"Despite Nagging Malfunctions" by Martha Silano

Martha Silano

Martha Silano

Martha Silano is the author of five volumes of poetry, including Gravity Assist, Reckless Lovely, and The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, all from Saturnalia Books. She is also co-author of The Daily Poet: Day-by-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice. Martha’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, and the Best American Poetry series, among others. Honors include North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Prize and the Cincinnati Review’s Robert and Adele Schiff Poetry Prize. She teaches at Bellevue College and Seattle’s Richard Hugo House. 

Despite Nagging Malfunctions

I was born with a stainless-steel spoon, licked it
through bloomer-less somersaults, asbestos tiles

unleashing from cafeteria ceilings, through lectures teeming
with chalky arrows of inscrutable vectors. To revive me

I was given Halocephalobus mephisto, nematode residing
in the sulfurous dark of the TauTona gold mine, mephisto

in honor of Mephistopheles, he who loves not the light.
In lieu of high honors I sniffed the sweat of the men

who assembled the Voyager space probes, pungency of metal
melting. I was given, most graciously, Tycho Brahe’s

prosthetic copper nose and tinged-green skull, his unfixing
of the forever fixed stars (Oh thick wits, oh blind watchers

of the sky). I fell in love with Fornax, Latin for furnace,
divine impersonation of oven, Roman Goddess

of baking bread, constellation from which we gander
at galaxy UDFj-39546284, most distant object

in the universe. Mother: I grew up in the victorious glow
of the war to end all wars. Father: transplendant physicist.

One morning, Kepler turned a photometric eye
on Cygnus-Lyra, commenced its pursuit of sun-roasted orbs

for the habitable. Emily Post: etiquette is the science of living.
Advice to myself: don’t be sure every wink is a warm body,

a covey of benthic tubeworms nestled around a hydrogen-sulfide-
spewing black-smoker hearth. Advice to you? I have none—

only this spoon I invite you to sip from, these nematodes at home
in their fathomless pools, grazing on stones that would kill us.