Through Burnout, the Planet Still Spins

Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it
anymore. My friends say I’ve grown
too saturnine, but—the world’s on fire.
We should be fired, or ousted: we have been
the worst kind of landlord to this home.
In the time it takes for Saturn to orbit
the Sun one time, the Earth may become
unrecognizable. Why send out poetry?
Why write at all? How pitiful to want to leave
some mark, any mark; how narcissistic
to believe my voice is worthy
of being lifted. Incredible that we sing
anything other than requiems.

Holst called Saturn the bringer of old age,
but the planet was named for the god of plenty,
of festivals and farming, whose rule was free
of labor, a golden age. How strange we’ve erased this. Joy
can be an act of resistance, it’s true. It seems selfish to wallow
in it like a child in a ball pit, to throw ourselves in
like a landed salmon thrashing till it snaps
the line that hooked it, slipping back into the river.
But what else is there?

            —We know what else. We know
            how to say “this is fine,” and mean it
            while the room is burning around us.
            We understand how to keep going.)

I think a lot about how Cassini sent us pictures for years
before we immolated it in Saturn’s atmosphere.
Cassini couldn’t think or feel, but in a poem
I can say sie could. Sie shutter-clicked as fast as
possible, smiled at moonrise, knew sier time was up

and sent the photos anyway. Sie didn’t regret
the long cold dark of the journey, or the flame
at its end. Sie knew any microbes would sear
against sier body, which meant Saturn’s moons
would remain uncolonized—unlike Earth’s
moon, now home to tardigrades capable of
surviving extreme temperatures: invaded
accidentally, a cause for concern—

            The point is, sie sent the pictures.
            The point is, sie gave us something
            even as sie fell.

Gretchen Rockwell is a queer poet currently living in Scotland. Xe is the author of two micro chapbooks and a forthcoming chapbook from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press; xer work has most recently appeared in perhappened mag, Whale Road Review, Poet Lore, FreezeRay Poetry, and elsewhere. Gretchen enjoys writing poetry about gender, history, myth, science, space, and unusual connections – find xer at or on Twitter at @daft_rockwell.

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