By Hila Ratzabi:
SEDNA IN SPACE
“Our newly discovered object is the coldest most distant place known in the solar
system, so we feel it is appropriate to name it in honor of Sedna, the Inuit goddess of
the sea, who is thought to live at the bottom of the frigid arctic ocean.”
––Mike Brown, astronomer
Now you’re nothing
but a dwarf planet at the edge
of the asteroid formerly known as Pluto,
neighbor to demoted planet,
When the scientists ran out of Greek and Roman gods
they settled on you, “Big Bad Woman,”
as one tribe puts it.
You are made of water,
methane, nitrogen ice,
frozen all over.
It takes you
more than ten thousand years
to orbit the Sun.
I want to place a blanket
around your shivering surface,
tuck you in surrounded by stars.
Where I’m from, we’ve released
so much heat into the sky
it’s burning us back.
But I can’t turn up the heat
at your edge of the solar system,
can’t drag you any closer to the Sun.
From your corner the Sun
Is a wink of a star, so small
you could block it out
with the head of a pin.
Just look what a nothing it is
next to you, big girl.
“Sedna the Arctic Sea Goddess” was previously published in Alaska Quarterly Review and “Sedna in Space” was previously published in Narrative. These poems appear here today with permission from the poet.
Hila Ratzabi was selected by Adrienne Rich as a recipient of a National Writers Union Poetry Prize and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is the author of the chapbook The Apparatus of Visible Things (Finishing Line Press). Her poetry is published or forthcoming in The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, Narrative, Alaska Quarterly Review, Drunken Boat, About Place, The Normal School, H_NGM_N, Cortland Review, and others. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, and lives in Philadelphia where she founded the Red Sofa Salon & Poetry Workshop.
Editor’s Note: In Hila Ratzabi’s Sedna poems the Inuit goddess becomes a symbol of the trauma of climate crisis as explored through the lens of feminist response.
In “Sedna the Arctic Sea Goddess” we are introduced to Sedna’s creation myth. So, too, are we introduced to the misogyny and violence inherent in her tale. She is a “bitch goddess” whose father throws her to the sea and then cuts of her fingers when she tries to save herself.
In “Sedna in Space” we see Sedna rise again when a dwarf planet is discovered and named for her, but still she is “nothing / but a dwarf planet at the edge / of the asteroid formerly known as Pluto, // neighbor to demoted planet, / atmosphere-less, / stunted.” Through poetry, Ratzabi seeks to reclaim Sedna, to save her from the grips of oppression: “I want to place a blanket / around your shivering surface, / tuck you in surrounded by stars.” By shifting perspective, the poet empowers Sedna, making her grander than the sun: “From your corner the Sun / Is a wink of a star, so small / you could block it out // with the head of a pin. / Just look what a nothing it is / next to you, big girl.”
Want to read more by Hila Ratzabi?
Read recently published poems on climate change by Hila Ratzabi in About Place and Drunken Boat.
Learn about Hila’s poetry workshops in Philadelphia at The Red Sofa Salon & Poetry Workshop.
Purchase “Sedna the Arctic Sea Goddess” broadside (pictured above).
Purchase “Sedna in Space” broadside (poem above).
Purchase The Apparatus of Visible Things chapbook.