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A Kiss in Space
A Kiss in Space



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A Kiss in Space

         That the picture
      in The Times is a blur
   is itself an accuracy. Where
this has happened is so remote
   that clarity would misrepresent
not only distance but our feeling
   about distance: just as
the first listeners at the telephone
   were somehow reassured to hear
static that interfered with hearing
   (funny word, static, that conveys
the atom's restlessness), we're
   not even now--at the far end
of the century--entirely ready
   to look to satellites for mere

         resolution. When the Mir
      invited the first American
   astronaut to swim in the pool
of knowledge with the Russians, he floated
   exactly as he would have in space
stations of our own: no lane
   to stay in, no line to determine
the deep end, Norman Thagard
   hovered on the ceiling something
like an angel in a painting
   (but done without the hard
outlines of Botticelli; more
   like a seraph's sonogram),
and turned to Yelena Kondakova
   as his cheek received her kiss.

         And in this
      too the blur made sense: a kiss
   so grave but gravity-free, untouched
by Eros but nevertheless
   out of the usual orbit, must
make a heart shift focus. The very
   grounding in culture (they gave him bread
and salt, as Grandmother would a guest
   at her dacha; and hung the Stars
and Stripes in a stiff crumple
   because it would not fall), the very
Russianness of the bear hugs was
   dizzily universal: for who
knows how to signal anything
   new without a ritual?

         Not the kitchen-table
      reader (child of the Cold War,
   of 3x5 cards, carbon copies,
and the manila folder), who takes a pair
   of scissors--as we do when the size
of some idea surprises--and clips
   this one into a rectangle
much like her piece of toast. There:
   it's saved, to think of later.
Yet it would be unfair
   to leave her looking smug; barely
a teenager when she watched, on
   her snowy TV screen, a man
seeming to walk on the moon, she's
   learned that some detail--

         Virtual Reality or e-mail,
      something inexplicable and
   unnatural--is always cropping up
for incorporation in what's human.
   What ought to make it manageable,
   and doesn't quite, is the thought
of humans devising it. She'll
   remember Norman Thagard in June,
when the Mir (meaning Peace: but how
   imagine this without agitation?)
docks with the Atlantis (meaning
   the island Plato mentioned first
and which, like him, did not disappear
   without a splash), to shuttle
the traveler back home--or

         to whatever Earth has become.



A Rainbow Over the Seine

Noiseless at first, a spray
of mist in the face, a nose-
gay of moisture never
destined to be a downpour.

Until the sodden cloud
banks suddenly empty
into the Seine with a loud
clap, then a falling ovation

for the undrenchable
sun--which goes on shining
our shoes while they're filling
like open boats and the sails

of our newspaper hats
are flagging, and seeing
that nobody thought to bring
an umbrella, puts

up a rainbow instead.
A rainbow over the Seine,
perfectly wrought as a draw-
bridge dreamed by a child

in crayon, and by the law
of dreams the connection
once made can only be lost;
not being children

we stand above the grate
of the Metro we're not
taking, thunder underfoot, and
soak up what we know:

the triumph of this arc-
, the dazzle
of this monumental
prism cut by drizzle, is

that it vanishes.

Excerpted from A Kiss in Space by Mary Jo Salter. Copyrightę 1999 by Mary Jo Salter. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.