They often spoke of the seed
as they sipped from a dwindling supply of absinthe,
their words tumbling from absent-minded lips
into my hiding place behind the vent.
I was young in years but old enough to keep their
company, however furtively; a partisan
witness to the uneasy union of life and loss in their eyes.
I was a mistake, an unfortunate result of my mother's
refusal to live for the sake of being alive,
a victim of the fact that we are a long-lived race.
For we will surely be around until
we can be around no more;
we have already outlasted the others.
Our problem is the lack of space, the lack of
resources, the slow moving fever that clouds
the minds of those who look too far ahead.
You see, if what they tell me is true (and
believe me, I don't like to think that it is)
there is nowhere for us to go.
There is no "where" there anymore.
We fly in our network of ships among the cool
husks of planets, all uninhabitable.
We are reluctant tourists, agape at the spectacle
of stars turning in on themselves
in the desperate dance that signifies a loss
too great to name. Soon we will lack the capacity
to keep ourselves warm, to keep ourselves moving,
to keep our selves at all.
What we do keep are artifacts, as if
reflection and categorization will slow the inevitable.
As if material reminders of a planet-bound past
will keep the reality wolves at bay.
Our artifacts have become relics,
objects of worship in a universe we know
no righteous god could have a hand in.
The relics fuel our reverence for the past
as we lie in the shadow of a future we cannot name.
It was among our carefully preserved detritus
that they found the seed,
a round breath of hope keeping cover
in the gem and mineral collection.
It seemed so like a gem: smooth as glass,
its surface shimmering with the queer light
of a star's final gasp.
Hard to believe that something so small
held the means for galaxy upon galaxy in its core.
It forced us into our current state of ambivalence --
to know that when the end comes, we hold a
beginning in our hands.
After the discovery we began to undertake
the business of living for something other than life
itself, able to feel time pass again.
Now, as I listen to them speak of the seed,
I imagine our final hours.
I think of how the seed will circumvent
innumerable years of blank infinity,
erupting with the self-assurance of the new.
And of those who will live in the new space?
I wonder at their dreams, at that faint,
persistent whisper that drives one to speak,
to listen, to create. The voice that
compels us to answer the questions it asks,
in the process coaxing a new seed into existence.
Does this drive to divine give us license to do what we
must? It's a question we don't dare to ask.
Copyright © 2002 Abbi Ball
Abbi Ball recently decided to combine her enthusiasm for writing poetry with her passion for speculative fiction. The result is this, her first speculative poem. She lives in Pittsburgh, where she works as an information architect for a communications firm. For more about her, visit her Web site.