“How We Knew Them” by Chris Bullard

Chris Bullard


It was so familiar. The spaceship,
saucer-shaped and brilliantly lit,
conformed to every expectation
we had concerning spaceships,
though this particular one hadn’t
touched earth before. The crew,
grey, oval-headed and humanoid,
were immediately identifiable
as extraterrestrials, as they met
our stereotypes of space aliens
from innumerable lousy movies.
If their nonchalance registered
as the same nonchalance frat boys
show as they shrug away the wreck
of a father’s expensive sports car,
we could still empathize. Weren’t
they checking us out like a girl
at her debutante ball looking for
the right one among the bachelors.
Hadn’t they come looking for us?
But it seemed they didn’t want
our natural resources. They didn’t
want to mate with our daughters.
When we tried to communicate
by symbols, by music, by neon
digital billboards, they wrinkled
their lipless mouths and laughed.
We knew, of course, it was laughter.

from Rattle #38, Winter 2012
Tribute to Speculative Poetry


Chris Bullard: “I wrote this poem in response to Lawrence Raab’s marvelous ‘Another Argument about the Impossible.’ I was attending a writing seminar with Stephen Dunn and I had heard that Raab’s poem recounted a conversation between the two poets about worthwhile poetic subjects. My poem was an attempt to muscle in on their dialogue. I read an early version of my poem to Dunn and he laughed. I am relatively sure that this wasn’t the laugh of estrangement we receive from my aliens.”

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