Minor Planets of the Inner Solar System
David O'Connell

Minor Planets of the Inner Solar System

Overheated classroom, fluorescents  
buzzing drowsily, she’s telling them  
there’s always violence in the galaxy.  
In the beginning, violence, and science 
has tracked the evidence. In their text, 
there’s Uranus, off kilter, and Mercury  
scarred. Turn the page, and remnants 
of the proto-solar system still hurtle  
through vast and lonely places. We’re  
plotting their trajectories, she says,  
says if we had the speed and direction  
of every potential, then it’s possible  
we might save ourselves. Next fall, 
most here will be flung across the country 
by their ambition, scattered and pulled  
into ever tighter orbits—universities, 
then careers, then families, the future 
largely mapped by where they started 
and those who came before. It’s a miracle,  
of course, that we’ve survived this long,  
considering the shooting gallery 
through which we whistle in the dark,
to say nothing of those anxious nights  
Homo habilis kept watch by the fire.
When did one of us first imagine  
we could nudge away oblivion? Minor planets 
of the inner solar system, that’s what 
we’ve dubbed them. Twenty-three students 
in neat rows lean forward, taking notes  
about life’s gamble, the likely chance  
there’s one death out there, even now, 
predestined for them. There’ll be a test  
next Tuesday, she warns. The old gum 
stuck like barnacles beneath these desks  
once burst with flavor. The long arm
of the clock strains to lift the minute.

David O'Connell

is the author of Our Best Defense (Červená Barva Press) and has contributed to Cincinnati Review, New Ohio Review, Copper Nickel, Sugar House, North American Review, and other journals.