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sputnik 2

by Andrew Michael Roberts

say you've forgotten what forgiveness is. and then one night out late you happen upon an unconscious man in the road, and realize he is you, and god's flipped the capricious stars upside-down, and that latvian woman with gold teeth from next door who you blamed for last winter's laundryroom fire smiles fondly down, while her pomeranian licks you back from the grips of dark dreams.


it's september, the forest fires outside the city devour their half from the trees, while the smoke steals its half from the sky, and you sit in lawn chairs on her porch next to the fridge she unlatches to hand you a coke and a frozen package of corn for your face. and consider how kindness always comes as surprise, and why is that. and the smoke's made the big full moon go blood red.


the first earthling in space was a russian street dog named laika, who had no idea the hero she had no choice but to be. alone above everything alive, she went weightless, eternal. then burned up like a wick somewhere over antarctica.


what does this have to do with anything. now and then you wander into the mad dreams of others. and the world catches fire. and you burn in that mess, or get up and decide to forgive yourself right then and there. and to never tell anyone. and that makes it real.

Author's Note

I find it fascinating when an image appears in the mind but doesn't immediately find its way into a poem or story. Rather, it gathers itself into a ball in the subconscious and waits. And you carry it around for months. Then one day you find yourself writing up new lives for your neighbors, and the ghost of this little dog that's been rattling around the brain bursts suddenly out, barking in Russian her sad muffled song for the selfishness of humankind. That these images hold themselves in us, for us, for the right moment to emerge onto the page, makes me believe there is as much that is unknown to human consciousness as there is known. Which is exciting to think. So I finally got this dog out of my brain. Here she is, flaring out like a comet. So too those damn golden teeth, which keep appearing in my dreams: each one a dutiful, mute, gleaming member of my immediate family.

Andrew Michael Roberts is the author of something has to happen next, which was awarded the Iowa Poetry Prize. He has two chapbooks: Dear Wild Abandon, and Give Up, and is the recipient of a national chapbook fellowship from the Poetry Society of America and a distinguished teaching award from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. A cyclist and runner, he lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Sarah. You can follow Andrew at

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