The Astronauts; The Piñata

Judy Brown

The Astronauts

“Neil, we missed the whole thing.” (Buzz Aldrin, on coming back to earth and watching videotapes of the moon landings)

Each one of us was a first born. It was winter
then, cut-glass solstice daylight. The stars
were just holes in some sky. The baby’s room
was the study re-emulsioned in pastels,
its ceiling hung with the low fruit of mobiles.

We were the first men to come close to the moon.
Family was learning to read the horoscope
of your worries: Herod’s finger paint never far
from the door-jamb. We came to want to tip out
into thin air, to follow no one, crouch in capsules.

But the real action was back in the living room:
you poised in your Dralon recliners; the show:
our stumbles in big shoes. So it came to pass.
The nursery light left on over the blue planet,
we fell home, boxed and bouncing in titanium,
re-entry just a sizzle in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Piñata

No one told me to do it, but I was thorough
as a vigilante with the hammer. Blame it
on the hitman’s ghost-written bio, cast aside
after thirty pages of full-on true-crime gore.

Some sliver must have cut me, his flick-knife
needling my brain to this ribbon of dream.
My boy was a looter, blond as a surfie, long-calved,
his stealings in a bin-bag gripped at the neck.

I didn’t care if the whole street saw me breaking
his head, a smashed piñata of bone and blood.
I rocked him over and turned even the back
of his skull to pieces of jigsaw. You laughed–

remember?–when I told you next evening
as we lay smug as saints in our new linen sheets.
Half-stunned, you muttered some kindness:
a person can’t swing for a crime in the brain.

Yet I noticed you moved to the bed’s outer
edge as you slept; and I wasn’t surprised when
I placed my palm on your back, to feel you
recoil as a snail might quiver at trial by salt.

The end was still months off, but I’d already
started to think about him: the hitman, who’d
called me with the lure of my out-of-character
sleep, whose encyclopaedic hands were full

of the worst kind of knowing. He could sleep
easy next to anyone mute. He’d hug me all night
in arms as steady as blockboard, wise enough
to his way with his fists to give dreams a miss.

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