“Trajectory” by Katie Kemple

Katie Kemple


NASA crashes spacecraft into asteroid, passing planetary defense test
—The Washington Post

How many years does it take to orchestrate
a crash landing? I pretend it’s fifteen,
that engineers conceived of DART
in a room, outrageously courageous.
Their target: Dimorphos, a moon orbiting
an asteroid. While around the same time,
I brought a child onto the earth whose
chosen name rhymes with arrow,
which is a sort of dart. And I see that
the little spacecraft left California last
November, only the size of a refrigerator.
I picture ours, sleek and silver, blast off
from the kitchen through the roof,
traveling ten long months to the high school
whose football field is approximately
the size of the asteroid’s moon.
There’s no coming back from this.
Just as in June, my child lifted off
from the middle school, and now—
touch down! Explodes into the rocky
maze of ninth grade classrooms.
An Italian camera the size of a toaster
followed the ship to record the collision.
The paparazzi takes photos and photos,
like me, to capture the juncture prodigiously,
sending images back to a cheering crowd
of scientists who by now, are family.
They say it takes a village to raise a kid.
But what is their trajectory? To be a parent
is to see your child nudge humanity,
a body that leaves your kitchen and makes
an impact that ripples out for all eternity.

from Poets Respond
October 2, 2022


Katie Kemple: “This poem responds to NASA’s DART mission which crash landed an aircraft into Dimorphos, the moon of an asteroid, in an attempt to put the pair on a new trajectory through space. Many news stories attempted to describe the size of the aircraft and asteroid to familiar objects here on earth, and that sparked the image of other experiences—how all human endeavors have a ripple effect. That this ‘nudge’ DART gave Dimorphos happens every day, and that sometimes a crash can yield a net positive result. My family enjoys seeing the cheering scientists after a successful mission. We fill this dark universe with cheers and love.”

Rattle Logo