Excerpts from Michael Rerick’s prose-poetry manuscript, Communication of Space, a finalist for the 2015 TS Book Prize.
Fumihiko Maki describes first person architectural designs. Later, design collaborates with inevitable logo investments purchasing vertical space. I click to deliver neo-Marxists Amazon books and lift my Smithsonian Apollo II moon landing mug to drink Whole Foods Morning Buzz sweetened with Organics sugar and creamed with Trader Joe’s unsweetened soymilk brewed in a CoffeeMate. In opposition to the Left and postmodern diffuseness, cultural theorists undo poverty’s multiple hands and reassemble accounts into a limping globalism with a television on its back. On high Ikea shelves and in dark Dockers pockets distant from our hands the packing tables assemble a brand name pantheon coat mysterious on the tongue. Even bulk has an id and a home and a family. Like a tree planned into business and public sidewalk function, we catalogue species regardless of location; and they grow, regardless how often we chop them.
The bread maker makes strange rye in the morning, calls for powdered milk, but I refuse the milk—is this the density and rise randomness problem? Too many scientists complicate Sputnik’s limited space with too many benevolent plans, paring the first manmade satellite from scientific instrument to elegant radio beeping. It broadcasts a similar wave the bread maker beeps when finished. Gin and tonic and YouTube uploads in the evening and I can relax away the day. But there are seasons and episodes with parts that have a picture but no sound. Some episodes have Greek subtitles. There are missing episodes. Some episodes are in Spanish. My computer captures this instant global transference spy show wonder, but I watch something else, participating in the overflow of multiple unseen factors.
My first birder on birder encounter describes Melissa’s personal-universal acculturation, that watchers are approachable all over the world. At the base of a green valley just above the desert she and Andy exchange birder code with two strangers—species, frequency. We all nod under our hats. The next day we eat tofu scramble and Andy makes a list of space books on the back of his work card which describes his title and expertise as applies to the development of secret projects. The only bird I identify, with help, is a Bridled Titmouse, a zebra plumed wonder as common as Sonora National Park hikers. Dogs, chimps, mice, guinea pigs, and dummies precede humans into space; faces from capsules, shuttles, and stations are celebrated more than engineers behind microphones on earth. We eat tacos by Southwestern pepper, potato, and chorizo experts. Finding with binoculars is like drunk logic, difficult to identify clearly with. The context of a gray or green crest, one country’s support of flight against another’s, is transformed with the reach for a guidebook or international condiment.
An historical text describes Hitler darting his weary and aged eyes in an A-4 missile meeting without sources. The narrative impulse bridges objective endnotes (proof a country can be destroyed by another country) to subjective footnotes (to look is to act). So, power sags the current president, grays the walls, desires a cryogenic chamber for bed. The space race book launches a rocket with men nervous for their leaders, active verbs and adjectives attached to nouns controlled by a lab coat and mustache. I am shown missile development behind trees and nations at war and events lead to several spacesuits bouncing over the moon.
Jon instructs to investigate all aspects of an employer, from politics to employees, before applying for a job. I send letters of intent to universities and colleges. After school we used to skate driveways, schools, parks, hills, and corners; we remember night and drinking in Portland, OR trees. He says, think of the employer as the Dungeon Master. “How well do you know the Dungeon Master?” This is the third and equally ineffective analogy. I have the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook out until we turn Skype video on. Jon and I look to each other in our little cameras and screens, our shared technological evolution. We can count the times we lift a glass. Behind the Dungeon Master’s screen hit point damage rolls and we live in basements with the sound of rain against the window.
An anxiety body enacts “relax your mouth” in public to be away from performance. For instance, a missile and a rocket by definition differ. For instance, Hitler performed the space race with little beyond metal. A “too much information” and “genocide” google lists numbers too large for a “guilt folder” to store. And, bits of information carry orders for a genocide now, but not mass death prevention, oddly. For instance, I read a rocket carried a missile to the moon.
Russian engineers break equation tension with shared bread dreams and laugh over the Cold War. Eating political pleases the natural mouth with necessary layers of unnatural cultivation, dinner out or in, gendered with proteins. I cook barefoot in the kitchen. Space and matter interact positively in bread—a Pongian crust born, for example—each arising by moving through. I buy Ziploc bags of roasted chilies from Food City, from different Food City chains, which proves regional taste can be reproduced or flavor simulated. My aunt’s massive oven and thick wheat bread with butter guides me in bread making standards, though blogs and books instruct process. Cosmonauts have one dress choice, soft spacesuits. Gluten reactions subvert casual approaches to flour and cramp the cupboard with ground brands escaping their paper and plastic bags.
My father sends me with the Atari to stay at my aunt and uncle’s. Uncle Ken hears uncle Apeman sneeze over his Walkman and thinks the radio is broadcast live while my cousin and I take turns steering Pac Man over dashes. Someone tries to remember if someone sneezed through the cigarette, pot, and wood stove smoke. Mine Sweeper addiction to premonition and deduction based on proximity kept me out of bed. Unemployed, I spend several months on Tyler’s bedroom floor. Very drunk, I play Final Fantasy in June’s room. Brian’s Xbox and giant plasma screen TV excites the autonomy of the anonymous first person made personal through buttons and knobs, despite the fact that my war man is out of control. A change in game tone, pop-ups, and a life of direct mail advertisements dissuade my mouse from the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons registration icon.
