“The Lift Equation” by Alicia Cole


Alicia Cole

The Lift Equation 

ProSEDS was…designed to utilize the tether-generated current to provide limited spacecraft power.
It is intended that this information will be of use for future tether mission and experiment designers.

-NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center

The alchemy of aeronautics, as precise
as wheels. My mother holds the seal
between her teeth, bites down like a horse
champing. Here, the lab full of pulley
and release: silver poured, scraped down
and pressurized. My mother folds
a scrap of solar sail; the rope, uncoiling
snaps taught in the hands of a sailor
rowing to a vast, strange sea. Already
the road is magnificent. Already my mother
looks back, draws one hand sharply to
release the ship. Paper, it genuflects,
refolds, breathes space into the infinite
elements, turns nickel into gold.

After: funding is cut.

Tethered taut, my mother’s heart bundles.
Her findings packed, experiments whittled
down, many days past propulsion. The
popularity of science waxes and wanes.
Here: data passed delicately, a softly
breathing child. Now: gardening,
trajectories of space stations on the horizon,
granddaughters. Though waiting grows
interminable, her name rattles through the
textbooks, darkness on my mother’s face.

Time: onward.

There is a door opening. There is a
woman/man/child, a shoulder thrusting.
At the breathing entrance of space, the
explorer pauses, wiggles a booted foot
over the frigid maw of stars. When
she/he/it dives, movement from the
raised arms make a measurable arc. Light
sparks at each hinge of the waist. And
star ships, tethering sails toward the sun,
drift like languid otters on a stellar sea.


Alicia Cole is a writer and artist in Huntsville, AL. She’s the editor of Priestess & Hierophant Press, the Interviews Editor of Black Fox Literary Magazine, the Smashwords Manager of Femspec Journal, and an intern for 256 Magazine. She also writes for Funky Feminist.

Photo credit: IKAROS spaceprobe with solar sail in flight (artist’s depiction) showing a typical square sail configuration. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Andrzej Mirecki

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