Beyond the Rings by Mack W. Mani

Out here beyond the rings,
there is only the soft drone of the oxygen bay
and the ever present little lights of the console,
yellow/blue/yellow and back again,
from here, a light less faint than the sun.

I float past dark tanks of amber gel;
pressing myself close to the glass,
I can make out the silhouettes
of the sleeping crew, suspended
in their tiny black uniforms.

Sgt. Henrich has just entered
a dream of an estuary
near where he grew up as a boy,
the land reaching out with sandy tendrils
to abandon the earth proper.

Füchs is coming to the end
of a prolonged nightmare
that’s plagued him since his divorce,
he is the last man alive,
having survived the destruction
of the earth aboard the ISS,
he’s the sole crew member,
spiraling back to a scorched earth.

Worthington, the ships doctor,
injected herself with a chemical
cocktail before going under,
to stop herself from dreaming;
though her mind is far from blank,
a still image of her wife’s face
a dark woman with a bright smile
floats alongside her.

Only Gilmore dreams of Titan,
with some level of lucidity
she explores the surface of the moon
gliding over its highlands of ice,
her hair soaked through with ammonia rain,
she flies over cryovolcanos and descends
into the depths of Kraken Mare.

I pull back from these chambers
and experience a sense
of extreme longing,
a solitude beyond myself,
so I let go, allowing myself to
drift backwards, beginning a
weightless journey across
the length of the ship.

I push the sensations and memories
of the crew out of my mind
and remind myself that while
I am all of them, I am none of them,
simply a ghost, haunting the
dark places between worlds.

Mack W. Mani is an American poet and author. His work has appeared in various literary magazines including Neon, NewMyths, The Pedestal Magazine, and Polu Texni. He currently lives in Portland, OR.

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