Sarah Lindsay

Valhalla Burn Unit on the Moon Callisto

When Jupiter shields Valhalla impact basin
from the light of the small white sun
    and the streaming particles of its wind,
the patients who are able may come
    and linger in the courtyard,
with its soothing views of a thoroughly fireproof world—
concentric rings and ridges of ice and stone
    to the black horizon.
The patients move with exquisite care,
    never too close to each other or anything,
sipping bottled oxygen,
dressed, where they can be covered, in white
    cotton shifts and strips of gauze.
Even those with eyebrows and lashes
    appear to have two holes burned in their faces.
The doctors who watch them are not old,
    but their faces are slack and soft as worn denim.
Each qualified for this post by the loss
    of an irreplaceable love;
they aren’t homesick for an Earth they could ever go back to.
There’s room in them now for oceans of understanding,
and they see the use for severe burn victims
    of these conditions—
feeble light, mild gravity, ice-covered ground,
no touch of air to dread.
No atmosphere. That’s why the sky is black
    all day, which does tend to bother the nurses,
    the aides, the kitchen staff, the housekeeping crew,
    all of whom are encouraged to miss their planet
and, when they cry, are to do so hunched
    over sterile vials meant to preserve
the healing proteins found in common tears.



“Valhalla Burn Unit on the Moon Callisto” first appeared in Parnassus: Poetry in Review, Vol. 27 No. 1 & 2.