Outside the Infusion Center
Here’s another articleon the mysterious icy bodiesof the outer solar system;this time Ceres, which they’ve foundis pitted with cryovolcanism,pustule-like eruptionsof slow-moving iceaccumulating in placewith no weather or gravity to smooth them,and just like each time I readanother one of these articleson the particularsof our outer solar systemI feel overwhelmed by not justthe strange interest I have in there beingremoter landscapes than everexplorer on earth has flagpoledbut which still are of earth(since earth also meansnot just this, our particular planet,but any ground under sky),but the memoryof the first timeI found one, browsing on my phoneoutside the infusion center,waiting for my ride home,the grass and cigarette buttsthe crumpled Dunkin’ cups and the weathered Dunkin’ swizzersthe empty sugar packets the Band-Aid papers and butterflycatheter packagingclumped into homogenized little driftswhere some crabgrass had madea miniature seineof the neglected patchwork lawn under my feetall that varietynothing like the low-density slurryof simple carbon and hypersalinated H2Owhich makes up the surface of Ceresdwarf planet so far from the sunthat the rocks of the ground are not rock are ice only and harderthan what we call steel and purer, colderthan what we call ice, where overheadis not that Jersey too-much bleached-bluehome in July isbut justthe blank nothing vacuumof deep nothing spaceclose as an eyelash. I had to goto the infusion centereach day that yearbecause of a mysterious illnesswhich had come out of nowhere,pressed close, taken my shapefifteen years. I can stillfeel my bonesaching bluewith its power, my lips tightagainst the shiverswhich ranged in wide circuitsunder my skinlike hypoxiawas always beginning,never finding an end.I can stillfeel myself standing there,on the lawn by the curbthat afternoon, readingthat first article, feeling dizzy,waiting for my ride home,shivering fragileas a muslin curtainagainst the warm breeze,imaginingthe beauty of an icy shell covering liquidoceans, of their tides safefrom the limitless hunger of no-air at all,and then some kernel of warmthdown there, deep at the bottom,a geothermal pocket maybe, some giving riftwhere the frictional heat of the settling corevents some steam,some life-giving chemicals,into the ocean.I was lost, those years,to the endless exhaustiononly illness can bring,to an exhaustionso constant, so much deeperthan self isthat I was only a blank,and cold all the time, coldas if no sun shone for me, and my facewas the face of someone I tried like a ghost to inhabitthe rooms of, for my loved ones, like a ghost tryingto hold someone close with the warmth of their trying;and then, like turningaround, and findingyour own eyes staringback at youout of a mirroryou hadn't known was there,you hadn't knownyou'd walked past,I saw myself standingoutside the infusion centerentrance's windbreak corner,frail in the shade, but imaginingthose weird purple creaturesswimming down there, slow in the cold but not too coldfor breathing of a kind, suspended and shallowby our standards maybe, but a creeping slow metabolismin that deep thermal pocket, deeper than sightbut also deeper than the cold nothing pressing around Ceres is,above them a miles-thick shell of pure ice, inertbut protectiveof what may be living inside, may be findinga way to keep goingon their difficult out-of-sight circuitin the extreme outer edges of the life-giving heatour sun has to offer so abundantly here,on earth, where we live.
Copyright © 2019 by Stuart Greenhouse
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.