the museum of americana

a literary review

What Childbirth and the Moon Landing Have in Common — Poetry by Sally Ashton

Once the countdown begins, there is no turning back.

Such missions unfold in phases.

Both involve travel between worlds.

Both use the term “abort” if something goes wrong.

Someone’s life is always at risk.

Follow the protocols.

Every stage must succeed for a good outcome.

Both birth and a lunar landing can be monitored at a distance by teams of experts via beeping screens.

Both involve extremely cramped quarters.

A uterus is somewhat like a lunar module, carrying its passenger through space protecting it from an inhospitable environment.

An astronaut enters zero-gravity; an infant will leave it behind forever.

At some point, each lets go of all they have ever known.

Heart rates go up.

Violent movements occur, like a ride on a giant roller coaster.

Under 10,000 pounds of thrust, the lunar module pitches and yaws, shaking like a tin can.

My mother said giving birth felt like someone pulling a suitcase out of her.

Neither the astronaut nor the fetus can survive the journey without an external life-support system.

Though astronauts have simulators to prepare them for what to expect, once the hatch opens, both humans enter realms they can’t control.

At a certain point, all anyone else can do is watch.

A moon landing delivers a human body to the boundless dark of outer space; childbirth pushes a human body from darkness into blinding light.

Both arrive in alien worlds and require constant protection.

With childbirth, water cushions the departure. With the lunar spacecraft, water cushions the return to Earth.

Descending from the craft, the astronaut stands, tiny against the curvature of the enormous moon; the infant, tiny astronaut, curls against the mother’s breast.

You will never remember what it was like before either event occurred.

The face of the moon, the face of the mother, forever changed.

The footprints never disappear.

 

~~~

Sally AshtonSally Ashton is a writer, teacher, and editor in chief of DMQ Reviewan online journal of poetry and art. Publishing in three genres and specializing in short forms, she’s the author of 4 books including her latest, The Behaviour of Clocks, (WordFarm).

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