Katherine Fallon's heartbreaking poem, "Voyager, -Bound, Father," featured in our 7.1 Issue, is a dense and moving tapestry of grief. The speaker's reverence for the subject, a father who has passed away, is braided into each line. It is an absolute pleasure to read, re-read, listen to, and unpack.
As the poem opens, Fallon creates a mood of childlike wonder that is sustained throughout the poem (even though the first words indicate the subject is an "Old man"). The speaker wishes to realize her father's childhood dream: to journey into space. She explores this idea with a playfulness that stands up to the melancholy of the poem, with the imagery and rhyme of "your bones buoyed, seeming not to know / each other, never having met" and "When you let go, you'll sink / down low. You’ll rise, too, like a cream top." These images so originally illustrate what he'd experience, floating through the weightlessness of space.
In the final couplet of the first section, the speaker ties her subject to Voyager, creating a metaphor between this father who is no longer living, and a space probe that orbits our universe. This is her dream for him— if he isn't here on earth, he should be out exploring planets and stars.
The tone of the poem shifts in the second section to an ode, a reverential catalog of lack. The father is, at once, multiple and absent. He is "the ghost elephant, / the vacant boat, the spot on the wall / where a portrait used to hang." She continues with what seems at first to be exaltation, but, on second glance, is really a continuation of all the ways she finds him gone: "You are the cockless dawn, the cloudless / sky," until he becomes a representation of destruction: "black-hole material: / demoted planet, imploded star." This is the speaker cycling through grief: simultaneously processing that her father is gone, while also feeling his imprint on everything. In the final image, we are left with a daughter who continues the traditions around their shared fascination with space: ``I wake / because you told me of landings."
Katherine Fallon's "Voyager, -Bound, Father" is a beautiful poem that is only made richer by listening to the author's reading of it. It so poignantly captures the disorientation we feel when we lose someone important, especially when reminders of them seem to be everywhere.