Gravity of the situation

Gravity of the situation

Thunder roar and dancing flames,
Gravity regained.
Cosmonaut Major Pavel,
hero of the
Red age
Braces in his helmet
For the crush of atmosphere . . .

Another frosty morning on the Steppes. The flat landscape is a faded sepia nothing. Her cottage is nowhere near a main road, little more than a wooden shack surrounded by a wooden fence which demarcated her territory from the endless nothing. A few flowers in pots had not yet had the chance to bloom, though they had shown green roots and signs of growth. She hung out the washing. Her breath turned to vapour, but she was used to the cold. Her scarf, her shawl, her dress, bright primary colours against the dull landscape, the dark wood panelling, the peeling paint, the overcast sky.
She hears a whistling sound. She pauses for a while, her lips clamped on clothes pegs as she hangs a pair of flowery bloomers. The whistling spins gets loud, pronounced, sustained, and she looks up just in time to see a parachute open, and suspended beneath it a Soyuz re-entry capsule. The whistling stops, and the capsule, grey and defined against the overcast sky, swings back and forth, then lands with a heavy thud in the field next to her cottage.
‘Not again’, she whispers.
She finishes hanging up her bloomers, spits out the remaining pegs into her laundry basket, then ambles over to the gate, just in time to see the hatch of the capsule open.
‘Another couple of metres and you’d have crushed my bluebells!’, she yells.
Major Pavel squeezes himself out of the capsule. Like toothpaste from a tube.
‘Olga?’, he says.
The gravity is too much. He’s been on the International Space Station for almost a year. He kind of slumps down on to the side of the capsule.
‘How are the kids?’, he asks, as he takes off his helmet.
‘Fine, no thanks to you’.
‘I had to make sacrifices. For the good of the space programme, and for Mother Russia’.
‘Don’t give me none of that’.
‘How I’ve longed for your supple arms, capturing me, plucking my Sputnik from the sky, my sexy Soyuz so charred and beaten . . .’.
‘You just left me one morning. Gone . . ‘.
He seems dazed. He looks over at her cottage.
‘What . . . What are the chances?!’
Her dainty touch, skin so soft as new year snow.
‘Hugging my metal machine to your chest . . . You dainty flower . . ‘.
‘Don’t you go on about dainty flowers. Another five feet and you’d have crushed my dainty flowers with your fancy spacecraft. Bluebells are just coming up . . .’.
‘Did you miss me?’
‘I’m certainly glad you missed me!’
‘But did you . . Miss me?’
Her features relax, somewhat.
‘Yes’, she whispers.
‘They’ll be here soon’, he says. ‘To pick me up. Begin the debrief. Add my knowledge to the needs of the Motherland ‘. He looks at her and smiles.
‘They might not be’.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Social distancing’.
He takes a step forwards. She takes a step back.
‘Two metres!’, she says.
They stare at each other across her bluebells.
The night before he’d seen lightning over the Brazilian rainforest. He’d never felt further from home.
‘The sky’, she whispers, ‘is the same as it’s always been. But we’re all cosmonauts, now’.

Johnny, are you an android?

Johnny, are you an android?

Johnny, are you an android?
I know this makes me sound paranoid,
On that night back in August on
The third moon of Neptune,
You danced so lithely in a lunar glow
And beckoned me slyly with all the promise
Of the start of something beautiful.
You whispered, hey, let’s be naughty.
You smelled of WD40.

Only this morning you completely forgot my name.
I love you, Johnny, I’d said,
I love you too, adjacent human carbon-based
Lifeform, you replied.
And your face is ever so symmetrical
And you’ve got the most wonderful earlobes.
One of them is slightly indented
With the Microsoft logo.
Johnny, are you an android?

There are certain things you do with a
Rhythmic precise pumping action
Like you’re just going through the motions
And when I suggested certain lotions
To make it more interesting
You were very keen on swarfiga.
(I’m talking about doing the washing up,
Of course).

And that time on Jupiter’s moon Callisto,
Going on a tour of a factory making flying saucers,
I couldn’t tear you away from looking at
The production line robots.
Come on, I said.
Hang on, you said.
We’ve got to go, I said.
Just hang on a moment!, you said,
Can’t you see, they’re . . .naked!

Our Christmas crackers had one of those
Mood predicting fish.
Mine, for the seventeenth year running said ‘indifferent’.
When you put yours in your palm
It just lay there
And then dissolved
With a sizzle and a puff of smoke.
Apparently, that means you’re due an overhaul,
According to the little bit of paper.
Are you sure you’re not an android?

Last Thursday we got stuck in a loop.
I love you, Johnny, I purred.
I love you too, you replied.
I love you so much, I whispered.
I love you too, you replied,
You’re the man for me, I said,
I love you too, you replied.
Did you wee on the toilet seat?, I asked.
I love you too, I replied.
Of course, perhaps you were just being
A sarcastic bastard.

But it doesn’t matter, Johnny,
Really it doesn’t.
If you’re an android you’re still my
Significant other
My soul mate, my lover,
In fact I’ve even for a nickname for you,
My Rubber Johnny,
That I might still one day
Look you in the eye and say
. . .and say
. . .and say
. . .and say
. . . error . .
. . .error . . .
System . . .malfunction . .
. . . Imminent . . .error . .
End poem.