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Editor’s Note: This poem is part of Strange Horizons’ twentieth anniversary special issue. Julia Rios was a Strange Horizons senior fiction editor from 2012 through 2015, and was one of the first voices of the poetry podcast, which began in 2013.


Opening remarks at the annual assembly of the Society of Wondrous Exploration:

We wish to curate a garden of stars,
wide and vast and free.
Give us no limits
save what we can conceive.

Those who built the system already in place have this to say:

We made the track
We chose the path
We did the work
We know the way

This is how you explore.

From the newer generation of engineers, a proposal:

We want to gather stars. Have we considered rockets? We believe there are many more things to see than the views from the observation car. Heck, what about hot air balloons? Check out this new perspective. We have an aerial view!

Train Song (official anthem of the Railway Association):

Rat-a-tat clack, rat-a-tat clack,
On the track, you see, on the track
With a firm and steady tack
Rat-a-tat clack, rat-a-tat clack
Chugging ahead, the engine stack,
Ever onward and never back
Rat-a-tat clack, rat-a-tat clack
On the track, you see, on the track

Complaint about the Railway Association by non-members who are super done:

They think they can take credit for work we did, for which they underpaid (if they ever paid), and they think people won't notice or care. WE ARE STILL HERE. #therailwayassociationiscancelled

Complaint to the Railway Association by a faction of the membership working for change from the inside:

The thing is trains run slow these days.
And they don't get everywhere we'd like to go.
We want to know what else is out there,
to learn what more we might be.

We are made of starstuff, we hear.
We believe all of us should be seen.

Word problem:

Two trains leave two stations at the same time.

Train A is traveling West at 75 miles per hour.

We made the track, we chose the path.
Young people have no respect.
Pullman. Pullman. Pullman.

Train B is traveling East at 90 miles per hour:

Rat-a-tat clack, rat-a-tat clack,
On our track, you see, it's our track
We drove the spikes while you sat slack,
Rat-a-tat clack, rat-a-tat clack
We made the track, we laid the track
It's ours, it's ours, we want it back
Rat-a-tat clack, rat-a-tat clack
On our track, you see, it's our track

When will the trains meet? Which side will brake first, if any?

Acceptance speech for a major rail industry award:

We'd like to thank everyone who helped us get here, and to say that Pullman was racist. We cannot support bad systems. We must depart for places heretofore unknown. The path to a garden of starlight and wonder is paved with the dreams of those who do not accept that traveling worn out routes on ill-maintained tracks is the only way. We are in favor of sustainable energy, bullet trains, rails to trails, community led options that do not uphold the grievous betrayals of the past.

Recipe found encoded in graffiti on the plinth where a monument once stood:

To grow stars, start with moon dust
Then throw everything you know away
The universe is much bigger than anything you can imagine
Further, it is continuously expanding

Regular brain:
We made trains. Trains are all you need. Trains deserve your respect.

Big brain:
The network of railroads is full of complex nuances and has historically been influenced by systemic racism. Respecting trains requires us to remember the workers who built them.

Planet brain:
The world is much bigger than trains. Go off the map. Include more people. Respect more people. We are made of starstuff as is everything on Earth. And in the universe.

Galaxy brain:
Space is made of trains.

Message from some wise elders, beamed off a satellite to the young engineers who are now traveling in space (on a train):

Curate a garden of stars,
wide and vast and free.
Accept no limits,
even what you can conceive.

Be ready to pass this message onward
as energy fades, regroups, and changes.
Your burning now will serve to feed
new wonders, more delights.



Julia Rios is a queer, Latinx writer, editor, podcaster, and narrator whose writing has appeared in Latin American Literature Today, Lightspeed, and Goblin Fruit, among other places. Formerly a fiction editor for Strange Horizons, their editing work has won multiple awards, including the Hugo Award. Julia is a co-host of This is Why We're Like This, a podcast about how the movies we watch in childhood shape our lives, for better or for worse. They've narrated stories for Escape Pod, Podcastle, Pseudopod, and Cast of Wonders. Find them on Twitter as @omgjulia.
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6 Dec 2021

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