Selected poems from Planet-ish

Following are three poems from the Planet-ish chapbook by Lyndal Cairns.


They watched lions maul people for fun
so I guess it would be comforting
to have a guard dog for the dead.

I imagine Kerberos as the Romans did:
the two-headed stalwart
ever vigilant
buzzed by restless souls searching for leaks,
with a snap and a growl for those who got too close.

Our own Kerberos isn’t so dedicated.

Locked in Pluto’s orbit
spinning end over end
this bizarre two-headed beast of a moon
could only watch as Voyager 1 and Voyager 2
slipped past into interstellar space.

With them went
the hopes and dreams
of our 1977 selves:
a golden record
bird sounds,
Chuck Berry,
and the brainwaves of a woman falling in love.

I can’t help but suppose
when the record is played
and aliens come looking
for those birds
and those hopes,
they’ll find they’re long dead.


Nothing changed for Pluto.

She threw no tantrums
and lodged no appeal.
Quietly, coolly, she accepted her demotion
but nothing changed for her.

Wedded to a star system that no longer recognizes her,
though she never turned her face away.
She waits 248 years to get as close
as the farthest thing from here.

Not a drop

It’s called aspiring,
when methane evaporates straight from ice
and refreezes
into spires.

Pluto looks so thorny
but she isn’t.

In our Atacama Desert,
their water cousins are called nieves penitentes
penitent snow
because they pray to the sun.
I would think ice would choose a different god
but what would an atheist know about that?

It’s remarkably efficient
sublimating from ice to gas
and back,
faster than I can code-switch
from saying ours
to saying mine.

With so little gravity
to keep molecules together
her surface ebbs and drifts with chemical sand.

Pluto looks so stable
but she isn’t.

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