Venus and the Ark By Anne Sexton

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  1. FlamingFeenix

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    [fieldset=Venus and the Ark by Anne Sexton (1928–1974)]The missile to launch a missile
    was almost a secret.
    Two male Ph.D.’s were picked
    and primed to fill it
    and one hundred
    carefully counted insects,
    three almost new snakes,
    coiled in a cube,
    exactly fifty fish creatures
    in tanks, the necessary files,
    twenty bars of food, ten brief cures,
    special locks, fourteen white rats,
    fourteen black rats, a pouch of dirt,
    were all stuffed aboard before
    the thing blasted from the desert.

    And the missile that launched
    a missile launched out
    into a marvelous scientific balloon
    that rolled and bobbed about
    in the mists of Venus; suddenly
    sank like a sweet fat grape,
    oozing past gravity to snuggle
    down upon the triumphant shape
    of space. The two men signaled
    Earth, telling their Continent
    VENUS IS GREEN. And parades assembled,
    the loud earth tellers spent
    all fifteen minutes on it, even
    shortened their weather forecast.
    But rival nations, angry and oily,
    fired up their best atom blast
    and the last Earth war was done.
    The place became crater on each side,
    sank down to its first skull,
    shedding forests, oceans, dried
    dones and neons, as it fell through
    time like a forgotten pitted stone.

    These two men walked hopefully out
    onto their hot empty planet
    with machines, rats, tanks,
    boxes, insects and the one odd set
    of three almost new snakes,
    to make the tests they were meant to do.
    But on the seventh month the cages
    grew small, too small to interview,
    too tight to bear. The rats were gray
    and heavy things where they ran
    against wire and the snakes built eggs
    on eggs and even the fish began
    to bump in water as they spawned
    on every side of each other’s swim.
    And the men grew listless; they opened
    the pouch of dirt, undid each locked bin
    and let every creature loose
    to live on Venus, or anyhow hide
    under rocks. Bees swarmed the air,
    letting a warm pollen slide
    from their wings and onto the grass.
    The fish flapped to a small pool
    and the rats untangled their hairs
    and humped over the vestibule
    of the cramped balloon. Trees sprang
    from lichen, the rock became a park,
    where, even at star-time, things brushed;
    even in the planet’s new dark
    crotch, that air snag where snakes
    coupled and rats rubbed in disrepair,
    it grew quick and noisy with
    a kind of wonder in the lonely air.

    Old and withered, two Ph.D.’s
    from Earth hobbled slowly back
    to their empty balloon, crying alone
    for sense, for the troubling lack
    of something they ought to do,
    while countless fish slapped
    and the waters grew, green came
    taller and the happy rats sped
    through integrated forests,
    barking like dogs at the top
    of the sky. But the two men,
    that last morning of death, before
    the first of light, watched the land
    of Venus, its sweetless shore,
    and thought, “This is the end.
    This is the laset of a man like me.”
    Until they saw, over the mists
    of Venus, two fish creatures stop
    on spangled legs and crawl
    from the belly of the sea.
    And from the planet park
    they heard the new fruit drop.[/fieldset]

    Anne Sexton, “Venus and the Ark” from The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Copyright © 1981 by Linda Gray Sexton and Loring Conant, Jr. Reprinted with the permission of Sll/Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc.

    Source: The Complete Poems (Houghton Mifflin, 1981)
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