Transcription of Broadcast to Ross 128-B

por Stephen Eric Berry*

Dear Miss Dickinson,

Thank you for your last transmission – or should I call it a confessional? As I speak to you from a distance of 3.47 parsecs, I can't stop obsessing over how I'm going to have to wait another 22 years to hear your voice again.

Last night I dreamed about time. The dream's "myself" was bent on completing miniscule, everyday tasks with such absurd precision that time threw tantrums of acceleration. The hands of clocks spun into smudges. Disappeared. Tying my shoes, for example, took over one-thousand steps. Weighing in at 289 steps, the act of adjusting my collar seemed like a freebie. Corpsed after getting one shoe tied, I wandered the streets of Amherst. You would not recognize the place. Ground everywhere suffocated under sheets of Vesuvian grit smoothed into gray crust. Tourists loaded up with Dickinson shopping bags veered wide arcs around me, spinning into chirpy falsetto smoke. I arrived at your old house – not the one you loved on West Street but the creepy one. The one that killed your mother. I fell asleep in the garden. They've turned the place into a museum, complete with a headless and handless effigy of you clad in a replica of your mother-of-pearl house dress. Your bedroom is full of tourists gushing over the rose wallpaper and sleigh bed. And you, she, it, the phantom-effigy floats over the pine floor in comatose splendor. Across the hall in Vinnie's room, your fans crowd inside to play a Dickinson poem game installed in the wall. A circus crossed with an opiated taffy pull, the overflow crowd heads for your sister-in-law Sue's Italian Alps next door. Downstairs they sell postcards and "I'm Nobody" tee-shirts for $19.95. Everyone wants to play the piano, but it's roped off. A frazzled-looking woman gets up in my face, demanding I purge myself from the Sweet Williams. Fleeing sirens, I veer into the woods. But something seems off. I turn around and the phantom-effigy is following me, jerking along on its sorry gray felt pedestal. Behind the phantom is a trail of snapped ferns on fire. I approach her. The neck of the ghoul is twitching, as if she wants to direct my gaze to her dress pocket. I reach in and draw out a disarticulated envelope; it smells like ginger and molasses. The loopy bird-scratching reads: "Burn down the house." On the back side it trails off with: "First the contraption – then the Dress – then the House and all the [...]"


When you play, a vein

in the middle of your forehead

reddens and coils under

a chestnut burr. Color of your eyes

more than a sherry stain

in a party glass at Sue's, way

more. Like ravenstones

the hammers rise and tremor,

just before they fall. You

kick off your slippers, curl

your toes into Carlo's plush as if

descending a steep copse trail

under blue mimosa, past

the wizened eyes of geckos

sun themselves above

a roaming semblance of shore.