Eternal Engines of Dreadful Will

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

degraded cell.

                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.

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