First Generation: The Miner Writes Home to His Grandmother Regarding His Upcoming Wedding

T.D. Walker

First Generation: The Miner Writes Home to His Grandmother Regarding His Upcoming Wedding


Here there are hundreds                     not in part but the whole
maybe thousands of things                 like a river
you’d say no to, like me                      like sea billows
just sitting here, waiting                     whatever my lot
for all the kids to be                           when sorrows
born to all of us who chose                 well
to leave home. We make                    the sky
lists of all the things we need              it is well, it is
to teach the littlest ones                     well
when they get where they need          with my soul
to go to. How to dig, mostly.              with my soul–
But also how to think                         oh, the bliss
about rocks, about mountains,            my helpless estate
what’s in them. What they say            trials shall come
no to. This asteroid we’re in               control
didn’t say no, and I suppose               that has regarded
the planet the last of us                     above me
will get to one day can’t                     in death as in life
do much more than give                    a river
in to what we’ve passed                     a sea billow
down—                                            a song in the night


At first, I told her no,                         assurance
I didn’t want her                                descending,
painting me. She said                         this is my story:
she’d paint me in a boat.                    all day
Like I was escaping.                           from above
People die in mines,                           in song
on boats, what difference                   in story,
does it make? People                         watching and waiting.
die leaving home,                              all is at rest,
and sometimes, they die                     of mercy,
staying in it.                                      a submission.


I wish the first payments                    fixed, this floating ball, and
were bigger, the one                          who saved you,
for signing up, the other                     ye heirs:
when we launched.                            let fall
This one should be good,                    ye morning stars of light
“to be paid on marriage.”                    ye ransomed
Give us a year, and we                       seed, go spread and
will send you one more,                      let fall–
the biggest one of all,                         ye chosen
“on the birth of your first                    incarnate
child.” You’ll be free                           martyrs
to go. There’s debt to place,               who fall–
there’s debt to everything                   every tribe and every tongue
we say no to—                                  shout this universal song


She knows plants, the way                 I’ll be called.
you know them at home.                   they shall rise
She’d have known them,                    up yonder,
the ones in the church,                      when time shall be
all over the pews and the altar,          when morning breaks
weddings and funerals,                      the dawn till setting sun:
Easter and Christmas                         when all life is over,
and Easter again. They die,                the dead
she says, and we grind them              on the other shore
up into something useful,                   eternal, bright and fair,
like this asteroid. She says                 let us talk
she knows the scientific                     bright and cloudless:
names of them now.                         time shall be no more.
There will be a preacher,                   I’ll be
and one of the other miners               there–
will stand by me, one will walk           home.
her down the aisle. Not                     let us labor
a church aisle, really, but                   let us talk
what we’re calling a church.              our work on earth is done:
I don’t know if there will be               chosen ones, gather
flowers or not.                                 for a home beyond the skies–


I’ve thought about striking                 water not rock
metal against hard metal.                  let me hide myself
I’ve thought about what it means       when my eyelids close
to change the shape of things.           and behold
How when you go, when all               in my hand
y’all go off to wherever you go,         the wounded side
when the town finally dies                 let me hide myself
from no one being in it,                    cleft for me
how then you’ll have to think                      make me pure
about what your new house will        forever
look like. How you’ll make it                       not
yours by shaping it into something    myself
it never should have been.               when I rise to worlds unknown—


Author’s Notes: The right columns are quotes, often out of order, from the following hymns: 1. “It Is Well with My Soul,” 2. “Blessed Assurance,” 3. “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” 4. “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder,” and 5. “Rock of Ages”

T.D. Walker is the author of Small Waiting Objects (CW Books, 2019).  Her poems and stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Web Conjunctions, The Cascadia Subduction Zone, Luna Station Quarterly, and elsewhere. She draws on both her grounding in literary studies and her experience as a computer programmer in writing her poetry and fiction.

Editor’s Notes: An abstract cosmic image ( and an enhanced image of an asteroid-mining spaceship (solcommand design model) complements Walker’s experimental poem—a cleave or diptych poem—which is about much more than a wedding on a lonely outpost in space. Perhaps, like the opening poems, it is a quest for the true meaning of life and for who we are.

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