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When they chose us they told us

how from earth the Magellanic Cloud loomed

twenty times the moon

with a spiral arm that glowed

and spun silver.


We were five when we heard it,

our fingers pointing upwards

like compasses.


We spent bedtimes listening to stories of

Persian explorers. In the desert which once

blanketed Central Asia,

we imagined Azophi on camelback,

writing about the constellation in his

Book of Fixed Stars.


And in our dreams we rode

on an oaken boat with Vespucci,

who saw it and wrote a letter home,

said he’d seen three Canopes. Two bright,

one obscure; the cloud bright,

taking up a permanent space in our eyes.


After that,

they put leather notebooks in our palms,

telling us to write letters home too.


By eleven,

we filed into a glass cage,

with our fiberglass torsos

and fabric limbs.


Years passed, and one day

we woke to see the cloud

hurtling into our vision

and dropped all our pens,

which floated by our open fingertips.


As we fell into orbit,

we felt the tug of a foreign gravity,

and grew heavy again.


Our voyage ended,

a grey-haired professor

with a bleached aluminum coat

told us our last lesson.


Azophi was wrong,

and none of the stars in his book

had ever been fixed.


The red giant we circled

in that faraway cloud

rushed off with our years

into emptiness.


Every night after that

we counted the stars that were left from

the ship’s silent window.


Those candles in the night

pulsed and faded,

faded more as the blackness between them

stretched apart.


There will come a time

when even the explorers

have nothing left to record.


Tonight we will press our fingertips against steel,

feel them mold out this dark that only

grows while we sleep.

Ethan Chua is a Chinese-Filipino spoken word poet, physics nerd, and occasional shower singer.  He’s also the cofounder and literary editor of Ampersand, a literature and art journal for Philippine youth.  His work is either forthcoming or published in major Philippine newspapers, The Philippine Graphic, Moledro magazine, and Eunoia Review.  Read his work at
Current Issue
24 Jan 2022

Piece of my essence, accept my sorry.
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By: Katy Bond
By: Averi Kurth
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Katy Bond
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents the poetry of the 24 January issue.
Hope without action behind it is only a recipe for deeper heartache.
I love flash fiction for a lot of reasons. There’s the instant gratification of reading a complete work of fiction in just a few minutes. And there’s the way flash lends itself to playful, inventive experimentation with form, prose, style, voice, and subject. I also love the way a flash story can be honed and sharpened as everything extraneous is eliminated, and the way it can capture and convey the essence of something—an emotion, a world, a situation, a possibility, an idea, even a joke!—in brilliant brevity.
Wednesday: I am the Tiger by John Ajvide Lindqvist, translated by Marlaine Delargy 
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Issue 8 Nov 2021
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