Size / / /

Feel how the walls freeze and can't breathe.

Absurd as children flapping arms, the alien spaceboats

cycle through the airlock. Confront the things. Speak

of safety, of this fragile sheath,

practicalities of gravity, and, afloat,

feel how the walls freeze and can't breathe.

Reply to their red and golden physique

of sly heat, their flickering tendrilled bloat.

Cycle through the airlock. Confront the things. Speak

of trade, the consequences of failure. Seethe.

Try sign language, semaphore, a series of notes.

Feel how the walls freeze and can't breathe.

Your breath, unnecessarily loud in your helmet, halts

in your throat.

Feel how the walls freeze and can't breathe.

Cycle through the airlock. Confront the things. Speak.




Joanne Merriam lives in Nashville with her husband, three rabbits, and a reproduction sword. Her fiction has appeared in Escape Pod, Brain Harvest, and previously in Strange Horizons. You can find her at joannemerriam.com.
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