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.