When they delivered Sputnik to me
in a velvet cradle, I was a father
seeing my face, murkily, on her hull—
then, I noticed the naked nail heads
studding the wood. I yelled at the idiots
who forget to cover them in the cloth,
threatened to shoot them in the head
if the nail heads scratched any part of
her. They redid the bedding and polished
her again, and again. I remembered
when I called my daughter on her 21st
birthday, how her voice had grown
around her like the rings of a tree.
As soon as she recognized my voice,
she hung up. A good father blames himself.
I checked every centimeter of the satellite,
inside and out, polished her again
and again until I could see the glow
of my cigarette from across the room
on her silver. She was a perfect sphere
ready to catch the sun and share it
with the world through her radio—
She didn’t see the USSR, the USA,
no space race, just space, this speck
swaddled in blue, green, and brown—
freckled with city light. Hearing Sputnik
on the radio after her first orbit was
like when your child says your name
for the first time; you listen to a place
that wouldn’t have existed without you.
Photo in Public Domain.