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.