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Our first attempt

The first animal to orbit the earth
Was picked from the streets of Moscow
Where it strayed in harshest conditions imaginable.
Yet it is not hard to imagine the animal imprisoned
In a vehicle floating in the freest space we know,
The animal banging its limbs
Against the walls of Sputnik 2 as it heats up.
Its loud barks trapped: a soliloquy
Becoming a final speech.
The undisturbed outer space in a sleep
Impenetrable by sound waves.
This is what it means to be loved and left alone.
Scientists on Earth monitoring its numbers
Until they fall to zero.
Some people say it is normal
For a dog’s fate to be controlled
By overpowering forces: natural or human.
Just as our fate is to be determined
By forces bigger than us
Like the one that propelled the bond you
And I nurtured, into certain death.
Some people say a failed first attempt
Is not enough reason to stop.
Some people say Laika’s death
Was for a greater good.


Mobolaji Olawale lives in Lagos where he tries (often unsuccessfully) to meet his target of at least nine hours of sleep every night. He was featured in Best New African Poets Anthology 2018. He tweets from @theBolaji.