October 17, 2021

Tanner Stening

THIS COVERING OF BLUE

And suddenly you’re through the blue!
William Shatner exclaimed after disembarking the space capsule,
not as Captain Kirk, but as himself, a demure 90-year-old man,
billionaire to his left, CNN camera positioned to his right,
leveraged to capture the intimate moment:
Shatner, head in hands, sobbing between bursts of inspired testimony
about what it was like to bob briefly above the planet
in Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket.
There was no need for metaphor this time.
What you see is black, he said. Is that death?
If so, he’d spent years rehearsing how to swim in its waters,
climb through its fabric into other dimensions.
Captain Kirk had died three times, twice assured by alternate realities.
Did Shatner mean that the infinite blackness was more than inhospitable;
that, in fact, it was self-negating?
Hours later, the newspapers said the brief, eleven-minute climb
to the edge of space rendered the celebrated actor “speechless.”
Yet his speechlessness was made entirely of speech.
The vulnerability of everything … this sheet, this blanket,
he said, hands quivering, this covering of blue that we have around us.
The other crew members doused themselves in champagne,
frolicked and took pictures, while Shatner
doddered with the weight of his own interiority.
When he spoke, he spoke neither to Bezos nor the row of cameras.
Our own fragility was what was so moving, and how isn’t it?
To be thrust back out at what’s thrust in us,
spilling from utterance and gesture as they come to mean
what they cannot by themselves.
There was no need for metaphor,
and yet metaphor is what became of Shatner,
his feet firmly on the ground, in this singular life.
I hope I never recover from this, he said.
Oh Bill, we never do.

from Poets Respond
October 17, 2021

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Tanner Stening: “Say what you will about William Shatner’s venture into space, but the event was pregnant with meaning. News articles described his testimony as poetic. It was more than that: it was worthy of poetry.” (web)

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