Plain China

Sestina of the Missile JFK

by Alice Ju · Harvard University
"Old Man Feeding Birds", Daniel Mrotek · Columbia College

You skitter mad,

Jack,

misguided ballistic

with a lazy left eye and your high-pitched

whine of a fuselage dripping

coolant immediately crystalline to leave your flicker-

 

trail in the stratosphere. We watch you flicker

by again across our televisions tonight, nomad-

ic the way we could never be boxing up our palace of refrigerated paint-drips.

Here on the couch we commune with you, Jack,

you blockhead, in thinking there is more than adamantine space garbage in the pitch-

black, and going ballistic

 

among the weird, ancient, stars and ballistic

vibrations of the kinds of true science we flick

through at breakfast, in magazines, trying to figure the evolutionary origin of teeth. Pitch

us another perfect white orb, drive us just mad

enough for the American past-time of jack-

hammering detritus and patenting the feeling like the flotsam-feeders we are, dripping

 

with pride like the crackle-pop of your cassette tape voice box which, yet unfinished, drips

school glue at the slightest oscillation. Perhaps, then, it is for the best that the intercontinental ballistic

missiles went unfired, although they were undeniably shaped like lightning bolts, you genius, jack-

booted thug. One flick

of a switch would have made uranium boom towns of all our vacant lots and cataclysmic mad-

houses for our traveling salesmen pitching

 

themselves asunder, who now, door-to-door, sing slightly off-pitch

and only of you. And so drippily

we venerate the one who, barreling upward, kept us safe, like the one who made

glow-in-the-dark, the one who made stars. And so though the ballistic

reports came back conclusive the thought might have flickered

quietly across the Midwest like the seconds before snow that you would come back, Jack.

 

Jack,

our idiot savior, for whom we flock to where cities fall dark as pitch,

where constellations flicker

most conspiratorial. Come morning, we will read the greatest story ever told on cereal boxes, dripping

milk from our chins because ballistic

means moving under the force of gravity only. You skitter mad,

 

Jack, throw us a wink. Drip

us another pitch, plans for a new kind of ballistic

to a new shape of moon, and we will flicker to you, madly.

About the Author

Alice Ju · Harvard University

Alice Ju is a philosophy concentrator at Harvard University, where she enjoys writing poetry and humor. "Sestina of the Missile JFK" first appeared in The Harvard Advocate.
About the Artist

Daniel Mrotek · Columbia College

"Old Man Feeding Birds" first appeared in Hair Trigger