Man in Space

Charles Boyle

No, I said, the title wasn’t sexist,
I was thinking about the Russian cosmonauts
who were stuck in orbit, and how they hooked up a British princess
and an interpreter
and got them to make polite conversation.

Then there was Daniel, who wanted a child
but whose girlfriend didn’t.
After five years of precautions
he began sleeping with another woman.

The night he told me she was pregnant
and that he didn’t love her, he told me also
his recurring dream: he’s tobogganing
down this hill he remembers, it was called the Death Trap –
near the bottom you had to make a sharp turn
and steer through a gate, if you failed
you smashed into a fence.

Now he’s gathering speed, going faster and faster ...
And suddenly there’s nothing there, just snow
upon snow upon snow.

I poured us another glass. And the child too, I told him,
like an illegal immigrant, stowed away
in darkness, among the crates of Old World cheeses
and bits of machinery, en route to the promised land.
You have to make that arrival good.

He said it’s not like that, it’s all refrigerated
containers. We argued
about the transport of whisky, and about the girls of America.