A Bitch in Outer Space
(03 11 1957)
Engendered by the revolution and
sacrificed for its anniversary—
the date had to be marked magnificently.
A cosmic broadcast of the International
did not seem sufficient.
We’ll send a dog into the heavens!
We’ll combine man’s and earth’s satellites
into a cosmic union,
Sputnik’s radio signal replaced
by the beating of a heart.
Heard the first time by the whole world,
the second—by Soviet equipment.
The common mutt had to be white—
to be better visible in the cosmic darkness.
Curly was renamed Barker.
But Laika’s cosmic wail wasn’t heard for long.
She overheated and died within a few hours,
baked by the engines and the radiation.
For seven days TASS reported good health, then:
“Oxygen ran out.”
A space coffin
circling Earth 2570 times.
Death as an imperial satellite’s technical glitch.
For some reason they call Laika a hero.
Every bitch is a big man!
One of about a dozen, she beat Mooch
(legs too short) and Albina,
who was supposed to fly, but Laika
looked better in photos and on TV.
Only bitches were in the running—
being less encumbered,
they could just squat
(try explaining that to guys in trolleybuses).
The chosen one was prepped for travel by Dr. Ada Kotovskaya—
a secret feline revenge?
The road to the cosmos is paved by bitches’ bones.
The Americans chose their animals
based on similarities; for the Russians
the dog had to have heart:
they accustomed her to the red light,
then hurled her, drooling, up to the heavens.
It was not Bulgakov's but Pavlov’s dog that set the stage
for Laika’s flight.
The four-legged cosmonaut—
a pioneer of human progress,
an unburied victim of science,
Laika the stray was turned
into postage stamps, souvenirs,
and even cigarettes.
Every citizen could smoke
the loneliest dog in the world
each time anew
in the name
of the revolution.
Translation by Karla Gruodis