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  • Ashli Landa

mare incognitum


there aren’t supposed to be dead bodies on the moon, but once

we realize they’re there, it’s hard to stop thinking about them.

or, perhaps it’s better to say, we aren’t supposed to remember that

there are vengeful gods, arising from red-spun planets, demanding another sacrifice

for the children of their sisters. they won’t believe us when we tell them

that they have been buried at sea, slept in polluted, plastic bodies, swallowed

by that special sort of gravity usually reserved for martyrs and masters,

the kind we fancied ourselves before we discovered that time

is a liquid that stipples like rain onto melted, abandoned roofs, flows

along solar currents to the carbonated atmosphere, where it sizzles, meteorlike

into a long shower that sneaks into every pore, pools lukewarm in bedsheets and body.

but how could the cosmonauts be responsible for these consequential clouds?

how could they have heard our wolfish cries once the alarms of their helmets,

left behind in moondust, had honked themselves into exhaustion?

we were never taught to observe the soft white bricks of penumbral chambers,

of great nebular tombs, the pyramids of sparkling wire for our industrial godkings

that now crumble along the seams of the sewer drains and don’t pick up night calls.

now that we are at the end, all we are trying to do is ask what they are thinking—

our own thoughts hold too much water and leave our brains to soak. are they

enjoying a last view from the Selenean summit? do they bother to pray for us

on the oblivious lake shores? do they know that the remains of our last great experiment

have been returned to worms meat, patriotic, packed into vignetted soil?

we don’t know how everyone else forgot, how they can just not notice the

swampy rot of corpses fluttering about the sky, accumulating like ash on the face

of a reinforced window; and we will always be afraid that we’re the only ones that

can feel the moon-soaked fingers of a cosmonaut at our forehead, the only ones that

believe in the future they whisper to us in those astral, mummified tongues,

the only ones that can’t ignore the celestial cemetery stacked above our heads.

we have read the palms of the dead in the stars and this is all they can give us.

a long-stale warning, imbued with the atemporal power

of the consecrated and forsaken astronauts on the moon

who tried to remind us of what we once knew

of what we will come to know.


Ashli Cean Landa is an emerging writer, currently working and living with her cat Mac in the land of cornfields, central Illinois. Her work is inspired by a wide variety of media, from Dune to The Legend of Zelda, but also by the complex stories we tell ourselves to create identity and purpose. Much of Ashli’s work is pulled from her experiences as a queer/bisexual and biracial person.

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