Patrick Whitfill: Curiosity (VI)

Greetings! We welcome you! – Russian
Greeting on the Golden Record.

Once we get on Mars, I hope we stick with
vinyl and not invent something terrible to call
the first iPod we shoot into the universe.
The iMHere, or, iMlost. I’ve come to believe

in so little these past few years. This doesn’t
mean that I no longer hold onto beliefs like
scarves I can’t toss out because this one, my
grandmother knitted and, this one, my ex left

in my truck on a cold night on an unplanned
overtime shift. Instead, I mean exactly that I
have arrived at a faith in the particular,
the tiny, the inconsequential:  the grocery list

without all of the items crossed out, those few
things left to purchase—the cantaloupe, red
chilis, ant baits—have turned into, for me,
serious considerable evidence in the existence

of the actual. Once the cantaloupe ends up in
the shopping cart, rolling on its ugly sides like
a hippopotamus’ skull ground down to its
most finite surfaces, then the actual disappears

due to its acquisition. Due to its shopping-
cartness. Today, for the seventh time in my
life, I had to look up the definition for
“dialectics,” and, already, I have forgotten

what it means. Somehow, this is ironic.
Somehow, this is a let down on a galactic
scale. Somehow, I made every impossible
alien baby cry into its impossible alien baby’s

mama’s sac of intestines, where all alien babies
feed, aliens possessing a notorious lack of
lactation. And there, again, the insanity we
face sneaks into my front pocket, undoes

my zipper, and laughs at me. If the rest of
existence makes perfect sense, then how do
we approach the existence of milk? One time,
I left for a weekend to go to Boston and when

I came back to town I was no longer in love.
Scientists refer to this as being an asshole.
Somehow, we aren’t supposed to blame
the blues for what goes wrong. Somehow, we

aren’t supposed to ratchet up in the morning
and take a double shot of sun and go reeling.
When the first colonists on Mars One—that
privately funded, one way trip to the Red

Planet—the first one, of course, hence its
name, The One—take their first exhausted
nap, unused to the circadian rhythms imposed
on them by a new orbit, a new set of axes, I

hope each one dreams, in turn, of some Ur
breast, upon which no babe suckles.
Somehow, this makes me a terrible person
this afternoon, with the sun approaching

from my blindside, with the sky a little too
casserole-sappy for me today, with its slaps of
clouds, all willingness and puff, with the fat
tabby across the street who licks its chops,

who never offers any sweetmeats, no matter
how hard I rub my fingers together. Look, it
goes a lot like this:  One time, I met a woman
in Chicago and never told her that I loved her,

but I did, and I did tell her that I hated Nascar
and her father and the smell and viscosity
of brie. And I’ve lived the past seven years
happy with how that worked out. Please

understand me:  this is all about forgiveness,
the Mars trip, I mean. If we can get far
enough away on a long enough timeline, if we
can face backwards from a decently

impossible position, then imagine how our
apology will sound sent back to us, like a track
on a blind bluesman’s last album, all scratch
and needle, all hard pang, all milky groove.

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