This Is The Story We’ll Tell Our Grandchildren

Back then, you were a scientist
on the international space station
researching low-grav botany
You’d sing Gershwin lullabies to your tomato plants and clematis
and peer out the portholes
at rolling continents
wondering where your house was

Mid-shift over Mexico a meteorite winged the hull
Trusses ruptured
Modules depressurised
Your two colleagues, Ralph and Yacob
and all their keepsakes got tipped into space like Smarties
You and your plants huddled
in the dark laboratory
breathing each other’s air

I heard the newsflash
I was sculpting a relief centre
from the cooling magma and black slag
of a volcano disaster

They said: ‘All the astronauts
are dead, except
for one beautiful botanist
who sings Gershwin to her crocuses,
but she is stranded and alone
and doomed as Betamax.’

I knew then that I had to save you

NASA said it was hopeless
In a statement NASA said:
‘It is hopeless
She will die in the darkness
using the last of her oxygen
to comfort a magnolia –
picture Ophelia drowning on dry land,’
and the spokesperson at the podium
paused
to wipe away
a single, gibbous tear
‘Also a rescue would cost too much
and it is against regulations.’

‘Fuck regulations!’
I yelled to mission control
as I hotwired the rocket
The engine started like a pilot light
and black-suited bureaucrats
scattered like money spiders

We gloss over the tedious details
like the thunk thunk
of my wrench against the bulkhead
of how you popped the hatch like a bank vault
our grimed profiles backlit by electrical fires
Whose idea was it to propel us back Earthwards
by detonating the oxygen reserves, darling?
Ha
We can’t remember
We were too busy learning the detail of each other’s corneas
while the basil-scented cabin began to rattle apart on re-entry

Cut to Chinese fisherman hauling squid nets
onto a trawler in the cobalt dawn
who pause
to watch a white star
cleaving the far horizon
like an arc welder’s spark

As we fall
the capsule crazies with stress fractures
We shed it like training wheels
We are upside-down
double-helixed in vines

We spin
Time slows to the clock key twist of our terminal corkscrew
We’re not going to live
so one of us thinks fuck it, whispers:
‘I fancy you.’
Doesn’t matter who

We touch down
near the Bikini Atoll
For the distant fishermen
it all happens in slow motion
There’s a flash as we hit the water
then the ocean opens like a century flower

One sailor briefly loses his sea legs
drops to his knees

We’ll suggest vaguely we rode home on a whale
that we were married at midnight in Honolulu
by a one-armed priest who looked like Jimmy Cagney
The colour of your wedding dress changes with each telling

Sometimes, a burning big top appears in the background
like a ghost ship
or a great orange orchid coughing cinders
I never understood why you put it in there
but it’s my favourite bit

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