The Moons of Pluto

Rebecca Lehman

I don’t even know who I am anymore. Dog at my feet. Sunlamp blasting my face. Beethoven on headphones. I’ve never owned the sun before. Who has? Maybe a moon of Jupiter. Io? Calamity? The moons of Uranus are all Shakespearean characters — tragic dead ladies and mischievous satyrs. Not one of them named Fool, though that’s Shakespeare’s most common character, the daffy living tarot card who speaks truth in riddles. I have never owned the sun before but before I had one son I dreamed another. Before my son was birthed I dreamt myself a mother, I dreamed uncovered though in the night my feet lipped the edge of the blanket I burrowed into. Here comes another moon of Saturn though this one’s just letters and numbers — a scientific code — misshapen satellite, lumpy rock not worth a name. In my own moony face I see two craters, I see two eyes. Where are my satellites? At night I dream I have long hair and am pregnant again but not worried about it though if I were pregnant again I think it would kill me, almost 40, exhausted, endometriotic, and a year into a pandemic. What about the moons of Pluto? Does Pluto have moons? Yes, and of course they’re all named for under- worldly things. I have a second cousin named Persephone, who had the most beautiful long black hair when we were kids. I coveted that hair, her beauty. Just a few years older than me, she orbited her grandmother’s house, dark and mysterious, a can of generic soda in her hand, then, suddenly married young and pregnant. What if she’d gone to the underworld? On that side of my family everyone has beautiful black hair but not me. Pluto gets moons. Our moon doesn’t have a name, beyond Moon, like how my daughter names all her dolls whatever they are. Her stuffed puppy is Doggie. All four of her babydolls are Baby. Is Doggie a girl or a boy, I ask her as I tie a ribbon around its neck as a leash, not a noose. She says, No, that’s Doggie. It’s the second week of remote classes. A lot of snow falls and the temp drops. I sign in to teach to rows of black squares. Everyone’s camera’s off, but my students still want to tell me about their boyfriends, their mothers, their brothers, their coming out, they want to talk about feminism, and I love how teaching like this feels like hosting a call-in radio program. Though I am tired. My back aches. My eyes water. Am I alone? I am taking a lot of medication so I don’t cry all the time. The sun slices off the snow. It is not coming to catch me nor can I catch it. Before I left New York state I went to a bar and someone had graffitied Andrew Marvell’s poetry in a bathroom stall– though we cannot make our sun stand still, yet we will make him run. It was probably one of my students — where else would someone in Potsdam, New York, read metaphysical poetry? I have never owned the sun. I cannot catch the wind, though my dog snarls and tries to bite it when it ruffles her fur. Each morning I wake up. I put on Rondo a capriccio, Rage Over a Lost Penny. My son has started bedwetting out of the blue so there’s that to clean up. There’s the dog to let out. My daughter who throws her diaper in the laundry hamper and I need to catch that so it doesn’t explode in the wash and make a mess. Good morning, life. I am here. I am taking a lot of medicine so I don’t leave you one day when I’m sad, when the sun is bully riding across the sky, fists balled. When my eyes are all moons, drunk and quartered, halved, new, named after seasonal activities, look at them collecting, like pennies, like fish scales, like neon threads that fall from my children’s socks, like my cousin Persephone collected beauty, like the real Persephone collected soda pop tabs in the underworld to cash in for school funding so she could learn engineering and tunnel home, or elsewhere. When the moons come, I will be in my tunnel in the snow, a child on each side of me, my dog at my feet — where’d she come from?– the February air a cold hand pressed against my chest.