Tomorrowland & Man’s Dominion
I think it is equal in importance to that moment in evolution when aquatic life came crawling up on land.
—Wernher von Braun on humanity entering space, Los Angeles, 1955–1957
Some days after work, I’d rent a speedboat
from Long Beach and hop it out to Catalina
for an evening dive. What a thrill every
time, the chill of sliding through blue skin,
descending down the long teal folds of fulgid
kelp. A bright humming brain of gold baubles
lifting braids to the sky like a praising willow
swaying in the sugared light. I was almost lost,
weightless and wondering through the ocean
with no one following me but the moon as it
rose to look upon its navel. Omphaloskepsis: to
consider the divine inside the belly. When Jonah
was ankle-sunk in stomach acid, he was learning
the volcano’s wrath that gave birth to land. I could
spend hours floating in the whale constellation,
that dark, starry sea of seas. The umbilicus of space
that ties us to the womb of ocean. I wanted a rocket
to break through the egg with its tooth, dislocating
heaven and earth’s denotations. When we first
fumble around in the moon’s cratered belly, what will
we call our new lexis? How will we learn to be in
the universe but not of it once we leave behind our
world? The mystical isn’t in the ecstasy of floating
through space, our fragile bones eroding, but in
bearing the burden of our attachment toward a
center. Peter met Christ on the water because
he wanted to be like him. I designed Lunetta to churn
out gravity for the future to meet the cosmic Christ.
And don’t tell me that man doesn’t belong out there [space]. Man belongs wherever he wants to go—and
he’ll do plenty well when he gets there.
―Wernher von Braun, 1958
Standing at the edge of the Yucatan
jungle, I felt an urge to just run
blindly into it. The adrenaline was like a
timpani drum roll, paving the entrance
for the brass. I hired a guide, and as we
pushed through curling palms, ferns, and
snagging vines, I swear I could smell the jaguar’s
urine on the trees it had sprayed, hear
echoes of the animals that had fled before it.
I could hear a mosquito filled with a pyramid
of blood. When we saw the jaguar,
I became quiet as space, holding every
sound against the butt of my rifle.
Like when I held the liturgy candle,
planning each step so I wouldn’t spill the wax,
trying to pretend no one was watching.
His fur was glistening jet oil, his gaping mouth
a range of snowcapped teeth. The God who
framed his symmetry pitch-dark dared to
lock my limbs into their grooves
as well. He meandered through the lushness as a black
hole against a canopy of stars, his gold eyes
moving like jumpy flying saucers
in a child’s sloppy flipbook. I aligned
the crosshairs half a meter ahead of him
and pulled the trigger like a prophet
releasing a message before the people were ready.
My throat felt as if I had swallowed too
much water. I strode through the mist
toward my trophy, the graceful carcass already
hazy with flies. I had my guide put it in the jeep
and drive me into town to have it skinned.