“Elegy for a Spacecraft” by Raye Hendrix

Raye Hendrix


Cassini           you cosmic firefly
you vacuum-empty           space bowl

manufactured metal comet
Saturn’s brief           demystifying moon:

I suppose even robots
have a time to die           but if

you’ve got to go           (and you do
I’m sorry, you do)           at least

you’re going beautifully:
jet-propulsion           burnout

gravity slung arc into           oblivion
probably           (I’m sorry) we won’t

come to collect           your body
probably there won’t be           a body

left to collect           you
returned to stardust           vaporized

before the atmosphere gives out           but
that’s alright           isn’t it?

after all           we’ve catalogued
your memories:           geyser moons

hula-hooping sixth planet
from the sun           and somewhere

even us on the black non-horizon
of void:           a speck of light

a blue-pinprick yesterday
calling your name

from Poets Respond
September 19, 2017


Raye Hendrix: “I never thought I could feel sad for a robot (I honestly dislike them as a general rule—especially if they have faces), and then I read about the impending destruction of the Cassini spacecraft early Friday morning. There was something so human in the article I read: the author called it a ‘suicide,’ and it got me thinking about the nature of people, and what it really means to be human. Here’s this spacecraft, barely younger than I am, and it’s seen things I never will—except I will, because it shared them with me. Even as it plummets to its death in Saturn’s atmosphere, it’s beaming back images, ‘clearing its memory,’ as the article put it. And isn’t that so beautiful? Isn’t that so human? Don’t we all try to pass on stories, memories, to the people who will be left behind when we’re gone? For the first time in my memory, my heart broke for a robot. A poem seemed a good way to say thank you.” (web)

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