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Poems in Space II


Continuing from last month, here are two new poems from Poems in Space. In these poems, I introduce the two characters from the book, Saffa and Aleste. They are the two narrators, friends from a young age, who set out on a long mission with a crew to chart solar winds. The book switches between their two perspectives as they encounter problems that test the limits of friendship. Aleste speaks in poetic lines, whereas Saffa always speaks in prose.

If you take a fancy to these poems, you can read my previous work in Idyllwild Dreaming, or take a gander at my two poetry books.

Trips to the Moon

On its lap, the exhale of water
shrouds the planet in peach and gray.

I come from mountain people.
Our craggy tempers smooth
to obliviscence
with age.

These mountains
under cloud
are young.

The SHIP mechanism counts
the seconds to debark.

A quick slingshot
around a rock:
to the moon and home
like clockwork.

It’s the run we’ve settled for.

The dream of motion
unnerves me.

Like a whip, we are carried
like bodies broken against
a shore.

The horizon dwindles,
the planet the color of
machine and sea–

the white and the gray
that taunted pilgrims to steal it–

I can feel cold grains in my
teeth & ears
polishing me.

The Gap

0. Aleste

We’re done with moon runs.
The back and forth wore us
like paper dresses
until we could see
through our own skin.

One more trip, she said.

With our reputation, I had
to beg.

So I begged.

I scored a solar ship,
the Breath of Cecilia,
a deep-exploration
of the solar mantle.

The second pilot’s seat
was a wound I didn’t

Youngest flier
in the Southern district.
First private contract
space hauler in her city.
A tangle of ribbons
that she could wear
in like roses in her hair.

I. Saffa

On this mission, I sit in the second pilot’s seat. Like a sham doctor, I am expected to hold at bay the blood which is always, always seeping out. There is a rip in the console. I hide it with my hands when the crew gathers. I give the adjusted coordinates and wait for Course Correction. Needless to worry. The tear is inert.

On night shifts, I probe the gap for structural weakness, signs of stressors, the whisper groan of metal giving way. The pinhole leak that could turn us inside out.

A monster stares out. Its hands are dribbling ulcers. A red, throbbing aperature into violent space. The ichor of its face crawls through the dark joints. Calcified and gagging, violated thing.

Monster, let me name you in the light.

II. Aleste

Her word was a blood contract.
The baby-faced Med
couldn’t coax her from that crawl.

The Smokey Mountains
made her pride like dirt:
only rich enough
to grow poverty.

Her cultivar
was a seive.

Warm affection
drained out:

gushing from
the iron gall
she carried in her lungs.

Could her hands be enough?

Could it
be enough?

Illustration by Tracy McCusker.

Tracy McCusker

Tracy McCusker is an artist / writer from Southern California currently working as a freelance graphic designer.

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