Randell Cottage Writers Trust online poetry festival — Jo Thorpe

poetry day logo 2014 webThe Randell Cottage Writers Trust is marking National Poetry Day (22 August 2014) with our own online poetry festival, a series of poems by Randell Cottage poets (a term encompassing our residents, trustees and committee members).


Jo ThorpeRandell Cottage trustee Jo Thorpe is a poet, dancer, and dance historian. Her poems have featured in journals and anthologies. Her first collection of poetry, Len & Other Poems (2003), was written in response to the work of visionary kinetic artist Len Lye.


The scientists for orbital debris
are tracking some twenty thousand remnants
of hatch covers, launch rockets,
fragments of satellites colliding over Russia,
things which escape or have been dumped.
Another hundred thousand, a centimetre or more
are not yet being monitored.
In the photo they shine like stars – a kind of
prickly swaddle, pinpoints of metal
which because of their velocity
are capable of damaging
space stations, shuttles, any cosmonauts on board.

What this news tells me
is there’s a limit to the number of things which can orbit
other things. Lovers, for example.
The problem lies in deciding how many.
And how remove an object once it’s
reached the end of its mission? – the philanderer, say,
from the subject of his pursuit?
The good news is the debris doesn’t last
forever. There’s something about
the vigour of matter
lessening in the lower orbits
so the body falls back – like a thing exhausted,
like the feeling after sex as described in the books –
back into the ‘ruthless furnace of this world’
where it burns itself out, completely.

How the scientists plan to tidy up space
is by using weak lasers like water cannons
to push the junk closer to turbulent Earth –
where the striving goes on, as effortful
as elephants, a quality admired
provided you’re not versed
in the Japanese notion of the floating world
which has nothing to do with being driven.
Better the idea of launching
swarms of cubes – those foursquare things
nosy as an interested cop – which have
sails that will open, attach themselves to the miscreant mess
(though how they’ll do that, the scientists don’t say)
and spinnaker them
down to where they’ll burn.

What I want to say is,
if you unfurl your sails,
if you hunt for me in glamorous space,
don’t think I’m so small that I can’t
cause damage.

Jo Thorpe
First published Sport 40, 2012.
Translated into German and published in Neue Rundschau, Heft 1/2013