Posted on December 19th in REACH Blog

PTK Poet Goes to the Moon

Mariana Orrego Serna, whose poem is going to the moon

When Mariana Orrego Serna opened an email that read, “You’re going to the Moon!” she entered a state of disbelief.

“I was seconds from deleting the email, when I read the word ‘poem’ in a quick glance,” Mariana said. “So, I continued reading, and it said ‘You’re going to the Moon! Well, to be more precise, your poem is.’”

Following her mother’s death, Mariana had stopped submitting her poetry for publication, so she was surprised by the email. However, she remembered that in 2022, she had challenged herself to submit one poem. Consequently, she submitted a poem to The Polaris Trilogy published by Brick Street Poetry, and it was selected.

The Polaris Trilogy is an anthology of poetry from all over the world. Brick Street Poetry publishes it on Earth, and a future NASA flight then takes the anthology to the Moon to become part of the Lunar Codex.

“I had no idea this was a submission specifically commissioned to go to the moon or anything special,” Mariana said. “I just could not bear feeling like my will to write poetry was slipping away and I convinced myself if I submitted just one poem, I would convince myself writing was not dead for me, just taking a break. What a heaven-sent gift to hear my poem is going to moon, when I was on the verge of quitting my dream of making writing an important part of my professional journey. This news felt like the biggest hug from my mother reminding me that I promised that I would always keep writing.”

When she realized the enormity of the news, she ran to tell her father, a fellow poet, that his and her mother’s last names, Orrego and Serna, would live with hers on the moon for millions of years as part of the Lunar Codex.

The Lunar Codex is an archive of contemporary art, books, music, poetry, and film, launched via NASA’s Artemis partners to the Moon. It also acts as an out-of-this-world library or museum of a sort.

The New York Times describes it as “a time capsule of human creativity, stored in the sky.”

According to the announcement sent to Mariana, the contents of the codex will be readable by the astronauts who visit the Moon for exploration or as a stopping point on the way to Mars. Furthermore, the poem will be protected from radiation to be preserved for millions of years.

The three sections of The Polaris Trilogy all have poems in the mother tongue of its poets and separate themes. Mariana wrote her poem to fit the theme of ice, wind, and fire.

Her poem, which she titled “Iceberg pillows and an avalanche of satin sheets,” was selected to be sent to the moon to represent Columbia.

The poem was published in The Polaris Trilogy on January 23, 2023. In 2025, the poem will travel to the moon on a Space X flight.

Iceberg pillows and an avalanche of satin sheets

I reach for your hand & grasp the arctic abyss.

You greet me with a freezing pat,

sending chills through my back like a blizzard.

My sweat is now snowflakes accompanying me

in the absence of your embrace. 

We have woven a divergent track,

skating on thin ice, and walking on eggshells.

One wrong word or move

and this delicate layer cracks, dividing us worlds apart.

Focus on the cracks to watch the suspenseful split.

Let us gather ice and avoid the avalanche

from the hasty hellos and generic goodbyes

and warm it up to heartfelt hellos and graceful goodbyes.

If we add some 

honey, we could have it all.

Both tossing and turning,

nothing breaks the ice.

The pillow separating us, is the tip of the iceberg.

We are afraid to move it to realize what hides underneath 

and its unbearable weight of unmet desires.

Everything we share seems to be interposed by the thick tundra ice.

Our embroidered pillowcases, like two heaps of snow

detailed with our initials in cursive,

a reminder that our only common thread is our last name initials.

Our shared hidden fantasy: to have sleepless nights and undo frostbite.

Every frigid night, we coexist with 

arctic foxes, hares, and wolves.

Only finding consolation in wrapping ourselves

in the warmth that tomorrow we could melt the ice.  

If we rewind, make our flame reignite.

Soft, satin sheets we wrap ourselves in like a chrysalis

protecting us from the insulting Winter.

Soft, satin sheets we will not need when

we show each other our newly found wings

forged in fire and set to flight by the mist of the past icy blast.

This poem was first published in The Polaris Trilogy in 2023. A reading of her poem can be found here.

While this is her first poem exiting the earth’s atmosphere, this is not Mariana’s first published poem.

Mariana also had poems published in the 23rd and 24th editions of Phi Theta Kappa’s literary anthology, Nota Bene.

“My heart goes out to the team of Nota Bene for helping me dive deeper into writing and keeping my dream to be a writer alive,” Mariana said. “The efforts of the editorial staff and everyone that keeps Nota Bene up and going make such a difference for us creatives!”

The New River Anthology of Coastal Carolina Community College previously featured Mariana in four editions of the anthology.

Additionally, The North Carolina Poetry Society, which promotes poetry in the state and celebrates the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poets Series in North Carolina, published five of her poems in Witness: Appalachia to Hatteras, a sponsored collection of poetry.

She also published two poems in Spanish in her father’s poetry book Petalos y Cristales.

The news of being published in The Polaris Trilogy lit a creative fire in Mariana. She is independently publishing four poetry chapbooks based on the seasons: Wilting in Winter, Seedlings of Spring, Solstice Summer, and Auburn of Autumn. Mariana released Wilting in Winter on December 20.

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