This poem was a finalist for Plough’s 2023 Rhina Espaillat Poetry Award.

The angle between the ascending node of an orbiting body and its periapsis, the point at which it is closest to the gravitational center of another body, measured in the direction of orbital motion. —Dr. Alice Gorman

We argued again today. This time? It might
have been a pot unwashed, or trash day missed—
I can’t remember—a stupid, pointless fight
as if controlled by some ventriloquist.

Slam door, start car, and leave, radio blaring.
On the highway, I head north, nowhere to go
but through the night sky, muttering and swearing.
I drive too fast to the next exit, then slow

and circle back.
Just barely healed, we’re shy,
quiet and tentative, making our way
together. Is there sound in space? We try
saying what we really mean to say.

I cannot travel very far from you—
yours is the body I am closest to.

James Ferguson, Distance Of Sun, Moon, & Planets, 1756. Artwork from James Ferguson, Astronomy Explained Upon Sir Isaac Newton’s Principles (London: Globe, 1756).