Space Age

In another life I’m a translator of alien languages scrolling across the Martian plains in orbit.

In another life I’m a translator of alien languages
scrolling across the Martian plains in orbit.
Together, Laboratory and I become
a machine for gleaning the sound of light
from deep space trash, with raw pings and whizzes
we forge links of sense, enough to bracelet
your round arms, enough to fling an anchor
down to riverbed-red, eventually.

When you hear this, are you younger
than my imagining
of you? Whose time is slipping,

Lab’s first words
:chronometer reset:


You remember the story however long ago
oceans—oceans!—lifted, a crew reeling in
time to recover whale songs, spool of it
coiled like an empty skep.

Lab says
:imagine believing language

could avert disaster:


You know the orbital mechanics?
They were very careful
with the rotation and the speed.
I never see the other world.


Do you ever dream of trees?
Not our stunted apple and pear and yuzu
though holy they are and blessed
to be under your care,

(always we have faced
in opposite directions)
but trees in green air rising twice a dome’s height into fog, the taste
of that fog—

someone must have tried
to learn their invisible languages
of pheromone and rhizome

Among trees is the first axiom
one of smell or taste?

Lab says
:listen it’s time:


And if I feel a kind of change, a new organ
growing in me, time a syrup-sap rumble—

Lab says 

:stop, glow:
:stop: :stop:


:star buzz never tells us when to wake

any love song cut loose from the void
you should only interpret as debris

not the sign
of some arrival:

CAROLYN OLIVER is the author of The Alcestis Machine (Acre Books, forthcoming 2024) and Inside the Storm I Want to Touch the Tremble (University of Utah Press, 2022), selected for the Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry. Her poems appear in three chapbooks and in The Massachusetts Review, Copper Nickel, Poetry Daily, Shenandoah, Beloit Poetry Journal, 32 Poems, Southern Indiana Review, At Length, Plume, and elsewhere. She lives in Massachusetts. Her website is

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