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This poem is part of our 2016 fund drive bonus issue! Read more about Strange Horizons' funding model, or donate, here.

Content warning:

you are there by the side of the road
where pavement becomes gravel
like the end
of civilization
order bleeding
into chaos
society debasing
into savagery
you are there by the side of the road
where the wild things grow
and I'm sitting here with a camera
in hand, a forensic scientist
curious about this body
that's your body
and how it argues itself
into speaking in tongues
and we're both a little wild

but once we were born
from electricity
and heat
and in the summers we'd turn on
the A/C
before we opened the windows
because we didn't want to let the insects
in, we barred nature and our natures
and sat at the table with silverware
we couldn't be bothered to polish
and drank coffee in the mornings
and tea in the afternoons
and coming home at night was carved
by headlights
and the sound of pulsing
on the driveway
and the burr of an engine being muzzled
by the garage
I'd count the sound of your footsteps in the dark
before you opened the door
the cats mewed a greeting while I stayed silent
with my feet on the couch and a scroll
in my head
words I pretended to mean
but I didn't need to read
because I had it memorized
how was your day?
how about our night?
let's forget the machines
at our door
let’s tune into another
report from space
I don't want to know the news of the day
with the accidents and
rebellions, the rally cries
falling down from the sky
and one government or another
being overturned and overthrown
you're home
let’s be selfish and free
it's easy to pretend like conflict is only
what they say in the stars
bookending commercials for biogenics and
legal pharmaceuticals
let's roll an old-fashioned
joint and go to bed
and smile a little like heathens
with smoke and an open door

that was us
before we took a different road
and the car rolled over
and the doors flung out
and both of us soared
through the windshield like meteors
and I remember thinking how I called this
a cage
you are there by the side of the road
and I don't believe in meant to be
my camera and I aren't that romantic or naive
don’t we make our own world?
didn’t we separate the earth
from the firmament?
we terraformed our emotions to each other
but none of it is meant to be
or all of it is meant to be
I can't believe we are that important
even if we are
under the sun and these blades of grass
murdering us in repeat
and the back wheel spinning like
it's still got somewhere to go
but I'm just taking pictures
of how your hair spreads out across the side of the road
reaching for me like it wants to grow
and we'll grow together
if I stretch out at eye level
your eyes are the same color
as the sky
like satellites
you're looking down at the world
peering into windows
reading the promises on the palm
of my hand
maybe this is what god sees
and why he can be so angry
because the road dust gets between my teeth
and swallowing the Earth is like
eating my own mortality

and I remember when we were safe
inside these walls
and death was just the next
door neighbor
playing loud music
at midnight
that we drowned out with love

Karin was born in South America, grew up in Canada, and worked in the Arctic. Her first novel Warchild won the 2001 Warner Aspect First Novel Contest. Both Warchild (2002) and her third novel Cagebird (2005) were finalists for the Philip K. Dick Award. Cagebird won the Prix Aurora Award in 2006 for Best Long-Form Work in English and her short stories have appeared in anthologies edited by Nalo Hopkinson, John Joseph Adams and Ann VanderMeer. Online she can be found at and @karinlow.
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