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Winter 2004

Space Dog

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I did not know
that no one was planning
to bring me back, either

—from "Laika," by Ben Florin

As if amazed it's his,
he holds his hand up
before the mirror, hand
too big now for the boy's
body, hand he's turning
slowly front to back
to front, then closes to
a fist he just as slowly
opens like an exotic
flower to its full extent.

The boy so newly merged
with the emerging man
it's hard to say what's boy
or man but for the eyes,
the boyish rapt confusion
in the look he looks
with at his mobile features
as he draws a blunt finger
over the shadow of hair
along his upper lip.

Shadow of hair in armpit,
crotch, voice deeper
than it was, then higher,
deeper, while the eyes
astounded, furtive, are the eyes
of someone who can not
quite wake up from the dream
in which he suddenly
discovers he is naked
among a crowd of strangers—

or like the eyes of Laika,
Soviet space dog,
in an old drawing
I remember, the stunned,
not yet distrusting but
no longer trusting look
from within the comical
glass bubble of the gawky
helmet tilted atop
the comical white spacesuit,

as the spaceship hurtles
out toward the stars, the earth
a star behind it, the earnest
dog eyes fixed on black
space like a door
the masters have walked through
and will return from, surely.
Surely they'll come to get me.
Surely they didn't love me
all that time for this.

—Alan Shapiro

Alan Shapiro’s most recent book, Song and Dance, was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2002.

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