Pale Blue Dot
Candice Hansen-Koharcheck, I’m not sure how
to pronounce your name, but you were the first
to spot it, this two-pixel speck otherwise known
as planet Earth. Sitting at your screen, shades drawn,
office dark, you searched the digital photos sent back
by Voyager 1, four billion miles from your desk.
And there it was, not the big blue marble swirling
with clouds and continents, not the one Apollo astronauts
the sheer beauty brought tears—thanking God and America,
declaring no need to fight over borders or oil; this was not
that view; this was how our planet might look to an alien.
And yet how close this photo came to not being taken at all—
scientists arguing aiming the camera back at the sun
might fry the lens, questioning the worth of such a risk,
this shot you say still gives you chills, dear Candice,
our planet bathed in the spacecraft’s reflective light.
Pale blue dot lit by a glowing beam: I’m surprised
Christians didn’t have a hey day, though viewing
His crowning achievement requires squinting.
When NASA put it on display at the Jet Propulsion Lab,
a blow-up print spanning fourteen feet, visitors touched
the pinprick so often the image needed constant replacing,
perhaps because without the little arrow we wouldn’t know
which pinprick was home. And yet its barely-there-ness
doesn’t excuse the plastic bags, duct tape, juice packs,
sweat pants that lodge in the stomachs of whales. And yet
its lack of distinction doesn’t pardon the brown-pudding goop
on the Gulf of Mexico’s floor, a goop in which nothing alive
has been found. To reckon that speck, mourn the loss
of the black torrent toad. To take it in, grasp its full weight,
then turn toward a child’s insistent give me a ride in a rocket ship!
With meteors and turbulence! Like you, dear Candice, alone
and in the dark while a loved one’s asking Where are you going?
When are you coming back?
Previously published in North American Review,
and Reckless Lovely (Saturnalia Books 2014).