Steel minimalism (and somehow a proliferation of white) emerges from wood, an architect of Japanese Modernism states. This is not the rejection of Romanticism’s irrational flowers. But, the moon landing is Modern nostalgia and I was born into postmodern shuttle launches and semi-sentient robots on Mars. Postmodernism often accompanies poor labor conditions. Leisure under floating metal broadcasting through trees indicates good enough conditions to stare up from a truck bed settling campground gravel.
The USSR launches a woman into space and performs many feats of orbital mastery. Then, the US lands men on the moon. Outer space provided a port for the destruction of the world—for Ronald Regan, for all supremacy programs. We now watch the moon for the water locked in its skin, its little quakes, but not a Sputnik beep. Google satellites map everything in sight. A computer program understands two out of three knock knock jokes; is the prediction of pleasurable taste next, possible, considered? Astronaut tests stress their material structure—resistance—and a little ship control. Most of us experience space secondhand, anyway, through instrument filters and with awe.
An industrialized transport dream lifts the International Space Station and opens it like Antarctica. Mythic microwaves born in space are delivered to U.S. kitchens and also arrive in other countries. Hand patted bread slides into ovens and bubbles on grills. When nations launch into space network numbers admit low U.S., Russian, and Chinese viewer ratings. Created from abstract money and physical labor, the Space Station fails both capitalism and communism with no-return bone density experiments and plant growth observations. International relation engineers develop an emergency escape hold for a Russian Soyuz. The moon landing televised, the revolution twittered, the next transformative event will hum in our pockets.
Frog fame dances, sings, screams, and guest appears as a muppet worked by hands. Other celebrations include anonymous multitudes cut into black tar on middle school biology desks. I have used the knife, but never gigged or met a human Kermit. Space and the ocean offer many firsts for celebrity. Culinary firsts occur in homes, hidden kitchens, and can take the face of a chef but cannot be traced to any one point—fusion, for instance. Many humans believe we are the first and only humans in this universe. Some firsts are personal, like squash risotto.
Dramatic accumulation, or narrative by suspicion, creates an event: the space race to the moon. Making french-fries, I burn my arm. Though satisfying, history is not inevitable because events are selected by concern. Popular U.S. concerns include the grassy knoll, a Nazi developing U.S. moon rockets, a Vietnam war memorial wall, nuclear Cold War armament, and MLK in front of a marble Lincoln. I cut my thumb slicing onions. Without alternatives, speculation arises that the U.S. beat Russia to the moon because the Soviet Chief Designer died. As impossible as the relationship between narrative and event appears, stories happen. A pen jabs me. U.S. and Soviet crafts dock in Earth’s orbit, symbolically ending the space race. Everything happens on my left arm. Presidents allude to the moon and pledge to return.
Fumihiko Maki writes collective form architecture conforms to communities with non-centralized needs, like groceries. Like white flight, I think; like Cincinnati, OH libraries; like gentrification; like downtown dilapidation; like the movies; like underpass hotels; like park trails. Eye and arm space adaptability allows humans to breathe on Earth’s rock satellite, but hardly on the ocean’s deepest rock bottom. In architecture the floor/roof dynamic accounts for vertical space, water and air. National Geographic videos remind me that under the ocean is mostly a world, not a space, and spacesuit training takes place in a pool.
Plastic sci-fi images inspire U.S. military and commercial contractors to design steel ring joint and hard shell space suits. But Playtex’s flexible soft suit wins the contract. We see female astronauts with long floating hair. We hear male astronauts have big balls. We know transgendered astronauts are stamped out. One body against the bare universe tucked in 21 layers of pressure suit technology dilates the senses. Women who sew the intricate suit stitches hum in stitching rooms, not orbit. In a hard, orange plastic chair in my mute middle school library the Challenger doesn’t make it to space. SpaceX and other private exploration startups fill the void left by NASA, summer blockbusters, NASCAR, and conspiracy moon simulations. Still, the universe expands dark and elegant just as artisan bread’s hard crust goes soft but delicious in the fridge.
[more poems from this section can be found at kill author]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Rerick lives and works in Portland, OR. He is the author of In Ways Impossible to Fold (Marsh Hawk Press), X-Ray (Flying Guillotine Press), and morefrom (Alice Blue Books, Shotgun Wedding series). Work appears or is forthcoming in Coconut, Cosmonauts Avenue, Evening Will Come, H_NGM_N, Harp & Alter, Indefinite Space, MadHat, and Spiral Orb.
(Space Race) is the first section from the manuscript Communication of Space. The manuscript as a whole examines various forms of space, including outer, architectural (mostly urban), and personal space. At the time of writing I was inspired by many of the wonderful prose poem projects out there, including Stephanie Balzer’s faster, faster and wanted to enter, in part, the lyric “I” in a similar fashion. As indicated by the title, (Space Race) focuses much of its attention on the space race developed during and following WWII, but also considers all sorts of lived and historical space and those that help shape and communicate it. I have to extend my gratitude to Melissa Koosmann for helping me shape (Space Race) and Communication as a whole. Thank you.
Poems from Communication of Space can be found at: