the Black Sea invaded
the cosmonaut’s lungs
because the feathered
re-entry system deployed
Order your copy of The Lost Cosmonauts here.
Ken Hunt’s writing has appeared in Chromium Dioxide, No Press, Matrix and Freefall. For three years, Ken served as managing editor of NoD Magazine, and for one year, he served as poetry editor of filling Station. Ken holds an MA in English from Concordia University, and is the founder of Spacecraft Press, an online publisher of experimental writing inspired by science and technology. He lives in Calgary.