Rumpus Original Poetry: Two Poems by Lisa Ampleman






In space, to move is to translate,

as in    she translated across the dining module
            to the high chair to turn the wide-eyed,
            open-mouthed child over
            & hit his back repeatedly
            between the shoulder blades
            until a piece of chicken
            just the size of a windpipe
            translated out onto the floor.

as in     she carried a subaqueous nocturnal
            mammal in a bespoke pouch,
            translated it over maria—
            molten rock solidified
            over centuries—to the
            designated landing site,
            fired the descent engine,
            till the contact light blazed.

as in     she stared at the orange bottle
            with her name on it, eyes
            distorted from the fluid
            buildup of spaceflight,
            tried to translate the name
            of this month’s medication,
            move it from nonsense to sense,
            its chalky discs ready to trick
            her pituitary, make the moon
            inside her wax gibbous,
            not leave a dark sphere
            in lieu of light.

as in     the body translated to the heavens,
            the equigravisphere, hanging between
            celestial spheres, not pulled
            toward one or the other’s gravity,
            not orbiter, not satellite,
            her own planet, away from
            calamity, slurry, gristle,
            tranquil in the silence
                        until the ground calls up again,
            and she fires a booster
            on her jetpack,
            lets Earth’s liquid iron core
            pull her into orbit once again.



I miss space, when I’m not
            reading about it, the isolation
of the Station, closed circuit,
            water recirculator pulling H20
from exhalation and sweat,
            molecule to potable.

Here, lethargic yellow jackets
            keep showing up inside,
the females, pest control says, woken
            up early, searching out
the right spot for a nest. We’re not
            sure how they get in.

One module of the Station
            infamously had a drilled
hole, atmosphere slowly leaking out
            to vacuum till they
noticed. Our fridge abruptly
            whirrs as the ice maker

pulls in a stream of water,
            hurtles a cold cube
into the dark freezer.
            I dream a psychopath
is preparing to kill repeatedly.
            We fashion a mask

from a T-shirt. My son
            calls it the king virus,
and I keep him away
            from the vespine interlopers.
He runs barefoot after
            my husband mows

the lawn, squeezes clippings
            in his fists,
hands and feet stained green,
            face flushed with
a temporary joy. On the Station,
            after they grew

red romaine leaves, they
            dressed some with balsamic
and olive oil and ate them,
            the clay soil that nourished them
ensconced safely in a Teflon-
            coated Kevlar pillow.


Photograph of Lisa Ampleman by Jess Jelsma Masterton.

Lisa Ampleman is the author of two books of poetry, most recently Romances (LSU Press, 2020), and a chapbook. Her poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in journals such as 32 Poems, Colorado Review, Ecotone, Image, and Southern Review. She is the managing editor of The Cincinnati Review and poetry series editor at Acre Books. More at More from this author →