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Friday, November 03, 2017

LAIKA (1954 - NOVEMBER 3, 1957)

by Martin Elster

Laika statue outside a research facility in Moscow
(AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky)
via Universe Today.
The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog. —Oleg Gazenko

We pulled you off the windy streets,
crammed you in a windless room,
stuck electrodes to your skin,
then hurled you to your doom.

Black ears alert, brown eyes alarmed,
you fought against the fearsome thrust,
heart overheating, wildly beating,
hanging on to trust.

What was this floating-feather-lightness?
Where was the man whose gentle hand
had stroked you after every test?
When will this bubble land?

Our plan was, after a week in orbit
you’d polish off the poisoned kibble.
(Your air was running out, dear friend,
but you weren’t one to quibble.)

Because of you, men gained the moon,
touched a comet, launched the Hubble.
Yet building a craft that could have brought
you back was too much trouble.

There stands a statue of a rocket,
you atop it, proud and regal.
Small Moscow stray, could you have dreamed
you’d die a wingless eagle?

Martin Elster is a composer and serves as percussionist with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. His poetry has appeared in Astropoetica, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, The Chimaera, and The Road Not Taken, among others, and in anthologies such as Taking Turns: Sonnets from Eratosphere, The 2012 and 2015 Rhysling Anthologies, New Sun Rising: Stories for Japan, and Poems for a Liminal Age.