Time Capsule and International Space Station: Two poems by Tonya Northenor



Time Capsule

“All of human history has happened on that tiny pixel, which is our only home.”
– Carl Sagan, speech at Cornell University, 1994

Buried in a small patch of the universe
it rusts and decays, the treasures losing value,
losing nothing.  Time splashes past
like whales breaching and comets singeing.

Someone has taken care to label, to cherish
what has thrived here, what will never
be recreated elsewhere or again.  Folding it
to just fit inside this blue-green vessel.

Tucked here are temples and tigers,
dandelion puffs and mountain snowcaps.
Little boys throwing sticks in a stream.
Women clinging to umbrellas in a storm.

Yet dynasties have splintered here
and great towers with glass eyes stare.
Canopies swarm with fading life and cemeteries
grind to dust.  Tulips next to terror.

Divided by a great wall and invisible hemispheres
impossible to grasp how small and rare this prize.
Tiny as a grain of wheat in a vast field
or a glassy sand-speck glinting on the shore.

In some era, long to come, will this capsule be
kicked over, a half-buried opal in the dark loam
of space?  Perhaps examined, hands mindfully
polishing back the luster, and re-packed with care.


International Space Station

Curling across the night sky, a stick
in a current, balloon on a breeze,
too soon out of sight.

I imagine the people inside that star,
a collaboration of mismatched capsules, where borders
are inches apart, non-existent.
Experiments recorded, data shared.
Astronauts strapped to the wall, resting
while their bright world
revolves with the black of space.

The planet’s storms and chaos
are marshmallow fluff,
a bee bending a clover blossom.
No fires or tanks. No dusty roads to the dump,
no earthquakes or tourniquets.
The domestic flurry of life and death news
filtered and sterile there.

Yet there are also no swing sets,
no sticky baby-faces or rising dough,
no purple weeds, streetlight glow,
or blue-brown Robin eggs.
I picture it pristine, crammed but bleached
of messy life.

In the moonless dark, my feet in the dew,
my clenched fingers lift in a tiny wave.
A blown kiss of dandelion floss,
a wish for what they see:
this turquoise lantern, strung on the black,
lit again and again against darkness.

Tonya Northenor lives on a fourth-generation family farm in the Ohio Valley of Kentucky with her husband and sons.  She teaches college Composition and Literature. Her poetry has been published in a variety of journals including Appalachian Heritage, Calyx, The Southern Indiana Review, and Earth’s Daughters. Her work has also appeared in anthologies such as Mamas and Papas: On the Sublime and Heartbreaking Art of Parenting and From the Other World: Poems in Memory of James Wright.

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