At Age 28, Chilean Astronomer Maritza Soto Has Already Discovered Three Planets

This poem takes its title from the headline of an article published by Remezcla 
on Sept. 21st, 2018.

Haloed by the glow of the multiverse swirling
above La Silla Observatory, your pyrex eye 
spotted an orb three times the mass of Jupiter.

                                   All these lenses leering at the heavens, 
                                   and yet it was you who identified
                                   HD110014C. You were reluctant to call

           it discovery, perhaps because you know 
           all too well what poisons gush forth
           from that word. Or maybe you suspect 

                                                         you are not the first because you 
                                                         know there is no such thing
                                                         as firsts. Still, you did what no 

gringo ever could: you made another world
visible to nosotrxs. Perchance it was HD110014C 
that actually recognized you long before your

                       spectroscopic lens detected her.
                       It might even be that she had already 
                       decided to entrust you with making

                                              her presence known to our kind.
                                              After all, you proved yourself more
                                              than worthy of such responsibility

when you said your
finding was “not
exceptional,” annihilating

                                   the misguided western patriarchal notion
                                   of greatness too many others have used 
                                   to boost themselves since 1492. 

                                                        You even confessed your introduction 
                                                         to HD110014C
                                                         was entirely an accident,

           a courageous admission that eclipses
           the bumbling arrogance of every Columbus,
           every Cortez, every Pizarro. From 300 million 

                               light years away you glimpsed 
                               another possibility, then befriended
                               two more exoplanets before 

your 28th year around
our lilliputian sun. You, 
sprung from a country

                                   crystillized in its mourning 
                                   of the disappeared, 
                                   met a glorious

                                                                     dawn and flash 
                                                                     fused to emerge 
                                                                     as one

                                              woman search party.
                                              Maestra Maritza, I know
                                              this goes against all

scientific wisdom, but I can’t help but theorize
that these three interstellar marvels you’ve pulled 
into our orbit have become a new home for those 

                       that collapsed into the event horizon 
                       of imperial cruelty. I like to suppose 
                       that our gente were never erased 

but rather beamed to a star system
that does not regard them as merely tool 
or trinket, a galaxy where their dreams 

                                                          are as important as those 
                                                          who dwell in some imaginary 
                                                          North. Could it be, Maritza,

that what you scoped out there among 
the shimmering Allness was in fact 
a reunion pachanga thrown on the gold 

                        dust rings of a wandering star where discovery 
                        is not a sword of Damocles but instead a feathered
                        reentry path for those who have been missing us.

Related Poems

Mail-Order Planets

In 1981, Eris’s spacious face hadn’t been discovered
yet, my mother hadn’t taken a day off from Fort Ben
yet, & Pluto was still a planet. One of nine celestial
bodies snapped into drummed orbits around the Sun
like the orthodontic rubber bands no one in Carriage House
had. I hid my gaps by not smiling, imagining an astronaut
future as sharp & fixed as a dentist’s smile—236 miles
above Earth where up & down are instructions instead
of directions. Behind a mirrored visor, the singing inside
my American-flagged extravehicular mobility unit
so robust it could keep a black boy from Indiana breathing
in outer space. We didn’t have any solar system models
at PS113, so I had to get my own. I dove into dumpsters
searching for cans & bottles under the OJ cartons & maggots
fat in swallows of juice. I dug through frozen dinner boxes
& apple cores shaped like moldy infinities, then foraged
the iced-out underpass—M&MKim painted in moon-
eyed red, then X-ed out with black paint by the time
the frost went away. I hunted the ice- & tire-clogged creek
where I would have spun the bottle with Cynthia
from science class if I wasn’t chicken. The A&P paid
by the pound & I dragged sacks stuffed with sand-filled
Schlitz & Tab cans around back where the braceface
sweating on the scale knew my game & paid me anyway.
Three months of collecting & I had enough money
to order our system from the back of a Star Trek comic—
all nine planets in adjustable orbits & Earth’s majesty
anchoring the third lane. The kid in the ad was as excited
as I was—waiting for the mailman every day after mailing
five wrinkled bills—but the solar system never came.

Second Law

Who was warned about these things:
the neverhush, the maddening chafe
sliding down a reddened bridge, print
disappearing            disappearing?

Who was told how to brook it?
The houndstooth stench of olding.
That time just runs itself out. That
we Sisyphus ourselves to glasses,
hobble wreckage down stair
after bricky stair. 

That once we leave home—its gaseous
oven—that once we walk the same slow
steps as our hide-and-seek sun that
once we face our anti-lovers’ anti-gaze:
bright, open, later, now eyes smoldered
coats swept open to flash our own
scarred bellies our own hot hands
ablaze with spent matches with burnt-out
love —

Remember love? 

How it loosed its jaw to our kisses?
How it unhinged us? How it tried us 

like so many keys like so many rusted
locks? How it missed its target despite its
kicking? How maybe its force could kill us?

Without it what’s left day after day
to trundle our legs? What’s left to push
breath ragged and torn from our lungs?

Who was warned
how these solar winds would leave us
brown and bruised as apples over-
-ripe host and blowsy      seed dis-
appearing     disappearing?

Were you?

Me too.

Of the Threads that Connect the Stars

Did you ever see stars?  asked my father with a cackle. He was not
speaking of the heavens, but the white flash in his head when a fist burst
between his eyes. In Brooklyn, this would cause men and boys to slap
the table with glee; this might be the only heavenly light we'd ever see.

I never saw stars. The sky in Brooklyn was a tide of smoke rolling over us
from the factory across the avenue, the mattresses burning in the junkyard,
the ruins where squatters would sleep, the riots of 1966 that kept me
locked in my room like a suspect. My father talked truce on the streets.

My son can see the stars through the tall barrel of a telescope.
He names the galaxies with the numbers and letters of astronomy.
I cannot see what he sees in the telescope, no matter how many eyes I shut.
I understand a smoking mattress better than the language of galaxies.

My father saw stars. My son sees stars. The earth rolls beneath
our feet. We lurch ahead, and one day we have walked this far.