In Orbit

Poetry / James Hoch

:: In Orbit ::

Some days I want the world to be you sleeping on your side,
the world to seem itself, oscillating in the mirror of stars.

I want our son to come home from school and tell me he has not
rehearsed his own murder on the rank tile of a bathroom floor.

When I ask what else did he learn, he’ll say it was ice, huge
block killed off the dinosaurs, then off-handed, something about

the force of dark matter every 32 million years or so.
Some days I want the world to be less inevitable, less a bullet 

chambered in the rifle of a man who has chambered his rage,
less an orbiting body taking whatever the universe hurls.

It’s a hard ask, and who would I—the gods waiting to be gods?
The poets shrugging off their own beauty? Resistance is futile

say the aliens to the colonized before they are beamed into 
the dark hull of a silver ship to serve as intergalactic slaves. 

Do you see how we play history like an instruction manual?
How we yoke our days to the past and future and mule them

around all night? But this day, I take an axe to the recursive. 
I say our son does not die, the world is the ocean in your hair,

a peach one summer in Oregon, how clear-eyed we were 
watching the boy running in and out of the still cold surf.

From the writer

:: Account ::

It’s an inexcusable fucking shame that we live in a time when children are asked to rehearse hiding from a gun-wielding intruder as part of their school day. And there is this newer notion in astrophysics regarding a belt of dark matter that alters celestial bodies. Somehow the two entered my head in some relation. As a father and teacher, I get so overwhelmed with the weight of threat that I come home begging for release. I fear the internalization of catastrophe has become the norm by which we live. I fear the internalization of fear is a malformation of the soul. One gets tired of begging. One gets too angry to cope. Why not demand other? Why not resist?


James Hoch’s poems have appeared in The New RepublicSlate, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many other magazines. His first book, A Parade of Hands, won the Gerald Cable Award (Silverfish Review Press, 2003). His most recent book is Miscreants (W. W. Norton, 2007). He has received fellowships from the NEA, Bread Loaf, and Sewanee. He is Professor of Creative Writing at Ramapo College of NJ and Guest Faculty at Sarah Lawrence.