Before we said
you're breaking up

I loved my walkie-talkie's
static song, dialed

placid satellites
where weightless

dogs barking
in Russian sipped

vodka through
barber poles

while all along
as Malashenkov,

late of the Institute
for Biological Problems

told the BBC
it was only Laika,

a brindled bitch
who strayed all the way

from Nevsky Prospekt
to the brazen steppes

past the Samoyeds
Albina and Mushka

sated and caged
in the simulator, taking

by twos the iron rungs
of the Cosmodrome

driven from earth
prone and chained

pulse unleashed
blood aflame, who

dead in the teeth
of orbit four

rounded the earth
three thousand more

then lit into sky
like a feral star

plumed, blind, newborn.

— Esther Schor

"Laika" is drawn from Esther Schor's second volume of poems, Protocol, which is nearing completion. The poem originally appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of The American Scholar. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Home page image: "Wegbereiter Ikarus," print, woodblock on paper, by Wilhelm Geissler, 1966. (Courtesy NASM)

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