Thursday, June 7, 2012

Happy Endings

Lately, I've been working on poems that have been influenced by Russia.

I'll end up telling you more about this in the future, i'm sure.....

But not too long ago I was writing a poem about the famous Muttnik Laika.

On one of my last days in Moscow, i saw on the news that they had made a statue of the 13 pound furball and placed it in a place of honor by one of their goverment buildings.

It was kind of a big deal.

The Russians very-very much hold a reverence for Laika, after all....she is the only living creature that has been sent into space with no hope of returning.

Many Americans and Brits have pointed fingers in the face of Russians as a whole, feeling that the sacrifice was barbaric and unwarrented.

Truth be told.....most of the Russian science team and project workers would agree.


But we live in a world with countries, religions and politics.

These components can almost always gaurentee sorrow.

The bottom line is after Sputnik #1 made the first space flight.....Nikita Khrushchev refused to take his foot off the pedal.

Khrushchev was hell bent on seeing if the Russians space craft could house a beating heart.

The scientists worked around the clock to slap together some Jimmy Rigged space contraption, but with a limited window of time, they didn't have anyway to put together a ship that could resurface into the atmosphere safely.

The scientics were sick about this. They loved Laika and the other Mutts they recruited from the Moscow dog pounds, often times they referred to them as their voiceless children.

Anyways, it was really important to me to capture the sorrow of the Russians who were forced into this horrible situation.

So like so many other hacks.....I too wrote a Laika poem.

I wrestled that poem like the Arch Angel Michael wrestled against God.

But finally I had my poem finished and sent it straight over to Finley.

I don't recall exactly what he said, but let me loosely paraphrase......

"Well.....well, it's pretty entry level for many reasons. Number one....if you are going to write about a historic event, just remember....we already know the story. We already know the outcome. so you have to approach common themes from uniques angles. Also, how did you end it? didn't you have the dog burning alive in a tin can? You never want to close a poem by putting your reader in a position of suffering. Don't make them regret that they invested the couple minutes they did to read your piece.

Instead, be clever, be curious. This is a big topic, but If I were writing it, I'd end the poem with the children laying out on the driveway or back yard hugging and petting the mutt."

WOW......I mean it, what genius.

Closing with explosions, death or suffocating hope in not only uncool, it's entry level.

I took Finleys suggestion, rewrote the piece, and within weeks it was published in a national poetry magizine.

This would have never happened if I didn't take Mike's strong advice.

So with that said, sit back...relax and enjoy -


Laika heard the children laughing
From what appeared to be a distant room
The most beautiful sound she ever woke to

When Victor brought her home from work last night
And took her straight to bed
It seemed natural to assume they were alone

Fraternizing was considered unprofessional
But this secret would remain safe
By this time tomorrow she would be gone

Boarded onto a tin can
Filled with rocket fuel and no parachute
All the more reason to break protocol

This is why the entire science team
And the launching crew
Held their tongues and looked away

While Victor escorted her
Off the project site
So her last day of freedom

Could be spent outdoors
Getting belly rubs
From his daughter



  1. And this was your invention, not mine, the "dying arc" of the poem's shape on the poem, like the trajectory of hardware falling from space.

    You did what you wanted to here -- tapped gently on the mass grave of all the dear little ones.

    we heard that poet at the u Club last month -- she wrote very vividly, and horrifyingly, about the suffering of animals -- like the little girl sewing the falcon's eyes shut. You do a ton more here with this sweet small picture of hapless love than all that operatic bellyaching will ever accomplish.

  2. You've got me flipping through the archives. What I said wasn't as good as what you remember me saying:

    Idea: end with the kids rubbing the dog's stomach in the driveway. Leave us joyful for that dog's day of happiness. Embed all the horrorshow stuff earlier in the piece -- but do it coldly. If you cry, no one else will cry.

    1. That is what you said. Good memory. And yeah...sewint the falcons eyelids shut still gives me nightmares.