Starship Somatics: An Invitation

Author’s Note: The video is the poem: the experience of voice, light and shadow, the (virtual) touch of the water, moments of participation, immersion, etc. The transcript is not the poem per se; this text is wholly improvised. Until the moment that Charli and I hit “record,” I didn’t know what I’d be saying. This is an improvisatory poetic practice I’ve been engaging in since the beginning of the pandemic, and which I lead weekly through Movement Research. 


Video Transcript: Starship Somatics: An Invitation. An improvisation by Petra Kuppers.


Video Description: The film dances with a white queer cis disabled woman of size who moves freely and deliciously through an underwater landscape. Her blue-green patterned bathing suit floats around her form. She is wearing mirrored goggles that reflect the world around her. Please take full permission to close and open your eyes as desired and join the meditative journey.


Audio Transcript: 

Welcome, dear somanauts.

Let’s go on a journey together. And as we get going,

we’ll think about ways in which we can protect ourselves, and prepare ourselves

for our journey.

And to do this, I invite you to take a breath,

in your nest where you are right now,

and to feel gravity right now where you are,

to feel gravity inviting you to anchor on this Earth,

on the land that you are on right now,

as I am anchoring myself here right now on Odawa Territory.

With every breath, feel that anchor

as you’re being held

here on this land.

As you feel the weight,

and as you also feel how you are cradled

by whatever it is that you are sitting on, or standing on, or lying on,

just feel the material that supports you right now,

the material between you and the soil,

and just feel how it cradles you, and how gravity holds you.

And you are breathing, and you’re held.

And now let’s put on our space suit.

It’s right next to you.

Reach out and pick up the tiny space suit that you put into the palm of your hand,

and there is a teeny tiny little space suit.

And now you stroke it with your other hand,

stroke the space suit that’s in your hand,

and see it unfolding like a flower in your hand.

Unfold it, with every stroke, it becomes bigger and bigger, and look at the color, look at the color of your space suit.

What does it look like?

What color is right for you and your space suit right now?

What do you want to wear today?

Unfold it and move it from one palm to the other if that is accessible to you,

and feel the texture of this space suit.

What is the texture?  

Is yours silk or wool?

Is it a bamboo fiber?

Is it a man-made fiber?

Is it cotton, is it velvet?

Just feel it. Leather or pleather, or latex?

And feel it unfolding so you can move it from one arm to the other

as it becomes big enough to slip into it.

Let’s slip into it, and stroke it,

first over one arm, and then over the other arm,

whatever is accessible to you.

Feel it slipping onto your skin.

Stroke it over your torso,

over your sexual organs,

over your legs,

all the way down to your feet.

Stroke it up and down,

stroke it over your buttocks,

and up your back,

and all the way to your neck,

and all the way around your neck.

And now feel it, how it clings deliciously to you.

Feel its texture on your skin.

Touch yourself as far as that is accessible to you.

And feel your expanding chest with every breath touching the space suit.

Enjoying the delicious texture, seeing the gorgeous color.

Feel yourself supported just right, just how you like to be supported,

and enjoy your beautiful form.

As we are putting on our space helmet,

so that’s right next to you, pick it up.

Hold it in your hand, if that’s accessible to you, and then put it over your head.

And it’s a beautifully clear bubble, and you take a breath in it,

and immediately you activate the oxygen system, the air flowing through.

Close it into your space suit by touching your neckline.

And then take a breath, and feel the gorgeous air. Hmmm. Smell it,

is there a scent on this air?

Is it just the right level of humidity and dryness?

Maybe there’s a favorite scent on it, lavender, or clove, frankincense, or Palo Santo.

Whatever it is you would like to smell right now,

your space suit will provide.

And lastly, we’re putting on our space boots,

and the space boots only come in one color, silver metallic.

So take the boots right next to you, and as far as that is accessible to you,

put them over your feet. Pull them on, one, then the other.

Maybe you have Uhura’s boots, or maybe you have a ballet flat.

Whatever it is that you happen to have, that you want to have right now.

Moccasin or cowboy boots.

That’s what your beautiful space boots are like right now.

Ah, now take stock, you gorgeous somanauts.

We are ready. We are ready to leave this Earth space.

But before we do, let’s bow down, as this is accessible to you,

as you are lying, sitting, or standing, and touch with the palms of your hand, the Earth.

Touch it through the material you are lying, sitting or standing on.

Just bow down, and touch down to the land.

We’re only leaving temporarily.

And let’s use our hands to listen to the land here where you are.

Listen for a glimpse of its story. Listen if there is something the land asks you to take into space with you.

Maybe there’s a question.

Maybe there’s a drop of moisture from the nearest watershed.

Maybe there’s an insect or some other kind of animal.

Just listen, and then take a story of the land with you.

As you rise up,

and we begin to shake.

Let’s shake.

Let’s create some energy to get going.

We need to generate some energy to get us off Earth, and into space,

so I invite you to shake,

to shake your limbs,

to shake inside your beautiful space suit.

Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake.

Vibrate, vibrate, vibrate

however is accessible to you.

You can rub, you can rub, you can rub. You can create energy that way.

Create energy, energy, energy, energy, energy, energy.

Feel energy building in your body.

Feel the heat that we’re going to use to go out

as you’re shaking, shaking, shaking,

and we go

ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, and liftoff!

And there we go.

There we go, high up,

through the layers of the atmosphere,

through the changing of the light.

The colors changing

until we are in the comforting embrace of the blackness of space.

Comfortable and safe

as we are drifting free from gravity

amongst the stars.

As you tumble, as you roll,

as you enjoy your dance

in the comfort of black space.

With balls of light far away around you,

multiple-colored lights,

as you are in the embrace of space,

and with Sun Ra, we celebrate “Space Is the Place,”

as you are dancing among the stars.

Look at the lights,

find your parabola around them.

Curves and lines.

As you enjoy the speed of space,

as you breathe the air inside your space suit,

as you look with curiosity and love at the universe around you.

As you look back at the teeny tiny blue and green pearl out there in space,

your home, and then out towards the multi-colored planet and stars.

And as you’re drifting, and racing, and moving, and rolling,

and somersaulting, and enjoying the freedom of space,

you feel a pull, an invitation of one planet.

Just for you,

there is a pull, and you give yourself to that pull.

Follow it. And there in front of you is a planet of a beautiful color,

and it’s a planet of one of the elements,

and it welcomes you.

It invites you to a dance.

Follow the invitation,

and move closer to the planet.

See it become bigger.

See the element, is this a fire planet? Maybe of molten lava, maybe of flames? Is this an ice planet of crystals? Is this a vapor planet of fog? Is this liquid water? Or is this a planet of soil, or a planet of rock?

All kinds of elemental ways of being, which one has called you?

As you are drifting down to the surface,

and your space suit keeps you so safe,

and at just the right temperature.

As you find yourself held by the space suit,

and you are touching down on the planet,

if there is a solid surface,

or else, you’re hovering

deep in the embrace of the planet,

and you enjoy the movement patterns that your element offers you right now.

Wander the planet.

Enjoy the movement

that this planet affords you.

Dance with the element.

Move across the planet’s surface,

or through the planet’s ocean, or through the planet’s vapors.

Through the flames and through the ice,

whatever planet you’re at,

and enjoy the freedom of being hosted here,

of being kindly welcomed as a guest, as a visitor.

Feel the embrace of this planet, and the safety of your space suit.

And then ahead of you, there is a creature of this planet,

and the planet creature welcomes you, visitor,

and is happy to host you. And you say thanks,

and use your body to say thanks.

And to take up the dance invitation that the creature offers to you,

and you dance together.

Fast or slow, internal or external, you are dancing with this creature, your host,

in mutual respect.

And feel the emotions of being welcome, and of being grateful as you dance.

And then your dance slowly, slowly comes to a moment of being with.

And you can open your hand, and share with the creature the gift of the story of your land that is in the palm of your hand.

Share with them a little glimpse of that story of the land that you had gathered.

And maybe they will extend something, a tentacle, or a hand, or maybe an energetic pulse towards you,

and share something from their land, which you can graciously accept,

in deep thankfulness,

as you thank them,

and bow, and close this moment of guest and host,

of being with.

As we move back,

you find yourself leaving the planet, hovering upwards,

saying goodbye with your whole body to this place that has hosted you.

Feeling yourself rising up and up,

and then you flicker your eyelashes, one, two, three.

Just flicker your eyelashes, one, two, three.

Flicker, flicker, flicker, and

you’re racing back through the comforting darkness of space.

You’re racing back, you’re racing back, you’re racing back, and there is Earth, there is Earth,

and you sink down.

You sit down,

you’re down in the space

that you’ve come from,

where you are right now,

and you flicker your eyelashes again, one, two, three, one, two, three.

And your space suit becomes a teeny tiny little pea again, all material, oops,

becoming a small little pea, a multi-colored pea, with your boots and your helmet,

and you can put it aside for your next journey,

as you take a deep breath,

and feel gravity,

and feel the land beneath you and the breath in you

as you feel gratitude for the journey.


Video Description: As a parting gift, an underwater shot of an exuberant brown dog swimming in an honor circle.



Codirected by Petra Kuppers and Charli Brissey.

Movement meditation by Petra Kuppers.

Camera and editing by Charli Brissey.

Gong by Stephanie Heit.

With thanks to Turtle Disco, the Croft Residency, and Movement Research.

Filmed on Lake Charlevoix, Odawa Territory.

An Olimpias Production, 2022.


You can read an essay by Petra Kuppers about this videopoem and its creation, “Starship Somatics: Disability Walking in Outer Space” at the Hopkins Review 16.3 (2023) as part of “Traversals: A Folio on Walking,” edited by Anna Marie Hong and Christine Hume.

Source: Poetry (March 2024)
More Poems by Petra Kuppers