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StarLab

Jon Doughboy





In a portable planetarium called a StarLab in a gym in a school in the backwater burbs of western Maryland in 1989 there’s a kid sitting Indian style—not cross-legged, no, not like applesauce, they didn’t say that, then, they didn’t know better or they knew differently, perhaps that’d be more accurate to say, and the teller of this tiny tale prioritizes historical accuracy here instead of contemporary correctness and that’s their choice to make and maybe that’s a flawed choice but humans are flawed and this teller is human, all too and only, and this is about flaws anyway so the decision may be thematically-sound and all human art is in a way about the human condition which is flawed so if there are no flaws the work becomes inhuman, even anti-human—the kid is looking up at the artificial night sky projected on the ceiling and feeling snug and sleepy and curious and yes, Mrs. Bolster, feeling even a little awe, and in an observatory in eastern Oregon in 2008 there’s a young man on a date looking up at Jupiter feeling nervous and horny and excited and yes, a little awe, in awe of his date Kaity and the universe all around expanding, and in an unkempt yard behind a small ranch outside Jacksonville beside a playset in 2023, picking up discarded toys in a wobbly drunken arc and hearing from the open bathroom window his wife wrangling May, their willfully filthy child, into a bathtub, her shrill cries piercing the night, there’s a middle-aged man who only has the energy for one short survey of the skies but it’s overcast and there’s a lot of light pollution so he closes his eyes to the stars and the sky because he doesn’t feel snug or curious or horny, doesn’t feel awe, hasn’t felt awe for a long time and may never again, may have become permanently incapable of experiencing awe, deaf and numb to awe, so he quietly apologizes, addressing the backs of his eyelids, his inner selves, his memories, addressing his second-grade teacher Mrs. Bolster, his wife Kaity, their daughter May, even transmitting his thoughts through the telepathy of poetry and loss and longing to the tale-teller here, hello—sorry, the student the husband the father says/thinks/feels, sorry, sorry, because no, no awe, nope, nothing, because he doesn’t feel at all.

 

Jon Doughboy is volunteering at the Church of the SubGenius to ladle soup into the bowls of indigent poets who’ve just graduated with MFAs. Queue up for thin minestrone @doughboywrites

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