Before the launch,
the mission scientist bathed her,
dabbed her with alcohol and bruises of iodine.
He kissed her nose.
She had played with his children.
In photographs, the hatch is open and she is posed,
or is posing, one ear folded, the other heavenward.
At launch, the saucer-sized porthole fogged with her panting.
For one hundred and sixty-three days after my father’s
thirteenth birthday, her corpse circled the earth.
By the 2,570th orbit, my mother
had toddled for the first time,
the dog’s skeleton ship winking from above.
Zhuchka, little bug, so far from Moscow. Limonchik,
chained to a satellite, a blip in the firmament.
Kudryavka, little curl, the mongrel cosmonaut.
Laika, they called her, dog.