Laika Frank Paino First dog to be launched into low earth orbit, Sputnik 2, 3 November 1957 Because she’d gone unbroken by three years on Moscow’s barren streets, she’d proved her will to survive simply by surviving and so was chosen for a kind of brute salvation, a halfway gift whose bad conclusion was already written in a lack of funds and time and the keen knowing, like something obscene shouted through cloister halls, there’d be no way to take it back. And so began fierce weeks of acclimation: each cage smaller than the last to accustom her to stricture, the relentless gyre of the centrifuge, and crude machines to simulate the cacophonous dirge of ignition, shrieking metal, everything it would take to lift a thirteen-pound mongrel into history. He called her “Little Curly.” “Little Bug.” As if naming the doomed, taking her home one night to play with his two bright-eyed daughters, could make the great burden of her death a lighter thing to bend beneath when it came time to tighten the harness just once again and no more, to hold her in waiting three restless days within that aluminum tomb where she could stand or lie but never turn, and late October’s chill settled its silver pall while the red-lit counter counted down. Three days and, finally, ascent— three anxious hours back on Earth before they saw her heart’s green tracery slow again to nearly calm while the unshed core quietly kindled its black wick inside the polished dome. Listen, there is no other way to tell a thing that has no mercy in it: she burned up from the inside. Fevered. Frantic. Blood-boiled. Six hundred miles between herself and solid ground. And there’s no faith to be placed in the weary myth of sacrifice; no way to make right the trust that was betrayed— the muzzle and fragrant paws and mad tongue of it— how she was thrust into weightlessness, into the useless memory of steady hands, of the man who spoke softly, who turned, at last, from the wild extravagance of the round and riveted window about which he’d been so adamant, as if she might somehow savor the breathless view, the spinning blue that beckoned like a ball tossed into a street she could only return to in flames. Frank Paino has published poetry most recently in Catamaran, the Chariton Review, and Crab Orchard Review. His poem, “Litany of ‘The Most Beautiful Suicide,’” was a finalist in the 2017 Atlanta Review International Poetry Competition. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a Pushcart Prize and a 2016 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. Laika appears in our Winter 2017 issue.