Elliptical Hymn to the Moon, the Midwife
I’m singing in the Sea of Tranquility
the history of a war that brought us forth—
our flag bled white beside me, dust to
otherworldly dust. Kordylewski’s
red froth of clouds floats up to you
from the ashes of a Warsaw cratered
by church bells melted into bombshells.
We’ve been so used to fighting songs
over that last drink, the Molotov
cocktail hemorrhaging the atom, erupting
a disturbed brain of flame, that the only sane
thing left was to reach you before self-destruct.
Not just as a flex of national muscle—
that each might and could and would if
pushed pull the trigger at the other’s temple—
but to prove there was so much more
worth fighting for. The stars are brighter,
our burdens lighter in the unearthly
calm. We were given fire to reach our higher nature
— to roll up the bonfires and rocket
ourselves into the story of constellations.
At my feet is rubbish from Apollo and a hundred
other missions. Over the horizon, earth
is a ball I can hold in my hands, toss through
the twenty-eight halls of my fingers’
ancestral stairway. Waxing and waning
created the psalms we offer to linger
with you who are there, seen and unseen.
Elliptical Hymn to Neptune, the Oceanographer
Even with all the muses behind me.
– Wisława Szymborska
I’m a reflection of the sea seeing you,
O god of the deep. My short Odyssey
traces its umbilicus to the Marianna trench,
where life is star-like, a cast-down burning
lake aflame. In my spine floats a tail
feather, a sheathed snake scale, a fish darting
among the nautili curled in their golden
means. We found you by math, trailing
waves of undulating gravity, tracking
Uranus’s anomalous orbit to your teal
chariot—neuron to neuron, thought moves
through the dark methane that peels
a diamond sea-storm howl, cracking the
whip on the horses of your wind, driving them
supersonic. When I hold a seashell
to my ear, your misty rings and moon thrum—
Nereid’s icebergs creak, Triton’s geysers
breach. We return to the sea like a turtle
to its breeding shore, remembering how good
it feels to be small and searching, but I’ve come
to you unhoused and hopeful, seeing the city
light on the shore and mistaking it for the
moon. Space is more ferocious than a shark
bite when it grins its endless teeth—piercing
constellations that guide us while we voyage for
that familiar deep. From your harbor, we see our
own blue dot with the only life we know: lightning,
a calm, and us as the amino acids in a wine-dark sea.
Elliptical Elegy for Pluto, the Demigod
I am not there either.
Death, you who are and are not a planet
with an icy heart, ferry me on the tightrope
of the Kuiper belt so I may toe the heliopause
like a slip knot that can’t escape the rope.
Place your minted coins under my tongue
so that I may speak something true of endings.
When the dim light of the sun slides along
your glacial surface, a house finch flies
the blue eggshell of atmosphere to its own end.
I want to drink from your blue oblivion,
bury a satellite to return to the signal.
Have mercy on me, I’m clay from a far
away oven. Who I am is linked with who
has left. Look down at my hands, see
the cave fire that guards my ancestors against
the night’s invisible raids. My palm lines
spear the mammoth painted on the walls,
resurrecting the eaten animal in the flickering
light. We’ve always wanted the dead to crawl
again. If there is a soul it’s a shared, uncleared
transit. When Clyde Tombaugh found you
orbiting a gravity well with Charon, he thought
he was uncovering the ninth muse the music
says must be there,
balancing the planets. Though it was an elysian
field of undead spheres, when New Horizons
flew by you with one ounce of his ashes, both
of you were the first of us to be and not be risen.
John-Michael Bloomquist lives in DC with his wife and their needy black cat, Zbigniew. He was an editor of Poems from the Jail Dorm, a collection of incarcerated men’s poetry. His poetry has been published in Heavy Feather Review, Maudlin House, Aquifer: the Florida Review, The Michigan Quarterly Review, Third Coast, The Southeast Review, and many others. He can be found at www.john-michaelpbloomquist.com.