Uncle Tim on Space Travel
That giddy fantasy people bought
into in their droves in my lifetime – Land
Rovers and ochre mines on Mars,
elevators leading to the space oasis – a whole universe to keep on plundering.
Kids think it’s inevitable now,
they think the planets are their birth right.
If I’d had any, I’d have told them, pay the mortgage on your first home
before you go looking for a second.
50 billion dollars spent by NASA for a few nice sets of holiday photos. Captain Picard and his silver space pillow,
Clinton shaking tentacles with the leader of the Zorg; that’s all it is, a fiction, like heaven, like God, like cryonics. Let the corpses thaw, I say. Stow them in the damp, bland ground. Watch Next Generation, I’d tell my kids, that’s the closest to space you’ll get, and leave the stars for wondering.
Environmental crisis in the front garden and we’re planning to terraform the neighbours’
attic. That’s insanity, defined. What a sad, strange joke we’ve told. But you be an astronaut if you want to lad,
don’t let your uncle put you off. Kids of mine, they might be different, if I’d had them: but I didn’t. You go and conquer the galaxy. Send me a postcard from Pluto.
She packed a rucksack with all she needed; notebook, Plath and Hughes collections, the last
spotted banana, an unposted letter, and left without goodbye. She ignored the barbs vibrating in her pocket and took the train to the city, and out the other side. Then, out of the narrow two track station
and through the nagging pine trees, the acquiescent windswept poplar groves
and old tracts of asparagus and tobacco,
abandoned and harrowed out. She emerged at the uncertain dunes as light echoed on the salt beds, sprays of sand spiriting in the wind like ghosts swept down from the summits
and circling, looking for a dance partner
to spit sand in their face. And finally, the sea; crests of old water,
mean, unceasing, shouting as one, so sharp to the touch that she knew s
he’d go back, after all; all the way home
to where someone expected her, waiting to finish their argument about chore-sharing and love languages.
Plaintive Mews is west-facing, meaning sea-facing, meaning a fine sea view is the prize Mews residents receive,
the price being high wind, heavy squalls, and eye-watering price. 72 Mews eschewed this prize, however, as Julie Matherson planted Firs in 1974 all along the long garden walls, thick trees which grew tall to ensconce 72 in quiet, evergreen calm shelter. Graham, once he was old enough to blame his mother for his father’s absence, blamed her for this too; but instead, openly. What is the point of living here the teenage Graham growled, if we can’t see the bloody sea? And over the decades his position was unchanged,
snorting out the bedroom window at the dense, claustrophobic firs, commenting at dinner they’ll be gone the moment you go. Julie had explained herself once and never intended to explain herself to any man again. When eventually she did go Graham had them eviscerated in a weekend at horrendous expense, those torments ripped out by the root, torn from live holes,
listening from his bedroom window as they were sawn up and loaded on trucks. Thank you for doing what needed done Mr Conolly dropped by; and my condolences, my condolences. That first afternoon, the glee; a sunny sea view sunlight washing pallid corners, splashing its live paint, a new and braver Graham triumphant in his prize; and that first night, the chilling realisation as the windows rattled,
as a wind welled up in the empty bedroom,
as long salt streaks of water streamed up the living room floor.
Guy Elston is an EFL teacher and poet in Liverpool. His poetry has recently been included by Atrium, Anthropocene, Fly on the Wall magazine, Burning House Press, Re-side and others. He will be performing at the Wirral Poetry Festival in October 2020. He is on Twitter - @guy_elston