Space Junk

Melissa Tuckman


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Everything my family ever threw away

floats in outer space, in the voids between galactic superclusters.

The apple core, the pizza crust, the Little Mermaid sippy cup,

the tarnished menorah, the Y2K survival guide, my brother’s orthodontic headgear, my

      sister’s starter violin—

all of it is somersaulting farther and farther away, through the so-called “cosmic


where there is no dust to eat away at objects, and other agents of decay are mostly


In a place without friction, our disposable, outmoded, and never-needed stuff

is tumbling at a steady rate, frozen and perpetually upended.

With grade-school arithmetic, I could reckon just how far my tie-dyed training bras

      and hemp necklaces,

my tree-frog earrings, my world-map placemat, and my tennis-ball keychain have


In the future, it may be possible to locate our far-flung garbage, collect it, melt it down,

      and turn it into fuel,

to power, say, an orbiter or a rover—or, better, a rescue vessel,

but for now, we must let our junk wander freely, unsurveilled, beyond even conjectural


In a self-expanding universe, the chances of anything’s colliding with anything else are

      always close to zero.

The agglomerated solid-ish bodies that we are, are trivial, spatially considered.

Still, my fear of vanishing is allayed, or diminished a little,

by the thought that possessions we once held dear, or didn’t, will continue on their


I like to imagine my doodled-in notebooks, my mother’s spent blush compacts, and my

      father’s old palm pilots

sailing past the heliopause, our arm of the Milky Way, and the Magellanic Clouds,

then leaving this filament of matter we’re stuck to, and part of, for a place above the


Out there, our things will keep going on our behalf, untethered and aimless,

long after our merely human bones have dissolved, or are buried in the sun.

Melissa Tuckman

is a

Guest Contributor for Panorama.

Melissa teaches courses in literature and gender at Rowan University. Her writing has appeared in several publications, including Litro, Tiny Molecules, Rust + Moth, and Feed.


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