From the Mythic Delirium Books archives
In the Astronaut Asylum
Kendall Evans and Samantha Henderson
Read by Kendall Evans and Samantha Henderson
“I gave my life to guesswork on the ambiguous hope the stars could be real” From “Asylum for Astronauts” By Bruce Boston & Marge Simon I. The Saturday Night Dance Come all ye to Bedlam Town When sun come up the stars go down When stars go down beneath our feet Then ’tis a merry time to meet In the Astronaut Asylum Events sometimes transpire As if on the second planet out From Aldebaran Ex-Astronauts are madmen They dream of decaying orbits And the passionate embrace Of isomorphic aliens The doors of the asylum Are like airlock doors Aboard a starship Or perhaps like wheeled hatches Between pressurized chambers In a submarine In the Astronaut Asylum Even the doctors and the staff Often believe they are on Mars Inhabiting sheltered underground corridors And cabins Or strapped in shipboard limbo Somewhere between the stars Two or three moons (Or four or more) Often orbit Above the asylum (Or below) The astronauts are falling, falling Into agonized writhing Within the sweat-soaked sheets And stiff cotton straight-jackets Of Interstellar Nightmares (& Yes, we perceive the weak ones On the far side of the bars; Sometimes they come for interviews During visiting hours) Some of the Astronauts Refuse to remove their spacesuits Even for the Saturday Night Dance & Oft-times when Earth’s moons align They dance upon Asylum ceilings II. The Asylum’s History I asked of one mad Cosmonaut: What is your wish? What do you want? “To travel faster than light speed Upon my sturdy Bedlam steed” Once upon a time In France, a hilltop monastery Remodeled During the early 1900’s Into an observatory The 21st century asylum retains The three distinctive domes Refurbished Minus telescopes The central dome is pressurized With an exotic atmosphere The star-farer who resides therein The only one who might survive inside— I know Because the other patients Told me so III. Theories of Madness Come, let’s go to Bedlam Street Star-faring ladies for to meet Who stare transfixed upon the glow Of Earthly seas above, below During Thursday’s group therapy session One of the west-wing Astronauts Advances her innovative theory: Here is the secret (don’t flinch While I whisper in your ear; you know, Despite that pinched lip, that glazed look You carefully cultivate, pretending that None of this has any, Anything to do with you), here ’tis— All go mad, not just the far-travelers, Not just those surfers of light-speed, Not merely those who’ve dared the wormholes, No— All. Somewhere out past the orbit of the moon Madness comes— Slow, mind, for those who think they travel safe, Travel sane and measured— Sometimes they die before the disease rooted deep Within them hatches, Like an alien egg Unleashing what into our minds? What fungus grows about our eyes Before we succumb? Live long enough, and it comes to this. The Cosmonauts in the East Wing Offer contradictory explanations Maintaining the human body Is like a SETI antenna Receiving messages From diverse alien civilizations Strewn throughout our Milky Way Galaxy, and beyond They fashion crinkled aluminum foil helmets To ward off the signals Shielding themselves From interstellar insanity And the maddening music Of the spheres IV. A Conversation With Your Uncle-Astronaut On Bedlam Row, in madman’s mire We orbit swift, a dizzy gyre Or bask in dying stars’ dim glow And dream of things you’ll never know Or maybe you are the Astronaut-Uncle, Visiting on the landscaped grounds At a picnic table In sunlight Out past the triple dome shadows During a moment so real (despite taking place within Asylum gates) You perceive each leaf of grass, Every blade-shadow As one of you turns toward the other And says: “Listen— After the last Apollo Mission I felt concerned Mankind had forgotten how to walk Upon the Moon—” One of you pauses, Contemplative of a cloud And the unseen daylit stars beyond. “Now, after being stranded on Ceres, After penetrating the surfaces Of Jovian moons And dancing upon Asylum ceilings, I feel confident One might step anywhere.” V. The Youngest Cosmonaut Come with me to Bedlam Row And see the mad go to and fro These Astronauts who only trust Their phantom bags of lunar dust One of the cosmonauts Is only 6 years old On the cusp Of becoming five Suffering from reverse entropy Ever since his final re-entry This is either gospel truth Or perhaps the staff Has confused him With someone else One of the orderlies Recently lamented: “Communication is impossible We record his words & Run the tapes backwards “But no one can recall: Precisely what was it he said In his reverse Russian When he last spoke to us Tomorrow?” VI. Epilog Three Cosmonauts Inexplicably disappeared During the recent solar eclipse & No one could explain The staff’s panic attacks Slip Bedlam’s locks, Hide Bedlam’s Keys; We’ll drown beneath These star-filled seas On nights when the moon is full The Astronauts stride Thru sparkling lunar dust Traipsing asylum corridor floors all aglow Leaving luminous footprints to follow
“In the Astronaut Asylum” and accompanying illustration first appeared in Mythic Delirium, Issue 20, Winter/Spring 2009. “In the Astronaut Asylum” copyright © 2009 by Kendall Evans and Samantha Henderson; Illustration by Don Eaves and Terrence Mollendor, copyright © 2009. Voice recording by Kendall Evans and Samantha Henderson, © 2010; all rights reserved. This poem and illustration may not be reproduced in any form without the authors’ and artists’ express written permission.