Before the Heliopause
On the Golden Record, human conception is explained
in one black & white diagram. Average size of a sperm:
One and one-one-fiftieth centimeter, while the egg is pictured filling
the space of genesis. Alchemic symbols of iron and copper—
or in astrology, Mars and Venus—distinguish the two. In the embryo
drawing, a two and one-half centimeter fetus looks more like a creature
from the sea—a big whale head, the byproduct of Jonah
in the deep uterus entrails, than an anatomically modern
human. Then at five centimeters, the fingers take shape & the cord floats
like a ribbon in the wind. Life is forming now.
This is you and me, in the simplest of terms, for the universe to interpret.
But if I were to tell the story, I’d say I came by way of canoe
in my mother’s womb. Drinking honey with cupped hands
or catching fireflies while waiting for my toes
to wiggle free of each other. And since it was lonesome there,
I’d etch letters into the walls to all of my dead brothers and sisters
floating by. When the boredom really set in, I’d whip my belly straw
like a set of reins, yelling Yeehaw! into the cavernous space.
I’d practice my breaststroke and read Ashbery on the weekends. I’d pray
for vanilla milkshakes and peanut butter pie. I’d mark the calendar
for the last day I could suck my thumb, and stick with it this time. I’d make up different
worlds in my mind—One where I was a carpenter
with calloused hands. One where I was a sleeping cat resting in the sun.
One where I woke up and was no longer alone.
As of 2014: Kelly Andrews’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in PANK, Uppagus, Thirteen Myna Birds, Weave Magazine, Pear Noir, and Philadelphia Stories. Her chapbook Mule Skinner is forthcoming with Dancing Girl Press, 2014. She co-edits the online journal Pretty Owl Poetry and has a hand in creating B.E. Quarterly, a sometimes-quarterly zine. Like most people she knows, she has an affinity for cats.