"Despite Nagging Malfunctions" by Martha Silano

Martha Silano

Martha Silano

Martha Silano’s most recent poetry collection is Gravity Assist (Saturnalia Books, 2019). Previous collections include Reckless Lovely and The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, also from Saturnalia Books. A forthcoming collection, This One We Call Ours, won the 2023 Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry, and will appear in the fall of 2024 from Washington State University Press. Martha’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, The Missouri ReviewKenyon Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. She taught college English for thirty years, primarily at Bellevue College. 

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.