Volume 69, Number 1 · Fall 2019

sally & valentina

a capsule made of hair—
the earth’s gumball & teeth,
what could women know of space?
each stage of the rocket
another leg broken off at the knee.
there are girls up there
i say from between the green
curtains of my bedroom. billy
has a telescope that we can
never focus right.

i had thought for the longest
time that sally ride was
the first woman in space
but it was actually
valentina tereshkova,
a bulb planted in the knotted
chest of the soviet union,
skin stolen from a textile
factory, her father riding
a tractor across the ceiling
of my bedroom. i mistake him
for the farmer who raises
corn across the street.

i dream of them meeting,
sally & valentina. i would
go too as a witness. bodies
tumbling around each other,
can we be celestial or
are our bones too light,
like the birds?

they should have gone up
together, so they both
could have been the first
women in space. valentina
went entirely alone &
the closest to that i think
i’ll ever feel is when i
drove on the four-lane highway
at night on the way from
pennsylvania to maine—
counting the red stars

up there, where everything
is quiet, i would ask them
questions. i would say
what do you do when science
tears you apart?

& sally wouldn’t cry but
would recount
the story of Challenger &
Columbia & the making
of girl debris

& valentina wouldn’t
answer anything about space
but would describe the countryside
out a window of a train
crossing the soviet union—
the blurred faces of towns

i would tell them that
when i was a little girl
they taught me that space
could know my body,
pull out my hair & eat
my name like a handful of foil.

the surface of mars cramps up
& the spaceship has
always been a bathtub.
the water comes down & their
bodies melt & only i am left
alone in a car traveling somewhere

i make saints of them
as i must. a dashboard prayer
as the night sky sits impenetrable
above the highway, i point at
it & say—there’s girls up there.

Robin Gow is a queer and trans poet, editor, and educator in the New York City area. He is the author of the chapbook Honeysuckle by Finishing Line Press and his first full-length collection is forthcoming with Tolsun Books. He is the editor-at-large of Village of Crickets and a managing editor at the Nasiona.