by Oliver Smith
Ship’s mind condenses in your body; she
catches you dreaming of forbidden worlds.
Your soul is solid state, your flesh in stasis,
your mind plugged into the spacecraft’s
You say, “I just can’t sleep.”
Ship says, “…You’re kidding?
We’ve a hundred and sixty years to go…
and technically you are dead.”
A fly to her spider; Ship dangles you
on an umbilical in the antifreeze. With each
pendulum swing she returns to fix another
Ship tells you, “we are moving
at ten percent of the speed of God.”
A virus, a billion years from its star,
is looking for a new world. The last
of its species, just a spore
in lonely migration.
“Kinetic energy increases
with square of the velocity.”
This means that, when Virus hits Ship,
Virus explodes like a bomb.
What goes on in Ship’s biomechanical skull?
Her mind is dislocated by vast distances
aglow with fire.
“Decease immediately,” Ship says,
“return to the land of Nod, east of Nowhere”
The friction of the almost-vacuum has
Ship’s metal skin white hot, smoking, and spilling
into the night. The nothing here is thick as water.
“So close now,” Ship says, as the future-stars
turn blue and past-stars turn to radio waves
and space laps about you like an ocean.
You thought the cold made you slow
but the velocity makes you slower.
Up ahead your destination; an open throat
is swallowing the universe; a black pit
in the fire.
Ship prays, “The path
of the righteous is like the mourning sun.”
Oliver Smith is a visual artist and writer from Cheltenham, UK. He is inspired by the Tristan Tzara, J G Ballard, and Max Ernst; by frenzied rocks towering above the silent swamp, by the strange poetry of machines; by unlikely collisions between place and myth and memory.
His poetry has been published in ‘Abyss & Apex’, ‘Alchemy Spoon’, ‘Ink, Sweat, and Tears’, ‘Strange Horizons’ and ‘Sylvia Magazine’ and has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
In 2020 Oliver was awarded a PhD in Literary and Critical Studies by the University of Gloucestershire.