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from FEED

Tommy Pico

Dear reader,

If it was going to happen it
would have happened by now right? So many ways
extraterrestrial love I mean life DOESN’T exist The unstable
axial tilt
of Mars probs why the atmosphere decayed What if, looking
into the bastion of other worlds Keplar and TESS and SETI and METI
tinkering roving for new
Earths to exploit
Kepler 438b its orbit hospitable for liquid
water, comfortable range of temperatures OH BUT WAIT—
it’s host star is faaaaar too temperamental, sends out regular flares
of overwhelming radiation. Life unlikely. Next planet. Organic
compounds passing like ships in cold, dark methane skies
What if this is the only outpost of life? Eukaryote precarity.

I knew from the beginning I wasn’t bringing Proxima Centauri b home mostly bc I’m sporting the largest chest zit (or chacne) in American history it’s painful and cystic and volcanic and disgusting like a pepperoni pimple in between my two nipples I look like the three-tit alien from Total Recall but he’s totally tall and striking with this long dark hair you just want to yank while he’s cracker jack hammering into you while making in his mind sincere eye contact and maybe even on the edge of blurting does it hurt? are you okay? which, don’t get ahead of yrself bud and it’s got you wondering does he actually have a small penis or is this an average sized dick on a jolly green giant but somewhere in the bar crawl in your new neighborhood bc you’ve had to move for the like 69th time in this metropolis for the rich stupid puke town that bucks stability like, well, a buck somewhere after the second Bells Two Hearted you realize two things 1) I’m not saying Proxima Centauri b is dumb I’m not saying you can hear the ocean He just doesn’t have much to say it’s like he makes an echo of himself so when I say “this bar is cute” he nods and says “this bar is cute” or when I say that summer I lived in Columbia once there was a rainstorm so severe “a whole hillside of people died in my sleep” and he says “a whole hillside of people died wow” and 2) Stellar wind hits Proxima Centauri b at about 2k times the pressure experienced by Earth so that plus the radiation coming off its red dwarf host star has completely blown its atmosphere away making the place completely uninhabitable. Next planet. 

The Earth Similarity Index (ESI) is a number calculated from an exoplanet’s radius, density, surface temperature, and escape velocity. It ranges from 0-1, and any planet above a score of .8 could be considered “Earth-like.”  So we find an exo-planet Luyten b. All these classifications telling us how it’s orbit is hospitable for liquid water, that it likely has a comfortable range of surface temperatures. Potentially a rocky world, around a quiet star not regularly sending out solar flares. Then it turns out his favorite book on OK cupid is Atlas Shrugged. Can’t do it sorry Next planet. 

It’s my third date with Wolf 1061c and I’m scrubbed head-to-butt because while there’s been backyard-bar heavy-petting and a make out sesh, we’ve yet to “do the deed” as the kids say and my real estate needs it and I have this thought while getting ready While exfoliating and pomading and cramming my hooves into the tight brown boots that python the shit out of my feet but turn every sidewalk into the runway of the century: this whole dating thing is actually great for me like, ritualizing “getting ready” the way I heart-eye-emoji’d my mom at the vanity fascinated at the magic of becoming the stepping-out version of yrself but then Wolf 1061c shows up rough, confessing that he was still hung over, weary-eyed, flecks of dried white spittle in the corners of his mouth It was really hard to get off the couch and come out here he says while we wait for the popcorn I have another thought: this whole dating thing is going to run my self-confidence out of town on a rail and to make matters worse he keeps talking about his perfect ex and his perfect exe’s perfect beard kind of looking into the buzzing subway light, far far away You see it turns out while Wolf 1061c is technically in the habitable zone around its star, it lies in the inner edge and is therefore tidally locked, one side permanently facing the star and one side permanently dark, which means the only place liquid water might exist is along the thin terminator line that is the suture of the dark side and the light and you know what? I’m just not about that stryfe. Next planet.

Tommy “Teebs” Pico is author of the books IRL (Birds, LLC, 2016), winner of the 2017 Brooklyn Library Literary Prize and a finalist for the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, Nature Poem (Tin House Books, 2017), winner of a 2018 American Book Award and finalist for the 2018 Lambda Literary Award, Junk (Tin House Books, 2018), Feed (forthcoming 2019 from Tin House Books), and the zine series Hey, Teebs. He was the founder and editor in chief of birdsong, an antiracist/queer-positive collective, small press, and zine that published art and writing from 2008-2013. He was a Queer/Art/Mentors inaugural fellow, 2013 Lambda Literary fellow in poetry, a 2017 NYSCA/NYFA Fellow in Poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts, was awarded the 2017 Friends of Literature prize from the Poetry Foundation, won a 2018 Whiting Award, and he’s been profiled in Time Out New York, the New York Times, and the New Yorker. Originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation, he now splits his time between Los Angles and Brooklyn. He co-curates the reading series Poets With Attitude (PWA) with Morgan Parker at the Ace Hotel, co-hosts the podcast Food 4 Thot, and is a contributing editor at Literary Hub.  @heyteebs