2017 International Speculative Poetry Day: Remembering Laika

Happy International Speculative Poetry Day!

This year, November 3rd coincides with the 60th anniversary of Laika’s historic mission into outer space. (That’s 420 in space dog years!) She advanced Earth’s knowledge and paved the way for space exploration and much of our modern world today.  Several of our SFPA members recently shared poems inspired by Laika and our canine companions to mark the day. A special thanks to them and Dr. Suzie GeeForce for illustrating the occasion! You can also find additional poems by our members in our list-serv. Enjoy, and feel free to add your poems in the comments below!

Laika Tanka
by F.J. Bergmann

only hours out
as the capsule overheats
Laika’s whimpers die
then the signal of her heart
silent snow between the stars

A Haiku
by Colleen Anderson

The dog barks loudly
ghost bones give no nourishment
time to kill something


art by Dr. Suzie GeeForce

Space Dogs
by Ann K. Schwader (first appeared in Mythic Delirium #25, 2011)

We sent the ones who looked like us.  They sent

the ones who loved us cave deep, who defied
the moon’s far mockery with voices bent
on claiming it as prey.  Of course some died
starting that hunt for all of us – but when
we waved down from a conquered rock at last,
a thousand howls forgave.   Our greater sin
was going on without them, monkey-fast
& clever-handed, desperate to be first
until the training wheels fell off in flight,
reducing our  ambitions to a burst
of bitter stardust swallowed up by night.

Years now beyond that We or They, the scent
grows cold as moonlight on a trail so faint
imagination fails.  Yet those who went
before us all still bay the dusty taint
of footprints on a stone we once called ours,
& pant impatiently to chase the stars.


Laika, Muttnik
by Marge Simon

There was a command:

Khrushchev demanded another flight
before they’d ironed out the bugs,
a dog would suffice to appease him.

There was perspective:

They chose a mutt off the streets
because strays survive in extremes
of temperatures and conditions.

There was empathy:

“I wanted to do something nice for her:
so I took her home to play with my kids.
She had so little time left to live,”
said the leading scientist.

There were the facts:

For political reason, it was a lie –
she didn’t live for six days
she died within hours,
her death was not kind.

There was the reverence:

Over two decades later,
the truth was made known,
so not without guilt, Moscow
paid her homage in stone.


The Social Evolution of Semargl
by Melanie Stormm

Pass from black into
black, through the siren call of
fire, of companions;

first a wolf crops the
edge of our fires, birch smoke, what
we hunt, we share. Then,

as Laika cased in fuel
and flame, beyond our finger-
strokes, a cold frontier.


Pavlov’s Menagerie Ruminates
by Bryan Thao Worra (first appeared in On the Other Side of the Eye, 2007)

Well, better this than life

In an electrified rat cage,
Hugging Harlow’s wire mothers,
Getting stuffed in Schrödinger’s lethal boxes
Or getting launched into low orbit

To bathe in cosmic rays for the Kremlin
Because I couldn’t sign fast enough
Or cuddle a kitten in front of a camera.

Navigating the thin-walled maze
Between best friend
Or mad moments like Cujo

I’ve still got most of my original equipment.
I’m fed.

One ring, and my belly goes hollow
As the average human soul.

Lately, I gnaw on memories more than substance
But I’m still not a sheep,

And no one begs for my vote.

4 thoughts on “2017 International Speculative Poetry Day: Remembering Laika

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