By Tracy K. Smith
In those last scenes of Kubrick’s 2001
When Dave is whisked into the center of space,
Which unfurls in an aurora of orgasmic light
Before opening wide, like a jungle orchid
For a love-struck bee, then goes liquid,
Paint-in-water, and then gauze wafting out and off,
Before, finally, the night tide, luminescent
And vague, swirls in, and on and on . . . .
In those last scenes, as he floats
Above Jupiter’s vast canyons and seas,
Over the lava strewn plains and mountains
Packed in ice, that whole time, he doesn’t blink.
In his little ship, blind to what he rides, whisked
Across the wide-screen of unparcelled time,
Who knows what blazes through his mind?
Is it still his life he moves through, or does
That end at the end of what he can name?
On set, it’s shot after shot till Kubrick is happy,
Then the costumes go back on their racks
And the great gleaming set goes black.
I discovered this poem in a collection of poems entitled Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith; it is part of a much longer poem entitled “Sci-Fi”, which includes 5 very distinct (and quite long) poems. This poem could read like prose if we got rid of the line breaks. It also reads like the speaker could be talking aloud about her favorite movie and we just happen to be listening in. I’m a big fan of science fiction and have seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, so the references made in this poem were accessible; however, I feel that even without that background knowledge, the images created are still so tangible. For anyone who has seen this movie, the scene she is talking about is one that has been discussed and argued among movie critics and fans over and over again (Watch it here and see for yourself). It’s super abstract and to be honest, I don’t think anyone quite knows what to make of it entirely. But she takes that scene and recreates it for the reader using vivid images. She still acknowledges the mystery, but she doesn’t leave us entirely in the dark with even more abstractions. This poem makes me think about other famous scenes from movies, and how those can be incorporated into new art through poetry. It’s almost like a call and response; someone creates something, and then someone else is so inspired they create their own interpretation. It will definitely be something I’ll try out in the near future, whether it be a movie, image or song. I think it would be a good exercise in seeing how much of the original you take and understand, and how much of your own interpretation can be melded in.